After returning to the Play-offs last season, the Minnesota Timberwolves went big in the summer market to get Rudy Gobert out of Utah.
Can that blockbuster trade turn them into championship contenders?
After parting with most of their draft capital to land Gobert, the Timberwolves are all-in on their current core. They'll expect the three-time Defensive Player of the Year to improve them, but it's hard to say where their ceiling is.
For all his talents, there's a lot Gobert doesn't do well. That leaves a lot on the young shoulders of Anthony Edwards, who really needs a third-year leap to help Minnesota to the next level.
|What||NBA Season 2022/23|
|Where||USA and Canada|
|When||October 18th 2022 - June 2023|
|How to watch||Sky Sports, NBA Pass, bet365's Sports Live Streaming|
|Odds||BOS Celtics +700, GS Warriors +600, LA Clippers +700, MIL Bucks +650, BKN Nets +700|
Despite already having one of the league's standout big-men in Karl-Anthony Towns, the Timberwolves invested in size again by adding Gobert. The pair are set to rotate between forward and centre this season, with the 6ft 9" Jaden McDaniels set to start alongside them.
While the NBA has been trending smaller in recent years – with the Golden State Warriors at the forefront of that – the Timberwolves are going in the opposite direction.
Few sides in the league will be able to handle their physicality, while the fact that Towns is a 40 per-cent three-point shooter shows the threat they pose from all angles.
Defensively they should be a terror for most of the league. Gobert is the +425 favourite for Defensive Player of the Year. He's always a contender for that award, but previously he was doing it on his own. Now he's surrounded by capable defenders, so he could get even better one-on-one.
The Timberwolves are considered title outsiders at +3300, but there is a suggestion that they could get closer than those odds would have you think. Their coach Chris Finch is +900 to win Coach of the Year this term, building off a successful season last time out.
The Timberwolves surprised many with their Play-off push last term and they gave the Memphis Grizzlies a hard time in the first round. Finch had build a defensively solid side before adding the favourite to win DPOTY, so it's little surprise he's being backed to have another impressive year.
While the Timberwolves are locked into their current side right now, that's not entirely bad. They've got their main stars locked in for years, so they're not in a win-now situation. The Timberwolves have time to become challengers as this roster clicks.
They're also looking to build around 2020 top pick Anthony Edwards, rather than Towns or Gobert.
The young guard had a stellar second season last time out, improving his numbers in every department and making his postseason debut. He averaged 25.2 points per game across the series with Memphis, suggesting he's about to have another big jump this season.
However, Edwards has only just turned 21 and he is the future of the franchise. With Towns and Gobert on long-running deals and a promising coach entering just his second full season, the Timberwolves have a bright future ahead. While Towns called this season, “championship or bust”, this should be looked at as the first step toward Minnesota becoming serious contenders in the not-too-distant future.
We aren't going to know too much about the Timberwolves early on, with an easy start on the cards for Finch's men. Their first five are each against tanking teams, with home clashes against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz kicking off the season.
They're away to OKC next, before a doubleheader at home to the San Antonio Spurs. With five of their opening six at home and given their soft start, the Timberwolves should rack up some early wins.
Returning to the playoffs is the minimum expectation for the Timberwolves, who last made back-to-back postseasons in 2004. A loftier ambition would be to make it out of the first round for only the second time.
With Gobert on side, they should look to improve on last season's seventh place. They should prove to be one of the toughest defences in the league, setting them up to possibly even secure a top-six seed and avoid the Play-in.
If they manage that, any kind of postseason run would be a bonus as the franchise slowly grows into a contender.