Revisiting Preseason Predictions for the Timberwolves
Another year of preseason hope, another year of failing to reach expectations in Minneapolis.
The Timberwolves have been absolutely pummeled by injuries for the second consecutive season. If there is anything to point the finger at for why Minnesota has not met expectations once again, you don't have to look far.
A season that was supposed to provide exuberance and fill the Target Center with a positive vibe not seen since KG jumped town turned sour before it even started with Love's broken hand. However, it was not all bad as there were many buttons David Kahn did press which worked wonders.
No one could have predicted the season unfolding as it did.
Nikola Pekovic Will Become a Household Name
As players went down one by one succumbing to injury, no one was left unscathed. Not even the mammoth 6'11" bulldozer that parks himself in the paint night in and night out for this young Timberwolves squad.
Nikola Pekovic was supposed to build on his huge improvement last season and catapult himself into the conversation amongst the top centers in the league. Despite his bumps and bruises, he did just that.
Zach Lowe at Grantland.com predicted along with many others that Pekovic would put up big numbers this year and become a borderline all-star. During his sophomore season last year, he drastically improved. He learned how to use his brute force without fouling, and was able to run the floor despite his 290-pound frame.
Minnesota is just 4-14 without Pekovic on the court this season. He is absolutely vital to the team's success with his 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds a game. While they have struggled shooting the ball from the outside all year, he was always there as a security blanket to get much needed easy baskets when the offense was not rolling.
General Manager David Kahn has already stated how vital resigning the big Serbian is. They have no intentions of letting him leave town even after a monster contract season.
Pekovic definitely improved since last season and has become a legitimate force in this league. This preseason prediction was spot on.
Brandon Roy Will Be the X-Factor This Team Needs
Fans were clamoring upon news of Brandon Roy's return with the team that drafted him. We expected to see more of what made him so beloved and less of what broke our hearts.
Unfortunately, we got the latter. Roy was ready to go once the season started, but five games in it was more of the same.
Another knee surgery set him back for a supposed four to six weeks. Setback after setback took place, and the fairytale comeback so many fans had hoped for never got out of first gear.
Without Roy the 'Wolves were left with an underwhelming collection of shooting guards. Fans were forced to endure another season of the mundane Luke Ridnour as well as the very up-and-down performance of Russian rookie Alexey Shved.
With Roy and Kevin Love out basically the entire season, this team had nobody to go to during crunch time. There were far too many fourth quarter collapses after teams punched them in the mouth, and they had no response.
Roy being a vital part of this team was something that maybe GM David Kahn had put a little too much faith in during the preseason. He was the x-factor that never was.
Andrei Kirilenko Will Not Live Up to His Contract
The multi-faceted Russian came back after a one-year hiatus during which he won the Euroleague MVP to a two-year, $20 million contract.
The overwhelming sentiment was that GM David Kahn overpaid for the former all-star. He was supposed to be over the hill and wasn't supposed to be the same player upon returning to the NBA. The signing was also questioned because of how it would block No. 2 pick Derrick Williams path to the starting lineup.
Kirilenko proved to be worth every penny. The more the season went on, the more valuable he became. As body after body dropped out with injury Kirilenko remained the one constant as the heartbeat of the team until a calf injury later struck him down for a short while.
"AK-47" showed how vital he is to Rick Adelman's corner offense, and his ruthless defensive mentality had a contagious effect on the entire team.
In past seasons, Minnesota had gotten scorched night in and night out due to lack of a dominant perimeter defender. Kirilenko made those days a thing of the past as they currently sit at 15th in the league allowing just over 98 points per game.
This young team is not ready to handle not having Kirilenko around. With a player option next season, players and fans had better hope that AK stays in town. He will continue to prove just how wise that signing was.
Love and Rubio Will Get This Team Back to the Postseason
Flashback to March 9, 2012, just over a year ago. Minnesota was sitting pretty in the eighth seed in the West behind its new superstar in Kevin Love and the floppy-haired point guard who won over the league with his extraordinary passing and radiant personality.
Then Rubio tore his ACL, sending the entire franchise downhill.
This season could accurately be described as a long hangover from last season's sour ending. With Rubio out, Love was forced to overwork himself and although he put up some jaw-dropping performances, he was run into the ground before also finishing the season on the shelf.
This year was supposed to be different. These two were supposed to take the league by storm once Rubio came back and finally break the team's long playoff drought.
Rubio and Love's stars never aligned together this season. Love broke his hand during the preseason, and once he and Rubio both came back, neither looked the same. Love ultimately broke his hand again and the rest is history.
With the dead weight of Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley and Darko Milicic off the roster, the playoffs did not seem like a far-fetched idea at all. If healthy, anything less would have been a disappointment. The one positive is this was the first season in team history they have won 30 games without Kevin Garnett on the roster.
Their slight resurgence towards the end of the year has left glimpses of hope for next year and provided a small preview of what could have been. However, the reality is that without Love and Rubio running the show at full strength, the entire season was a bit of a loss.