Early Predictions for Minnesota Timberwolves' Starting Lineup Next Season
Many new faces will be donning the blue and green this upcoming fall. Most of these new additions are unproven players with very high ceilings, such as Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Anthony Bennett.
However, the Timberwolves also have solid veterans such as Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and the recently added Thaddeus Young.
Coach Flip Saunders will have to choose between playing veterans to win now or prepare for the future by playing the youngsters.
Point Guard: Ricky Rubio
Even though the Timberwolves added Mo Williams and drafted Zach LaVine this offseason, it's still a no-brainer that Ricky Rubio will get the starting nod.
Williams was once a very productive point guard in the NBA, but now at the age of 31, he is nothing more than a backup. Last season with the Portland Trail Blazers, he tallied a grand total of zero starts.
The Timberwolves' first-round draft pick, LaVine has a lot of potential, but he's only 19 years old and may be better suited as a shooting guard due to his length and mediocre passing ability. At UCLA, he only averaged 1.8 assists per game.
Rubio, on the other hand, has proven to be an excellent facilitator. According to ESPN, Rubio has ranked in the top 10 in assists per game each year of his three-year career.
With several inexperienced players on the Timberwolves roster, Rubio has a chance to take these young players under his wing and become the leader of this team.
Shooting Guard: Kevin Martin
Right now, Kevin Martin is the only player on the Timberwolves roster with a significant amount of experience starting at the shooting guard position.
Othyus Jeffers has played in the NBA for three seasons, but he has only started two games. There's a chance that rookie LaVine could move over to the 2-guard spot, but at 19 years old, he may need time to mature.
Martin has played in the league for 10 years and averaged over 20 points per game in five of those seasons. Unfortunately, at the age of 31, his numbers and minutes will probably start to decline.
There's no doubt that Martin will start on opening day, but don't be surprised if LaVine steals some floor time away from the 10-year veteran.
Martin will probably do what he's done for most of his career, which is shoot well from beyond the arc and contribute consistently on offense. He has scored over 10 points per game and shot over 33 percent from long range in each of the last nine seasons.
Small Forward: Andrew Wiggins
With Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins on the roster, this position is easily the toughest to decide, but the 2014 first overall pick should get the starting nod.
All three are inexperienced players drafted in the first round with tremendous potential. However, neither Bennett nor Muhammad can match the athleticism and intensity that Wiggins brings to the floor.
Wiggins showcased his athleticism when he accepted a challenge from Zach LaVine on Twitter:
Flip Saunders is an old-school coach, and he will instantly fall in love with Wiggins' motor and explosiveness.
However, Wiggins is only 19 years old, and his numbers will probably be fairly mediocre, especially on offense. According to NBA.com, Wiggins shot only 40.5 percent from the field and an abysmal 15.4 percent from beyond the arc in the Las Vegas Summer League. He did, however, average 1.2 steals and 1.5 blocks per game.
Power Forward: Thaddeus Young
For the past six years, Kevin Love has been the starting power forward for the Timberwolves. This season, it will be Thaddeus Young.
Young may not be an All-Star, but he's a solid player who's coming off a career year. In the 2013-14 season, he averaged a career high 17.9 points per game. He also shot slightly over 30 percent from long range.
Young is only 26 years old, which means he still has time to take that next step in his career. If he can continue his progress and connect well with the pass-happy Rubio, Young could potentially be selected for his first All-Star appearance.
Center: Nikola Pekovic
For the past three seasons, Nikola Pekovic has been the starting center for the Timberwolves, and this year will be no different.
It's fair to say Pekovic might be the most underrated center in the NBA. Last season, he averaged 17.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game while shooting 54.1 percent from the field.
With Kevin Love gone, Pekovic will have to carry more of the load on offense. If all goes well, he'll probably average around 20 points per game this season.
All stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted
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