Community Shootaround: Timberwolves/Mavericks Series

The Timberwolves and Mavericks were considered two of the Western Conference’s most disappointing teams at this time last spring. The Wolves, who had mortgaged their future in order to acquire Rudy Gobert during the 2022 offseason, barely finished above .500 (42-40) and were quickly dispatched in the first round of the 2023 playoffs. Dallas didn’t even make the play-in tournament after going into a tailspin following the midseason acquisition of Kyrie Irving and posting an unimpressive 38-44 record

What a difference a year makes.

All the pieces came together in Minnesota during the Wolves’ second year with Gobert, as the team got off to a 17-4 start and held a top-three seed in the West for nearly the entire season, led by rising superstar Anthony Edwards, All-Star big man Karl-Anthony Towns, and the NBA’s No. 1 defense.

In Dallas, Luka Doncic and Irving thrived after getting an offseason and training camp together, and the Mavericks really hit their stride during the final two months of the season after acquiring P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford in a pair of trade deadline deals.

The two teams, who each had a projected over/under of 44.5 wins entering the fall, comfortably exceeded expectations in the regular season and have dispatched a pair of tough opponents in the playoffs. The Wolves made quick work of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and the Suns in round one before knocking off the defending-champion Nuggets in round two. The Mavs, meanwhile, beat the Clippers in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 series and then got past the No. 1 Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals.

It sets up a fascinating Western Conference finals between two teams whose histories of deep postseason runs are pretty limited. The Mavericks have made the NBA Finals just twice since their inception in 1980, winning one title in 2011. The Timberwolves’ playoff history is even less inspiring — this is just the second time in their 35-year existence they’ve made the Western finals, and they’ve never advanced further than that.

This year’s Timberwolves might be the best team in franchise history though, with Mike Conley organizing an offense led by a pair of talented scorers in Edwards and Towns, while four-time Defensive Player of the Year Gobert anchors a defense that features perimeter stoppers such as Jaden McDaniels and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Throw in Sixth Man of the Year Naz Reid and jack-of-all-trades veteran wing Kyle Anderson and the Wolves have one of the NBA’s deepest, most versatile postseason rotations.

Minnesota had the NBA’s third-best net rating (+6.3) during the regular season and has improved that mark to +8.5 (No. 2 in the league) during the playoffs, ranking first in the West in both offensive rating (116.1) and defensive rating (107.6) in the postseason. As the higher seed in the Western finals, the Wolves will also have home court advantage in the series.

Given all those factors, it’s no surprise that Minnesota is viewed as the solid favorite entering the Western finals. has the Wolves listed at -182 to advance to the NBA Finals, with Dallas at +162.

The Mavericks are a tough opponent to beat when they’re firing on all cylinders though. In Doncic and Irving, they have two elite shot-makers who can wear down even the best of defenses and who don’t mind having the ball in their hands with the game on the line. Dallas’ two star guards are complemented by versatile forwards Washington and Derrick Jones, who have both been reliable threats from beyond the three-point line during the playoffs, as well as Gafford and Dereck Lively, a pair of rim-running centers who are capable of protecting the paint on defense.

Not having Maxi Kleber (shoulder) will hurt, but the Mavs have decent frontcourt depth without him, and there’s a chance he could be back later in the series. If role players like Josh Green and Tim Hardaway Jr. are playing well, it could help make up for Kleber’s absence.

Josh Robbins, Sam Amick, and Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic spoke to a scout, a coach, and an executive about the Western Conference showdown and all three picked the Timberwolves. But they all expect the series to last six games, and that was a common theme in ESPN’s expert predictions as well — nine of ESPN’s 15 respondents chose the Wolves, but not one of the 15 expects the series to be over in fewer than six games.

We want to know what you think. After knocking off the champs, is Minnesota headed to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history? Or will the Mavs pull off the upset? Will the winner of this series win the 2024 championship?

Head to the comment section below to share your thoughts and predictions for the series!

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