ESPN predicts Timberwolves will be Western Conference contender

Signings of Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague have boosted Wolves' chances.

Timberwolves fans may be accustomed to so-called experts overrating their chances, but you can forgive them for being optimistic about the upcoming season.

Signing up stars including Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague to play alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins is putting the Wolves right in conversations about Western Conference contenders.

ESPN on Thursday revealed its win projections for the new season based on its real plus-minus (RPM) data tool, and it has Minnesota finishing with the 4th best record in the conference.

To get to that spot, ESPN thinks the Wolves will pull off 50 wins, placing them ahead of the Russell Westbrook-led Oklahoma City Thunder and behind only the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs.

The Warriors, obviously, are expected to dominate again next season with 62 wins.

ESPN acknowledges that previous projections have overrated the Timberwolves chances in previous years, including last year when they won only 31 games when 37 were expected.

However, "this time feels different," with the addition of Butler in particular expected to take the team a step further, with 50 wins projected mainly because it expects the Wolves to have the 2nd best offense in the conference.

And that doesn't even take into account the Wolves' flirtation with a possible, albeit unlikely, move for Kyrie Irving.

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