Can the Wolves Make a Deep Playoff Run

Photo: David Berding - Getty Images

2022-23 was meant to be an amazing season for the Timberwolves. After acquiring Rudy Gobert in a mega-trade that was incredibly polarizing, expectations were high. Surely by adding one of the league’s best interior defenders to a team that lacked interior defense, there would be an immediate improvement?

Sadly for Wolves fans, it doesn’t seem that way. Many are now questioning if it was wise to give away so many NBA picks and players to get a defending juggernaut who doesn’t seem to be defending that well!

We are now over halfway through the regular season, so we have a pretty good idea of how things are going to pan out. At the time of writing, the Wolves sit eighth in the Western Conference. In this article, we look at their playoff prospects, including if they will even make it, and if so, how far can they go.

Current standing – Bottom of the pack

At the time of writing, Minnesota had a .500 record and were eighth in the West. We can’t pretend that we didn’t expect better. Gobert was meant to bring immediate success and potentially move the Wolves into the top half of the playoff contenders.

Expectations often fall short of reality.

Season performance so far – Underwhelming

The first half of the season has been less than stellar. The chemistry has been off and so far, Gobert hasn’t really gelled with the rest of the team. If anything, their defense has been worse, and they are near the bottom of the league in both defensive and offensive rebounds. Add to that a wave of injuries and it’s easy to see why the Wolves are in eighth place.

In terms of individual performances, Gobert is falling short of his own usual standards. He is scoring less, rebounding less and blocking less. The blocks are perhaps the most startling change. Usually, you can count on him averaging two per game. This year, he currently sits at 1.3 per game which is a large decrease. His rebounding has also dropped from a typically league-leading 13+ per game to 11.5 RPG. This could be due to the pressure, the booing from the fans or just how he fits into the team.

At the start of the season, Ant Man was not playing brilliantly either and it has regularly been reported that he is unhappy. It is believed that he doesn’t really like playing with Gobert, and analysts believe that the big man could be stifling Edward’s offensive potential. In the last month, however, Edward’s form has picked up and he has had some fantastic individual performances including a whopping 44-point game. Indeed, his stats are up across the board compared to last season, which is a huge positive.

D’lo continues to be inconsistent, and of course KAT has been sidelined since the end of November so we can’t really comment on his impact. Other players, such as McDaniels, continue to be important parts of the team.

How far can they go?

So, we have some inconsistent performances, and some team chemistry that needs working out. When you are halfway through the season, that isn’t great. However, there is still time to work things through and for the squad to get healthy.

With the current standings, the Wolves would be facing the Denver Nuggets in the first round. As much as we love them, we just can’t see them being able to stop an MVP-level Jokic and a supporting cast of Gordon, MPJ and Murray who are all playing excellently. We think that they would just have too much firepower and talent and they have been in incredible form recently.

If the Wolves can move up and improve their playoff standing, things get a little murkier. After the Grizzlies, you then get to teams such as the Kings, Pelicans and Mavericks. On a good day with the right performances, the Wolves could potentially win here.

So, realistically, Minnesota may take a few games from a team such as Denver or Memphis and could progress to the second round with the right matchup. However, with the current team chemistry, trade rumors and injuries, a first-round exit is more likely.

Potential for a turnaround – KAT returns

How far the Wolves can go depends on many factors as seen above. One of the biggest is the return of KAT, what shape he is in and if he can find a way to coexist with Gobert. Unfortunately, with their current standing, and other teams in the West, it is unlikely that even if the Wolves do find their chemistry, they will get further than the first round.

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