The Timberwolves, at 39-16, have the best record in the Western Conference. Will that still be true after 27 more games?

Three reasons for optimism

The Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns experiment works

It took a full season and some return to good health, but the Timberwolves' two towers can play together — at least in the regular season — in a league that has gone so small in recent years. That's great news for a team that gave up so much to get Gobert. The pairing has rejuvenated Gobert's career, making him the favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year for a fourth time. Only Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace have done that. The Wolves can impose their size, strength, and most importantly, their will offensively and defensively with Gobert and Towns — don't forget Naz Reid, too — against smaller opponents, which is just about everybody else in the NBA.

Ant is marching toward superstardom in playoffs

The Wolves have been at their best when Towns defends and is at his best, but two-time All-Star Anthony Edwards is aimed at playoff stardom. He has averaged 28.1 points in 11 playoff games over two first-round playoff losses — all before his 22nd birthday last August. In last season's five-game loss to Denver, he scored 18, 41, 36, 34 and 29 points. He did so with the kind of franchise-transforming game and charisma on and off the court that prompted Vanity Fair magazine this week to ask if he's the next face of the NBA.

Mike Conley is playoff-tested at point guard

The Wolves still too often make immature decisions, particularly late in close games. This time, though, they have savvy point guard Mike Conley all season, who almost always makes the right decision. Yes, he's 36 and the league's 12th-oldest player. He's still also as steady and experienced as they come in his 18th season, when he might be the team's third most important player behind Ant and KAT. He has played 78 playoffs (with a 37-41 record) and has reached the playoffs 10 times in those 18 seasons with Memphis, Utah and now Minnesota. He has reached the Western Conference semifinals four times and one Western final, and got a two-year contract extension on Monday.

Three reasons for pessimism

Odds are injuries will happen

Towns' 51-game calf injury sidetracked the Gobert-Towns experiment before it really started last season. This season the team has been relatively injury-free, other than Jaden McDaniels' ankle and calf injuries early in the season, Jordan McLaughlin's hip/knee and Edwards' brief hip injury. It has been a season of mostly good luck that has loyal, longtime Wolves fans holding their breath, waiting for the inevitable.

They still revert to past form too much

Despite their best-in-West 39-16 record, 20 road wins and No. 1 defensive rating, the Wolves still at times make too many immature mistakes when games are on the line. Still so young, Edwards forces too many shots, but otherwise is so brilliant, coach Chris Finch forgives. Towns still can make an inexplicable error despite all his years in the league. Conley's steadying hand and playoff savvy should help limit the damage for a team that, despite Conley, Gobert, Kyle Anderson and Monte Morris, still lacks much playoff experience.

NBA pundits will say big centers can't succeed in playoffs

The Los Angeles Clippers ran Utah and Gobert off the floor in a Game 6 second-round playoff comeback from 25 points down in 2021. They did so by going small, spreading the court with five shooters and Gobert couldn't both do what he does — protect the rim — and defend his man out on the floor. Gobert and Towns have proved a productive pair, but the game changes in the playoffs. Can the Wolves go big in the playoffs as they have in the regular season when opponents counter by going small?