Coming into the 2021-22 NBA season, not many people expected the Minnesota Timberwolves to reach the playoffs.
It was understandable, as they have one of the youngest teams in the league, as they finished just 23-49 last year, which was 13th in the Western Conference.
But Minnesota has been a pleasant surprise this year, and it will appear in the play-in tournament later this month, which means that it has a real shot to make the playoffs for only the second time since 2004.
Even though the Timberwolves will likely get rolled in the first round if they do indeed qualify for the postseason, their future prospects are looking awfully bright right now.
Towns Is A Monster
One of the best NBA players few people talk about is Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns, but he is about as good as almost anyone in the league.
This season, he is averaging 24.6 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.1 blocked shots, and he is doing it with tons of efficiency, shooting 52.9 percent from the field and 41.0 percent from 3-point land.
He can back just about anyone down in the paint and score over them, but he can also take his defender out on the perimeter and shoot over him.
At age 26, Towns is just entering his prime, and since he doesn’t rely much on athleticism or quickness, his prime could last for a long time, assuming he avoids major injury.
Just days ago, he went head-to-head with last season’s MVP, Nikola Jokic, and he held his own, leading the Timberwolves to a 136-130 win.
Karl-Anthony Towns & Nikola Jokic battled it out in a duel between two of the league's best big men, with each of them scoring 32+ points.@KarlTowns 32 PTS, 9 REB, 2 BLK, 4 3PM
Nikola Jokic: 38 PTS, 19 REB, 8 AST pic.twitter.com/TRJFfsxB7x
— NBA (@NBA) April 2, 2022
The Timberwolves Have An Excellent Perimeter Duo
At point guard, D’Angelo Russell may not be a bona fide All-Star or a very efficient player, but he is a solid floor general who provides Minnesota with what it needs at that position.
On the season, he is averaging 18.1 points and 7.1 assists per game, and he ranks 11th in the NBA in the latter category.
Russell has seemingly grown since his first two years with the Los Angeles Lakers, when some regarded him as immature and a toxic influence off the court.
Anthony Edwards, one of the frontrunners for last season’s Rookie of the Year award, has stepped up his game this year.
He is putting up 21.5 points per game, and he has improved his efficiency, shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 36.0 percent from beyond the arc on the season.
He is an athletic player, and he has provided an ample amount of highlight plays this season.
ANTHONY EDWARDS PUT TRE JONES ON A POSTER 😳 pic.twitter.com/QtwRey4HYU
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 8, 2022
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) February 13, 2022
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) March 19, 2022
Even better, Edwards seems to also be emerging as one of the better defensive wings in the NBA, thanks in part to his generous wingspan.
Here is Anthony Edwards on defense, making LeBron James, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton look bad at basketball
Edwards has 9 steals over his last 4 games
"I just try to guess where he’s going before he dribble. Nine times out of 10 I’m right." – Ant pic.twitter.com/SsihlfBydV
— jace frederick (@JaceFrederick) March 21, 2022
This season, he is averaging 1.5 steals per game, which ranks 14th in the league.
Indeed, defense has been a key in Minnesota’s rise – they rank 13th in defensive rating, compared to a 28th ranking in the same category a year ago.
If that happens, the rest of the NBA should look out.