The Minnesota Timberwolves were finally bounced from the playoffs on Wednesday by the Rockets in Game 5 of the first round series 122-104. It was the first playoff appearance for the franchise since 2004. This season definitely had its ups and downs, but the season as a whole should be seen as a success.
Minnesota won 47 games this season, 16 more than the previous year. A lot f that can be contributed to the new additions of Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford. Butler was the key piece as he led the team in scoring and was top-10 MVP candidate until his knee injury in February. Karl-Anthony Towns notched his first all-star selection and is still coming into his own as a 22-year-old budding superstar. Role players like Tyus Jones and Nemanja Bjelica showed improvement in their third years with the team. There is plenty to like about the Timberwolves going forward but that doesn’t mean there weren’t bad signs this year.
The team struggled without Jimmy Butler in the lineup. Butler missed 23 games this year, in which Minnesota went 10-13. That could be chalked up to tough competition in those games, but it shows the Wolves relied too heavily on Butler this season. The young duo of Towns and Wiggins couldn’t step up to lead the team without Butler, and that resulted in sliding to the 8th seed and barely making the playoffs.
Speaking of Wiggins, he regressed majorly from the 2016-17 season to have his worst season as a pro. His shooting was down across the board, especially looking at his unexplainable 12% drop in free throw percentage. He seemed especially disengaged this year, and disappeared for quarters and halves at a time this season. While he may have made marginal improvements on defense, his overall game took a huge dive.
Overall though I think the season was a success, and showed why the Butler trade was necessary. I’ll grade it out as a B since the trajectory the Wolves were on before the Butler injury was the three or the four seed. If they grabbed a higher seed, maybe they would still be playing.
Looking ahead to next year it will be really interesting to see who they can add through free agency and the draft. Limited cap space may make adding a significant piece difficult. Hopefully they can add a three and D player or two to improve the bench and take the team to the next level next season.