Despite a concerning season series sweep against the Phoenix Suns, the Minnesota Timberwolves should feel confident ahead of their first round matchup against them. As a franchise, Minnesota has not made it past the first round of the postseason since the 2003-04 campaign. For the first time since then, the Wolves now have a loaded roster ready to re-establish Minnesota’s winning ways.

With star talents like Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns, elite defenders in Rudy Gobert and Jaden McDaniels, and quality role players like Naz Reid, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and Kyle Anderson, Minnesota has what it takes to finally make it past the opening round of the playoffs. So with that in mind, here are three bold predictions for the Timberwolves series with the Suns in the 2024 NBA Playoffs.

Karl-Anthony Towns finally breaks out for the Timberwolves in the postseason

Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) reacts after being charged with a foul against the Denver Nuggets during overtime of game four of the 2023 NBA Playoffs at Target Center.
Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Wolves’ talented seven-footer has struggled in the postseason for his standards. The multi-time All-Star has averaged just 18.6 points in 16 career playoff games, and in those games, KAT has posted a combined plus-minus of -99 as some of his biggest flaws were on full display. The most glaring flaw has been Towns’ inability to take care of the basketball, as he's committed 47 turnovers in the playoffs compared to dishing out just 34 assists. However, this matchup with Phoenix presents Towns with an opportunity to find his form in the postseason.

In previous playoff matchups, KAT was either the true center or, in last year’s case, facing the soon-to-be NBA champions in the Denver Nuggets. This year, Towns will be able to effectively leverage his size and strength advantage against the Suns’ smaller lineup. Phoenix will likely have Kevin Durant guarding KAT for the majority of the series, and while Towns will face double-teams frequently because of this, Minnesota has surrounded him with pieces that can help him capitalize on those potential doubles.

With Gobert’s back-side rim pressure and a collection of talented shooters around the star bigs, KAT’s reads as a post-up passer should be much easier. Recognizing the double, Towns should be capable of delivering a dime to the weak-side of the floor. Whether that is a lob up top to Gobert or a pass over the top of the defense to a spot up shooter, Minnesota has ways to hurt Phoenix if they willingly double-team Towns.

If the Suns elect to not double KAT on post-ups, well, Durant is going to have a tough task. While Towns isn’t a top-echelon post-up scorer, he’s no slouch either. His touch and sheer size will likely lead to some clear-cut fouls on KD or easy buckets at the rim. This is Towns’ best opportunity to finally assert himself in the postseason, and it says here that's exactly what he'll end up doing.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s defense draws national recognition

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) drives to the basket while Minnesota Timberwolves guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker (9) defends during the second quarter at Target Center.
Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Deservingly, a lot of the attention on the Timberwolves’ number one defense centers on Gobert, Jaden McDaniels and even Anthony Edwards. However, one of the unsung heroes for Minnesota all season long has been Nickeil Alexander-Walker. The Wolves’ guard has cemented himself as one of the best screen navigators in the entire NBA.

Primarily coming off the bench this season, NAW has often taken the assignment of defending the other team’s best perimeter creator. With good positional size, length, and lateral quickness, Alexander-Walker has been able to stay attached to ball handlers on drives and effectively contest outside shots.

Phoenix’s star trio will log big minutes in the first round. With Durant likely drawing attention from Edwards and Kyle Anderson most frequently, Minnesota will look for McDaniels and Alexander-Walker to contain Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. Based on how lethal Booker can be working out of the screen game, it’s fair to say NAW is Minnesota’s best option to defend D-Book.

Similar to last year’s play-in game against the Oklahoma City Thunder where Alexander-Walker shut down his cousin Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chris Finch will once again rely on the guard to lock up another premier scoring guard. While most casual fans outside of Minnesota might not appreciate NAW’s game now, they certainly will by the end of this first-round series.

The Timberwolves will win the series comfortably

Perhaps the boldest prediction possible for this series is picking the Timberwolves to win comfortably. Betting lines predominantly favored Phoenix in the series despite the Wolves’ far-superior regular season record and top-end defense. While Phoenix’s shot-making does present unique challenges to the Timberwolves’ personnel, Minnesota’s size advantage poses perilous problems for the Suns as well.

Plainly stated, Phoenix doesn’t have an answer for Gobert. In the final game of the regular season, Minnesota’s anchor popped off for 21 points on just nine total shots. The Suns’ lack of size around Jusuf Nurkic pigeon-holes the team into committing fouls on Gobert’s rolls to the rim. With Phoenix looking to aggressively limit Edwards in the series, Minnesota’s bigs should find ample opportunity to score at the rim as the Suns commit two defenders toward Edwards on every touch.

This first-round series establishes a battle between two different identities. The Suns are a team reliant on shot-making and top-end talent. Minnesota prides itself on size, defense, and quality depth. Based on the previous three meetings, the Suns should feel confident. However, based on the larger sample-size of the entire regular season, the Timberwolves are the far better team. Tall ball still wins and that will be proven so this series.