Posted 01/27/2009 at 03:43 PM
Does anyone realize that the Minnesota Timberwolves have the best record of any NBA team in 2009? Sure we are only a few weeks in but at 10-2 the rise of the Wolves has been a true surprise. This means that Minnesota started the year 6-25 in the 2008 portion of the season, and actually was 4-23 before the dramatic turnaround started to take form. Sadly it was an improved start to the season even before the hot streak as in the 2007-08 campaign the Wolves started 6-34. Minnesota only won 22 games all of last season and should surpass that mark in a few weeks if they continue to play at a similar pace.
There is a pretty big gap between the Wolves and the current playoff grouping so fans should not get too carried away with the expectations. Nine teams currently are ahead of Minnesota in the Western Conference standings and it will be a great battle between teams that were among the elite just a few seasons ago to make the playoffs. Houston, Utah, Phoenix, and Dallas will all be fighting for the final spots with one team being left out of the playoffs. New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Portland, and even Denver all appear to be in good position barring a major collapse.
Only six teams in the Eastern Conference have winning records although three elite teams appear to be set for a great playoff season on the East side of the bracket. As usual, there will also be a couple of lousy teams that sneak into the playoffs. Philadelphia started the year as one of the most disappointing teams in the league but appears to be on track to finish with a winning record and climb into one of the final spots. New Jersey and Milwaukee both had solid starts to the year but have faded considerably and the Bucks got some bad news this week with Michael Redd being done for the year. Most expected the Bulls to contend for one of those spots but a more likely candidate is Charlotte, on pace to have the best season in franchise history and possibly its first playoff berth. New York is another team that is playing better than people realize as Mark D’Antoni has proved his worth. The Raptors and Pacers are also still in the mix although neither has shown much promise in recent weeks.
The recent win streak for the Wolves likely means Minnesota will have to surrender its draft pick this summer to the LA Clippers. It is top ten protected however so if the Wolves stay in the lottery they would have a chance to have as many as four first round picks this year with potential picks coming from Boston, Miami, and possibly Utah. It is unlikely to get the Wolves Blake Griffin, but it could give them a couple of chances to pick up a good player. The Wolves may need some extra chances after recent misses on Rashad McCants and Corey Brewer although Kevin Love and Randy Foye have really looked promising in the recent stretch of strong results.