(Jonny Flynn is wondering what flew into his mouth and bit his tongue...)
I know, I know, the title speaks for itself, and yet contradicts itself as well.
The Timberwolves finished with a record of 24-58 in the 2008-2009 season. Al Jefferson was inactive for 32 games in which the Wolves went 7-25.
The Wolves opened this season with a thrilling comeback victory over the New Jersey Nets, then suffered losses at the hands of the Phoenix Suns and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Both teams appear to be playoff bound, yet the Wolves gave both teams a fight that was not seen in them last season.
Al Jefferson is not the Al Jefferson that he was before he was injured, but he looked like he's returning to form in the loss to the Phoenix Suns. At one point he split between two defenders with pump fakes, and showed his natural ability to score in the post even though he missed shots.
Ryan Gomes stated that he's been working on scoring off the dribble, and he's doing just that. Not to mention that he just had a 23 point, 15 rebound performance against the Phoenix Suns.
Kevin Love is a rebounding beast, and while the Wolves are still competitive without him, anyone will tell you that the Wolves will be a MUCH stronger team when he's fully healthy again.
In fact, with all the new acquisitions, the Wolves are a MUCH better team than last season, here's why:
Point Guards: We have two generals on the floor in Jonny Flynn and Ramon Sessions. While neither of them have cracked the "four" assist mark due to the complexities of the triangle offense, it's only a matter of time before Jonny and Ramon average five to six assists each. Both are a huge upgrade from Sebastian Telfair.
- Ryan Hollins: I know he's not doing much in the regular season, but one thing he is doing is blocking and altering shots. He averaged just under one block in the preseason, and uses his athleticism to embarrass his opponents. He gives us a defensive leaper in the post, which is something the Wolves haven't had with Al Jefferson and Kevin Love.
- Corey Brewer: Brewer was injured last season, and yeah I know, he air-balled a free throw (which is MADLY funny), but there's no denying that Corey Brewer is having a pretty good season so far. He's rebounding and blocking shots, and unlike before, every shot he takes doesn't make you want to throw up. He's showing flashes of skill, and with a 19 point, seven rebound, two steal and one assist performance, he's starting to show skills that he showed in the preseason.
- Wayne Ellington: I see a better-shooting Randy Foye in Wayne Ellington. He's slighly taller and can distribute when given the chance. Wayne Ellington loves to shoot, and can shoot it well. And although he hasn't had a great game so far, you can tell by his mere presence on the court that Wayne Ellington is going to be good.
- Coaching Staff and Up-Tempo Style: The coaching staff has the Wolves believing in themselves. Head coach Kurt Rambis and assistant coach Reggie Theus have the Wolves competing on a level that has exceeded what I originally thought. The up tempo style has obviously benefited the Wolves, when Al Jefferson does not have to score 20 points to actually "compete." In fact, Jonny Flynn is the Wolves leading scorer at this point.
The fact remains that the Wolves are far from a finished product. But with Jonny Flynn, Ramon Sessions, Al Jefferson, Kevin Love and possibly Corey Brewer, the Wolves are going to be highly competitive, and I can see them stealing wins by outworking their opponents.