[Insert Spongebob narrator voice] Ah yes, the regular season’s end has rolled around again.
Typically the top teams in each conference can use this 10- to-15 game stretch as somewhat of a cooldown period before the playoffs kick off in mid-April. However, for both the Eastern and Western conferences, the regular season dog fight is far from over.
With under a month of the regular season remaining, only three games are separating the 5th-seeded Golden State Warriors and the 12th-seeded Utah Jazz in the West. There is plenty of talent sitting in between both of those teams – including the new-look Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, and (of course) the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Heading into the 2022-23 season, the Wolves had a lot of expectations after acquiring Rudy Gobert in mid-July. That level of expectation amongst the fans and media hasn’t been something we’ve seen since the Jimmy Butler trade in 2017. Sure, Minnesota dealt five players and four first-round picks in order to get Gobert. However, he’s a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, so they would have had to give up a haul to get him.
Hindsight is always 20/20. With only 13 games remaining in the regular season, the trade hasn’t worked out yet. It’s been challenging. Chris Finch has tried to implement the gravity that Gobert brings into what was a small ball-driven offense. However, the issues this season have stemmed much further than just getting Gobert acclimated – it’s all boiled down to a team-wide lack of consistency.
However, many fans only remember all the good things that happened. Not the team starting 4-13 with plenty of roster needs and performance gaps. Ultimately, though, the season was a blast. The Timberwolves finished 10 games over .500 and made the playoffs for the second time in 18 years. Most of the magic that Minnesota captured last season came after the All-Star break when they went on a 15-7 run to close out the year. This year, the Wolves face a similar level of pressure with the same expectation to execute at a high level.
Over the last month or so, it’s felt like for every step forward, the Wolves take a few steps back. They have not been able to string together any type of offensive or defensive consistency. We’ve seen some horrible losses against teams like the Orlando Magic or Detriot Pistons, in addition to great wins against top-tier teams like the Sacramento Kings and Philadelphia 76ers. It all adds up to a 35-34 record as they near the homestretch of what has been an odd season.
They haven’t met the expectations heading into the season. However, you have to consider that they’ve played most of the season without their best player.
When Karl-Anthony Towns went down in November and the Wolves had a 10-10 record, I didn’t have a positive outlook on the rest of the season. We saw flashes from Anthony Edwards, but I didn’t think he could be the No. 1 option for his team yet. However, he’s “the one, Jack” and has proven me completely wrong.
Edwards’ near 26 points per game since KAT’s injury has been no short of impressive. However, the Wolves still find themselves looking for some realm of consistency as the playoffs grow closer. There isn’t a clear-cut thing the Wolves need to be consistent. Therefore, it’s going to be a wild ride from now until April 9th.