2018 NBA Playoff Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves
Season Recap: The Wolves’ season could be seen as a disappointment to some, and a great step for others. On one hand, the Wolves made the playoffs for the first time since 2004, ending what is the current longest playoff drought in the Association. On the other hand, with the addition of Jimmy Butler and Jamal Crawford, the team was expected to not just make the playoffs, but potentially be a top seed in the West. The fact that they are the eighth seed can be considered an underachievement.
However, Minnesota had operated for much of the second half of the season with Butler out, due to a knee injury. With Butler, the Wolves were a top three seed in the West, trailing only Golden State and Houston, but struggled once he went out. Butler has looked good in his return, and the team has been playing well lately. That should be a good sign for Wolves fans heading into the postseason. Unfortunately, the first round matchup is against Houston so, chances are, the Wolves’ much anticipated return to the postseason might be short lived.
Team’s Biggest Strength: Scoring. The Wolves have four guys that can score with the best of them in the league. When they’re all hot, there’s no team that should feel comfortable in a high scoring affair. If Butler, Crawford, Wiggins, and KAT are all hitting their threes, then the opponents are really in for a long night.
Team’s Biggest Weakness: Defense. It’s crazy to think that a Tom Thibodeau coached team would be bad at defense. But the Wolves’ defensive woes haven’t gotten any better, even with Butler in the lineup. Defense matters in the playoffs, and if the Wolves’ can’t figure out how to consistently bring it on that side of the floor, their time in the tournament will be over before they know it.
Team’s X-Factor: KAT. It’s weird to think that the team’s best player would be their X-Factor, but that just proves once again how weird this team is. If KAT decides to take over in the playoffs and dominates, he could help carry this team far. If the Wolves don’t play through him, or if he’s inconsistent, the team will lose. The biggest factor for the Wolves success will be what Towns we get every night.
Player to Watch: Jeff Teague. With all the stars on this team, Teague seems to get lost in the shuffle. As good as the Wolves’ big three are and as big as Crawford will be for them off the bench, it’s still a point guard league. If Teague holds his on as the starting point guard in the series, the Wolves can really surprise the Rockets.
Estimated Playoff Run: Most likely the first round. The Wolves will face the Rockets in the first round, a team with the best record in the league, and arguably this year’s MVP in James Harden. I don’t see them being able to get past Harden and CP3, especially since that team has a lot to prove themselves. The Wolves do have the talent to matchup with anyone however, so, I expect them to at least be a tough out.