Following the official execution of the three-team Kevin Love trade, the Minnesota Timberwolves will begin their new journey toward a bright future. Each newcomer brings with him a unique set of skills, and each possesses the power to affect the team positively.
By acquiring Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young, the Wolves obtained an excellent blend of experience, talent and youth. What more can a franchise forced to trade away its top player ask for in return?
The biggest fish Minnesota reeled in is, unquestionably, the first overall selection in this year's draft—Wiggins. Right away, the Kansas product will fill a positional need at small forward. In the long run, however, the 19-year-old could be poised to become the Wolves' star of the future.
In his lone season at Kansas, the 3-man averaged 20.8 points per 40 minutes on 49.3 percent shooting inside the arc (via Sports-Reference.com). With an exceptionally explosive first step, quickness while running the break and an understanding of how to shake his defender moving off-ball, Wiggins boasts many of the necessary tools to successfully score inside at the NBA level.
As the wing-man progresses in his career, it is feasible to envision him implementing consistent outside shooting to his game as well. Wiggins may have shot a measly 34.1 percent from three-point range as a freshman, but the proper mechanics are evident in his form. In time, consistency will come, and the small forward should transform into a superb all-around scorer.
Mix this in with his aptitude for rebounding as well as strong on-ball and help-side defense, and it is clear the athletic Wiggins will help lead Minnesota toward relevancy.
Another young player the Wolves procured is Anthony Bennett, who was picked first overall in 2013. The small forward's rookie campaign proved to be a struggle: He failed to score a field goal through his first four games, then never found his rhythm the rest of the way.
Fortunately for the 21-year-old, hope still remains. Bennett made a huge improvement this offseason by shedding poundage from his frame. From Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal:
Bennett said he’s lost between 15 and 20 pounds since the end of last season and is back down around 240. He began last season overweight and out of shape after missing all of summer league, but he’s trying to make up for it now.
“This is my playing weight, this is where I’ve been through high school and college,” Bennett said. “It feels good being back at my playing weight. But I just have to stay healthy. It’s a good feeling not coming off surgery. I’m excited about that.”
Bennett can now start anew with the Wolves. He will likely play bench minutes throughout 2014-15, but the forward will carve himself a larger role moving forward—if he reaches his full potential, that is. Let's not forget his lone season at UNLV, in which he generated 23.7 points, 12.0 rebounds and 53.3 percent shooting per 40 minutes (via Sports-Reference.com).
If Bennett can revert to the versatile scoring machine he was in college, he will certainly establish himself as a more significant threat. Losing that extra weight is a step in the right direction. On a developing Minnesota squad, he holds the opportunity to revitalize his career and aid the Wolves' future advancement.
In addition to Minnesota's influx of inexperienced youth, the team is receiving a young veteran presence in Thaddeus Young. A seven year, 26-year-old player, Young will fill the void left by Love at the 4-spot.
Although he can't spread the floor like Love—he shot 30.8 percent from distance with the Philadelphia 76ers last year—Young is most effective scoring when cutting off-ball, facing up to attack the basket and streaking on the break.
Also, with his incredible athleticism and lengthy 6'11" wingspan, the 4-man brings something for which Love is notoriously pitiful: defense. Whether it's banging with bigger opponents down low or hustling back to block seemingly open layup attempts, what the 6'8" forward lacks in size is compensated through his undying effort.
For now, Young is essentially the replacement for Love. But at a relatively young age and coming off one of his more impressive statistical seasons, the veteran can serve as a cornerstone for Minnesota's success long term.
By dealing Kevin Love, the Timberwolves have obtained three key pieces who can all play important roles in the team's continuing evolution. Combine this incoming talent with proven contributors such as Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic, as well as rising youngsters in Gorgui Dieng and Zach LaVine, and it is obvious Minnesota is not worse off without Love.
Playing in the stacked Western Conference, the Wolves will probably win less than 35 games this season. However, if all goes well and the recent acquisitions develop properly, Minnesota is on track to qualify for postseason contention two or three years down the road.
Josh Haar is a NBA writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @JHaarNBA.
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