5 Teams most similar to this year's Timberwolves (and how their seasons ended)

Mar 24, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (5) and
Mar 24, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (5) and / Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
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1. 2017-18 Utah Jazz

Record: 48-34

Fate: Lost in Western Conference Semifinals to the Houston Rockets

Raw Similarity Score Rank: 1st

Finally, the team most similar to the 2023-24 Timberwolves, the 2017-18 Utah Jazz. While this iteration of the Jazz was still a year away from starting Mike Conley Jr. at point guard, many other personnel comparisons can still be made between the two teams.

Outside of being built around the same defensive pillar in Gobert, the 2017-18 Jazz are also similar to the Timberwolves in that their scoring efforts were led by a young, dynamic shooting guard. Although he was just a rookie at the time, Donovan Mitchell averaged over twenty points per game for the Jazz in the 2017-18 season.

Statistically, the teams are remarkably similar. They hold the same league rank in terms of pace and offensive rating and are one spot apart on the defensive side. Thanks to the wide statistical margin that the Timberwolves hold over the second-place defense, their net rating is ranked higher than the 2017-18 Jazz, and they have already surpassed them in terms of wins. Nevertheless, the teams’ regular season metrics are very comparable.

After a fifth-place finish in the West, the Jazz matched up against the Paul George and Russel Westbrook-led Thunder. The Jazz defeated Oklahoma City in six games on the back of Mitchell’s 28.5 points per game.

Their next challenge proved to be too great, however, as the one-seed Houston Rockets disposed of them in five games, with none of the losses being particularly close. While a gentleman’s sweep in the second round wouldn’t be a satisfactory result for this year's Timberwolves, it is worth noting that the 2017-18 Rockets were a historically good team. They gave the Durant-led Warriors their closest scare and perhaps would have beaten them if not for an injury to Chris Paul.

Despite the statistical similarities to the 2017-18 Utah Jazz, this season's Timberwolves, on paper, seem more equipped for a deep playoff run. A fourth-year Edwards is a more developed player than a rookie version of Mitchell, especially on the defensive end. Karl-Anthony Towns provides a better secondary scoring punch than anyone on the 2017-18 Jazz.

Additionally, the Timberwolves' elite group of perimeter defenders should provide greater help to Gobert and offer more resistance against the top three-point shooting teams.

At the end of the day, no team is exactly like another, and every year brings a new set of circumstances, but a trend is clear. Teams with truly elite defenses generally win a playoff series, even with a mediocre offense. If they push the right buttons to improve that offense come playoff time, Minnesota can make a deep run.