I'm pretty sure everybody has read about our beloved pups all over the web, including this nice site that I write on.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have continued to be looked down as an incompetent franchise with an incompetent GM and an owner who's hiring the incompetence. The Minnesota Timberwolves are still in the media portrayed as the whipping boys of the locker room, and I am going to say that it's ok.
It's ok that they can see the Timberwolves that way, it's ok that they make it appear that the franchise is in turmoil, it's ok that everyone just follows suit and just repeats what has been said over and over (so much for originality). What I've noticed is that even Wolves fans that are well informed don't expect much out of the Wolves this season, and very well they shouldn't, and that's OK too.
I don't believe that the team that's going two a days right now see's it the same way, and I know that head coach Kurt Rambis doesn't see that, and I know for a fact that Michael Beasley doesn't see it that way. Why should we?
Last season, the trio of Kevin Love, Al Jefferson and Jonny Flynn weren't expecting playoff contention or anything close to it, so why should it's fans? Because David Kahn said "we won't contend for an NBA title"? Of course that was scewered by the media to say that we won't win any games this season, typical Timberwolves haters. It's inevitable to see that no one is going to feel sorry for the Timberwolves, and the team for the first time in 5 years isn't feeling sorry at all.
Looking across the roster, one thing is painfully clear, there's some legit size, shooting, speed and athleticism everywhere, and this team is fully equipped to run like no other team in the league. Not in the way that the Golden State Warriors or the Phoenix Suns run, but the way that the Showtime Lakers ran, or better yet, the way the Timberwolves run.
This team was the worst defensive team in the league, and while it wasn't the worst team in the league (thank god for the Nets), it was the most inconsistent team in every facet of the game. One quarter, they looked like playoff battlers (thanks Utah Jazz!), the next quarter, they looked like they'd get beat in a D-League showing. When talent is nonexistant, there's no such thing as a system, period.
Making the simple pass for the 3-point shot isn't simple if the player can't shoot it, getting stops is impossible if you don't have any type of length or speed, and running the fast break is frivolous without fast break finishers. You see that last season the Timberwolves had no shooters, no length or speed, and only one true blue finisher in Corey Brewer. So while the "triangle" is being run, the many things that people deemed as complex, were simply made that way because of a serious talent deficit.
Looking at the triangle, head coach Kurt Rambis actually only runs facets of it. He utilizes the pick and roll a lot, and some of the same types of flow offensive schemes used by Rick Adelman and Gregg Popovich. But even so, last season this team couldn't pile up points on the fast break due to having no finishers, despite running at the 3rd fastest pace in the league.
Going into this season, the hugest emphasis in training camp has been reported to be defense. Defense and of course teamwork, and it seems like the focus is generating offense from defense. As far as the offense goes, there's a possibility that it will flow much easier with the increase in talent from last season.
Looking at last year's roster, there hasn't been a free agent that has been signed to a contract yet that left the Timberwolves team, unless you want to call Brian Cardinal or Damien Wilkins significant. This roster is a complete upgrade on paper at least, and this team has legit size, shooting and athleticism accompanied with the potential to at least keep teams on their tails.
So as I go on with this short preview, we will use some conclusions on last year's to team to conclude this years team.
Last season, this team had no trouble scoring the ball, and I expect there to be even less trouble now. However, there's a slight lapse with the departure of Al Jefferson who averaged 17 points a game last season. But with the addition of Nikola Pekovic, increased minutes from a stellar Kevin Love, and hopefully a rebirth of Darko Milicic, there's easily some all around contributions that can make up that 17 points.
This team is going to be electric on the fast break, as well as in the half court. I expect that they will run fastest pace or the 2nd fastest pace in the league with Golden State having balanced out their roster with more big men, and Phoenix Sun's Steve Nash regressing due to age and losing Amare Stoudamire.
This team is full of shooters that can knock down open 3-point shots at will. Martell Webster, Corey Brewer, Wayne Ellington, Wesley Johnson, Kevin Love, Jonny Flynn, Luke Ridnour, and Lazar Hayward all can shoot the ball, and they all play a part in a running offense.
This team is still lacking a transcendent star, more than likely Wesley Johnson, Kevin Love and the most likely candidate Michael Beasley will be evaluated to see if they are capable of being that star. The Timberwolves need a game changer/closer, it's possible that he's already on the roster.
There's nowhere near an amount of words to describe the defensive effort, skill and intensity that was nonexistant on this team. Absolutely absymal, utterly ugly and just horrific. An embarrassment on this end of the floor.
Having Kevin Love and Al Jefferson down on the blocks as the 4 and the 5 made for the worst defensive frontcourt duo in the league. No serious shot blocking, no charge taking, no lateral speed or footwork, just abysmal in the paint. It was clear to see, what a legit nimble 7-footer could do next to either Al Jefferson and Kevin Love.
On the wing, the only defensive minded player was Corey Brewer, Wayne Ellington had his moments as well. But it was revealed that Corey needs other defensive players around him to be truly effective so he can roam around, disrupt the passing lanes, weakside shot block and lock other players down.
Jonny Flynn just came out of playing zone defense, and his on the ball defense proved to be below average. While that might not change much, Luke Ridnour should be slightly more capable than Jonny initially.
Now with guys likes Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, Martell Webster and Lazar Hayward at the wings instead of Damien Wilkins, Ryan Gomes and Sasha Pavlovic, there's some legit promise on the wing.
The biggest difference maker will be in 7-footer Darko Milicic, who blocked around 1.5 blocks in 26 MPG last season. He was very much out of shape during his short stay, but now he's in much better shape and running the floor, hopefully he'll bump those numbers up to 2 blocks per game. Kevin Love drew a lot of charges against the super intelligent bigs in the FIBA, there's no reason why he can't do it in the NBA.
Corey Brewer, Martell Webster, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Wesley Johnson, Darko Milicic and Jonny Flynn were all taken within the top 7 picks in their respective drafts. Obviously this team has a lot of potential.
Corey Brewer, who was named NCAA's most outstanding player in 2007 had superstar written all over him coming into the NBA. A player feared because of his defensive intensity, and holding the only triple double in Florida Gators history. He broke out last season averaging 13 points per game, over double his amount the year before. He's a spectacular finisher
Martell Webster, who's only 23 years of age has been in the league 5 years already. A deadly sharpshooter who has Tony Allen like defense. He's shown some flash in his career, and at only 23 years of age, has shown he can get it going if he has the opportunity. When given at least 28 minutes on the floor, Martell averages 15 points and 5 rebounds, that's something to think about.
Wesley Johnson, who hasn't played a game in the NBA already has the NBA fans thinking this guy has that Scottie Pippen upside. He just has that versatility and resolve of a 2nd tier All-Star caliber player. A potentially great shooter, superb athlete with an ideal swingman profile to combine that with a chip on his shoulder. Don't be surprised if he's the next Scottie Pippen.
Darko Milicic, what can I say that you don't already know? Well how about this, you won't find any information stating that this guy would be a bust prior to the draft. And you won't find any information stating that this guy didn't play well for the Wolves last season. I'm challenging people not to look at what he hasn't done with other teams, and what he will do with the Timberwolves. He still has a legit shot of being a starting caliber center.
Kevin Love, the best rebounding power forward in the NBA, period. He came with the potential of being able to outlet pass, shoot the ball from all over the floor, and with one of the highest basketball I.Q's in the game. It's now his team, he's entering his 3rd year, and it's looking like he's ready for the challenge, being more open to his role regardless of what it is, and putting up or shutting up.
Michael Beasley, B-Easy, the man who dominated the college level had superstar written all over him, and now here's his shot. No longer distracted by the Miami life, it's purely focusing on basketball for Mr.Beasley. He has the full embrace of the coaching staff and the front office, and he's still oozing with talent at only the age of 21. This guy is 2 years younger than Wesley Johnson, but he can already create his own shot, and rebound at a decent rate. If there is a superstar on the Wolves, it's got to be Beasley.
To get into the playoffs in the Western Conference, I'm thinking the 8th seed is going to have to win 44-46 games this upcoming season. Will the Wolves win that many games? Unlikely, but not impossible. But there are a lot of things that would need to happen if that's the case.
Michael Beasley would have to show superstar potential breaking out of the gates and averaging 20+ points a game, more than likely at the small forward position. Kevin Love would have to average 16 points and 13+ rebounds. Jonny Flynn would have to regain his Syracuse form within the triangle offense. Wesley Johnson would have to make an immediate impact, Darko would have to be solid in all facets of the center position, and we'd have to have bench play.
Regardless, this team really believes in itself. You can see it in the interviews with Michael Beasley when he says "we are the team to beat", and when Martell Websters' goal is to get to the playoffs, and when Darko talks about defense first, and when Kurt Rambis is saying that all of the players are holding each other accountable. The Timberwolves have more upside, talent and confidence then they have had since the KG days, so it's possible that they could make a run towards the postseason.
So will the Wolves get a pair of stars in Beasley and Love? Will Jonny regain his Syracuse leadership status? Will Wesley Johnson show signs of a young Pippen? Will Darko be solid? It's possible, but the hard part? Getting it all to happen at one time as a team, and catching a little bit of luck.
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