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A fancy simulation found at ESPN Insider says the Wolves will win 32 games this season. That number is probably a little high, since simulations are not predictions and tend to be optimistic, but here is the methodology:
Just before the start of the 2014-15 season, we sorted teams into tiers based on projections, and we’re repeating the process today to see where teams stand after a tumultuous offseason. Team baseline win projections have been formulated by combining early SCHOENE forecasts with team projections generated by the same RPM-based methodology we used last week to rank players.
The hope is to balance out any inherent biases within the two systems and, in reality, the forecasts are pretty close for all but a couple of teams. Baseline wins were plugged into a Monte Carlo-style simulator of the 2014-15 schedule that accounted for home-court advantage and other scheduling factors. Finally, the top eight players on each team were used to calculate a postseason baseline, and using the seeds from each simulated regular season, the playoffs were played out. This process was repeated 1,000 times.
The results of all those probabilities and random numbers serve as the basis for separating the teams in tiers below. A lot has changed since last season. (To see just how much, just click on the final version of last spring’s Hollinger Playoff Odds.) Each team’s average win total in the 1,000 simulations is listed in parenthesis.
The Wolves are in the tier of teams expected to win more than 25 games but not make the playoffs, which sounds about right. As for 32 wins? We’d take that, and we imagine those with the Wolves would as well.
The 1996-97 Timberwolves, with a young Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury, won 40 games. Back then, the West was the NBA’s lesser conference (four teams in the Wolves’ division won 24 games or fewer), and that 40-42 record was enough to get the Wolves the No. 6 seed in the playoffs. It felt like the start of something big, and even though Marbury blew up the dynamic duo, it was the beginning of eight consecutive playoff appearances.
The 2013-14 Timberwolves, with Kevin Love and a cast of others, won 40 games. These days, the West is the NBA’s dominant conference (the Suns, at 48-34, couldn’t even get into the playoffs), and the Wolves missed the postseason by a long shot. It felt like the beginning of the end of a rebuilding project that never got off the ground, and it signaled the end of the Love Era in Minnesota.
We bring up the past not as a way to pick at old scabs but rather as a way to frame the Love Era. In a different league, the Wolves might have been an up-and-comer. Instead, they traded love and started over. In the big picture, though, we do wonder: Are they better off, regardless?
In the short-term, Minnesota goes from being a 40-win team to what will probably be a 28-to-30-win team. As constructed a year ago, and without much prospect for injecting new talent beyond trading Love, the Wolves’ ceiling with Love as their core player was probably what it was during KG’s time before Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell: 45-50 wins and a quick playoff exit.
That sounds pretty good when compared to what has happened the last decade, but it’s not the goal when constructing a team. The goal, of course, is to win a championship. The 2014-15 Wolves are further from that goal than the 2013-14 Wolves were. But, say, the 2016-17 Wolves with Love or with the current core?
An argument could be made that a core led by Wiggins and co. has a better chance to be special than a core with Love.
Maybe that’s crazy talk and wishful thinking. Or maybe the second-best player in franchise history forcing his way out will end up being one of the best things that ever happened to the Wolves.
Before we headed out to the State Fair for the introduction of Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young (as well as the re-introduction of first-round pick Zach LaVine), we posed a question on Twitter:
Minnesota sports fans: Will you root for Kevin Love in Cleveland, against him, or be indifferent?
That said, there was also a fan out at the Fair who seems to have moved on more quickly than others. Hat tip to Wolves Chief Marketing Officer Ted Johnson for that photo you see.
The Twins’ offensive surge in August has placed them into elite territory. They are now No. 6 in the majors — not the AL, not among bad teams, but out of all 30 teams — in runs scored with 570. They are scoring nearly 4.4 per game, which in many cases should be enough to be a pretty decent team. They’ve scored them in binges and droughts, but it adds up to an impressive number.
We’re as stunned as you are. They’re also No. 7 in MLB in on-base percentage and tied for seventh in MLB in extra-base hits.
These numbers suggest an offensive improvement that, while perhaps not sustainable (are Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas really going to keep up their torrid paces?), does at least provide promise for the future.
But just as much, they add a layer of frustration to a season in which pitching was supposed to be much-improved and the offense was going to be the major question mark. Remember, the big offseason bats added from outside the organization were Kurt Suzuki, Jason Kubel and Jason Bartlett. Suzuki has worked out wonderfully. The other two failed spectacularly. And the bulk of offseason spending went into the rotation, with Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes plus the re-signing of Mike Pelfrey.
Hughes has been wonderful. Nolasco and Pelfrey have been dreadful. Add it up, and Twins’ starters have a 5.05 ERA — 28th in the majors, in line with where they have lagged ever since their great decline started in 2011. Their bullpen ERA of 3.47 is 15th in MLB — perfectly acceptable in the middle of the road.
So if you’re looking for a major pleasant surprise this season, look at an offense we expected to be terrible that is somehow near the top of baseball in the most important category. And if you’re looking for the culprit in another lost season, look no further (again) than starting pitching.
We’re not sure exactly how this is going to work — we expect to sort that all out as the week goes on — but we do know this: There is going to be pole vaulting on the rooftop of Brit’s Pub in downtown Minneapolis on Saturday.
There are many divisions throughout the day, leading up to a professional competition at night with several Olympic hopefuls competing — including Allison Stokke, who caused somewhat of an Internet stir seven years back.
It’s free. It’s pole vaulting on a roof. There will be beer. You could do worse on a Saturday night.
|Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Arrieta||2||FINAL|
|Cincinnati - WP: D. Axelrod||7|
|NY Yankees - LP: S. Kelley||2||FINAL|
|Detroit - WP: P. Coke||3|
|Colorado - LP: J. Lyles||1||FINAL|
|San Francisco - WP: Y. Petit||4|
|Tampa Bay - LP: K. Yates||4||FINAL|
|Baltimore - WP: A. Miller||5|
|Atlanta - WP: M. Minor||6||FINAL|
|NY Mets - LP: J. Niese||1|
|Cleveland||3||Top 9th Inning|
|Minnesota||5||Top 9th Inning|
|Oakland||0||Top 4th Inning|
|Arizona||3||2nd Qtr 1:34|
|Seattle||7||2nd Qtr 9:47|
|(21) Texas A&M||52||FINAL|
|(9) So Carolina||28|
|Boise State||13||4th Qtr 2:55|
|(18) Ole Miss||28|
|Tulane||28||4th Qtr 6:43|
|Rutgers||14||2nd Qtr 7:09|
|Weber State||0||1st Qtr 1:32|
|(19) Arizona State||17|
|Temple||0||1st Qtr 5:25|
|BYU||8/29/14 6:00 PM|
|(6) Jacksonville St||8/29/14 6:30 PM|
|(8) Michigan State|
|Bowling Green||8/29/14 6:30 PM|
|TX-San Antonio||8/29/14 8:00 PM|
|Colorado State||8/29/14 8:00 PM|
|UNLV||8/29/14 9:30 PM|
|Penn State||8/30/14 7:30 AM|
|Troy||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|(7) UCLA||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|Western Mich||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|(5) Ohio State||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|Appalachian St||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|Ga Southern||8/30/14 11:30 AM|
|Boston College||8/30/14 2:00 PM|
|West Virginia||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|Rice||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|(17) Notre Dame|
|(10) South Dakota St||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|Fla Atlantic||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|California||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|Marshall||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|UC Davis||8/30/14 3:00 PM|
|Arkansas||8/30/14 3:00 PM|
|(16) Clemson||8/30/14 4:30 PM|
|Liberty||8/30/14 5:00 PM|
|(23) North Carolina|
|Ohio U||8/30/14 5:00 PM|
|Louisiana Tech||8/30/14 6:00 PM|
|Idaho||8/30/14 6:00 PM|
|Stephen F Austin||8/30/14 6:10 PM|
|(20) Kansas State|
|Fresno State||8/30/14 6:30 PM|
|Southern Miss||8/30/14 6:30 PM|
|Texas-El Paso||8/30/14 7:00 PM|
|North Texas||8/30/14 7:00 PM|
|(1) Florida State||8/30/14 7:00 PM|
|(14) Wisconsin||8/30/14 8:00 PM|
|South Dakota||8/30/14 9:30 PM|
|(25) Washington||8/30/14 9:30 PM|
|Utah State||8/31/14 6:00 PM|
|SMU||8/31/14 6:30 PM|
|Miami-Florida||9/1/14 7:00 PM|
|Arizona||9/4/14 7:00 PM|
|Ottawa||8/29/14 6:30 PM|
|Winnipeg||8/31/14 3:00 PM|
|Toronto||9/1/14 12:00 PM|
|Edmonton||9/1/14 3:30 PM|
|Brt Columbia||9/5/14 6:30 PM|
|Calgary||9/6/14 6:00 PM|