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Karl-Anthony Towns finally set to return

by TLD

Karl-Anthony Towns is finally expected to return to the court Wednesday night for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but the long-suffering fan base shouldn’t expect KAT to be able to save them from their well-chronicled struggles in the playoffs.

In Towns’ 21 games this season prior to the injury, Minnesota was 10-11, and without the three-time All-Star, the team has gone 26-26. Despite the stacked roster headed by an entering his prime KAT, ascending star guard Anthony Edwards and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, the Wolves have shown nothing but mediocrity even when at full health.

The “twin towers” experiment of Gobert and Towns got off to a bumpy start in the fall and, even with a clustered array of teams in the Western Conference standings, Minnesota hasn’t given fans any reason to believe that their streak of playoff shortcomings will end any time soon. While the Timberwolves finally ended a 14-year postseason drought in 2018 and again made the playoffs last year, they haven’t been past the first round since 2004 (the only time in franchise history).

Not only is the history working against Minnesota, but Gobert’s well-known struggles in the playoffs with the Utah Jazz and Edwards’ recent ankle injury certainly don’t help the cause.

The Timberwolves could still conceivably end up anywhere from fourth to 13th in the Western Conference at the end of the regular season, but most likely will be somewhere between sixth and 12th. Finishing in sixth would have them avoid the Play-In Tournament completely, ending in seventh through 10th would have them playing the bonus contest (or contests) and coming in 11th or 12th would end their campaign prematurely.

Of the team’s final nine games, eight of them are against teams still alive in the playoff picture (or fighting for seeding).

According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI), coach Chris Finch’s squad has a 58.9% chance of making the playoffs, which is right in the middle (fifth highest) among the 10 remaining Western Conference teams who haven’t either clinched a berth or been mathematically eliminated from contention. Even if KAT and company make the field though, BPI doesn’t like their chances of advancing, giving them only a 22.4% chance of making their first conference semifinals in 19 years.

Towns’ absence of over 50 games surely hurt the Timberwolves’ chances this season but given the lofty expectations following last summer’s acquisition of Gobert, Minnesota has disappointed fans yet again.

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