When I ranked Western Conference teams in July, many had a gripe with how high I had the Minnesota. Yes, I believe they’ll have a better season than Houston in 2017-2018.
Meshing Jimmy Butler into the Wolves system will be easy thanks to his prior relationship with Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau. It won’t be Kevin Durant-in-Golden State easy, but it certainly will be a much smoother transition than Chris Paul in Houston will be.
And remember, the Timberwolves problem last year was that they were unclutch, one of the worst teams in close games. They lost 11 games in which they led by 15 or more points, the most by any NBA team in 20 years. Butler was one of the most clutch players in the NBA last season.
But ESPN analyzed “Real Plus/Minus” for next season, and came up with this: The Timberwolves should win 50 games, and finish 4th in the West.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves
Projected wins: 50.1
Statistical projections have been known to overrate the Timberwolves by betting on the come, including last season’s seemingly conservative 37-win projection from RPM. (Minnesota won just 31 games, albeit with the point differential of a 38-win team.) With Jimmy Butler joining budding stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, this time feels different. RPM doesn’t even project the Timberwolves to defend particularly well (20th in defensive rating); this projection is largely a testament to the league’s second-best offensive projection.
Glad that we agree on something.
Of course, I’m of the belief that the Lakers are playoff-bound …
… ESPN’s “Real Plus/Minus” has the Lakers 13th in the West, with a projected win total of 33 games.