With a new starting five of Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Karl-Anthony Towns, followed by bench depth highlighted by Jamal Crawford, Gorgui Dieng, Tyus Jones and Nemanja Bjelica, the 2017-18 season could be a refreshing experience for Wolves fans desperate to feel the intensity of postseason basketball for the first time since 2004.
ESPN is really high on the Wolves' potential. Using its real plus-minus (RPM) calculations, ESPN is forecasting 50+ wins for the Wolves and the fourth-best record in the NBA.
The RPM forecast doesn't have any Eastern Conference team projected higher than 49 wins, so Minnesota's 50 wins would get them the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. behind the Warriors, Rockets and Spurs.
Here's ESPN's explanation:
Statistical projections have been known to overrate the Timberwolves by betting on the come, including last season's seemingly conservative 37-win projection from RPM. (Minnesota won just 31 games, albeit with the point differential of a 38-win team.) With Jimmy Butler joining budding stars Karl-Anthony Townsand Andrew Wiggins, this time feels different. RPM doesn't even project the Timberwolves to defend particularly well (20th in defensive rating); this projection is largely a testament to the league's second-best offensive projection.
Believe it or not, the NBA season begins in less than three months.