A 13-15 record is not what the Minnesota Timberwolves' expected through 28 games this season.
The Wolves were supposed to be contending for a playoff spot in the strong-as-ever Western Conference. They still have a legitimate shot to be a lower seed—they're still only two games behind the Denver Nuggets for the No. 8 seed—but they're trending in the wrong direction. At least for the moment.
Minnesota has lost 11 of its last 17, but still, things may not be as bad as they seem.
For starters, the West is extremely competitive. The Wolves have already played 16 road games, the most of any team in the league. Their opponents have combined for a .531 winning percentage, which gives Minnesota the third-toughest schedule in the NBA. They are 1-7 in games decided by five points or less and haven't won one of those since an opening night 120-115 victory over the Orlando Magic.
Luck hasn't been on Minnesota's side either, but there are ways to take positives away from this T'Wolves team, even with its losing record. They would be in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, for example.
Ricky Rubio is still passing with the best of them. As is Kevin Love, who's rebounding better than anyone else in the league while seamlessly throwing up a double-double every night. Recently resigned Nikola Pekovic helps make up one of the NBA's best frontcourts, while new additions Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer are thriving out on the wings. This group not only works well with head coach Rick Adelman, but is starting to formulate a reliable offense through his system.
New GM Flip Saunders has brought in some fitting pieces to surround Love and Rubio; but there's no love lost between ex-GM David Kahn and fans, who was finally fired after mistakenly signing Love to a four-year contract instead of five.
When you look at Minny's core players, there's a lot to like about this team. Actually, the starting lineup has been outscoring its opponents by 4.6 points per 100 possessions. The issues don't arise until the bench comes into the game.
We're almost two months into the season, and the Wolves have performed slightly below expectations, but playoff aspirations are still completely realistic. But for now, here's a look at grades for the 10 most important players on the Wolves' roster: