In return for Kevin Love, the Minnesota Timberwolves received a promising future but a bleak present.
This team is filled with young talent—Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Anthony Bennett—that is teeming with potential.
Even without playing a single game in the NBA, Wiggins is already becoming a household name. During the Las Vegas Summer League, it was obvious that his offense is still very raw. According to NBA.com, Wiggins shot only 40.5 percent from the field and an abysmal 15.4 percent from long range.
Fortunately for him and the Wolves, his explosiveness and defensive intensity will allow him to be an immediate impact. Even though he struggled offensively he shined on defense, averaging 1.2 steals and 1.5 blocks per game this summer.
Another key piece in the Love trade was the 2013 first overall pick, Bennett.
Bennett had a disappointing rookie year due to injuries, but he bounced back with an impressive summer, averaging 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, according to NBA.com.
He even reportedly lost weight this past offseason:
Anthony Bennett has been working out in Cleveland the last couple months, hired personal chef. Says he's lost 15-20 lbs since April— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) July 12, 2014
Many fans are also excited about the 19-year-old LaVine, due to the rookie's elite athleticism.
This summer he showcased his remarkable leaping ability with several videos and Vines. Most notably, when he challenged fellow teammate Wiggins to a dunk contest via Twitter:
LaVine (@ZachLaVine) August 3, 2014
LaVine was drafted as a point guard, but due to his length and unremarkable passing ability, the Wolves may move him to the 2-guard. Last season at UCLA, he averaged only 1.8 assists per game.
An even lesser-known Wolves' prospect, Gorgui Dieng, is having a very impressive summer, averaging 22 points and 11.7 rebounds per game for Senegal in the FIBA world cup, per FIBA.com.
Most importantly, Dieng's progress could make Nikola Pekovic expendable. With so many young, athletic players, the Wolves will probably adopt a fast-paced offense, which is not Pekovic's forte.
Pekovic is better as a half-court player because he can use his size to dominate in the paint. According to Hollinger Stats courtesy of ESPN, Pekovic recorded a 20.72 Player Efficiency Rating last season, which was higher than Joakim Noah, Chris Bosh and Serge Ibaka.
Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders spoke optimistically about the Wolves when asked about which "rebuilding unit's core" would he prefer five years down the road:
I think Minnesota could make the playoffs this year if things break their way. Orlando could win 40 games this year too… Not sure the 76ers or Bucks win 40 games combined in the next two years — I am joking of course. They are both in the early stages of a rebuild, so Wolves & Magic within five years… in seven or eight… Philly gets in the mix for me.
Unfortunately, even with these young, talented players, the Timberwolves are not a playoff team. The future of the Wolves may be exciting, but Love's departure will hurt them in the present.
The loss of their biggest offensive contributor will inevitably cost this team a few wins in the upcoming season.
Not to mention, the Wolves are in a very tough conference. Last season, In the West, they were nine games behind the final playoff spot. If the Wolves were in the Eastern Conference instead, they would have clinched the eighth seed.
Even their own division is extremely competitive. The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Portland Trail Blazers are both very young, talented teams in the Northwest division. The Denver Nuggets had an off year in 2013, but with Danilo Gallinari returning sometime this year from an ACL injury, they should be a slightly better team.
Unfortunately, for now, this conference seems too stacked for a young, inexperienced Wolves team to succeed.
Division rank: fourth
Conference seed: 12th
All stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted
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