Houston’s 122-121 win over the Warriors on Tuesday night might be the way of the Western Conference this season – buckets upon buckets upon more buckets.
There’s no question that Minnesota's defensive acumen will determine if they’re true contenders, but the Timberwolves should have no trouble putting the ball through the basket. In fact, there's no reason they can't light up the league like the Rockets and Warriors did last season as the NBA's top two scoring teams.
Minnesota averaged 105.6 points last season, good for seventh-best in the West. They did that without a great 3-point threat and 10th slowest pace. They'll undoubtedly improve in both categories this season simply because of the offensive firepower Tom Thibodeau added to the roster.
Gone are Zach LaVine and Ricky Rubio, essentially replaced by three proven scorers in Jimmy Butler, Jamal Crawford and Jeff Teague, not to mention Shabazz Muhammad is back and Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng and Tyus Jones are all a year older and wiser.
Let's simplify why the Wolves should be as explosive as any team in the league.
- Towns, Butler, Wiggins were top 16 scorers last season.
- Jeff Teague had a offensive rating of 108.1 last season. Paul George's offensive rating was 108.9. Yes, Teague is a tremendous offensive point guard.
- Teague's effective field goal percentage of 49.2 % was five points higher than Rubio's.
- Muhammad averaged 18.3 points per 36 minutes, the same number that LaVine averaged. He's pure offense.
- Crawford is a three-time Sixth Man of the Year and can score in bunches.
- Gibson is a put-back scorer on a team expected to be one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league.
- When KAT or Gibson are on the bench, Dieng picks up the slack.
- Eight players on the roster averaged at least 9.9 points per game last season.
Number eight is comparable to what Houston had last season when they finished second in the league at 115.3 points per game. Their depth, led by one superstar – James Harden – featured 10 players averaging at least 9.1 points per game.
Golden State, meanwhile, led the league (115.9 points per game) with four superstars and elite offensive efficiency.
Minnesota is like a hybrid of Houston and Golden State, being fueled by two bonafide superstars (Towns and Butler), a budding star (Wiggins) and a ton of depth.
As NBA.com's power rankings note, the Wolves play nine of their first 14 games against teams that had top-10 defensive ratings last season, so they're offensive cohesion will be tested early and often.
But when it's all said and done there's no reason the Wolves won't fill it up like the Rockets and Warriors.