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Friday, June 14, 2013

SDH Presents the 2013 End of Season NBA's Worst to First: 23. Minnesota Timberwolves

Overall Win/Loss Record (At Season’s End): 31-51,  fifth place Northwest Division

At Season’s End:

Team Statistics and League Rank (At Season’s End)

  • Points Scored: 95.7 (20th)
  • Points Allowed: 98.1 (15th)
  • Team FG%: .439 (24th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .468 (24th)
  • Team FT%: .742 (21st)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .305 (30th)
  • Rebounds per game: 42.0 (14th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 42.1 (16th)
  • Turnovers per game: 14.1 (17th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 15.3 (2nd)

Individual Statistical Leaders (At Season’s End)

  • Scoring (ppg): Nikola Pekovic (16.3)
  • Rebounds per game:  Nikola Pekovic (8.8)
  • Minutes per game: Andrei Kirilenko (31.4)
  • Assists per gameRicky Rubio (7.3)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Nikola Pekovic (.520)
  • Free Throw Percentage: Mickeal Gelabale (.888)   
  • Three Point FG Percentage: JJ Barea (.346)
  • Steals per game: Ricky Rubio (2.4)
  • Blocked Shots per game:  Greg Stiemsma (1.2)

Taking a Look back at the Season that Once Was . . .

SDH Worst to First Recap
Time Period
Change (+/-)
At Season’s End
SDH Player of the Year:
Nikola Pekovic

On a team that was completely decimated by injuries, Nikola Pekovic did his best to keep the floundering Timberwolves afloat to little or no avail.  He took the lead role for the team leading in points and rebounds, while being the teams most efficient scorer as well having the best shooting percentage.  Pekovic certainly proved himself  an important piece of the Timberwolves future and if it were not for all the injuries, he would have certainly been given All Star consideration had the situation been different.  He has certainly given fans and the media a reason to keep an eye one him in the least and hopefully this performance will not be a one season affair, and be the start of a bright future for a player who had been selected low in the second round of the 2008. 

There was so much hope coming into the 2012/2013 season for Minnesota Timberwolves fans as they looked forward to finally climbing out of the pit of despair and returning to the road of respectability.  Their team came into the season with its returning leader, Kevin Love, along with second year point man Ricky Rubio, up and coming big man Nikola Pekovic and a slew of fresh new faces that gave Timberwolves, at least on paper, one of the most talented rosters in the NBA.  During a rather busy offseason, the wolves added two former NBA All Stars in Andrei Kirilenko and Brandon Roy via free agency along with acquired high flying versatile swingman Chase Budinger in a draft day trade with the Houston Rockets.  Added along with a solid crew of role players such as Luke Ridnour, JJ Barea, and Derrick Williams along with being guided by their well renowned head coach Rick Adelman, the Wolves looked to finally come out of its hibernation to take the league by storm.   The day had been a long time coming for Minnesota hoop fans as there was a common sentiment that something special was going to happen this season; unfortunately, however none of this would happen as the Timberwolves would be struck by the worst case of bad lucked this side of the Twin Cities.

It all started with the revelation that Ricky Rubio would not be ready to start the regular season as his rehabilitation had been taken longer that anybody had anticipated.  Then during the preseason, the Wolves would suffer yet another harsh blow as Kevin Love, the teams leader and cornerstone of the franchise, would fall to injury because due a freak accident and would be lost for the entire regular season.  Love tried to come back up the lineup during the season, but was then forced to pack it all in for the season after just playing only 18 games leaving the Timberwolves and their fans without their leading scorer and rebounder. The dominoes continued to fall as player after player would fall one after other leaving a team expected to have one of the most talented rosters in the league became a hollowed out husk of its former self.  And although they managed to show a brave face marching through the season starting the season rather respectably at 14-3, the injuries were simply too much to overcome as the team finished the season winning just 17 games losing the rest.

This was supposed to be a season of resurrection, renewal, and resurgence, but ended up being an epic disaster and tragic drama that unfolded as the season progressed.  The saddest story of them all had to be that of Brandon Roy, who was earlier forced into early retirement at the tender age of 27 years due ongoing knee problems; however, after sitting out a year and a reported breakthrough procedure he had done in Europe, Roy was to make his big comeback to the NBA.  Unfortunately the long awaited come back story of the year did not come to pass as the three time NBA All Star could not last even five games without having to pack it in yet again and return to retirement.  Much was also expected from Chase Budinger, who many anticipated to have a breakthrough season after showing glimpses of potential while at Houston; however within the sixth game of the regular season, he would later be sidelined soon after and would only return in late March, when the season was all but over.  Within the month of the regular season, the Wolves had a third of their roster sidelined for most if not the entire regular season.

Despite the roster's near decimation in the season, the Timberwolves still managed to stay afloat thanks to efforts of veteran Andrei Kirilenko, who had spent a season away playing in the Euroleague after falling out of favor in the NBA once his had contract expired.  Nikola Pekovic also put forth an All Star effort leading the team offensively and rebounding in the place of Kevin Love; however, neither Kirilenko or Pekovic could completely avoid the injury bug as they both would miss 20 regular season games.  As a team, the Minnesota Timberwolves lost a total of more than 200 games due to injury with only six players that finished the regular season with at least 70 games played.  The losing season proved too much for Wolves GM David Kahn, as he was immediately fired upon the end of the regular season and quickly replaced by Flip Saunders--former head coach of the team and fan favorite for bringing the Wolves to the playoffs for eight straight seasons.  Many may consider Kahn as the scapegoat for the team's failures; however much of those failure were the results of Kahn's poor personnel choices and even poorer use of the draft picks he had, so from that standpoint, Kahn dismissal had been a long time coming.

Now the Wolves along with their fans will be hoping that Lady Luck will bless them next season as things would have been far different if it had not been for all the injuries. Minnesota possibly could have had it's first winning season and their first playoff appearance since 2006.  Instead of being unceremoniously canned, David Kahn would have been celebrated by fans and hailed as a hero with folks having forgotten the gaffe he did in the 2009 NBA Draft wasting the 6th overall pick on Jonny Flynn, who is currently no longer in the league, ahead of a perennial All Star Stephen Curry, who was selected subsequently right after by the Golden State Warriors at seven.  For those who do not remember Kahn had previously used the 5th overall pick to select Ricky Rubio, who many considered a major gamble at the time before he foolishly looked over a sure thing like Curry and chose a player who many did not really have going that high on the draft.   That draft would forever haunt Timberwolves fans as their team could have had an All Star starting lineup combination of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Stephen Curry for years to come and probably would have had returned to respectability much sooner instead of still wallowing at the bottom.  Now with Kahn gone, it will be up to Flip to move his team forward from the past towards the future and hope that lightning will not strike twice for this long struggling franchise next season.