How Minnesota Timberwolves Can Win Northwest Division in 2014
Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Timberwolves...division champions? How does that sound, T-Wolves fans?
A division once considered a lock for the Oklahoma City Thunder now has a small window of opportunity open for the field. While it may still be a long shot, Minnesota has a chance to surprise people this year and steal the crown from OKC.
Rick Adelman's bunch will obviously need much more good fortune than last season, but if things can fall in line, they have a legitimate chance this year.
Hear me out.
We all know the story by now. Minnesota was last in the league by a significant margin, barely cracking 30 percent from downtown.
The remedy? Kevin Martin reunites with Rick Adelman for a third time after playing under him with the Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets and shooting a career high 42.6 percent from three last season.
Even better is that Minnesota signed him away from the Thunder. Martin leaves behind a big hole on offense for OKC that will for now be filled with nothing but uncertainty.
For the T-Wolves, they get a lights-out shooter who fits like a glove. They may have overpaid slightly, but no one doubts Martin's scoring ability. The fact that his acquisition significantly hurts OKC is an added bonus.
The other obvious solution is the return of Kevin Love. Before going down to a pair of broken hands last season, he had turned himself into a lethal three-point shooter.
After shooting 39 percent from long range the previous two seasons, Love's percentage plummeted last year during his injury-shortened campaign. He knocked down just 21.7 percent while clearly struggling to overcome the hand injuries.
Chase Budinger being healthy will also take care of some shooting woes. The other players who could stand to improve from outside are Ricky Rubio, Derrick Williams and Alexey Shved.
If everyone does their part, what was once a glaring weakness could quickly be turned into a strength for this team.
The Competition Comes Back Down to Earth
A big thing that would help Minnesota next year is something that is out of their own control.
Oklahoma City and the Denver Nuggets won 60 and 57 games last season, respectively. Both teams will have difficult times repeating those performances this upcoming campaign.
That amount of victories may be slightly out of the realm of possibilities for the T-Wolves. With Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer both moving from those two cities to Minnesota, Flip Saunders has acquired two key players from the two best teams in the division.
Denver will also be without Andre Iguodala and recently fired NBA Coach of the Year, George Karl. Danilo Gallinari will also be out for the foreseeable future while still recovering from his torn ACL.
The bottom line is that Denver and OKC have not improved at all since last season. Repeating their win totals from last year will be a daunting task for both of those franchises, especially with Minnesota and the Portland Trail Blazers making the improvements that they did in the division.
This is the biggest issue of all.
Minneapolis likely had to reserve a portion of the hospital strictly for the T-Wolves after the way these past two seasons have gone.
Each of the past two seasons had grand aspirations and ended with little to show for them. The main reason behind this is that we have yet to see what this team can do when everyone is healthy for an extended time period.
The best things have gotten was right before Rubio tore his ACL during his rookie season of 2011. The team had caught fire and rallied around him, hovering around .500 and being in possession of the eight seed in the playoff race.
Since then there has been a plethora of injuries. This past season Love had two broken hands, Pekovic had his collection of injuries, Budinger tore his meniscus, and Brandon Roy...well, you get the point.
Hopefully, the guys got all of their injuries out of the way the past two years. It is troubling to watch such a talented team get decimated by something beyond their own control.
With the extraordinary salary demands of Nikola Pekovic, maybe he can invest in some lucky rabbits' feet or wishbones for everyone. At this point, every option should be explored to keep this group healthy.
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