The Minnesota Timberwolves are deadlocked in a tight NBA Western Conference Playoff race, currently in ninth place with a record of 36-37 (as of 10:00 am CT, March 22). The outcomes of the final nine games give the Timberwolves the possibility of reaching as high as the sixth seed, of competing in the NBA play-in tournament or falling out of the playoff picture altogether.
This has been a frustrating season for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who had much higher aspirations than being a fringe playoff team this season. The argument exists that the season has been derailed by the Karl-Anthony Towns injury that has sidelined him since November 28, benching him for 52 games. However, the Timberwolves have struggled in a number of very winnable games, including a combined 1-6 record vs. the Hornets, Spurs, Pistons, and Magic this season. The team has simply not taken care of business on nights when they are heavily favored, and they are now paying for it amidst a tight playoff race.
Despite the team’s inconsistencies and injuries, it is absolutely vital that the Timberwolves make the playoffs this season.
Here are 4 reasons why:
Reason IV: The Timberwolves have heavily invested their assets into this season.
The Rudy Gobert trade essentially emptied the vault of convertible assets with the hopes of crafting a contending team. For a team to pay four first-round picks and other valuable players (Beasley+Vanderbilt netted an additional 1st round pick), and rookie center Walker Kessler was also worth a first-round pick, missing the NBA playoffs would be devastating to this franchise’s momentum.
Despite his absence of nearly 70 percent of the 2022-23 NBA season, Karl Anthony Towns and newly acquired Rudy Gobert are in their primes now. Besides, missing the playoffs would give the Jazz a lottery pick, and the prospect of the Jazz getting a top prospect like Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson with a Timberwolves first-round pick would be simply horrifying for fans, players, and executives.
Reason III: Anthony Edwards needs more playoff experience.
The growth of Anthony Edwards was obvious throughout last year’s playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies. Edwards, still just 21 years old, still needs playoff experience to further his growth. As we saw in the Memphis series, the pressure of the playoffs tests the mettle of a player, and Edwards showed that he is the leader of this team. Getting Ant-Man more playoff experience now is vital to forge him into a player who can lead a team to a championship.
Reason II: Towns and Gobert need to play meaningful minutes together
The two bigs have only shared the floor for 19 games so far, but with the investment into Gobert being as big as it was, the Timberwolves’ front office and coaching staff are betting on the belief that two bigs flourish in a playoff-setting. If they cannot, the Timberwolves front office may need to pivot this summer and consider an unthinkable trade of Towns. Right now, the main cog on the Timberwolves’ roster appears to be SG Anthony Edwards, which forces the Timberwolves to make an instant assessment over whether KAT and Gobert help or hinder Edwards’s career.
Reason I. The Timberwolves match up well against the Top 3 seeds in the NBA Western Conference
It is likely that the top three seeds in the Western Conference will be the Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, and Sacramento Kings. The Timberwolves playoff chances rest on obtaining a sixth-eighth seed, which would mean a matchup with one of the Top 3 in the first round of the playoffs.
While these three teams have all been very good this season, it would be hard to consider any of the three teams unbeatable in a best-of-seven series. The Wolves have split the season series against the Nuggets and Grizzlies (2-2 record against both teams), and currently lead the season series against the Kings (2-1 record). The Timberwolves proved to be a pesky seven seed last year in a series against the Grizzlies that was very winnable, and if the team can get into the playoffs with a healthy Edwards and Towns, they may have a punchers chance against any of the Top 3 teams, who have won just two playoff series in the last two years combined.
The stakes are high for the Timberwolves as they enter this crucial 9-game stretch. The team needs to make the playoffs this year in order to capitalize on their potential, confirm the value of their trade investments, and show the NBA that they’re ready to truly compete for a championship with a healthy squad.