For years, the Minnesota Timberwolves have been stuck in the pits of NBA mediocrity. The team has not won a playoff series since 2004, when MVP Kevin Garnett led them to the Western Conference Finals. In the time since, Minnesota has been a consistent bottom-feeder. They’ve only made the playoffs three times in their past 19 tries, and were a first-round exit in all three appearances. During this span, the team earned the number one pick in the NBA draft three separate times, where they selected Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards in 2014, 2015 and 2020 respectively. At first, it seemed as though these picks would not pay off for the team, as Minnesota only made the playoffs once from 2014 to 2021. However, the Wolves had a winning record in the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 seasons, earning a playoff appearance in both campaigns. Although the new season just started, it appears as though Minnesota has finally made the jump from a first-round exit to a legit NBA title contender.
The Timberwolves have been off to a hot start so far this season. They currently have a 7-2 record, sitting at third place in the competitive Western Conference. This includes wins over the Warriors, Celtics and Nuggets, who are widely regarded as three of the best teams in the league. At the forefront of their success has been Edwards, who has been playing at an MVP-level thus far. The former 2020 top overall pick has averaged 28 points per game this season and has repeatedly carried the Wolves’ offense during the fourth quarter. His best performance came against Boston where he dropped 38 points, including eight overtime points in a win against the previously 5-0 Celtics. He has reached his full potential that Minnesota was aiming for when they selected him.
Just as critical to the Wolves’ success has been their strong defense. The team currently has the best defense in the NBA, allowing the least points per game at only 103.1. The focal point of their defensive attack is center Rudy Gobert, who has won three Defensive-Player-of-the-Year awards in his career. On the perimeter, Edwards and Jaden McDaniels are elite wing defenders who gladly take the challenge of defending their opponents’ best players. As a whole, head coach Chris Finch has created a well-oiled defense system that has led to great success so far this season.
Not only do the Wolves have star power, but they also have a great cast of role players. Mike Conley Jr., acquired by the team last season, provides leadership and passing as a savvy 17-year veteran. Towns, who could fall into the star category too, is an elite offensive talent as a big man, and providing floor-spacing and scoring when the team needs it. On the wings, McDaniels and Kyle Anderson add excellent three-point shooting, defense and hustle for the team. Overall, Minnesota’s roster has been constructed well, and it seems as though the team has finally put it all together with the goal of pushing for an NBA title.
It is still early in the season, so only time will tell if the Timberwolves can maintain this level of play. However, they have looked like one of the best teams in the league so far and most would agree they have the talent to keep it up. For example, in the NBA’s most recent power rankings, Minnesota was ranked at No. 2. Reporter Joe Nelson of Sports Illustrated reacted to this placement in his article, in which he wrote: “The Timberwolves are playing like a serious team and for the first time in nearly two decades the rest of the country is starting to notice.”
It appears as though Minnesota fans finally have a team to believe in after years of hardship. The team will certainly not have an easy road in the playoffs, as the Western Conference is loaded with strong teams such as the Nuggets, Warriors, Suns, Lakers, Kings, Clippers and Mavericks. However, for the first time in a while, the Timberwolves appear to be just as good as all of the teams listed. That is all that Wolves fans can ask for. For the first time in nearly two decades, Minnesota is an NBA title contender.