Coming off a 22-60 season in the first year of the PGE (post-Garnett era), Timberwolves Vice President of Basketball Operations/Danny Ainge buddy/media whipping boy Kevin McHale stated that he expects the Wolves to win at least 20 more games in 2008-09.
That's an extremely lofty expectation, one which would put the Timberwolves right in the thick of the bottom half of the Western Conference playoff race. The unlikelihood of the prediction is enhanced by the fact that the Timberwolves have, arguably, the NBA's worst head coach in Randy Wittman.
Dwayne Casey was fired midway through the 2006-07 season, with Minnesota having "underachieved" with a 20-20 record. Wittman took over and guided the team to a 12-30 finish. He's posted a career coaching record of 96-192 (.333) with Cleveland and Minnesota.
Despite major coaching deficiencies, the Wolves' roster is much improved this year. The club shipped out underachieving, overpaid cancers Marko Jaric and Antoine Walker.
They brought in Kevin Love and three-point specialist Mike Miller in the controversial draft night trade which sent O.J. Mayo to Memphis. (Side note: Anyone else think the Grizzlies were so eager to trade the No. 5 pick so that the nickname for its best duo wouldn't be Gay/Love?)
They signed all their key free agents—Sebastian Telfair, Craig Smith, and Ryan Gomes—all of whom should be better with another year of experience.
You also have to figure Rashad McCants and Corey Brewer will also improve and mature with age.
But the real success or failure of the team lies squarely on the shoulders of Randy Foye. Fans have unleashed their fury on him, especially since the team traded Brandon Roy (an All-Star last season) for him while also passing over exciting youngster Rudy Gay on draft day.
However, when you evaluate Foye based on his own numbers, they suggest he could be primed for a breakout in year three. Many fans who bash Foye forget he too made the 2006-2007 All-Rookie First Team alongside Roy.
Foye's injury certainly was a blow to the club last season, as Foye missed the first 43 games for the season. The club went 14-25 in the 39 games he played in, a record that is hardly stellar but much improved from the 8-35 mark without him.
Foye, as to be expected, was rusty when he first returned. But he was able to settle into a nice groove in the final month of the year, averaging 18.4 points and 5.2 assists.
With Telfair as the team's only other point guard, Foye shoulders much of the expectations for the upcoming year. While it seems certain he will be able to get his points on a nightly basis, the team also needs him to step up his level of defense.
In a back court featuring defensive liabilities such as Miller and McCants, he must improve his on-ball defending against the opposing teams' floor generals. In addition, the burden will fall on him to find three-point shooter Miller behind the arc and feed the ball down low to Love and franchise cornerstone Al Jefferson in the post.
Foye certainly has the ability to still develop into a young star in this league. The sooner he does, the sooner the club will head back towards respectability, and the sooner the critics of the draft day trade will be silenced.
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