From: Las Vegas
Zach Lowe has us in his 5-11 tier in the West:
Most league insiders have the Wolves above this jumble. Some internal team projections around the league spit out 50 wins and a top-four seed.
Bet the under. The paper-thin Wolves start two traditional bigs and three so-so 3-point shooters who dominate the ball in Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague. Those three will diminish each other — at least over the first stretch of the season. The Wolves will have to bash through walls of defenders in the paint.
It’s fun to joke that the bench doesn’t matter, since Tom Thibodeau will play the starters into the ground. Luckily, the foursome of Teague, Butler, Wiggins and Towns has been remarkably durable. But what if one of them misses 20 games? Can Karl-Anthony Towns give a crap on defense before we anoint him a top-10 player? Minnesota flopped to 27th in points allowed per possession in Thibodeau’s first season. Swing the ball just once, and the Wolves fractured, conceding both the rim and the arc.
Butler should drag them toward league average. He can hound the best opposing wing, and kick Wiggins and Towns in the ass when they get lazy. Those two will improve with reps; Thibodeau will bellow until they do.
Butler became a well-rounded star on offense last season, and Towns has the potential to be the most versatile scoring big man ever — and the second, after Dirk Nowitzki, to join the exalted 50-40-90 club. You don’t want your monster big hanging around the perimeter too much, but Towns’ willingness to float there — and yield the interior to Butler and Wiggins — will help Thibodeau mesh ill-fitting personnel.
The Wolves dangled Cole Aldrich and a second-round pick in search of veteran help, sources say, and they should experiment with Butler as a small-ball power forward. They will win a close game at some point.
They have too much talent to miss the playoffs for the (gulp) 14th straight year. But they will have to fight for it.