The NBA regular season gets underway tonight for the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the general consensus is that the Wolves should be an improved team this season.
The Wolves’ offseason wasn’t anything special. Other than the addition role players like Patrick Beverley and Taurean Prince, Minnesota didn’t make any significant moves. But there a few legitimate reasons to have optimism about the upcoming season.
Minnesota Timberwolves: What are the most likely outcomes for 2021-22?
The good vibes start with the head coach role.
The Wolves hired Chris Finch midway through last season. This is Finch’s first offseason to familiarize himself with the team, and he’s finally had the chance to actually practice with his players.
There’s also Anthony Edwards. The organization, fans, and the NBA as a whole have high expectations for last year’s No. 1 overall pick. The league’s general managers believe that Edwards will be one of the players that takes the biggest jump this season.
However, the biggest reason why this team has lofty expectations is that Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and Edwards are entering the season healthy. Last season, the Wolves big three only played in 24 games together. Obviously, it’s fair to expect that to change this season and it’s a major reason why the team is expected to improve.
Heading into the 2021-22 season, let’s take a look at where the Wolves will rank on offense, defense and where will they end up in the standings.
Minnesota Timberwolves will finish No. 11 in offensive rating
During the 2020-21 NBA season, the Timberwolves ranked No. 18 in points per game and No. 25 in offensive rating.
With the Wolves missing key players throughout the season last year, the offense struggled at times.
This season, however, Minnesota should be able to improve significantly on offense with a healthy Towns and the continued improvement of Edwards.
The Timberwolves also have sharpshooters such as Russell and Prince that should help them improve their team 3-point shooting percentage, which finished No. 25 last season, and in turn, their overall offenisve rating.
The Timberwolves were in the bottom half of the league when it came to both field goal percentage and 3-point percentage last year, but as long as those numbers tick upwards, it’s easy to see the Wolves in the top half of the league in offensive rating.
Let’s go out on a limb and call it No. 11 in the NBA.
Minnesota Timberwolves will finish No. 19 in defensive rating
Last year, the Wolves gave up almost 118 points per game, which was the second-worst mark in the league. They also gave up a field goal percentage of over 48 percent which ranked No. 28 in the league. Their defensive rating also finished at No. 28.
The Wolves should be able to improve on the defensive end of the floor as well. While shouldn’t necessarily expect them to take a giant leap, players such as Beverley, Prince, and, eventually, Leandro Bolmaro should help limit opponent’s scoring.
There is hope that Beverley’s grittiness will rub off on other players such as Edwards and Russell. He will also help support players that are already good defenders, like Josh Okogie and Jaden McDaniels.
There are definitely still some weaknesses on defense especially because of how young the team is, but there is still hope that they will improve.
Minnesota Timberwolves will win between 35 and 40 games
Last season, the Wolves went just 23-49. This year, they should be in the conversation for the No. 9-10 seeds in the Western Conference, which would be good enough for the play-in tournament.
Other teams that will be fighting for a play-in spot are the Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings, and San Antonio Spurs. Generally, Minnesota should be able to match up well and compete with those teams.
The Western Conference is definitely competitive, and going from 23 wins to 35 wins or more is easier said than done. Still, there are signs that suggest that this group is ready to make the jump.
Obviously, this team struggled last season with Towns and Russell getting injured early on, Malik Beasley’s suspension, Edwards’s rookie growing pains, and more, but those things should change this season.
If the Wolves end up on the 35-win side of the above range, then it’ll be tough to achieve the No. 10 seed. But if they’re close to 40 wins, they’ll have a shot in the rough-and-tumble West.