Karl-Anthony Towns (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
The NBA’s Western Conference is slated to be as stacked as ever this coming season. While expectations for the Minnesota Timberwolves are high, we have to remember that they will be competing with a lot of talented teams in the standings, and there will be several outside factors in determining how far they can go.
The defending West champion Warriors lost a few rotational pieces but are quickly reloading, while teams like the Nuggets and Clippers will be getting back All-Star level talents that missed significant time last season. Crucial offseason moves will dictate whether other 2022 West playoff teams hold strong at the top, or fall out of postseason contention entirely.
If the Timberwolves were to finish lower than expected in the standings next season, it wouldn’t necessarily be because of any failure on their part. With Stephen Curry, Nikola Jokic, and Luka Doncic all playing in the Western Conference, there’s an argument that three of the top five players in the world are competing out West. It was never going to be a cakewalk.
Here’s what the Western Conference standings could end up looking like in 2023:
With the Wolves exceeding expectations and finishing with 46 wins last year to land at seventh in the playoff race, it’s not difficult to see them ending up next season one spot higher. Sure, there will be some growing pains and it will take time to fully unlock all that Rudy Gobert is capable of within the Timberwolves’ system, but they absolutely have the talent to finish as one of the top five or six teams.
Given injuries and other circumstances, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Minnesota could finish significantly higher than sixth. But again, there’s some monstrous teams they’ll need to be better than to do so.
The Clippers will be getting Kawhi Leonard back after he missed all of 2021-22 with an ACL injury. While he was gone, they added to what was already a deep roster with the likes of Norman Powell and John Wall, shoring up what should be one of the top rosters in the NBA next year.
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As for the Warriors, their loss of a few key role players could be significant, but with one of the best trios in league history, it’s a no-brainer they’ll be back in the mix too. One of the most dangerous teams out West could end up being the Nuggets, as they’ll be getting Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. back in the lineup alongside the two-time defending MVP.
The Phoenix Suns are bringing back the same group that won 64 games last year, but it feels like they’re due for a slight step back. After the drama with DeAndre Ayton, who knows if they’ll be quite the same. The only other team I currently have finishing higher than Minnesota is Memphis, and that’s subject to change.
Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. is set to miss the start of next season after undergoing foot surgery. The deep roster in Memphis will take a significant hit, and that could be enough for the Timberwolves to surpass them.
In all, where Minnesota finishes in the standings is debatable. But there’s no doubt they’re primed for a highly successful regular season next year.
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