DimeMag

NBA Power Rankings Week 1: Optimism Arrives In Minnesota

The 2019-20 NBA season is seven days old, even if it feels like seventy days. As usual, the league is flying around at a zooming pace and, while small sample size caveats absolutely apply across the board, there are some interesting takeaways. That is especially true for teams dealing with extended injuries or suspensions (ahem, Deandre Ayton) but, for the most part, the takes are flying and sweeping takeaways are emerging in predictable fashion.

One such overreaction could be in play for the Minnesota Timberwolves, as Karl-Anthony Towns and company are off to a blazing 3-0 start. On one hand, that kind of win-loss record is a stunner for a team projected with a win total in the mid-30’s but, on the other, Minnesota hasn’t been a significant underdog (on paper, anyway) in any of its three victories. The Wolves did topple a pair of projected playoff teams in Miami and Brooklyn, but Minnesota needed every bit of the game to outlast the Nets by one point and the win over the Heat didn’t feature old nemesis Jimmy Butler.

On the bright side, the Wolves have been legitimately effective on both ends. The offensive side is less of a surprise, with Towns exploding to the tune of 32.0 points, 13.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. That is jarring production for anyone but, when considering the former No. 1 pick also has a PER over 40 (!) and a 51.7 percent three-point shooting clip… well, it’s still (very) early but that’s (very) good.

Defensively, Minnesota doesn’t have a ton of talent and that makes what they’ve done a bit more surprising. The presence of Robert Covington certainly helps and, with him on the floor in 2018-19, the results were much better. Still, players like Jeff Teague and Towns himself will be key in determining the Wolves’ defensive baseline and there is more work to do. Oh, and did I mention that Andrew Wiggins is doing Andrew Wiggins things and they’re winning anyway?

This might be the highest landing spot of the season for the Wolves but, in late October, optimism is good and it exists in the Twin Cities. Where does Minnesota end up in this week’s DIME power rankings? Let’s find out.

1. LA Clippers (3-1, Last week — 1st)

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It would’ve been easy to move the Clippers out of the top spot after they lost to the Suns. This early, though, I’m inclined to lean on teams that I trust and I trust the Clippers. They are good. We’ve already seen that in their opening night win over the Lakers.

2. Milwaukee Bucks (2-1, Last week — 2nd)

Like the Clippers, the Bucks have a sub-optimal loss on the report card, losing in overtime (at home) to the Jimmy Butler-less Heat. Milwaukee did go to Houston and win, however, and this is a team with even more goodwill built up than the Clippers have.

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