Timberwolves: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear
Barring any complete meltdown by Western Conference teams and a miracle finish, the Minnesota Timberwolves will miss the playoffs for the 12th straight season.
The last time they made the playoffs… Kevin Garnett was also the league MVP. They just missed the playoffs the next season, and then began a steady decline to the bottom of the NBA.
Then their new-found savior Kevin Love had them on a steady rise. They reached a 40-42 record two seasons ago. It was then that their world seemingly fell apart. They traded Kevin Love to the Cavaliers for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and a first round pick. The team plummeted to 16-66.
As the team seemed to have plunged into darkness, it turns out their light was just getting started.
Andrew Wiggins won Rookie of the Year in a horrendous season for the team. Then through the draft lottery, the Timberwolves gained the No.1 pick in the draft. They used that pick to take Karl Anthony-Towns. Towns has a very good chance to make Minnesota only the fourth team ever to have back-to-back rookie of the year players.
Those two young talents were brought in with an established, yet underrated point guard in Ricky Rubio.
Then there is the second year guard Zach LaVine, also known as the reigning dunk contest champion.
In addition to this young core roster, they have the championship leadership of Kevin Garnett and Tayshaun Prince.
So how does this all equate to the Timberwolves being a step away from being a playoff contender?
With a current record of 14-36, this season is essentially done. However, of those 36 losses, 24 of them have been by 10 points or less. Looking even closer, 13 of those 24 have been by five points or less.
They have been the victim of some serious blowouts as well. It is the closeness of some of their games against top tier teams that is standing out though.
In a home game against the Warriors, they lost by 13. This may seem like a lot, but it is pretty good considering Steph Curry dropped 46 points on them.
In their first game against Cleveland, they were blown out. The second time around they went into Cleveland and lost by seven. Karl Anthony-Towns also led the way on both teams in scoring that game.
They have had three games against Oklahoma City so far, and have lost two of them by three points both times.
Karl Anthony-Towns has recorded 25 double-doubles already this season, and has the third highest player efficiency rating by a rookie ever.
Andrew Wiggins is leading the team in scoring with 20.6 points per game. Many of these points have been coming on athletic, high-flying dunks.
Ricky Rubio is currently fifth in the league in assists per game at 8.8.
The bench has even started showing huge signs of improvement, as Zach LaVine has started to return to his scoring form. He came off the bench and scored 35 points against the Thunder just one week ago.
Let’s not forget about Gorgui Dieng who is starting to find his fit in the offense here at the midway point. He had scored 15 or more points only twice in the first 45 games. In the last five has had games of 13, 21, 20, 13, and 19 points. Those included two double-doubles. He has also been playing almost 40 minutes per game over the last three games.
This team currently has seven players age 25 or under. They have been building through the draft and trades. It is a slow approach, however it can be one that is very effective, just look at the New England Patriots.
This season still has them in contention for another lottery pick, and that could really set this team up for long-term success if they could pick up either Buddy Hield or Ben Simmons.
Be on the lookout in the next two or three seasons, because the Timberwolves will go from an afterthought to one that will contend to win their division if they can stay healthy and intact.