Minnesota Timberwolves 2012-13 Season Preview
Playoffs: Did not qualify
Draft picks: Robbie Hummel (signed to play in Europe)
Signings/trades: Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Dante Cunningham, Andrei Kirilenko, Greg Stiemsma, Louis Amundson, Alexey Shved, Jermaine Taylor, Will Conroy, Mike Harris, Chris Johnson, Seth Tarver
Michael Beasley, Martell Webster, Wayne Ellington, Wesley Johnson, Anthony Tolliver, Darko Milicic, Anthony Randolph
Projected starting lineup
C - Nikola Pekovic
PF - Kevin Love
SF - Andrei Kirilenko
SG - Brandon Roy
PG - Luke Ridnour (until Ricky Rubio returns)
What to expect
After 41 games in 2012, the Minnesota Timberwolves were 21-20 and in contention for a playoff spot. Then, Rubio tore his ACL, and the team sputtered to a 5-20 finish. Still, thanks to that 41-game sample, there appeared to be plenty of reasons for optimism.
As you can see from the additions and subtractions listed above, the Timberwolves' roster is going to look awfully different this season. Gone are players who just couldn't fit the system—like Beasley and Randolph—and guys like Webster and Ellington who never lived up to expectations. Enter veterans like Kirilenko and Roy who did not play in the NBA in 2012 for their own individual reasons (Kirilenko spent 2012 playing in Russia and Roy retired after the 2010-11 season).
Minnesota will certainly be a very interesting team to monitor this year. There are a lot of questions that are waiting to be answered. Will Roy be able to stay on the floor? Will Kirilenko resume his old NBA form? Can Pekovic build on his 2012 success? Will Derrick Williams bust out?
And, of course, there is the concern about Rubio's knee. He says he expects to return by December, but with these types of injuries, you never know.
Still, there is a lot to like about this club heading into the year, particularly its depth up front. The trade for Cunningham and the signing of Amundson provides Rick Adelman's squad with plenty of support behind Love at the power forward position. The acquisition of Stiemsma gives the team an elite shot-blocking presence off the bench. Plus, we get to see Pekovic for a full season after a very impressive 47-game campaign from him in 2012.
On the other side of the coin, the Timberwolves have a glaring lack of depth at the shooting guard spot. Who steps up if Roy cannot stay healthy? Malcolm Lee? Or will the Wolves turn to Shved, the 23-year-old Russian? Minnesota is high on the latter, but he appears to be somewhat of a project. Another option would be playing J.J. Barea off the ball, and while he has done that in the past, he is obviously a huge defensive liability given his lack of size. All of this puts even more pressure on Roy to produce.
Key player: Roy
For the reasons I just mentioned, Roy is going to have to be big for the Timberwolves this season. He doesn't need to be pre-knee-problem Brandon Roy where he simply dominated games, but he does need to be effective.
Roy just doesn't have the explosiveness he once did. His health will not allow it. However, he remains more than capable of getting hot from the perimeter and dropping 20 or more points in a game. Due to his outside-shooting ability, it doesn't seem to be asking too much for him to average 15 a night.
The 28-year-old Roy will benefit greatly from having the likes of Love and Pekovic up front; two great low-post scorers who could comprise one of the deadliest offensive frontcourts in basketball this season. Those two bigs should open up his game on the perimeter.
During his last season with the Portland Trail Blazers, Roy averaged 12.2 points on 40 percent shooting. He will need to do better than that in Minnesota. Let's just hope he stays healthy.
Williams had a rather underwhelming rookie year, but it wasn't really his fault. The kid simply never got a chance with Beasley in tow—Williams seemed more suited to play small forward and Beas was occupying that spot.
Beasley is now gone and Williams lost 15 pounds over the summer to get his body in shape for 2012-13.
If you watched him at Arizona, you would know that Williams has ridiculous talent. He can essentially do anything out on the floor offensively, and while his defense isn't extraordinary at this point, he certainly has the tools to at least become above average in that area.
What is encouraging about the 21-year-old is that he averaged 11.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in 15 games as a starter in 2012. What is a bit discouraging, however, is that he averaged those 11.3 points on 38.6 percent shooting. He needs to significantly improve his efficiency if he wants to even come close to reaching his potential—being that it was during his rookie year, he deserves a bit of a pass.
All of that said, Williams is facing an uphill battle this season. With the team's acquisitions of Kirilenko and Budinger, the sophomore will face stiff competition at the small forward position. Let's not forget that Cunningham can play the three, as well. Williams will need to be consistent in order to earn significant playing time.
The good news? He has the ability to do that.
Playoffs: Potentially an 8th seed and then one-and-done
The Timberwolves' season hinges greatly on the status of Rubio. If he can return close-to-100 percent, the team will undoubtedly contend for a playoff spot—and might sneak in as a No. 8 seed. However, if he has any setbacks or has to miss half the season, Minnesota will probably end up 10th or 11th in the Western Conference standings.
A lot of the Wolves' potential success also depends on Pekovic. If he continues to improve, the Timberwolves' frontcourt of he and Love is going to cause a lot of matchup problems. The 6'11", 290 lb. behemoth was one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2012 campaign, averaging 13.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He also shot 56.4 percent from the floor.
Minnesota already has one of the best power forwards in the league. Imagine if it ends up with one of the best centers in the game as well? Don't think Pekovic can't reach that level, because he can. The kid is good.
All things considered, this should be the most enjoyable season for Timberwolves' fans since Kevin Garnett roamed the Target Center.
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