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Thursday, September 20, 2012

SDH's 2012/2013 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 7. Minnesota Timberwolves

Overall Win/Loss Record :  26-40 fifth place Northwest Division

Last Season’s Rank

20
Projected 2012/2013 Finish

7
Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 97.9 (10th)
  • Points Allowed: 100.1 (35th)
  • Team FG%: .433 (27th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .455 (22nd)
  • Rebounds per game: 43.7 (5th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 43.4 (23rd)



Returning Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring: Kevin Love (26.0)
  • Rebounds per game:   Kevin Love (13.3)
  • Minutes per game:  Kevin Love (39.0)
  • Assists per game: Ricky Rubio (8.2)
  • Steals per game:  Ricky Rubio (2.2)
  • Blocked Shots per game:  Nikola Pekovic (0.7)

Projected Starters Based on Last Season’s Performance, Veteran Seniority and Projected Impact


Key Reserves Based on Last Season’s Performances, Veteran Seniority and Potential Impact.

2012/2013 Projection:  55-27, tied first place in the Northwest Division; The wolf pack has finally woken up from hibernation.

Analysis:

After five long years of toiling in the bottom of the league, the Minnesota Timberwolves have finally turned things around making themselves not only a playoff contender, but also a darkhorse favorite to reach the NBA Finals.   It all started with the Wolves having one of the most active off-seasons in its history trading away first round picks for quality veteran talent along with signing one of the best free agency classes of the year.  They signed two players from their division rivals, Andrei Kirilenko formerly of the Utah Jazz and former Portland Trailblazer Brandon Roy giving the Wolves two savvy veterans to go along Minnesota’s young duo of Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio.  They also bolstered their rather weak second unit trading for swingman Chase Buddinger and athletic long forward Dante Cunningham to add some neededed depth to go along with number two pick in last year’s NBA draft Derrick Williams and former Dallas Maverick Jose Juan Barea.  Altogether the Wolves have one of the most deepest and talented rosters in the league and will certainly open some eyes and turn some heads in this upcoming season.

This new roster will certainly be welcomed by Wolves coach Rick Adelman who struggled to find a suitable combination on the floor that can put the ball in the basket while at the same time give a strong effort on the defensive end.  Last season, the Wolves suffered two-fold having not only one of the worst shooting teams in the league, but one of the worse defensive teams as well.  Save for starting center Nicola Pekovic, no other player on the team shot .500 from the field while at the same time Pekovic was only of three Timberwolves to shoot better than .450 from the field.  With the new roster, the Wolves have the firepower that the team most desperately needed taking much of the pressure off their star, Kevin Love, not only in scoring, but also on the rebounding side as well.  With this new lineup, Minnesota will certainly be hitting much more shots reducing the need for Love to clean up after all the errant shots of his teammates last season.

Of course the biggest moves of the Wolves’ offseason were the acquisitions of veterans Andrei Kirilenko and Brandon Roy—two veterans who look to redeem themselves in the eyes of fans.  Kirilenko especially has a major chip on his shoulder after being chastised for much of his NBA career for not playing at an All Star level that Jazz fans expected from him.  Much of the criticism was rather unfair considering the fact that Kirilenko was left in the cold thanks to the Jazz acquiring Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer and Mehemet Okur.  Instead of being the first option on the offensive end as Kirilenko was in the early part of his career, he was slowly downgraded to being the fourth or even fifth offensive option on the team. In addition, with the style of play at the time under former coach Jerry Sloan that focused on just two players, the point guard and power forwards, Kirilenko was essentially frozen out of Utah’s offensive schemes.

Yet despite his troubles, Kirilenko remained one of the best defensive swingmen in the league leading the Jazz in both steals and blocked shot per game during his ten year stint with the Jazz.  He also proved that he was still on top of his game winning MVP of the Euro League while at the same time leading his Russian team to a rather impressive Olympic Finish in London.  Adding Kirilenko will give the Wolves a defensive presence that they have lacked for some time and although he will not be counted on to score plenty of points, but will still be a strong contributor in putting the ball in the basket.  The real question coming into this season, however, is whether or not Brandon Roy, who was forced to retire at the tender age of 27 due to nagging injuries, will return to his All Star form once the season begins.  Luck for him, no one expects him to be the star of the Wolves as he was in Portland and if Brandon Roy manages to put up solid number of 13-15 points per game along with 3-4 assists and rebounds per game, then it would have been all but worth it.

The real player who will be under the microscope will be Kevin Love as he will have to prove that he is the superstar that the media has portrayed him to be.  There is no doubting his ability and talent; however, one must wonder whether he deserves to be mentioned along with the likes of NBA greats such as Lebron James, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant to name few.  All that he has shown thus far is that is a rather good player on a rather bad team—despite averaging close to 23 points and 14 rebounds per game in the last two seasons, his team has only won 43 games in that time span.  Love will have to shown not only fans, but his detractors as well that he is the franchise player that the fans, coaches and front office of Minnesota along with the media portray him to be.  Nonetheless, with the team that he has now, the Minnesota Timberwolves will certainly be a force to be reckoned with and Wolves fans, after five long and hard years will finally have something to cheer about.