West-leading Timberwolves are no fluke, true contenders

The Minnesota Timberwolves currently sit at the top of the Western Conference. However, unlike several of the teams below them in the standings, Karl-Anthony Towns and company are rarely discussed as threats to win the NBA title. 

Regardless of what the experts may say, or not say, about the Timberwolves, there’s reason to believe they could actually make a deep run in the playoffs. While there are questions surrounding teams who often earn more publicity like the Clippers, Mavericks, Suns, Lakers, Warriors or even the reigning champion Nuggets, the Timberwolves have been the most consistent throughout the entire season. 

As of Friday, Feb. 23, Minnesota holds a 39-16 record and is 27-8 inside the conference. This puts this season’s version of the team just three wins shy of matching last season’s win total. Minnesota finished the 2022-2023 season with a 42-40 record. The Timberwolves did reach the postseason, but were sent home in five games by the eventual champion Nuggets in the first round. Despite the clear progress in recent years with a core built around Towns and former first-overall pick Anthony Edwards, few predicted Minnesota to be leading the pack after the All-Star Game. 

So how are they doing it and what’s different this season? For starters, Towns has been healthy. The 28-year-old four-time All-Star was only able to play in 29 games last season due to an injury. And as is necessary for a team to truly contend, Towns’ co-star, Edwards, has taken his game to another level, especially offensively. Edwards is averaging 26.3 points per game, which is up from the 24.6 and 21.3 from the past two season, respectively. 

Towns had this to say about his teammate during an appearance on ESPN’s First Take

“He hates when I say it, but he’s going to be the face of the NBA. Sooner than later. We’re super honored that we all get to play with him, that we all get to help him in this process of maturing and becoming the face, and I think the future’s very, very bright for him.” 

With Towns and Edwards at their best, the Timberwolves know they can put points on the board. But Minnesota also has Rudy Gobert on defense, now in his second season with the team, to lock down the opponent’s best scorer. In an era in which most teams are built around two elite players, Minnesota actually has three All-Star caliber talents. 

Other teams may have players regarded as greater box-office attractions, but few teams have a trio capable of impacting games the way that Minnesota has this season. If we are talking about style of play and what’s needed for success in the playoffs, the Timberwolves have been doing it and are showing no signs of slowing down either. 

Not only is Minnesota the second-best team in the League record-wise, but they have shown they can win anywhere. The Timberwolves are 19-5 at home and are 20-11 on the road. The window for Minnesota to make the franchise’s first NBA Finals appearance is open for the first time since Kevin Garnett was leading the way over two decades ago. 

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