Wolves better than you think

Despite its record, could Minnesota really be a playoff-level team?

Updated: January 8, 2014, 12:47 PM ET
By Kevin Pelton | ESPN Insider

Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty ImagesCan Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love elevate the Wolves to where they were projected to be?

"You are what your record says you are," legendary former NFL coach Bill Parcells was fond of repeating, and for some fans that's an article of faith. For those fans, this year's Minnesota Timberwolves are one of the league's biggest disappointments. More than two months into a season that was supposed to snap a nine-year playoff drought, the Timberwolves stand .500, two games behind the Dallas Mavericks for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference postseason.

Change the perspective, though, and Minnesota is suddenly a very different team. The Timberwolves have outscored opponents by 4.8 points per game, which puts them tied for fifth in the West and seventh in the NBA.

As a result, advanced team metrics built on point differential consider Minnesota a contender. That goes double for the Hollinger Power Rankings, which put more weight on recent performance. Since the Timberwolves have three wins by 20-plus points in their past 10 games, Minnesota has jumped to fifth in the Hollinger Power Rankings, ahead of the Miami Heat and Portland Trail Blazers.

So, are the Timberwolves what their record says they are? Or are they what their point differential says they are?