The Wolves Won't Earn Leaguewide Respect Until They Win In the Playoffs

Photo Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

Draymond Green didn’t mince words after seeing Karl-Anthony Towns score from everywhere on the court during the NBA All-Star Game. “This is like the old Minnesota days,” he said. “KAT got 40, they down 20.” Towns had 50 points in a game where the Eastern Conference beat the Western Conference 211-186.

Green’s statement created an outrage among many Timberwolves fans. Hundreds of Wolves fans tweeted their anger at Green when he took the opportunity to mock the team despite KAT putting up huge numbers during the game.

His comments were unfair and especially harsh given when Green said them. But he was inciting an ongoing gripe throughout the season for Wolves fans. They are frustrated at ‘casuals’ for their comments, regardless of whether they are pundits, podcasters, or general fans on social media. People who mock the Wolves litter Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

The team has been great. Minnesota is still the first seed in the Western Conference and has comfortably the best defense in the league. But they haven’t won a playoff series yet, and people won’t give them the respect they deserve until they advance.

Minnesota has not won more than three playoff games in the last two years. They threw away multiple double-digit leads in their 4-2 defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies in 2022 and then lost 4-1 to the Denver Nuggets in 2023. In many ways, the 2023 performance was more promising. Naz Reid and Jaden McDaniels were injured, and they were playing a far better team.

But the disrespect doesn’t end with Minnesota’s performances. People have ridiculed Rudy Gobert recently for being ‘forced off the court’ in the latter stages of the Utah Jazz’s playoff games. Other teams, notably the Los Angeles Clippers, played small against them and moved Gobert away from the rim.

Wolves fans who have watched that Jazz team and Gobert in Minnesota will know that this is a false narrative. The Timberwolves have far superior perimeter defenders than Utah had in those playoff series. McDaniels, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, or Anthony Edwards would have comfortably been Utah’s best perimeter defender on those Jazz teams.

This season, there is even substantial evidence that going small against the Wolves does not work. The Clippers tried it recently and guarded Gobert with either Russell Westbrook or James Harden. Not only were they unable to draw Gobert away from the rim, but the Wolves destroyed them defensively with their size and blew them out 121-100.

The Wolves have indicated they don’t have the same weaknesses as Gobert’s Utah teams. They are a completely different entity. Minnesota has surrounded Gobert with players who enable him to do what he does best.

But therein lies the critical point: People are not watching these games. The Wolves are not on national TV often, and the average pundit or fan is not watching many of their games on League Pass. They are not even watching any kind of extended highlights of the game. They won’t watch Timberwolves games outside of what is on national television or the playoffs.

And realistically, who can blame them? Outside of Edwards, the Wolves do not have any players who are attractive enough for casuals to tune in to regularly. Even Edwards is not on national TV much. How often do Wolves fans watch other teams outside of TNT and ESPN games and the playoffs? We might watch highlights, follow online, and watch when on TV. But nobody knows anywhere near as much about other teams as they do their own.

Therefore, fans will be fully aware that the casual takes of the Wolves being a ‘fake 1-seed’ or Gobert being a ‘playoff dropper’ are just that, casual. But the Timberwolves have a lot to prove. This narrative will stick with them until they beat another team in the playoffs. They will likely need multiple playoff series wins to remove the narrative, including against one of the other top teams in the Western Conference.

It does not take a lot for narratives in the NBA to change. If the season ended today, they would face a play-in team, and there is a reasonable chance it would be against either the Los Angeles Lakers or the Golden State Warriors.

Rest assured, should the Wolves dismantle one of those teams in a first-round matchup, the narrative about the team’s status and Gobert’s playoff abilities will change remarkably quickly.

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