The NBA season is nearly upon us.
With only weeks remaining until the opening tip, it's time to start preparing for the season. Now that the schedule has been released and fans actually have something tangible, the reality of having a season is, well, a reality.
With so many new faces, there are going to be struggles this season for the Timberwolves. But there are certainly reasons to be optimistic in Minnesota.
No, I'm serious.
This is a team with fairly decent depth that does have talent. With so much left to be decided, it's hard to carve anything in stone, but here are five predictions for the Minnesota Timberwolves 2011-2012 season.
Now, I can imagine Ricky Rubio potentially playing major minutes or even starting by the end of the season, but right off the bat, I have to imagine Ridnour is going to be the guy. He's not extremely fast or athletic, but he knows how to control himself and run an offense.
Most importantly, he's not a complete disaster when it comes to shooting outside of 12 feet.
While Ridnour won't be as exciting—or as flashy as Rubio—but I believe he is capable of doing a better job initially. Rubio not only has to adjust to the style and tempo of the NBA, but he has to develop chemistry with his new teammates.
No one really knows for sure exactly how good Rubio is, but I feel safe in saying he isn't going to be involved in the Rookie of the Year discussion. I think Rubio has the potential to be an above average NBA point guard, and long term, he's a great fit for the franchise.
A few years down the road he'll likely be ready to become the full-time starter. For now, Ridnour's veteran presence is probably preferable to Rubio's flashy style.
I'm sorry, I really am, but it just has to be this way. It has to. Believe me, if there was any other option, I would advocate for it, but there really, really isn't.
Darko Milicic is not a very good NBA player.
Outside of his four foot turn-around jump hook into the lane, he has literally no offensive game whatsoever. He's a bad passer, a terrible ball handler and his post moves are limited. However, he's probably the only player on the Wolves roster with any chance of defending a legitimate center down low.
Anyone who says that Anthony Randolph is going to play center is just not in touch with reality at all. He's significantly closer to being a point guard than he is to being a center. Not only do you have to weigh more than 220 pounds to hold down the paint, but you actually have to have the mentality of a post player.
Anthony Randolph is so confused about where he should be playing on the court that there is no way he could ever be relied upon alongside Kevin Love for 32 minutes. Yes, he's 6'11, but no, he will not be playing center for the Wolves this year, even if he can jump high.
He's a stretch four at best.
With that said, Kevin Love is also not an option at center. Love is an extremely below average post defender, and has barely any lift. He's a smart player and a good rebounder, but he needs a bigger guy in the paint with him to really succeed.
Neither Derrick Williams, nor Anthony Randolph fits the bill.
When the Wolves play teams with respectable post threats, get ready to watch Darko constantly get lost on offense for 30 minutes. I don't know if I can handle this either.
I know the Wolves frontcourt is crowded, but because of his versatility Derrick Williams should find plenty of minutes. I think this prediction is fairly risky, only because you never know with rookies, but Williams is a special player.
Williams has great moves down low, and when paired with a very respectable outside shot, he's an extremely versatile, dangerous offensive player. He's also extremely explosive down low, which allows him to dominate bigger opponents.
It remains to be seen who he will guard in the league, but his offensive versatility will create plenty of scoring opportunities in the Timberwolves offense.
The Wolves didn't take him with the No. 2 pick so he could sit on the bench. He's an experienced player with the ability to make a difference on the court immediately, if given the opportunity.
There is hope for the Timberwolves going forward, but the beginning of the season is going to be very rough. They should be big underdogs in almost all of their first six games, even though five of them are going to be played in Minnesota.
They have home games against OKC, Dallas, Miami, Memphis and San Antonio—all of whom were Top Four seeds in their conference playoffs, except for the Grizzlies. However they have certainly proven themselves worthy of high praise.
The Wolves also have to go to Milwaukee to play the Bucks, they are probably big underdogs in that game as well.
So now the question becomes, which one of those games do they end up winning?
Honestly, I have no idea what the answer is, but I do think they win one. A 1-5 record may not look great, but with Cleveland, Washington and Toronto on the horizon, Wolves fans shouldn't worry about a rocky start.
With so many new faces, including a new coach and philosophy, maybe having tough competition to start off isn't such a bad thing.
At this point you're probably asking yourself one of three questions.
No. 1: "Why am I looking at a picture of Anthony Davis?
No. 2: "Wait, why am I reading an article about Timberwolves basketball when I could be reading about how much of an animal Anthony Davis is?"
No. 3: "Why are the words 'at least' in front of 20?"
All three are extremely valid questions.
The reason why there is a picture of Anthony Davis on this slide is because if the Wolves tank at the end of the year like they always do—as evidenced by losing 15-straight to end the season last year and seven in a row the year before that—the Clippers are going to have a great shot to get the prized prospect out of Kentucky.
With a new coach and no first-round draft pick, there is absolutely no reason for the Wolves to give up at the end of the season as they have in years past. Not only this, but with so many games packed into a small amount of time, the Wolves' youth and depth should help them succeed (loosely defined), in the regular season.
Considering they didn't even win 20 games in an 82-game season last year, a 20-win season in a 66-game season would have to be considered a significant improvement, as sad as that may be.
Ultimately, my prediction for the Wolves' record is 22-44. I guess we'll see how that goes.