Minnesota Timberwolves (19-5)
The Minnesota Timberwolves started to show enough progress towards the end of last season to suggest the core of Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, and Rudy Gobert would work. But nobody could've anticipated how much Minnesota would surge this season.
The ascendancy of Edwards, whose breakout became clear during the FIBA World Cup over the summer, has proven to be critical. While the wing recently walked into some controversy, he's averaging 24.2 points per game—just barely off his career-high - while improving as a distributor and shooter.
It's just not Edwards, though. After some growing pains during their first season together, Towns and Gobert have shown how they can function alongside one another. The Frenchman is back to being one of the top defenders in the league, while Towns is quietly having one of his best seasons yet.
The old adage is that defenses win championships and Chris Finch has the Timberwolves playing some of the best defense in the NBA. That's definitely sustainable for this squad, as the postseason demands players who will be gritty on that side of the ball.
Minnesota's relatively young core is still ascending, and the role players have a good sense of what they're trying to do each night. It's too soon to install the Timberwolves as a championship favorite for the end of the year, but they appear to be a legitimate title contender.
Verdict: For Real