Timberwolves

How Did the Wolves Go From the Hunter To the Hunted In One Off-Season?

Photo Credit: Erik Williams (USA TODAY Sports)

The Minnesota Timberwolves came into last season without many expectations surrounding the team. Most pundits viewed the Wolves as a play-in team at best. However, when the team started the 2021-22 season with an 11-15 record, the vast majority of the Wolves’ fan base was very underwhelmed and didn’t know what to think of the team as a whole.

Due to this poor start, questions arose early about Minnesota’s willingness to compete. But the Wolves put all those stirrings to rest at the end of last season when they finished with a 46-36 record and secured a play-in spot.

Making the play-in and advancing to the first round of the playoffs for the second time in 18 years felt amazing for Timberwolves fans. They were the hunter, trying to sneak their way through games and pounce on opponents. However, this upcoming season’s expectations are much different than before. Minnesota is now the hunted. Teams are gearing up to compete with the Wolves, which hasn’t happened since the Kevin Garnett days.

“The NBA is aware of who we are now,” Karl-Anthony Towns said at a press conference after signing his recent super-max extension. “We set out to go out there, make noise and make sure they knew these weren’t the same Timberwolves that they were used to.”

So what makes this year’s Wolves squad different from previous seasons? Is it pure star power? Or the depth? We will dive into that a couple of possibilities now.

The Mix Of Different Skill Sets

While Minnesota may have lost quite a few players who were in the rotation, the depth that the team has now may be better than last year.

The starting five is pretty much a lock right now: D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Towns, and Rudy Gobert. In the hypothetical lineup, there are three offensive juggernauts (Russell, Edwards, and Towns) and two lockdown specialists in McDaniels and Gobert.

Having a blend of talent separates the good teams from the great. It’s also apparent on the bench. Jaylen Nowell, Austin Rivers, Bryn Forbes, Taurean Prince, and Naz Reid excel on offense. Conversely, guys like Jordan McLaughlin, Kyle Anderson, and even Prince are more than capable defenders.

A great mix of offense and defense will prove invaluable for the Wolves all season long, something they didn’t have much of last season.

The Fantastic Four

Russell, Edwards, Towns, and Gobert are four players who can single-handedly keep opposing teams up at night. Well, maybe not to that extent. But the talent those four guys possess is impeccable. These four players are capable of combining for 80 points, double-digit assists, and 20-plus rebounds per game.

The likelihood of all that happening in one contest may be low. But again, the skill level there is fantastic. To have obtained someone of Gobert’s stature and to have not given up one of your three best players is truly mind-boggling. Regardless of what the team gave up, having Russell, Edwards, and Towns still in Minnesota is a win in itself.

The Rudy Gobert Effect

Chris Paul is the epitome of a guy who can impact the game regardless of the box score. But it would be a crime not to include Gobert in that same sentence. Despite leading the NBA in rebounds per game last season (14.7), what Gobert can regularly do beyond his numbers is terrific.

His presence alone on the court makes Gobert a force to be reckoned with. Couple that with the multiple lobs DLo and J-Mac will throw him per game, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Gobert will end up back in the All-Star game next season.

While the expectations for the Timberwolves may differ from this season to last, the mindset is still the same. Go out there and compete. Give it your all every day. If the Wolves can do both things with their new-look roster, there should be no reason we can’t consider this team a serious title contender as early as next season.

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