Before the NBA season started, Bovada and other Las Vegas casinos set over-under win total lines for all the teams. The Wolves’ number was 26.5, which seemed quite reasonable and even tempted those with optimism to make a sprint to Sin City to bet the over.
Anyone who made that bet needs the Wolves to win at least 27 games. We are halfway through the season now, and we can report this much: Minnesota has taken care of the crooked number, the seven. Now all that remains is the 20.
This is not exactly impossible — the Wolves going 20-21, basically .500 ball over the season’s second half — but it is improbable enough that we wouldn’t pay anyone more than 1 cent on every dollar bet to buy them out of their over tickets.
The reasons are many, but the primary one is simple: as the season has gone along, a franchise that nearly perfected losing has somehow gotten even better at it.
The Wolves were 2-2 in the season’s first four games; the two losses were by four points at Memphis and by one point at home against the Bulls. In their fifth game, Ricky Rubio hurt his ankle early on. They wound up losing in overtime, and they have only won five times since then. Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin quickly followed Rubio to the injured list, with Pek being the first of the three to finally return Wednesday in a blowout loss to the Mavericks.
Rubio, Martin, Pekovic, J.J. Barea (bought out before the season) and Ronny Turiaf (two games played) combined to play just 26 games in the first half of the season. Put them in a 5-on-5 game against any other 5 on the Wolves’ roster and they probably win 8 of 10 times. Add to the mix that Corey Brewer was traded after 24 games, and you have an almost foolproof losing cocktail.
A 19-year-old (Andrew Wiggins) is the only player to have started all 41 games, while second-year center Gorgui Dieng is the only other player to have played all 41 games. Rubio and Martin will return at some point (your guess is as good as ours as to exactly when), but it also wouldn’t surprise us if those gains are somewhat offset if Thad Young and/or Mo Williams are traded to contenders for more young pieces or salary flexibility.
Our best guess is this Wolves team will at least be somewhat improved in the second half, meaning it won’t stay on the same pace and finish with 14 wins — which would make this the worst team in franchise history. Where it falls on that spectrum — 10 Wolves teams in full 82 game seasons have won between 15 and 26 games — remains to be seen, but if you are still clinging to that betting slip and it says “over” on it … well it is, indeed, over.