If there was a team that could win an award for most smiles in the NBA, it'd probably be the Minnesota Timberwolves. If there was a team that could win an award for least amount of tattoos in the NBA, it'd be no other than these pups.
But these pups have a roster of underachieving hungry wolves waiting to break out, and walk with huge chips on their shoulders. Everyone from Jonny Flynn to Anthony Tolliver has something to prove, and this will make for some of the most competitive practices, games and events in a Wolves uniform.
A chip on the shoulder? Wanting to prove something, wanting to send a message to the league that they have arrived. Let's look at the roster, and why the Wolves nucleus has something to prove.
The lightening fast playmaking guard out of Syracuse, known for his ability to generate offense on the pick and roll and fast paced offense had a solid, but rocky rookie season. As a college baller, Jonny Flynn was one the better point guard prospects in an incredible deep rookie class that featured the likes of Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings.
Jonny Flynn came into the league NBA ready, not knowing what there was to face, and it would ultimately be something as simple as a "triangle" that would become his worst enemy. In this offense, Jonny struggled, and the once renowned playmaker who would become a bonafide rookie of the year candidate got off to a solid start, but started to diminish as the season lingered.
Possessing cat like quickness, incredible athleticism and sick ball handling skills to go along with above average court vision, Flynn would find that the triangle would not play to the best of his abilities. The Co-MVP of his respective summer league looked "average" for the first time in his life.
Compared to his rookie classmates however, it was clear to see that Flynn still belonged. Even when it came to facing extremely fast guards, Flynn still seemed like he was one of the quickest guard with the ball in his hands. Now that Wolves fans have seen what he could do, there's more optimism for Ricky Rubio, who ultimately will start the minute he makes the jump into the NBA.
Once known for having a rock like body, Flynn suffered his first major injury, and now his starting role is threatned by the likes of Luke Ridnour. With his hip not getting back to game shape until December, Flynn will have to watch 2 months of his teammates play without him, and you can bet that he's ready to show that he's still that guard that can play in a trillion overtime games like he did in college, and lead his team to victories.
Yes, this guy is a stud now, but before, Corey Brewer had to be one of the more criticized players in the league.
He couldn't shoot, he couldn't pass, he wasn't as good on the defensive end as advertised, he lost a step, he's too skinny and he's just a role player. Corey Brewer has heard all of this, and yet it still didn't stop him from having a breakout season. Not only did he double his scoring output, but his efficiency from all over the floor started to rise, and Brewer became on the NBA's upcoming sharpshooters.
Known for his posterizing dunks, Corey Brewer started to show the versatility that he showed when he was in college. At times, locking opponents down like Kevin Durant for 10 minutes straight, scoring 18 points in a quarter to keep the Wolves in the game, knocking down clutch 3-point shots and drives, and really emerged as someone who could be a great clutch basketball player. But do not forget that he did this all while recovering from his torn ACL injury.
It would be stupid to think that Brewer couldn't improve even more. As the season progressed, his handle got slightly better, his kamikaze drives were slowing down and he was finishing in traffic, and he's arguably the best off the ball defender in the league while being a decent on the ball defender. So where does the chip come from? Wes Johnson and Martell Webster.
When asked about if they could affect his starting role, he replied that he didn't think so because of they are more "small forwards" than shooting guards. The reality is, Corey Brewer's position as a starter is threatned, as their are legit starting caliber players that can play the 2-guard on the Wolves as of right now.
Over the summer, Corey Brewer has been working out with Kevin Durant and the alike, and you can bet he's getting prepared to take what was his last year.
A rebounding machine, an incredible outlet passer, and arguably the best basketball I.Q under the age of 23 in the NBA. On the glass this guy can flat out get it done from any which way and angle. But for the last few years, Kevin Love just cannot get what he deserves: Minutes.
25 MPG and 29 MPG in his first 2 seasons. I expect him to get at least 34 MPG this upcoming season. When a player puts up a legit double double (14 points, 11 rebounds) in 29 MPG, you know this guy has some serious all-star talent capabilities waiting to come out. It's not exactly always been the coaches fault, Kevin Love played behind a all star talent in Al Jefferson, and both are defensive stalwarts, so putting them together in the frontcourt was a stupid mistake.
Kevin Love's natural position is at the 4, but he has a versatile game, but he needs not one play run for him. Just like Al Jefferson scored 20 points on jump hooks, Kevin Love can score 20 points on putbacks and freethrows complimented with being able to shoot all over the court. He's truly a great talent, but some argue that he's not a starting caliber 4, because of his lack of lateral quickness limits him on the defensive end.
While he still may be a liability, there's still room for improvement for a 22 year old in anything you ever do. With that being said, he showed some improvement on the defensive end by being able to take charges and use his body more effectively.
Even so, this star power forward couldn't get minutes, at times getting 1 minute on Team USA, it's utterly ridiculous. A player that's this talented had to have built up some steam over the past 2 seasons, and it was just the icing on the cake when he was purely a last minute role player on Team USA.
Now, today's Kevin Love wants to be that guy you can run the offense through, a player that's a legit cornerstone, and because he's doing work in the post and still getting better at things he's been excellent at, Kevin Love is now wanting to prove he belongs with the very best PF's in the league. A player that was snubbed in the rookie-sophomore game as a rookie, and someone who's constantly criticized by his own fans will now have a breakout season. 18 points and 13 rebounds are a legit possibility.
How can I sum this up in a few paragraphs. Get's drafted at 17 (forced to by his ballclub), is considered a top tier talent at #2 (you won't find proof saying otherwise), doesn't get played (Larry Brown doesn't play rookies), wins a championship ring (Darko 1, LeBron 0, just saying), and get's played in various places but none of the coaches or front office have the confidence in him (even losing teams).
Let's reiterate that just a tad.
Darko Milicic was considered to be the top talent behind LeBron James. He was a legit 7-footer with freakish athleticism and ball handling skills for a player his size, and there were many legit sources claiming that Darko was going to be a legit franchise player in the NBA. But at the age of 17 and 18, the mind of a European kid was incredibly altered, not only did he have to undergo a complete culture change, but he wasn't played at all in his first 2 seasons, and thus his confidence was SHOT.
He gets some solid run with the Memphis Grizzlies and Orlando Magic, yet both front offices already had their minds made up with Marc Gasol and Dwight Howard as their franchise centers. Thus, the confidence in his abilities was never there, and the run that was supposed to come with that never existed. Even at the age of 20 and 21, he posted decent numbers of 8 points, 6 rebounds and nearly 2 blocks, very solid, but still raw and undeveloped while lacking confidence.
In short, he was ready to leave the NBA, and he wasn't coming back. Looking back on it, who could blame him? No one would even give him a chance, not even the New York Knicks when they started off 1-9. Incredible.
In enters Minnesota. He's brought in like family, they don't even make him take the physical that they would usually make players undergo. They let him practice, see that he has legit skills and talents, and let him showcase it. For a nimble 7-footer, the going price on that is nearlly 7 million a year, and there were many a bench talent that was signed for big amounts of money during the offseason.
But Darko only got 5 million a year for a total of 20 million over 4 years, and the last year isn't guarenteed. That contract, even for a player that posted 9 points, 6 boards and almost 2 blocks in 26 MPG is totally understandable. Not to mention that Darko is good for passing out of the post, the double team, and still has a lot of upside due to his age, and the fact that he was very out of shape when the Wolves played him in 23 games.
Now Darko has a team that believes in him, who's going to play him, and is going to be behind him 100%, and I feel that it will be in the Wolves favor, he's just got that chip.
It's ridiculous how talented this guy is, so let's make it short and sweet. He was the number 1 high school prospect in his class and was considered a franchise power forward coming out of college. 26 points and 12 rebounds a game will do that for you. Being able to do almost anything, and score almost anywhere on the court, combined with decent size and great athleticism made Beasley look like a lock to be Dwyane Wade's right hand man.
The problem? Beasley has never been that "man", but he's been "the man".
And it's as simple as that. He has gotton no credit for helping the Heat get back to the playoffs despite averaging 15 points and 6 boards in 29 MPG. He's gotton no credit for only being 21 years of age, and still having immense talent (he was traded for only 2nd round picks). I imagine that the Miami Heat only made B-Easy more hungry than he's ever been in his whole life.
Now it's his turn. Michael Beasley has the chance to lead a team legitimately for the first time in his NBA career. He has the skills, and now he was the demeonor to do it. The trade has humbled him, and he's quoted to wanting to be a leader.
It's as simple as that, so when you see Beasley taking isomotions for the game winning shot, you will know that he's arrived.
NBA Chips on the shoulder award goes to?