It may have taken all 82 regular season games, but the Minnesota Timberwolves are headed back to the NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2004, which was the longest playoff drought in the league.
Not only did they clinch in the final game of the season, but it was done in the best way possible. The Wolves faced the Nuggets in a winner gets in, the loser’s season ends game that had a lot of attention, and this game did not disappoint at all. There was plenty of back and forth action, big plays and even overtime!
However let’s take a deeper look into how the Wolves got back to this spot.
This offseason was big for the Wolves as they made some big moves. First off, sending Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn to the Chicago Bulls for All-Star guard, Jimmy Butler. This seemed like a steal for the Wolves as Dunn had a rough rookie year, and LaVine was recovering from injury.
This was also a reunion for Coach Tom Thibodeau and Jimmy Butler, as Thibodeau was the former coach of the Chicago Bulls. This was not the end to the Wolves offseason as they also signed a former teammate of Butler’s, Taj Gibson and a former All-Star guard, Jeff Teague.
This new-look Wolves team would have Teague, Butler, Wiggins, Gibson, and Towns as their starting 5, not a bad group at all. Having two, young, athletic players in Towns and Wiggins, Butler and Gibson knowing Thibodeau’s play style, and Teague running point, this team caught a lot of attention early into the season.
This was just the starting 5, and the bench looked just as promising. The Wolves signed Jamal Crawford, who has continued to be a solid option off the bench throughout his career.
With role players such as Tyus Jones, Gorgui Dieng, Nemanja Bjelica to add beside Crawford the bench also looked good. The Wolves would go on to sign former MVP Derrick Rose later in the season, adding yet another player who was previously coached by Thibodeau to the roster.
This team had some early success against teams such as the Oklahoma City Thunder, who looked to be a tough team this season. At one point the Wolves even held a top 4 seed around All-Star break.
The turning point would be an injury to Butler that caused him to miss significant time. However, Bjelica would get the start and fill in quite well at times for this team. It was clear to see that Butler was a key piece to this offense and was missed on the court. Butler would return late in the season to help push this team into the Playoffs.
Let’s take a quick look at the season stats for Minnesota’s Big 3 before getting into a Postseason Preview.
Jimmy Butler: 22.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.9 APG, 2 STL, 47.4 FG%, 35 3P%
Karl Anthony-Towns: 21.3 PPG, 12.3RPG, 1.4 BLK, 54.5 FG%, 42.1 3P%
Andrew Wiggins: 17.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.1 STL, 43.8 FG%, 33 3P%
These are not bad numbers by the Wolves Big 3. Add Gibson’s 12 PPG, 7 RPG and Teague’s 14 PPG and you can see why this team was successful at times.
The Wolves get the 1-seeded Houston Rockets in the first round of the Playoffs. This Rockets team is led by Chris Paul and James Harden, both who have playoff experience.
It will be a tough match up for the Wolves as a lot of the roster will be playing in the playoffs for the first time. However, I see this series being a tough one for both teams, after ending the Playoff drought, the Wolves will be motivated to prove that they belong in the NBA Playoffs, and be looking for some revenge as the Rockets swept the regular season meetings.
I think Minnesota steals at least one game in the series, but expect to see the Rockets make it to the next round in this matchup.