Minnesota Timberwolves season preview
This preview originally appeared in our 2023-24 VSiN NBA Betting Guide, which was released on Thursday, October 5. To become a VSiN Pro subscriber and get all of our NBA coverage throughout the season, click here.
Timberwolves Betting Odds
NBA Finals: +7500
Win Total: 43.5
Playoffs: Yes (-150)
There is no question that last season was a disappointment for Minnesota. When a team acquires a player of Rudy Gobert’s caliber (for the price the front office gave up), the expectation should be more than 42 wins, a play-in tournament berth and a gentleman’s sweep in the first round of the postseason.
Minnesota will run it back this season with largely the same roster. There is obviously hope that with better health from Karl-Anthony Towns, who only played in 29 games last season, this team can finish higher in the standings. However, when a team returns intact the same issues that weighed the team down a season ago threaten to do the same the following year.
The main concern with the Timberwolves this season will be their biggest concern last season: offense.
Minnesota finished 23rd in non-garbage time offensive efficiency last season by averaging only 114.2 points per 100 possessions. Its biggest issue was a lack of scoring in transition. The team averaged 123.8 points per 100 transition plays – the seventh worst offensive rating in transition – and added the fifth least points per 100 possessions through transition play (2.1). Much of this should not come as a surprise, considering this team is built around two bigs on the floor at once.
When Gobert and Towns shared the floor last season the Timberwolves outscored opponents by just 0.9 points per 100 possessions. That was despite limiting opponents to 106.6 points per 100 possessions. The offense was a mess with those two on the floor. The middle of the floor was congested by Gobert hanging in the dunker spot when not involved in the play, and without Towns on the floor for a majority of the season, they lacked the shooting to space the floor adequately.
A healthy and more consistent Towns — he shot just 36.8% from 3-point range last season — should help alleviate some of the offensive issues this team faced, but shooting and spacing could again be a concern for Minnesota this season.
Taurean Prince is now with the Los Angeles Lakers, and the vast majority of the Timberwolves’ depth consists of some inconsistent shooters. Jordan McLaughlin is a career 34.1% shooter. Nickeil Alexander-Walker might be coming off a career shooting season – 38.4% on 2.7 attempts per game – but his career mark is still 33.9%. Troy Brown also had a career year from beyond the arc – 38.1% on 3.7 attempts per game – but he is not going to get the same looks he did in his time playing with LeBron James. He is also a career 35.4% shooter.
Shooting and offense are going to be the focus here for Minnesota because even their new-look starting lineup had trouble on that end of the floor last season.
When their projected starting lineup of Mike Conley, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Towns and Gobert were on the floor, the Timberwolves had a +5.8 net rating, and the trio of Conley, Towns and Gobert outscored opponents by 10.3 points per 100 possessions. However, that starting lineup only averaged 106.4 points per 100 possessions and that trio had an offensive rating of 110.7 which ranked in the 20th percentile.
There is not much reason to believe this offense is going to be much better than it was last season, but this defense should be just as good as it was.
The Timberwolves finished eighth in non-garbage time defensive efficiency last season (113.7), and seventh in halfcourt defensive efficiency (96.6). That starting group was so effective because it limited opponents to 1.006 points per possession, and the trio of Conley, Gobert and Towns had a 100.4 defensive rating when on the floor together. This team has the personnel to continue to put forth that sort of efficiency on the defensive end.
This team is also extremely effective at forcing turnovers. In the two full seasons under Chris Finch, they have finished second and fifth in defensive turnover rate. It has been a staple under Finch in his time there, and they will likely be near the top of the league in that category again. Although, with Gobert on the floor they are a less effective transition team, and the Timberwolves’ efficiency in transition off steals dropped from ninth to 27th last season.
Win Total Analysis
Minnesota’s schedule is extremely favorable, so should this team stay healthy, it should be able to maximize the number of victories it has this season. Positive Residual gives them the 16th hardest strength of schedule this season. They have the best net rest advantage a team can have (+5) and the second most overall rest advantages on the schedule (15). The Timberwolves are also among the 10 teams with only 13 back-to-backs. They also get to take advantage of their rest advantages early, as they will play 10 games with a rest advantage to just one with a disadvantage before Jan. 10 when they play Boston.
If there was a schedule a win total bettor wanted for a team to bet Over, it’s hard not to look at Minnesota, but there are other factors outside of schedule construction that warrant a win total bet.
This will be a below-average offensive team. Gobert’s presence next to Towns does congest the floor. If the role players for this team cannot adequately space the floor with their shooting, then this offense will continue to be inefficient. There is also an odd tension hanging around this team that threatens to dismantle it.
Gobert punched Kyle Anderson in the regular season finale and got suspended for a play-in game. Edwards was vocal last season about the lack of efficiency with this offense and disdain for his role in it. Finch is a no-nonsense type of coach who gives voice to the frustrations with his team. It’s not a group I’m rushing to bet over their win total until I see improvements in both the offense and comradery.
Win Total Recommendation: UNDER 43.5