ESPN put out its initial power rankings for the season of all 30 NBA teams, and quite honestly I thought I'd need to scroll down to at least 25 to find the Wolves.
But there they were at No. 21, accompanied by some pretty optimistic win totals: 38, as predicted by ESPN experts; 36 as forecast by ESPN's BPI; a staggering 44 according to FiveThirtyEight.com (according to its new RAPTOR player rating system); and an over-under of 35.5 wins in Vegas.
Even if we throw out FiveThirtyEight's new formula as an odd outlier, those numbers all seem a little high at first glance. The Wolves won 36 games last season with established guys like Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose, Anthony Tolliver, Tyus Jones, Dario Saric and Luol Deng playing important minutes at various times.
All of the aforementioned players are gone. This combination is going to produce more wins than last year's 36-win team? We'll see.
Read Michael Rand's blog everyday at startribune.com/randball. E-mail: email@example.com