Playoffs? Playoffs? Yes, Jim Mora, this article talks plenty about the postseason. In a season filled with utter chaos, it is unbelievable to fathom that our beloved Minnesota Timberwolves have an outside chance of making the postseason. Even after the Wolves (27-30) fired their coach, traded away an all-star caliber player, and have had a barrage of injuries, they only sit four games behind the Los Angeles Clippers of the coveted 8th and final playoff spot. So with that being said, readers get your fire extinguishers ready because this take is coming in straight off the grill HOT: The Minnesota Timberwolves WILL make the 2019 postseason.
For the first time in months, the Timberwolves are nearing full-strength. During Ryan Saunders’ short tenure, the young coach has maneuvered through what has seemed to be the bubonic plague of injuries. During Saunders’ 17-game stretch, our fearless leader has been without many of his dependable soldiers. Jeff Teague has been sidelined for eight games, Tyus Jones has missed 13, Derrick Rose hasn’t seen action in seven, and glue-guy Robert Covington has been out of commission for all 17. Impressively, the Wolves have stayed afloat as Saunders has guided the wounded Wolves to an 8-9 record. The great news is that Rose and Teague are back, while Jones and Covington both hinted at returns sooner rather than later. Covington will provide a huge boost for the Wolves on the defensive end, as the Wolve posted defensive ratings of 105 in November and 111.7 in December before plummeting to a horrendous 117.3 rating in February (without the 28-year-old forward). The Timberwolves also look forward to the return of Covington’s ballhawking defense, adding 2.3 steals a game to the rotation. These additions should aid the Wolves in their playoff push.
The race for the 8th final spot is a four-team dogfight. If the season ended today, the Clippers would have their ticket punched with a 32-27 record. Even in their predicament, the organization seems to have their eyes peeled on the shiny summer of 2019. By trading star Tobias Harris, the Clippers have instead focused on knabbing key free agents this upcoming summer. The Kings sit one game back and appear to be all in. Sacramento grabbed Harrison Barnes at the deadline, giving the team more offensive versatility. It will be intriguing to see how Sacramento continues to gel with Barnes, but he is only shooting 35 percent through three games with the Kings. Furthermore, Sacramento will be battled tested in the upcoming weeks. A three-game gauntlet that includes the Warriors, Thunder, and the Timberwolves will carry huge playoff implications. Finally, the Los Angeles Lakers sit three games behind at 28-29. Obviously, Lebron James has no intention of missing the playoffs. In a Bleacher Report article, the 4-time MVP claimed that he is now in “Playoff Mode.” While all basketball fans are aware of Lebron’s talents the question is, will Lebron’s “playoff mode,” be enough for the Lakers, a team that faces 18 current playoff teams in their final 25 games. We will see, but all of these uncertainties bode well for the Wolves who only sit 4 games back.
According to FiveThirtyEight, the Wolves have a 10% chance to make the playoffs. Although the chances are slim, this team is tough to count out. First, they have a walking mismatch in 7-footer Karl-Anthony Towns, a man who chalks-up double-doubles with his eyes closed. In fact, Towns has 37 double-doubles to go along with his 23 points and 12 rebounds on a night-to-night basis. Andrew Wiggins is set to return to lineup seeking to grasp his through-the-roof potential, which he has shown sporadically throughout the season. Chicago’s finest, Derrick Rose, has revolutionized his career in Minnesota, becoming one of the best sixth men in the NBA. Rose averages 18.2 ppg on an efficient 47 percent from the floor has become a dynamic secondary option. Dario Saric has become more comfortable since being traded from Philadelphia and was even inserted in the starting lineup. In that time, Saric has excelled, averaging 14.3 ppg in his three starts. Also, let’s not forget about sparkplug Josh Okogie whose gritty, high-motor mentality has helped the rookie flourish in his extended role off the bench. With players returning from injury, Ryan Saunders inherits a completely different team, a team that could potentially make a push for the postseason. If the Wolves put it all together, there is no reason why they can’t make a playoff run.
The Wolves came up with two momentum-building wins before the all-star break, defeating the Clippers and the Rockets. Minnesota will have a chance to carry that momentum over after the break, as seven of the first 10 teams they face are either outside of the projected playoff bracket or sporting a sub-.500 record. The Wolves schedule gets significantly tougher down the stretch, but if they are able to gel with the roster fully healthy, they have a chance to knock off some tougher competition in March and April.
Wolves fans, do not give up on this team. Trailing by only 4 games, they are poised to make a run. Minnesota fans, acknowledge this great opportunity and pack the Target Center through April. By that time, this hot take will simmer down to the perfect temperature. So in the meantime, sit back, relax, and enjoy a franchise that will make its second consecutive playoff appearance.