NBA Playoffs: 3 Reasons Why the Minnesota Timberwolves Can Upset the Grizzlies and Shake Up the West

The Minnesota Timberwolves are back in the Western Conference Playoffs for the first time since 2018, and they’re off to a thundering start. 

Minnesota, 46-36, claimed the seventh seed in the West by defeating the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA Play-in Tournament. The win earned Minnesota a first-round series matchup with the two-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.

Minnesota took Game 1 with conviction, 130-117. This was a team that hovered around .500 at the midseason mark, found its footing in the second half, and has impressed in the early stages of the NBA Playoffs. The Timberwolves have what it takes to upset the Grizzlies and throw a wrench into the Western Conference bracket.

Minnesota Timberwolves have three premier scorers

If a team is going to contend for an NBA championship, they need a couple of high-level scorers or at least a grouping of well-rounded players on that end of the floor. The Timberwolves have three players who pose an elite scoring threat in Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell. 

Towns is one of the most difficult players to slow down in the entire NBA. He does a little bit of everything. The center bangs in the paint, hits the boards at a plausible level, and is one of the elite shooting big men in the sport. Towns made up for fouling out against the Clippers in the Play-in Tournament by dropping 29 points in Game 1 of Minnesota’s first-round series matchup with the Grizzlies.

Edwards has built on an encouraging rookie season in emphatic fashion. He has become a prolific scorer who gets up shots from all over the floor and scores off the dribble. He finished the regular season averaging 21.3 points per game and dropped an astounding 36 points in Game 1 against Memphis.

Lastly, Russell is a smooth floor general. He’s adept at pushing the ball up the floor and creating offense off the dribble, whether that’s by taking a perimeter jumper, driving to the bucket, or facilitating for his teammates. The guard finished the regular season averaging a career-high 7.1 assists per game. The mere fact that a player with Russell’s pedigree is Minnesota’s number three scorer is intimidating in and of itself.

Towns, Edwards, and Russell make for one of the best scoring trios in the NBA. 

Minnesota Timberwolves have the offensive depth to hang with the Memphis Grizzlies and the rest of the Western Conference 

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Patrick Beverley dribbles the ball up the court.
Patrick Beverley in action for the Minnesota Timberwolves. | Justin Ford/Getty Images

As previously alluded to, the Timberwolves have three All-Star-caliber scorers. But, beyond those big names, they also have a multifaceted and deep offense.

Patrick Beverley is a reliable defender with a respectable jump shot. Malik Beasley is a proven perimeter shooter. Jaden McDaniels and Jarred Vanderbilt get points in the paint, with the former man capable of stretching the floor. Jaylen Nowell provides instant offense; Naz Reid is a starting-caliber center coming off the bench. That talent, of course, supplements the team’s three leading scorers (Towns, Edwards and Russell).

Head coach Chris Finch has a combination of star power, impactful veterans, and youth. That’s a compelling combination with upside. It’s also one that makes for one of the most electric offenses in the NBA. Minnesota finished the regular season first in the NBA in points (115.9) and seventh in assists per game (25.7). 

Of course, there’s plenty of offensive ammunition in the West. Devin Booker and Chris Paul lead the way for a well-oiled Phoenix Suns team. The Golden State Warriors have a blend of stars and developing lottery selections. Teams like the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz have efficient offenses. The Dallas Mavericks are an elite defensive team with a handful of continually improving scorers.

Specifically within Minnesota’s first-round series, Memphis is no different, with Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, and Desmond Bane headlining a deep and lethal team. At the same time, the Timberwolves play the same game as the Grizzlies in attacking defenses from all angles. The only difference is their respective seeding.

Minnesota Timberwolves have comparable postseason experience to fellow Western Conference contenders

The Grizzlies’ nucleus is yet to win a playoff series. Minnesota’s core is in the same boat, but many of their best players have extensive experience in postseason play.

Towns was on the last Minnesota team that made the playoffs. Russell led the way for the Brooklyn Nets’ offense in 2019. Beverley has played more than 50 postseason games across his NBA career. Beasley was once part of a budding Nuggets team. Taurean Prince started on a 2016-17 Atlanta Hawks team that made the playoffs.

Most of the teams the Timberwolves will face this postseason – if they advance past the first round – are ones with continuity and a wealth of playoff experience. At the same time, these cores have never won an NBA championship outside of the Warriors. 

It’s also worth noting that, at this point in the year, seedings don’t really matter in the West. One way or another, you have to get through three good teams to reach the NBA Finals.

The Timberwolves can upset the Grizzlies and put up a fight against any team they face the rest of the way. If they continue to grow and improve, Minnesota will be a team to watch.

Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference

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