A week is left before the NBA regular season ends. Even if it is down to its last couple of games, only a few spots have been secured in the race for the NBA Championship. The Minnesota Timberwolves are in the thick of things and clinging to the ninth seed in the grueling Western Conference.
They welcomed Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards back to the lineup last week. Two terrific victories over the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings looked like a sign of things to come for the Timberwolves. Unfortunately, Naz Reid sustained a wrist injury last Wednesday night, which will sideline him for six weeks.
With Reid playing a prominent role in the rotation for head coach Chris Finch, it will be difficult to duplicate his production with the other players on the roster. Even with a massive dent in their playoff hopes, there are three big reasons why the Timberwolves will still reach the playoffs this year.
Karl-Anthony Towns is back
The first reason can be captain obvious, but Karl Anthony-Towns is back after missing months of action and will play an enormous role in the next games of the Timberwolves. There have been a couple of plays over the last games wherein Finch utilizes Rudy Gobert as an off-ball screener, which opens up Towns with a clear lane to the rim or a spot-up three from a long distance.
The offensive schemes looked messy before Towns’ calf injury, but the rhythm is starting to percolate in Minnesota. With Karl Anthony-Towns back, it elevates the confidence of Jaden McDaniels, Kyle Anderson, and even Taurean Prince. Minnesota’s size will be a tremendous asset they must maximize in these crucial games. Opponents will try to beat them by running a ton, but the game naturally slows down in the postseason and play-in tournament contests.
Mike Conley is the perfect point guard
When D’Angelo Russell was the point guard of Minnesota, it could have been a better fit with the system in place. The roster needed more of a pass-first, floor-general type of ball handler rather than a shoot-first scorer. Thus, the front office responded by adding Mike Conley before the trade deadline, and it has translated into a more potent offensive flow for the Timberwolves.
Naz Reid is one of the individuals who has thrived under the leadership of Conley. Being a microwave scorer off the bench is one tough feat, but the leadership of Conley will increase the confidence of role players such as Nickeil Alexander-Walker or Taurean Prince. These names do not stuff the stat sheet, but a three or four three-pointer game in the play-in tournament can propel them to victory.
Anthony Edwards’ talent is still unmatched
Even at such a young age, Anthony Edwards has superior talent over his counterparts. It was a coming-out party for him last season, but he increased that tally even more in his third season in the NBA. Edwards is averaging 24.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 4.5 APG. More importantly, his true shooting percentage ascended along with his usage rate.
There were some plays in last year’s playoffs wherein the inexperience kicked in, but Edwards has those miscues polished. All the stars went through rough patches, and that was one major roadblock for him. In a play-in tournament format, the best player usually stands out because he has the talent and attitude to catapult his team to the mountaintop. In this Minnesota Timberwolves team, that man is Anthony Edwards.
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