Coming into the NBA season, the Minnesota Timberwolves figured to be a much improved NBA team, but seeing that they won only 15 games the season prior, there was virtually no way they couldn't improve.
Taking notes from the preseason, we knew that the Wolves would be improved, in fact they improved in every aspect of the game and dominated statistically. Knowing that the preseason provides fools gold for young teams, the regular season is the true test, and so far the Wolves are failing.
They are currently 1-6, on a five game losing streak, and play the Lakers in their next contest.
Looking at their losses, and examining their roster, it just doesn't add up. While not the most talented team in the NBA, their record accompanied with their blowout losses leave some confused (all except the media), looking further into this topic there has to be an answer.
Kurt Rambis: The Minnesota Timberwolves head coach hasn't set a good impression on Wolves fans at all with the lack of Kevin Love's playing time. As of late, Love has been getting more time, and would probably have more if the Wolves weren't getting blown out. As far as Rambis' rotations, they could be better, but they are OK right now, so we won't worry about that. My question is can he motivate?
Yes he's won titles as an assistant coach and a player, but for some reason this young team at times has lapses of energy everywhere, and it's incredible to me how the youngest team in the league isn't flying everywhere on the court like they should be. At the same time, the players play the game, so while Rambis' status on being a motivator is questionable, it's probably not a negative right now.
System: Not too much you can say about this one other than the triangle offense yada yada bull crap. It's been shown that the Wolves run some formations of it, but use multiple styles of offense into a "flow." What's good to know is when the Wolves rack up a lot of assists, their scoring percentage goes up. The Wolves offense is based on passing and it's fun to watch when run correctly, but it's awfully dreadful when the Wolves turn the ball over.
The Timberwolves are the worst defensive team in the league, and it's mainly due to their offensive woes, starting a rookie 2-guard Wesley Johnson, a slow power forward in Kevin Love and Beasley out of position at small forward; not to mention turning the ball over. The Wolves will probably lead the league in rebounding so there's a start.
Injuries: Jonny Flynn had surgery on his hip, Martell Webster had surgery on his back, from what it looks like Wesley Johnson and Luke Ridnour are both suffering from hamstring tweaks, Sebastian Telfair is having shoulder problems and Beasley isn't 100 percent with his hip. Not bad compared to some other teams, but for a young team that needs every bit of talent they've acquired, it's huge.
Over the last seven games it's easy to see where Webster is missed. Martell was having a heck of a preseason and he started having back spasms. He provided instant offense off the bench for the Wolves, and could have played himself into a sixth man of the year nomination. He also could play both the 2-guard and small forward and guard both of them very well. His production and veteran leadership is missed.
Schedule Toughness: The loss to Sacramento at home is inexcusable, but to say the least, the Wolves have had a tough schedule to say the least. It's no excuse, this is the NBA, but when you play Miami and Orlando back to back, it can have a ill effect on a young team's confidence. They did beat the Milwaukee Bucks so that's OK, and they played the Atlanta Hawks tough, but have been getting blown out on all their road games.
It's not going to get prettier till the end of the season, by then I hope it isn't too late.
Star Potential Players: Kevin Love and Michael Beasley are the closest to being just that. Beasley is averaging nearly 15 points in 26 minutes, and Love is averaging 16 points and almost 13 rebounds in 26 minutes. The problem? Well...... 26 MINUTES!
Like I've said, Rambis' rotations are getting better, I anticipate Love's minutes going up and Beasley's going up as soon as he get's better acclimated into the offense. But what really is lacking is that superstar caliber player that the team follows.
There's not a proven player or scorer on this team yet, but if there was the young players would follow him. If Beasley or Love emerge, and really start hustling and busting their butt, their teammates will follow suit. Other dark horses for star caliber players are: Wesley Johnson, Martell Webster, and even that guy.. Jonny Flynn.
The verdict isn't completely made on this team, there are a lot more games to play and this team is still young. The first thing they need to do is regain their confidence and start taking care of games at home, then they can focus on their road woes.
Whats the answer? I don't know quite yet. Check back with me after 20 more games.