Midway through the season, the Minnesota Timberwolves find themselves in a situation they haven’t been in for 17 of the last 18 seasons and for the first time since 2017-18. A year after firing Ryan Saunders and finishing 23-49, Minnesota is currently in the Western Conference playoff picture.
The Wolves fell to 22-23 following Wednesday’s 134-122 loss in Atlanta, but they are still right in the heart of the conference playoff picture. Minnesota enters Thursday tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the seventh seed in the West. Minnesota is also on the verge of avoiding the play-in tournament, sitting a few games behind the Denver Nuggets (23-20) and the sixth seed.
The season could already be viewed as successful midway through the year. But some things could still unfold, which would make the 2021-22 campaign even better.
Is The Season Already A Success?
Beyond being in the playoff picture, there are a few reasons why Minnesota’s season should already be considered a success.
First, there appears to be an organizational transformation taking place right before our eyes this season. It’s a necessary change for an organization that has annually been at the bottom of the NBA. Whether it’s the new ownership group, Chris Finch’s leadership, or just that they’re winning, this is already a successful season when it comes to the overall image and feel around the team.
Next, the on-court production has been encouraging so far. Not only have the Wolves been able to maintain their performance on the offensive end, but they are notably improving on defense. Currently, they hold the 10th-best defensive rating in the league. Minnesota has been one of the worst teams defensively in the last few years. Seeing that improvement under Finch is an encouraging sign.
Minnesota’s star players have stepped up on a nightly basis. We’ve been able to see them healthy and on the court together finally. The trio of Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell has paved the way for the Wolves every game, which Minnesota hoped when they traded for DLo and drafted Ant. Others have also stepped up in various roles to complement that trio, a great sign as well.
The Wolves have bigger aspirations than putting together a successful opening half of the regular season. That mainly includes reaching the postseason, which hasn’t happened all but once in the last 18 years. The season could be viewed as a success already. But there is more work to be done before they secure a spot in the playoffs.
What Would Make The Season Even Better
Finch and his coaching staff appear to have found the recipe for success in his first full year as head coach. There is still room for improvement, but Minnesota has started to turn things around under Finch. Still, Minnesota needs to continue to climb in the Western Conference standings and work on shoring up some holes on the roster.
The Wolves still can climb in the conference standings and avoid the play-in tournament. Reaching the postseason alone would be a success, but a top-six seed is right there for the taking.
Minnesota also needs to fill out the roster, shoring up some spots in the rotation. That could mean finding an upgraded post player or rim protector who could play alongside Towns at the trade deadline. The Wolves appear to have a sense of urgency to try and buy to take advantage of a strong start.
There’s a lot of the season left. But the Wolves and their fans are experiencing what already feels like a successful year. The excitement of enjoyable basketball is back. The Wolves aren’t an embarrassment at the bottom of the league standings like in years past. Most importantly, they are back in the playoff conversation.