5 Things Every Fan Needs to Know About Minnesota Timberwolves for 2013-14 Season
No matter your level of fandom, you must understand that the 2013-14 edition of the Minnesota Timberwolves must be treated as its own entity.
Throw all of the stained memories and scarred images of Ricky Davis, Mark Madsen and Darko Milicic out the window from seasons past. Disregard all of the torn ACLs and broken hands of the last year or two. This season will prove to be a breath of fresh air for the casuals and the die-hards of a long-suffering fan base.
There are a handful of things that each fan should know going into this campaign that will make even the most pessimistic of Wolves fans ready to buy into this season.
This season is sure to have its fair share of bumps along the way. That just comes with the territory of being a Timberwolves fan, but here are five reasons why this year should provide more peaks than valleys.
*All stats provided by ESPN.com and Basketball-Reference.com
5. Three-Point Woes Are a Thing of the Past
This team's biggest issue from last year will most assuredly not carry over into this season. Be at ease, T-Wolves fans.
Minnesota was last in the league at a putrid 30.5 percent from three-point range. This year, that will prove to be an anomaly.
A roster consisting of six players shooting well over 30 percent from deep will have no chance of repeating that performance. That includes the addition of sharp-shooter Kevin Martin, who nailed 42.6 percent last season as well as the return to health of Kevin Love who shot 39 percent during his two All-Star seasons from 2010-12.
Alexey Shved will look to improve and show that much talked-about jumper on a more consistent basis this year as well. Ricky Rubio is also apparently working on his shot, as evidenced by his 45 percent shooting in this year's EuroBasket including 44.4 percent from three.
With Nikola Pekovic re-upped for the next five years, he will clog up the paint and cause defenses to collapse on him and leave players like Martin and Chase Budinger wide open.
As long as the roster doesn't suffer crippling injuries from top to bottom once again, the team's biggest weakness could actually be a significant strength now.
Rick Adelman's corner offense will now take full effect with the additions of Martin and Corey Brewer, and Love and Budinger coming back healthy. His vision for this team was unfulfilled with the amount of injuries, but now he has nothing but huge weapons at his disposal.
4. The Loss of Andrei Kirilenko Is Not as Bad as It Seems
There were points during last season where Andrei Kirilenko was the indisputable MVP of this team.
That does not mean that the 2013-14 season will crumble to the ground without his presence.
Corey Brewer was brought back for a second stint in Minneapolis to soften the blow of losing AK-47. The two share striking similarities on the court. They are each spectacular perimeter defenders with titanic wingspans capable of jumping any passing lane. Both love backdoor cuts to the rim, getting out on the break and chucking up ill-advised threes that can be overlooked due to their defensive prowess.
Kirilenko was monumentally important as a veteran presence as well, especially for rookie Russian Alexey Shved. That will be a loss, but not something unable for the roster to overcome.
His do-it-all style of play is a pleasure to watch, and the other wing players must step up to make sure that loss isn't anything too catastrophic. There is no reason to believe that will not be the case.
Derrick Williams is heading into year three, Budinger is healthy and Brewer will lock things down on defense. After a few games, AK-47 will be nothing more than a distant memory.
3. Despite the Misconceptions, Kevin Love Is Happy, Healthy and Ready to Win
We all recall the now infamous column by Adrian Wojnarowski last year when Kevin Love poured his heart out to him in the interview about how he doubts the team's future.
The reality is that the words in that column were overblown. Of course Love wants to make the playoffs. He is not out of line for being sick and tired of losing whatsoever.
Unfortunately, everyone got injured last year so Love can use a mulligan on the season. This year is where he will have the opportunity to make good on his desires.
Early reports out of Timberwolves camp are that Love is in the kind of shape we have never seen out of him. He knows how big this season is, and he's clearly gearing up for a monster year.
Better than anything, we have also heard that Love is happy. He is happy for Nikola Pekovic and his new contract and not jealous that he got the fifth year that David Kahn denied him, and he is happy with the direction of the franchise under Flip Saunders.
Timberwolves fans don't have to worry about Love pouting his way out of town a la Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony. He has stated his desire to win in Minnesota and has been outspoken about his satisfaction with the guys around him.
Be at ease, T-Wolves fans. Your superstar is here for the foreseeable future and he is ready to contend.
2. Watch out for Derrick Williams
Don't sleep on the youngin'.
Derrick Williams represents the biggest source of untapped potential on this roster. Now in year three, commonly a breakout year for big men, D-Will has some pressure on his shoulders as he has to prove he is worthy of the Timberwolves picking up his option for next season.
Williams is still just 22 years old and has quietly yet steadily improved since he came into the league. With the amount of injuries and dearth of healthy durable bodies on this squad lately, he has been the picture of good health.
Last year, he was quicker with his decision making, noticeably more confident and more productive from long range. He shot 33 percent from downtown for the year and averaged a very respectable 15 points and six rebounds per game during the second half of the season.
His consistency has been his biggest knock, but that has been improving as well. A big factor weighing into that is that his minutes were inconsistent until midway through last year. We saw what he could do during the second half when he got 30 minutes a night and didn't have to worry about when and how much he would be on the floor.
Rick Adelman had more confidence in him. His teammates have more confidence in him, and best of all he has some of that confidence we saw him wreck the Pac-12 with at Arizona.
Trade rumors have surrounded him like gnats on a summer picnic, but Saunders has showered him with praise and expressed his desire to keep him around. Williams is an explosive offensive player that would be difficult to replace.
Ricky Rubio's No. 1 alley-oop partner is a crucial part of this team. If he uses the opportunities left open by Kirilenko's departure to break out this season, he could become this team's X-factor and make them that much more dangerous.
1. 50 Wins Is a Reasonable Expectation
There is no glory in getting thrown to the sharks as a sacrificial eight seed in the playoffs.
Fighting for that goal is just fighting to have your season extended by four games. The Timberwolves have their sights set on bigger and better things, as they should.
The eighth seed was well within their grasp two years ago, just prior to Rubio's injury. They were over .500 roughly two-thirds of the way through the year and easily would have made the playoffs.
That was before this roster was rounded out with the kind of talent it has now. That 2011-12 team was very much in rebuilding mode, but this group is a hungry bunch expecting to dominate.
Look around the Western Conference and ask yourself which teams improved. Houston and the Clippers are the only playoff teams who can indisputably say that they improved. Lower-tier clubs like New Orleans, Sacramento and Portland will likely be improved, but not likely to a playoff-caliber level.
Oklahoma City has question marks after losing Kevin Martin, dealing with Westbrook's injury, and doing nothing in the offseason. Western Conference Finals teams San Antonio and Memphis stood pat and made no moves of real significance. Denver and the Lakers are loaded with question marks. Even Golden State, after acquiring Andre Iguodala, has question marks following losing Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, both so important to their high-octane group of last year.
There aren't any teams that you look at and concede defeat to if you're a fan of the Timberwolves. They will be competitive every night, and no wins should come as a surprise. They have the talent to beat absolutely anybody if they are on their game.
I know the west is deep and strenuous, but 50 wins is a tremendously reachable goal if everyone stays healthy.