As the NBA season fast approaches, Right Down Euclid will be previewing all 30 NBA teams, breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of each franchise. This preview will focusing on the Minnesota Timberwolves, who last year had a record of 31-51 and did not make the playoffs.
Editor’s Note: Kevin Love as not considered when determining the Timberwolves leading scorer because he only played in 18 games last season.
Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
Coach: Rick Adelman
General Manager: Flip Saunders
2012-2013 Record: 31-51
Place in Conference: 12th in the West
Leading Scorer: Nikola Pekovic (16.3 PPG)
Key Acquisitions: Draft picks Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, Kevin Martin
Key Losses: Luke Ridnour, Andrei Kirilenko
The Timberwolves didn’t make many moves in the offseason, but as a whole the team could still get a lot better if they could stay healthy. The wolves were ravaged by injuries in the 2012-13 campaign, with only 1 player, Luke Ridnour, playing all 82 games. The biggest loss came in star Kevin Love, who played just 18 games. Through this, however, the Timberwolves got a breakout season from center Nikola Pekovic, and very productive seasons from 31 year olds Andrei Kirilenko and Ridnour. While the latter two are gone, the Wolves did manage to retain Pekovic and sign sharpshooter Kevin Martin in free agency. In the draft, the Wolves pulled a trade with the Utah Jazz trading the 9th overall pick for the 14th and 21st picks; they subsequently used these picks to choose Shabazz Muhammad to add scoring and Gorgui Dieng to add a big man they can develop over time.
When healthy, the team is actually very talented. Love is one of the top players in the league, blending a tough inside presence with the ability to stretch the floor from the outside. Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams have both shown glimpses of the greatness they were expected to bring from the positions they were drafted at and could be extremely good with breakout years. Martin brings in a consistent 2nd scoring option for the Wolves and Pekovic has developed into a reliable producer in the post. Getting Muhammad was a high-reward potential move, as he could develop into a very good player. As a whole, the Timberwolves have a lot of pieces that could become very good players; whether they can stay healthy / consistent is another question.
While the Timberwolves have a lot of players that function well by themselves, it forms a bit of a quirky mash up of players as a team. Two points guards (Rubio and Alexey Shved) have been quite poor as shooters at times. On the other hand, J.J. Barea provides a spark of offense but not much else.Williams has been wildly inconsistent to this point of his career, and is still trying to work his way into the starting lineup on a nightly basis. Muhammad has also been a disaster in the summer league, and could be solidifying his draft stock plummeting. All this, paired with the health issues the Timberwolves had, make them a hard team to gauge on a nightly basis; I think they have the talent to be successful, but if all the pieces come together is another story.
2013-2014 Season Predictions
Due to a bit of a down year in the West, if the Timberwolves can stay healthy, I think they could sneak into the final spot in the Western Conference (right now I have the Trail Blazers at that spot). As it stands I’m going to predict that the Wolves will finish 9th in the Conference, with around 37-42 wins. As my semi-”bold” prediction of the year, I’m going to say that Derrick Williams has a breakout year and averages around 15 – 17 PPG; I’ve been high on this guy forever, and I just think he’s too talented to be middling at a mediocre level in the NBA.