Even if they didn't surprise themselves, the Timberwolves surprised a lot of NBA fans by reaching the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference and beating the over-under on the preseason expected win total by double digits.

They got there from a step up in their own play on both ends of the floor. They also got there thanks to a Western Conference that saw some expected playoff teams take a tumble or finish behind them.

The Clippers played all season without Kawhi Leonard and most of the season without Paul George and were still the No. 8 seed. Portland figures to have Damian Lillard back and will attempt to rebuild around him. New Orleans had a strong second half, acquired CJ McCollum and finished as the No. 9 seed without Zion Williamson.

A team like Denver, which finished ahead of the Wolves at No. 6, will have Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. back next season.

All this is to say, if the Wolves even want to get back to where they were this season, they may have to be significantly better than they were this season. That idea is not lost on them as they head into the offseason.

"There's definitely teams that'll be rising up," coach Chris Finch said. "There's also those teams that end up kind of puking on themselves and we just can't be one of them."

Finch said teams have expectations both internally and externally. Internally this season, the Wolves always thought they would make the playoffs even if externally there were doubters. Now the external expectation will rise. Players may be aware of that, but they still have to set their own standards and not have others set them for you.

"You have to define yourself by what you expect from yourself rather than what others do," Finch said.

Executive vice president Sachin Gupta said he didn't anticipate the Wolves' roster needed "significant changes" and that some of the Wolves' improvement can come from the growth of young players such as Jaden McDaniels and Anthony Edwards.

"It's another factor to drive our guys this summer to put in that extra work because staying the same is going to mean we're going to fall back," Gupta said. "... We've got to take two steps forward while other teams take one step forward."

The Wolves have an interesting situation as it relates to their top players. Karl-Anthony Towns is 26, as is D'Angelo Russell. McDaniels is 21, while Edwards is 20.

Gupta said the timelines for the growth of the young players and the peak of the careers of Towns and Russell could co-exist on the roster.

"I think we're seeing signs that they can with the way Ant and Jaden have developed this year," Gupta said. "... Both of those guys, their trajectory's heading in the right direction and our veteran players just entering their prime and they've got many years ahead as well. I do believe that those timelines can coexist."

As for the roster, the Wolves know they need to add more size and rebounding. The Grizzlies series certainly exposed that. But Finch is hopeful the series also motivated his young team to want to return. That the pain of losing a series the Wolves felt they should have won motivates them to do even better things next year.

"Guys now have a feel that having played in the playoffs, the excitement, the fans, the competition," Finch said. "All that stuff has whet their appetite to the point where they want more of it. But it's not going to just happen. We're going to have expectations."