2016-17 Minnesota Timberwolves season: 20 over/under predictions from the AWAW staff

Via Getty Images

Via Getty Images

Wednesday! Wednesday! Wednesday! That’s when the 2016-17 NBA season kicks off for the Minnesota Timberwolves in Memphis. While a majority of Wolves seasons have kicked off and we’ve just been waiting for the sadness to set in and the games to become meaningless, this season feels a bit different. Tom Thibodeau is running the show, Karl-Anthony Towns is getting ready to take over the world, and the Wolves have a young, exciting roster the rest of NBA fans and pundits are projecting good things for.

We decided to do our own projecting before the season kicks off with some over/under scenarios for this Wolves season. From offense to defense to individual accomplishments to whether or not the Wolves make the playoffs, we’ve got 20 over/under predictions from our AWAW staff that will assuredly look prescient in every way six months from now.

(One small note: if we’re talking a ranking on offense or defense and pick the over, that means over perform the task at hand. So if we take the over on a 10.5 offensive ranking, that means we’re picking them to be in the top 10.)

Over/Under: 10.5 Offensive Rating Ranking

Zach Harper: Over. I think they finish in the top 10 in offense this season, although it could be a pretty tough task. After going on a tear post-January, the Wolves finished 11th in offensive rating for 2015-16. They should be more modern and better coached this season so a top 10 finish will be competitive but likely.

Lucas Seehafer: Over. Similar to what Zach said, the Wolves finished 11th last season in a mostly antiquated system. With a greater emphasis on the three and improvement from the likes of Wiggins, KAT, LaVine, and Bjelica I think top 10 could be achievable. I think this team’s offensive ceiling is around 7.

Andy Grimsrud: Under. When the Wolves offense exploded down the stretch of last season, it sometimes came in the context of up-tempo, very-little-defense-being-played games. Ricky Rubio’s passing in transition is an overwhelming strength that easily offsets his poor shooting in fast games like that. With some passes that — no hyperbole — nobody else in the league would even attempt, he was setting up dunks for Wiggins and LaVine on the break. Since I’m skeptical that Thibs will embrace fast offense as much as he’ll focus on fixing the defense, I expect a minor step back on offense; at least in the early going.

Patrick Johnston: Under. They don’t have the experience or the depth or the continuity as a team to be an ex-ante pick as a top-10 rated team on offense. Since we’re freewheeling here, let me make a prediction about predictions: I predict that next year, if asked the same question, I will predict the over. The young gunz will have another year of experience moving toward the prime years of their career, as well as greater continuity by having played together under Tom Thibodeau for a year and learning his system together this season, in which (I expect) we’ll see too much inconsistency to bet on a top-10 offense.

Steve McPherson: Under. Like Andy and Patrick, I think we may be looking at a one step forward, two steps back situation on the offensive end. Their offensive success came largely from Mitchell unshackling the youth movement, and I think Thibodeau is going to want to rein them in until they show they know how to defend. If the offensive rank is too good while the defensive rank lags, Thibodeau will probably start instituting fines for taking shots.

Bill Bohl: Under. Someone wants Ricky Rubio out of town. It’s either Thibs/Layden, Ricky, or Ricky’s agent. If Ricky leaves town and do not get a competent point guard in return (and why would they, if the whole point of getting rid of Ricky is to give Thibs’ guy, Kris Dunn, the reins to the team) the offense will be bad. Maybe not bad, but definitely not good. Under.

Tim Faklis: Under, but not by much. The Wolves on their own merits, are a strong group of offensive players. Together, they’ve shown that they can be a top 10 caliber team. I just think that Thibs is going to preach defense to the point where the offense might take a small step back. Still, a team with Ricky, KAT, Wiggins and LaVine are going to make it a fun race to the top 10.

Over/Under: 18.5 Defensive Rating Ranking

Zach: Under. After finishing last season at 27th in defensive rating, Tom Thibodeau is tasked with getting this crew on track defensively. As much as I believe in a big leap for them, I’ll peg them around 19 or 20 in defensive rating for this coming season. By the end of next season, I’ll expect a top 10 finish but not quite yet with all this youth.

Lucas: Under. I just can’t get over how difficult it would be for the Wolves to jump from 27th to the top 20, even with Thibs leading the charge. The core of the group is still so young that I wonder if they won’t struggle with consistency on defense early in the season. Thibs is the Wolves third coach in as many years and his defensive schemes are almost a complete 180 from what the Wolves experienced under Flip and Mitchell, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the defense really doesn’t solidify itself until later in the season.

Andy: Over. While it appears Thibs will use the same great offense/poor defense starting five that closed last season (Rubio/LaVine/Wiggins/Dieng/Towns), I don’t expect him to have much patience if they defend poorly. I just struggle to envision a below-average Thibs defense, so I think he’ll shuffle the lineup before he rides out something that — by his standards — would be a developmental year on that end of the floor. That could mean Rush in for LaVine, or Aldrich in for Dieng. I think they finish in the top half on D. (Ideally, there is no lineup change because the young, offense-oriented group is immediately good on D as well.)

Patrick J: Over. Playing great defense is difficult, but (in my opinion) it is more teachable–especially for a defensive guru with Thibodeau’s bona fides–and implementable (possibly a made-up word) for teams that have athletic, amenable personnel. This year’s Timberwolves team is fortunate to have both qualities on its side. Major defensive strides could be in order.

Steve: Under. Simply put, solid to great defense is not something you can instill quickly because it depends so much on a collective understanding of everyone’s place in space and responsibilities. The goal for them should be somewhere in the top 15 to 20 for some part of the latter half of the season, but I’m not convinced they’ll manage it over the distance.

Bill: Under. Thibs is a good coach, but not a miracle worker, and I won’t believe Zach LaVine can be a starter on a very good defensive team until I see it. Beyond that, I’m a bit concerned about their overall wing depth on defense. Wiggins is going to be asked to do a ton. Can he progress the way we all seem to want/expect? And if he misses any time, who defends wings? Rush and Bazz? Yikes.

Tim: Under. I think this preseason, Thibs has already shown that he can make good defense happen very quickly, but moving up 10 spots in 1 year seems next to impossible. LaVine and Wiggins have some good defensive potential, but it’s going to take more than a year for them to get it completely (one more than the other, of course). I think it’s almost certainly going to improve, but it won’t be a total overhaul. Not with this team, not yet.

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Via Getty Images

Over/Under: Top 15.5 in 3-Point Rate for Wolves this season

Zach: Under. As much as Thibs talks about embracing the modern style of basketball scoring, I’m not sure they’ll crack the upper half of the league just quite yet. Not convinced Andrew Wiggins or Ricky Rubio will shoot a high volume of 3-pointers, but I do expect this team to crack the top 20 in 3-point rate (29th last season).

Lucas: Under. Thibs was never high on the three in Chicago and even though that might change to an extent this season, I don’t know if he’ll truly embrace it to the point that it becomes the main focus of the offense. I think the three will be an important aspect of the Wolves’ offense, but not the main ingredient.

Andy: Under. In the starting lineup, they have three guys who don’t shoot threes well.

Patrick J: Under. Caveat emptor: if LaVine and Towns both embrace, and make good on, Thibodeau’s interest in closing the 3-point shooting gap between the Wolves and the rest of the league, they could move the needle pretty far toward at least making the Wolves a middling NBA team on this metric.

Steve: Yeah, under. If the Wolves crack the top 20, that would be huge for them. Not every team has to be the Warriors or the Rockets (and preferably not the Rockets, especially) to use the 3-point shot effectively. If they can just use it enough to space the floor reasonably well, it should pay huge dividends and I can’t see Thibs pushing for more in that department.

Bill: Thibs seems to have a pretty set top-10. Dunn’s shot didn’t fall in the preseason, and even if it had, he’s an unknown commodity (read also: rookie). Rubio, Bazz, and Wiggins have been underwhelming shooters for the balance of their careers. Bjelica and KAT have promise, but it’s hard to know if they’ll hold up under an increase in volume. Dieng and Aldrich don’t take them. That leaves Rush and LaVine as the team’s sure-fire, green-light shooters. That’s it. Under.

Tim: Under. As Zach said, Thibs wanting to be a more modern team that takes threes is the right start, but this isn’t the cast to do that. As it stands, Karl-Anthony Towns may be the second best 3-point shooter on the floor to start the game. On one hand, that’s awesome, but on the other hand, it means Rubio and Wiggins still have a ways to go on that front.

Over/Under: 19.9 points per game for Karl-Anthony Towns

Zach: Over. I was going to go under and project modestly for Towns, maybe having him ease into being a 20-point per game scorer. But KAT might accidentally score 20 per game.

Lucas: Over. The Wolves will have two 20 ppg scorers on the team: KAT and Wiggins.

Andy: Over, in part because of the half-expectation that LaVine (who would otherwise gobble up a lot of shots in the offense) earns less than a full starting role this year under Thibs. The other part is that KAT is awesome and should be a 20+ scorer, especially as he learns how to draw more fouls.

Patrick J: Over.

Steve: Under. Because here’s the thing: I think Wiggins and LaVine may both crack 20 ppg and I can’t see Towns also doing it. I think Towns is going to be asked to do a lot, but won’t be asked to be the primary offensive option as a scorer night in and night out. Now he might be the primary offensive option in terms of opening things up for other players, but I think he will be doing a lot of facilitating as well. Plus there’s this: other than DeMarcus Cousins, Brook Lopez was the only center to average 20+ ppg last season. Towns is actually the next big man after Lopez from last season and he’s 23rd with 18.3 ppg. Simply put, there are fewer 20 ppg scorers nowadays and there are fewer high volume big man scorers.

Bill: Over. Even when Sam Mitchell turned the offense loose towards the end of last season, and LaVine and Wiggins both stepped up their own scoring, KAT still got his: over the final 41 games, he averaged 21.1 points.

Tim: Over. Honestly, I think that whether it’s the plan or not, he’s just going to do it. He’s good enough to just efficiently shoot his way there, even if Wiggins/LaVine gobble up a lot of the shots.

Over/Under: 20.9 points per game for Andrew Wiggins

Zach: Over. Wiggins hit 20.7 per game by season’s end last year. I still think he’s going to lead the team in scoring and I think he’ll crack 22 per game.

Lucas: Over. I think Wiggins is going to have a big season. I think he will improve his 3-point percentage to around 33% by the end of the season and he will continue being a monster at getting to the line (and I think he will improve his percentage there, too). I don’t think 22 ppg is crazy.

Andy: Over. Wiggins tends to be the most “featured” offensive player on this team, he grinds out points per game by drawing so many fouls, and his scoring should go up over the next few years as he develops a more consistent jumper. Also, I think Wig will score a little more as the Wolves become a team that plays in more competitive games, as they should this year. He has shown more than a couple flashes of being a “go-to guy,” down the stretch. I expect that to continue.

Patrick J: Under. I’m admittedly taking the under on Wiggins in the spirit of contrarianism, but a 2016-17 season in which Towns and LaVine absorb more usage in the offense, and Wiggins levels out (or is used less) isn’t inconceivable to me. (Eds. Note: If real money were at stake, Patrick J would be taking the over on Andrew Wiggins averaging 20.9 ppg.)

Steve: Over. I’m not sure that Thibodeau will continue the policies of the previous administration with regard to force-feeding Wiggins the ball to get him shots — and I personally don’t want them to — but I’m not going to bet against it until I see it. For the time being, I think we have to believe he will be given plenty of opportunities to score and will continue to get to the line. That equals a lot of points.

Bill: Under. Hot take: he increases his efficiency, but his overall points per game levels off or drops.

Tim: I’m going under as well. I like Bill’s take, and will add to it. I think his increased efficiency comes as a result of KAT and (sometimes) LaVine becoming the primary shot takers on the team. Wiggins will then be there to pick up the pieces at times. And, man, a high-efficiency Wiggins would be fun.

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Via Getty Images

Over/Under: 9.9 assists per game for Ricky Rubio

Zach: Under. It’s just preseason but the Wolves are playing about five possessions faster per game than they did last season. I don’t expect Rubio to play much more than he did (30.6 mpg) and I don’t expect the Wolves to play as fast as they have in the preseason. I think Rubio improves upon his 8.7 per game but we’re probably capping out at around 9.5.

Lucas: Under. I think Rubio will hover right around 9.0 apg. 10.0 apg is quite a lot and I don’t think it’s a number you can ever really expect someone to surpass, unless that player is, like, Chris Paul or something.

Andy: Under, due to minutes.

Patrick J: Over. I’m prepared to get this one wrong, but Ricky has historically posted filthy assist per game numbers under terrifyingly imperfect conditions. Averaging 10 assists per game is rare in today’s NBA, but Ricky could enjoy a bump this season–especially if “Thibs do Thibs,” i.e., reverts back to his old *habit* of giving his best and most trusted players a ton of regular-season minutes.

Steve: Under. As good as Rubio is, I think his minutes won’t balloon and furthermore his lack of scoring ultimately has a negative impact on his assists per game. It’s simply diminishing returns because while he’s a gifted passer, his inability to score consistently on his own means teams can play the pass much stronger.

Bill: Under. Rubio isn’t Thibs’ kind of point guard. I have a feeling the ball will be out of his hands a bunch, with the offense running through KAT, Wiggins or LaVine as much as possible. And with the presence of Dunn, it isn’t as though Rubio will be playing an excessive amount of minutes.

Tim: Under. I desperately want to say over. With this team, that number fits, but I don’t see him getting there. I don’t think it’ll be due to minutes – I’m not sure Dunn will be ready right away this year – but I also don’t know how much of the offense Thibs will run through Ricky. I don’t think it’ll be enough to pile on the assists like that.

Over/Under: 174.5 3-pointers made for Zach LaVine

Zach: Over. Franchise record in a season is 190 by NBA champion Kevin Love. Next highest is the horrible Rashad McCants with 142. I think LaVine goes on a tear from deep this season and hits around 180.

Lucas: Over. LaVine’s game is the most similar to “today’s NBA” on the roster and I think Thibs will utilize him as such. LaVine will be one of the main 3-point shooters on the team (along with Bjelica and Brandon Rush) and I don’t think it’s crazy to think he could put up around 5-6 per game. At that pace, in order to hit 175 for the season, he’d have to make 2.1 per game, which I think is doable.

Andy: Under, due to minutes. He averaged 28 mpg last year, and that’s about where I see him ending up this season with the tempered-expectation that LaVine won’t be good enough on defense to merit the 35+ that Thibs might otherwise play a good wing player. He made 123 treys last year, which was a little under 2 per 36 minutes. He might make more than that, but I don’t think he’ll reach 175.

Patrick J: Under. LaVine has shown amazing flashes, but he has yet to do it consistently for a full season. Granted, LaVine is only 21 and could do it this season, but if I were gambler, I’d err on the conservative side in projecting LaVine’s volume 3-point shooting for now.

Steve: Over. Somebody has to make them.

Bill: Under, but damn, this is a tricky one. There were 15 players in the league who made that many a year ago, a group as diverse as Steph Curry (1st) and Mirza Teletovic (14th). If LaVine’s defense is going to keep him on the lower side of the minutes scale, he’d have to really chuck in order to hit over 2 per game; I’m just not sure he’ll get there. I feel the least confident about this one so far, though.

Tim: Under. He won’t get enough playing time early on in the season to get it done. By the end of the season, they’ll be coming in bunches. Next year? I could definitely see it.

Over/Under: 38% 3FG for Zach LaVine

Zach: Over. LaVine hit 38.9% of his 3-pointers last season. This offense should be more proactive in creating quality looks for him and others. He’ll fall just short of 40% but he’s clearing 38% again.

Lucas: Over. We’ll be calling him Zach LaThreene before the end of the season.

Andy: Over.

Patrick J: Over.

Steve: Over. And also, Lucas: No.

Bill: Over. And also, for God’s sake, Lucas, no.

Tim: Over. Lucas, stop it.

Over/Under: 81.5 3-point makes for Andrew Wiggins

Zach: Under. By going with at least 82, I’d be buying into Wiggins making one per game this season. I expect his jumper to be better, but I’m not convinced he’s extending it consistently to 3-point range just quite yet.

Lucas: Under. Although I think Wiggins will improve his percentage, I think his ability to get to the line will be the more emphasized aspect of his game. Wiggins’ 3-point shooting will be used as more of a tool to keep teams on their toes, rather than an emphasis, which will keep him under 82 makes.

Andy: Over, but not by much.

Patrick J: Under. With LaVine, Towns, and potentially Bjelica emerging as 3-point shooters, I can envision Wiggins exploiting his real comparative advantage: breaking down defenders inside the arc, and getting to the free-throw line.

Steve: Under. Thibodeau is likely going to design more action to go out to the 3-point line, but I think the fact that Wiggins’ rep coming into the NBA was that he could defend and he hasn’t shown off that yet is going to be too tempting for Thibs to not focus on him a lot there.

Bill: Under. It’s his assist numbers that are going to make the jump. His job, I think, is going to be to break people down and get to the rim or the line, as Patrick said, but also passing out of that to open shooters. He won’t often by the guy out there to space.

Tim: Under. It’s going to be LaVine, Rubio, and KAT out there. The post will be Wiggins’ home.

Over/Under: 33.3% 3FG for Andrew Wiggins

Zach: Under. He needed a strong finish to the season to get back to 30% on the year. His career best is 31%. I think he sets a career-high in 3-point percentage this season but I don’t think he gets to one-third of his attempts as makes.

Lucas: GAH. Is exactly on the dot an option? (Editor’s note: this isn’t over/under/exactly-on-the-dot so pick one, Lucas!) I’ll go under because it is the safer bet, but I think Wiggins will be right around 33.3% once the season gets going and he’s more comfortable with his new shooting technique. Expecting around 35% is a formula for disappointment and “Wiggins is overrated” talk.

Andy: Over, but not by much.

Patrick J: Under, but not by much.

Steve: Over. I’m hoping that what I said above holds and then Wiggins is only taking the open threes. He won’t shoot many, but I’m hoping he can make 35%.

Bill: Over. We’ll be calling him Andrew WiggANDTHETHREEGOESins by the end of the season. (Editor’s note: Bill,,,,)

Tim: Over. I’m buying into the idea that his threes will come in at lower rates, but at a higher percentage this year. Also, Bill….why…

Over/Under: 599.5 Free throw attempts for Andrew Wiggins

Zach: Over. I do think Wiggins will continue to get his mail forwarded to the free throw line. He finished with 565 attempts last season (4th most in franchise history). I think he becomes second Wolves player ever to crack 600 in a season (Love — 633).

Lucas: Over. As I alluded previously, I think getting Wiggins to the line will be an important part of the Wolves offense, especially if he can convert at around 80%.

Andy: Under, in part because of the expectation that his 3-point shooting will improve a bit. Having a little more success from the perimeter might mean a little bit less of the relentless hoop attacking.

Steve: Over. And are we just going to pretend that what happened with Bill in the last answer didn’t happen?

Patrick J: Over. As I mentioned above, I can envision Wiggins making hay this season at the line, especially if his teammates end up taking a greater share of the team’s 3PFGAs.

Bill: Under, but not by much. It’ll be a very important aspect of his game, but I think spreading the wealth will be more of an emphasis this season.

Tim: Over. As I said, the post will be his home. Wiggins has already shown an ability to get to the line at a good clip, and I’m somewhat expecting him to make that his specialty this year.

Over/Under: 81.5 3-pointers made for Nemanja Bjelica

Zach: Over. I think Bjelica will be one of two Wolves players with 100 makes this coming season. He hit only 48 in 60 games last season but Thibs won’t want to take him off the floor. And I swear to Pek, if one of you says “Threelica” here…

Lucas: Over. I think LaVine and Bjelica will be the Wolves’ main chuckers from deep and if aggressive Bjelica sticks around and Thibs’ love for him is true, I could see him eclipsing that number fairly easily.

Andy: Over.

Patrick J: Under.

Steve: Man, I want to say over, but when you think about it as averaging 1 per game, I’m a little less sold, if only because I think minutes will be an issue. If the defense of the starters is solid overall, I could see Thibs putting Bjelica into the starting lineup for offensive punch. But is that really going to happen? I … oh hell, I’m going to dream and say over.

Bill: Under. I think his minutes will be up from a year ago, but there’s definitely a cap due to his defensive shortcomings. I’m not sure he’ll hit one per game.

Tim: Over. He’s going to shoot them this year. He’s not going to hesitate. With that, the shots are going to start going in at a high rate. It’s happening, dammit.

Over/Under: 37.9% 3FG for Nemanja Bjelica

Zach: Over. He hit 38.4% last season and while his volume will go up, I think he’s a special enough shooter at the stretch-4 position to not drop below 38%.

Lucas: Over. I think he’ll be in the 38-39.5% range. If he gets to 40% I’ll be ecstatic.

Andy: Under, but not by much. He shoots some extremely-long threes — which are cool and I enjoy watching — and he might also shoot threes at a pretty high frequency, this season, which could limit his percentage a bit. I’m expecting him to end in the 36-37 range, which will amount to helpful second-unit offense.

Patrick J: Under.

Steve: Just to counteract the optimism in the last answer, I’ll say under.

Bill: Over. He and LaVine are the two Wolves shooters I really, really believe in.

Tim: Over. It’s all happening for Bjelica this year.

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Over/Under: 0.5 trades for the Wolves by the deadline

Zach: Under. I know there are Tyus Jones rumors, but I don’t think the Wolves make an in-season move in Thibs’ first season as emperor.

Lucas: Over. This is a roster full of “not Thibs’ guys” and I think Thibs really wants to keep John Lucas III around to provide a veteran presence and because he is familiar with him. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Tyus traded and possibly Bazz if the team thinks he’ll attract too much money in restricted free agency.

Andy: Over. Between Shabazz and (possibly) Gorgui facing restricted free agency in 2017, the awkwardness of Rubio/Dunn/Tyus, and the general dynamic of a new front office regime not having made any “splash,” yet, I think the Wolves will make at least one trade. Just don’t ask me what that trade will be.

Patrick J: Over. Thibodeau still has some tinkering to do and isn’t known for his patience.

Steve: Over. After they let Rasual Butler and Touré Murry go and decided to hang on to John Lucas III, I can’t really see a long-term home for Tyus Jones on the Wolves. Starting his career in the Twin Cities was a nice story, and I think he has enough to be a bench player in the NBA, but it seems likely he’s now the fourth PG on the depth chart. He could be gone before the season.

Bill: Over. It’ll be Tyus soon, and maybe Ricky at the deadline. Gorgui will be tough to move due to impending RFA weirdness, and ditto for Bazz, but there’s plenty to be done at the end of the roster and I’m sure Thibs/Layden are looking to remake the team in their image.

Tim: Over. I think it’s just the nature of the business that new GMs like to make a splash – small or big – in their first year running the show. I could see one of Tyus, Shabazz, Gorgui, or (please, no) Ricky being gone by the deadline.

Over/Under: 0.5 Wolves on All-NBA Teams

Zach: Over. It’s Yarn Getting Season and we know KAT gonna get that yarn. I think he makes All-NBA Second Team.

Lucas: Over. KATters gonna KAT KAT KAT KAT KAT.

Andy: Over. KAT will make an All-NBA Team.

Steve: Under. I can’t take all this rampant optimism.

Patrick J: Over. Everyone agrees KAT is great. Adreian Payne could also be a dark-horse candidate if given the minutes. Wait, did the team announce final roster cuts yet? Regardless, I’m going with the over.

Bill: I’m with Patrick on Adreian Payne; quite frankly, I’m not sure how in the hell we made it this far without even mentioning the Wolves second-best player. Also, KAT is pretty good and should make a team. So give me the over.

katgonnagetthatyarn

Over/Under: 0.5 Wolves in the All-Star Game

Zach: Over. I think KAT gets his first All-Star Game bid and I think he may even get voted in as a starter. But the coaches will definitely put him on the roster.

Lucas: Over. KAT will get in and Wiggins will be in the “Was this guy snubbed? Well, not really because the West is so deep at guard/forward, but he’s really good” conversation.

Andy: Over. Again, KAT.

Steve: Over. I don’t think KAT will get voted in, but I do think the coaches put him in.

Patrick J: Over —> KAT.

Bill: Over. KAT will be in. Wiggins is a dark horse.

Tim: Over. Meow. (Editor’s note: Bold of Tim to take Adreian “Big Cat” Payne as an All-Star.)

Over/Under: 0.5 Wolves on All-Defense Teams

Zach: Under. I want to believe Rubio will make All-Defensive Second Team at least under Thibodeau but it’s crazy competitive.

Lucas: Over. I’ll bite. Rubio is going to make Second Team All-Defense.

Andy: Under. Team D will make big strides, but I don’t see Ricky getting the individual recognition that he might deserve for his part in it.

Patrick J: Over. In the past, Rubio’s defense has been criminally underappreciated around the league. Now that Defensive Maestro Tom Thibodeau is running things, Ricky is more likely both to (1) improve on his already-stellar defense, and (2) get the benefit of the doubt around the league.

Steve: Over. I’m with Patrick: Rubio’s defense has always been top tier, but there’s only been so much he can on the Wolves teams he’s been on. Thibodeau coaching sets up the perfect scenario for this kind of thing, where a guy who’s always been that guy but never been recognized finally gets his due.

Bill: Over? If Ricky’s still on the team at the end of the season, maybe him? DeAndre Jordan and Hassan Whiteside were the two All-Defensive centers a year ago, so clearly the voters are a little foggy on the qualifications… maybe KAT ends up with 2 blocks per game and ends up on an All-Defensive team? Wiggins, if he has a monster season? I dunno. Over, I guess?

Tim: Over. Ricky is due to make one of these teams. The pairing with Thibs is too perfect a marriage for this not to happen. KAT will get there one day, and maybe even Wiggins too, but this is the year of the Ricky.

Over/Under: Top 3.5 finish in Rookie of the Year voting for Kris Dunn

Zach: Under. I just don’t see how he gets the minutes and opportunity over guys like Ben Simmons (if he comes back this season), Joel Embiid, Brandon Ingram, Jamal Murray, and Buddy Hield unless Rubio gets hurt.

Lucas: Under. Dunn is a defensive-centric point guard, who struggles to shoot, isn’t particularly flashy, and won’t be starting. That totally goes against the formula for ROY voting.

Andy: Under. As long as Rubio is here and healthy, there won’t be minutes for Dunn to compete for this award.

Patrick J: Over, but mostly just because this season’s rookie class is bad and Kris Dunn is better than most of his peers right now. Further boosting Dunn’s chances, Chief RoY Competition Ben Simmons of the 76ers will be out for a few months with an injury. I don’t think Dunn will necessarily win the Rookie of the Year award–my confidence in that happening is significantly lower than that of the league’s GMs–but the circumstances might juuuust be favorable enough for Kris to sneak into the top three.

Steve: Over. I don’t think he wins it, but I can see a top three finish. He has a lot of momentum going into the season given that GMs and rookies both think he will be ROY. He won’t get the minutes to really compete, but I think once you get past the actual winner, stuff gets weird.

Bill: Under. Embiid, Ingram, Hield, Murray are all poised to be more impactful.

Tim: Under. He won’t play enough. It’s that simple. There are enough rookies in this year’s class that will get starters minutes that Dunn won’t have much of a chance to compete for a top spot this year. I think he has a chance to make the All-Rookie Second Team, but not much more than that. This isn’t a knock on him, I just expect (or maybe, rather, hope) that Thibs will fall in love with Rubio being on the floor.

Over/Under: 41.5 wins

Zach: Under. 38 wins is a big improvement from last year and while it doesn’t quite live up to the hype train of the (crazy young) Wolves right now, it’s an acceptable step in the right direction. I wrote this before I watched KAT play in the final two preseason games and they were ridiculous enough for me to bump them up to 40. But I’ve still got the under.

Lucas: Over, but just barely. I think in the best case scenario (we’re talking major improvements from/in Wiggins, Bjelica, LaVine, team defense, and 3-point shooting) 45 wins is possible. I think the Wolves will fall just short of the best case scenario, but will see major improvement across the board. The Wolves finish with a record of 42-40.

Andy: Over by a half game. I’ve decided that a realistic range of Wolves outcomes is 34 to 50 wins, with the obligatory “barring a major injury or unforeseen trade” caveat. Since 34 + 50 = 84, and 84/2 = 42, 42 wins is my season prediction. #analytics

Patrick J: Under. 40-42 seems like a Wolvesian prediction befitting of this year’s Wolves.

Steve: I saw that 538’s projection for the Wolves is 46 wins and a 72% chance of making the playoffs. I’ll just be straight with you: This scares the shit out of me. I think 41.5 is exactly the right over/under, so just because of that fear of expectation, I’ll go under and say they go .500.

Bill: Under. Between 33 and 35 wins, especially if they trade Ricky, or if Ricky gets hurt, which he has a history of doing.

Tim: This one’s tough. I’ll say over, because I want to see the Wolves in the playoffs this year, and they can’t make it without a winning record. Is this my most nuanced take ever? No. But I’m not changing my call. You can’t take this away from me.

Over/Under: 0.5 playoff berths for the Wolves

Zach: Under. This isn’t the East but I do think it’s the last time in a long time the Wolves don’t make the postseason.

Lucas: Under. Not this year, but look out next season.

Andy: Over. 42 wins isn’t always enough for a playoff spot in the West, but it would’ve been last year, so I’m going over.

Patrick J: Under. The Wolves are zero years away from being one year away. (Fran Fraschilla voice.)

Steve: Under. Not this year, but I think next is definitely in play.

Bill: Not a chance. Under.

Tim: Screw it. OVER!!! I FEEL SO ALIVE!!

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7 Responsesso far.

  1. Mebert says:

    I feel like I am taking crazy pills here. So many of these answers are on the over because of something Rubio brings to the table, but it is still a given that he is all but gone from the team. I think Thibs forcing out Rubio for an unknown that duplicates a bunch of Rubios issues in the first place is a damning negative against him having Coach/GM responsibilities.

    Since the beginning the Wolves have spit in Rubios face for his deficiencies while completely ignoring everything he brings to the table. In a few years we are going to be hearing about what a blunder it was dump him as he ends up on a team that will finally embrace all he adds and he becomes a regular on all star teams.

    end of rant

    • JV Gibbons says:

      I’m ok with the good things that Rubio does, but if he’s as great an overall PG as some say, this team wouldn’t have been what its been over his tenure. You can’t name another “top” PG who has done nothing but lose. The other issue is his inability to stay healthy. Yes, he made it through most of last season without injury, but depending on him to be consistently available is a huge risk. Rubio is good, but he’s not all star, high level talent. If the Wolves can flip him for something else, it would be irresponsible for them to ignore. Rubio will one day be a very good back-up on a really good team. No one on the Wolves will regret letting him go when that happens.

      • gjk says:

        Yup, arguments devoid of context are always indisputable. Whether he’s a “top” PG or not, there’s still a pretty good chance Rubio has a better career than Dunn, with the Wolves or elsewhere. That alone is a reason to hold onto him until an actual upgrade (not a hypothetical one) is available.

      • Mebert says:

        No PG other than Russell Westbrook was taking the wolves to the playoffs while they had the talent they had while Rubio has been here. He has had 1 season with a team with even decent talent on it, and that was undone by knuckle pushups. PG(Westbrook excluded) is the most team dependent position there is, They are all elevated by having more talent around him.

        Lets use Chris Paul as the example, when we was on the Hornets he made it as high as the 2 seed when he Had Tyson Chandler and David West. The next year Chandler was out half the year and they fell to the 7 seed. The year after that they dump Chandler and miss the playoffs by a large margin and Paul demands a trade. Did Paul get worse? or did the talent around him erode? He did ok again once he got on a team with Griffin and Jordan. That was with the best PG of that last decade, not sure why you would expect more from Rubio.

  2. pyrrol says:

    I’m not much of an over/under guy or a numbers guy to the decimal point. But I do have a few predictions…

    –I think LaVine will have a bigger breakout season than Wiggins. He has the ability to lash out and violently score in a short period of time and he keeps getting better and better before our eyes. Wiggins’ growth is slow. The knock against LaVine is his D, but frankly, Wiggins’ isn’t much better even though he was supposed to come in and be a defender in the league right away. Wiggins has been working hard on his weaknesses in the off season and will be more efficient because of how we use him (less and in better situations). But LaVine is quicker, a better leaper, has improved his feel for the game, has glowing natural confidence, and a really good three point shot. Wiggins will never be that sort of natural shooter from 3, but I hope and expect him to improve. By season’s end, LaVine may be the number 2 option on our offense and be putting up amazing numbers.

    –So far the offense we’ve seen doesn’t open things up for Rubio a whole lot. I see some better transition offense, which will give Rubio assists. General offensive prowess across the starting lineup will give Rubio the chance to drive and find open shots now and again. But it also looks like Thibs doesn’t want the ball in Rubio’s hands a whole lot. Rubio either hasn’t had an alley oop green light or the offensive strategy we are taking doesn’t create those opportunities. Maybe the dream of 10+ apg is unrealistic given all this. Still, Rubio gets a lot of assists in non-ideal circumstances and the types of assists he get tend to have more impact than what most pgs do with theirs.

    –From what I’ve seen, I’m expecting Bjelica to impress a lot of people throughout the season.

    –I think we can all agree that Dunn has some serious potential. Still, his preseason was unsettling. He only played decent (though not amazing) the last game. One could interpret that two ways–that he’s getting his ‘sea legs’ and will play like that most nights looking forward, or that he’s going to struggle with consistency, with only flashes of potential for the near future. A red flag is his age and 4 years at college. He really only seemed good enough to draft after 3-4 years in school, and even then I think he was only the 5th pick because of a weak draft. To put this in perspective, Towns, LaVine, Wiggins and Jones are all younger than Dunn. It’s possible that the flashes we see will never be consistent, that he’ll not become a good NBA player. If I had to, I’d predict him to be somewhat of a disappointment, with his ability inflated by a weak draft class. But he’s one of those cases where it is still so hard to see if he’ll be a bust, an all star, or anything in between. Complicating this is Thibs likely loyalty to his own choice (Dunn), and the odd similarity in strengths and weaknesses–Rubio and Dunn are not totally different types. This basically means Dunn is trying to win minutes and trust by having the same weakness (shooting) and strengths as Rubio (passing, D). Still, Rubio runs a team so well, has such good decision making, and gets to the line and hits free throws. Dunn is stronger and more athletic. It would be nice if they were a little more of a gear change. Unless Dunn ends up being really good, this lack of contrast may hurt him the most. It could also hurt the team if he’s not forced to earn his minutes.

    –I think we are going to be a better team than a lot of people nationally expect.

  3. Tom says:

    Kyrie Irving was a “top point guard” that did nothing but lose until they added the greatest player in this generation, an excellent shooting power forward and additional players to allow him to finally win. People seem to forget that Rubio’s rookie season with Love and Pek and a bunch of never beens was a .500 club until his injury and in the playoff hunt.

    As for the predictions. It is probably safe to say that a 50 win season is out of the question in the West. However, because the conference is now tipped heavily to one team, you may see teams like Dallas, Houston, Clippers and Spurs dismantle and try to redesign their older teams for younger players to make a run in a couple years, dropping down in the standings. Already Pop is frustrated with LA and rumblings that the Clips may move Blake, The East still has a lot of bad teams that the wolves can feast on, and I think Thibs will win more of those games where we lead by 20, only to let our defense fail us, which happened a lot last year. That puts us around 44 wins which could get us around the eighth seed.

    I think KAT is a 20 point scorer because he is a top three big man and that is what they do. Wiggins will probably still outscore him (say 22 pts) because wings are scorers in this league. Zack is the guy that I’m most curious about because he is such a great streaky shooter that he could have nights were he can score forty and Thibs offense does use the guards to score. Of course, he could also score four, but I think he is the wild card to make this team a true contender for the playoffs. Because Rubio only takes a half dozen shots a game, who cares how well those shots go? He and Dieng will be helpful as the guys who do the other things for this offense, which could be top 10, if the defense does rise like all Thibs teams do.

    No trades of any players because those that could get Thibs a player back were kept with the trading deadline in mind. That is when teams may wish to unload talent for cap space and a guy like Tyus gets you more than he is worth. Trading Rubio can only happen if Dunn becomes a better floor leader for our scorers that Ricky and we would get a better back up PG than Tyus in return.

  4. If you look at the history of the Rubio trade rumors they come from Knicks writers who argue Wolves should be mad about Rubio not developing into the franchise player promised when they gave him a max deal instead of Love, so they should trade Rubio for Knicks bench players. Like the super biased articles by Lakers writers there is often little to the rumors.

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