Without Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, and despite injuries to Brandon Roy, Nikola Pekovic, J.J. Barea and Chase Budinger, they find themselves nearly atop the Northwest Division, just behind the Oklahoma City Thunder.
And just to clarify, no, you’re not dreaming.
Somehow, in the face of not just adversity, but a depleted roster, Minnesota is finding ways to win.
It reads like a cliché, because it is one. But it’s true nonetheless.
The Timberwolves haven’t emerged as an offensive powerhouse—they’re 23rd in the league with 91.6 points per game—and find themselves in the middle of the pack dishing out 21.9 dimes a night. They’re also the worst three-point shooting team in the Association as well.
Defensively, it has been a different story. Minnesota is allowing just 88.4 points per bout, second best in the league. Strong defensive sets have allowed this team to keep opposing offenses in check and capitalize off what little advantages they have offensively.
In fact, I’ll put it to you this way: Despite being 23rd in the league in points score per game, the Timberwolves are posting the ninth highest win differential in the league. Because of their defense.
Not bad for a team that is down two superstars and a bevy of key components, is it?
Not at all. But are they for real?
It’s a more than fair question. After all, we’re less than 10 games into the season and anything can happen with 70-plus games still to play. Minnesota could taper off. It could fall out of the playoff picture. It could crumple under the weight of injuries altogether.
Or the Timberwolves could get even better.
What if this stretch is a fluke, a mere hot streak that’s destined to end? What then?
Well, temporary or not, their recent stretch remains impressive because they’ve done it without so many vital pieces. And at the very least, that’s an indication of potential, if not proven perseverance.
Which means the permanency of this string doesn’t matter. They’ve proven they can play and this will ultimately mean the world—especially when Love and Rubio return.
Just think about: If this is what the Timberwolves are capable of now, playing with a decimated roster, just consider what they’re capable of at full strength.
Minnesota has proven to be a strong defensive team in the midst of being thin. As it just so happens, though, their biggest weakness right now—offense—is just what Love and Rubio provide. They’re both potent offensive weapons who will improve the Timberwolves production on that end of the floor by leaps and bounds.
And don’t take my word it. Merely watch the team as they continue to win without the most integral of pieces to their puzzle.
Then watch as they become borderline contenders upon their return.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.