Ranking the Wolves potential first-round opponents based on difficulty

These teams are ones the Wolves should hope to avoid.
Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns
Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns / Christian Petersen/GettyImages
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3. Los Angeles Lakers

Having the Lakers this high doesn't necessarily mean they're a Western Conference sleeper, but it does mean they're a potentially bad first-round matchup for the Wolves. They are 2-1 against the Lakers with one more game still to play. It's all but likely Minnesota will face Los Angeles with a winning regular season record.

The most difficult challenge to overcome is how well the Lakers draw not just common fouls, but shooting fouls. So far this season, the Lakers have a plus-451 free throw differential, more than double the second-place Boston Celtics who own a differential of 220. For reference, the Wolves have only a plus-55 differential this season.

Last season, the Wolves were fouling merchants. This year, they have improved their fouling by becoming a middle-of-the-pack team. No one likes saying "the refs" or "6-on-5," but for the Lakers, it is a true weapon.

To mitigate the Laker's strong suit, the Wolves better not fall back on old habits. However, it's easy to envision Wolves fans groaning over the excessive amount of free throws the Lakers will take in the opening round.