How Close Are The Minnesota Timberwolves From Title Contention? [Opinion]

Karl-Anthony Towns greet reporters at a Nike event.

The Minnesota Timberwolves may have one of the best teams in the NBA. Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, they play in the Western Conference where nearly every team has improved from last season.

Of the NBA teams which made key additions to their roster, the Minnesota Timberwolves have arguably made the most improvements. Barring injuries, it is a guarantee that the Timberwolves drew themselves closer to the elite teams in the conference. However, are the Timberwolves considered a true threat to the Golden State Warriors?

Although it is a preseason game, the Timberwolves will face the Warriors in China on Thursday. The Timberwolves have a chance to see how well they stack up against the defending NBA champions.

Thursday’s contest versus the Warriors is a game that Timberwolves’ head coach Tom Thibodeau calls an important one (courtesy of the Twin Cities Pioneer Press).

“I think it’s good for us, just to see where we are. You’re going against a team that’s really good and they play for 48 minutes and it’s a good test. I think it helps us get ready for our first game (against San Antonio), which will be a great test for us, as well.”

A test is the best way to describe a preseason game, which might be a preview of the Western Conference Finals.

Over the summer the Minnesota Timberwolves added two players with all-star resumes in Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague. They also added two specialists — one on offense, the other on defense in Jamal Crawford and Taj Gibson. If Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns continue to develop, the Timberwolves have closed the gap dramatically.

How well Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins mesh together is the key to a successful Minnesota Timberwolves season.

Jimmy Butler will likely start at small forward, while Andrew Wiggins will be the Timberwolves’ shooting guard. That was part of the lineup Tom Thibodeau put on the floor for the preseason debut against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Tom Thibodeau will also have to monitor the minutes of Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson. There were signs of how Thibodeau will handle Butler’s minutes in the Timberwolves’ first preseason game.

According to CBS Sports, Jimmy Butler only played 12 minutes versus the Lakers. Against the Warriors, Butler will likely play a bit more.

Playing the Warriors is just a preseason game for the Timberwolves, but it presents a chance for Minnesota to set a tone. Applying some stifling defense, making some shots, and showing cohesion would go a long way for the Timberwolves. Simply competing with the Warriors could come across as a small victory.

As far as the rest of the Western Conference teams are concerned, the Minnesota Timberwolves match up fairly well. It will still take the aforementioned things — defense, shooting, and overall cohesion — for the Timberwolves to rise to the top of the standings.

Despite the clear upgrades to their roster, the Timberwolves have a serious question to answer.

There is an abundance of playoff experience on the Minnesota Timberwolves, but no one with an NBA Finals appearance. It is a classic case the Timberwolves are having to make progressive steps forward.

Those steps for a team which did not make the playoffs are just that — making the playoffs. Although the Western Conference is vastly improved, the Minnesota Timberwolves would do themselves a favor by finishing in the top half of the playoff standings.

Doing so will ensure a playoff series with home court advantage. As long as the Timberwolves can do that, it will be a successful season. Also, the Timberwolves will be considered as a true NBA title contender.

[Featured Image by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images]