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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 29. Minnesota Timberwolves

Overall Win/Loss Record:  40-42  third place Northwest Division

2014/2015 Projection: 23-59, fifth place Northwest Division, fifteenth place Western Conference

Preseason Rank

Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank
  • Points Scored: 106.9 (3rd)
  • Points Allowed: 104.3 (26th)
  • Team FG%: .444 (23rd)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .471 (29th)
  • Team FT%: .778 (9th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .341 (26th)
  • Rebounds per game: 44.7 (6th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 44.2(28th)
  • Turnovers per game: 13.5 (10th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 16.0 (2nd)

Returning Individual Statistical Leaders
  • Scoring (ppg): Kevin Martin (19.1)
  • Rebounds per game:  Nikola Pekovic (8.7)
  • Minutes per game: Corey Brewer (32.2)
  • Assists per game:  Ricky Rubio (8.6)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Ronny Turiaf   (.598)
  • Free Throw Percentage: Robbie Hummel   (.940)
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Kevin Martin  (.387)
  • Steals per game: Ricky Rubio (2.3)
  • Blocked Shots per game: Ronny Turiaf (1.6)
Projected Opening Day Starters Based on Past Performances and Projected Impact:

Key Reserves Rank Based on Past Performances and Projected Impact:

  1. Kevin Martin (G)
  2. Mo Williams (G)
  3. Chase Buddinger (G/F)
  4. Anthony Bennett (F)
  5. Gorgui Dieng (C)

It is back to the drawing board once again for the Minnesota Timberwolves as they have had to send another franchise player away to greener pastures while the team is forced to pick up the pieces and start the rebuilding process once again.  After six miserable seasons, the team thought it best to part ways with its star, +Kevin Love, knowing full well that there was absolutely no chance of retaining him once he became an unrestricted free agent at season's end; however, instead of facing the upcoming +NBA season with feelings of fear, loathing and despair, there is actual hope and excitement as the opening tip off fast approaches.  For in losing their one time franchise foundation, they welcome a new face who may potentially become the next transcendental player of the future that will define a generation the same way that +LeBron James+Kobe Bryant+Allen Iverson and +Michael Jordan did before him. This new messiah will also be joined by a bevy of new additions that include last year's number one overall pick in the NBA draft, Anthony Bennett, along with the Wolves' first round pick, Zach Lavine--a high flying swing man who brims with All Star potential. Altogether with returning point guard Ricky Rubio and elite caliber big man Nikola Pekovic, the Minnesota Timberwolves have the makings of an exciting season that will keep their fans on their feet and their opponents on their toes.

No one is claiming that the Wolves will become the surprise team in the league the same way the +Phoenix Suns sent a shock to the system last season, but Minnesota will certainly be a team that no +NBA team can take lightly.  Despite losing one of the league's top scorers and rebounders in Kevin Love, the Wolves still have one of the league's top assist leaders in Ricky Rubio who also finished second in the +NBA in steals per game last season.  Pair him with the long, fast and extremely athletic superman in Anthony Wiggins as well with the equally astonishing lightning quick rookie in Zach LaVine, you have the makings of endless highlight reels consisting of forced turnovers ending up with spectacular finishes.  Let us not forget Thaddeus Young, who Minnesota acquired from the +Philadelphia 76ers in the Kevin Love trade--a stretch four who can also run the floor on both ends and fly to the hoop with the best of them.  All of these flying wings with Rubio in the cockpit make for an exhilarating, action packed team that can make quick stops, push the tempo of the game, and score a whole lot of baskets.

To balance the makings of an unstoppable aerial assault, the Wolves are also anchored by a deep and rather burly front court consisting of one of top centers in the game, the 2013 first overall pick in the NBA Draft, and a young up and comer who has shone on the international stage in the summer.  Many tend to overlook Nikola Pekovic's performance last season, but despite the fact he only played 54 games, he finished fourth among NBA centers in scoring with 17.4 points per game, shooting at a .540 clip as well, and grabbed nearly nine boards.  He will be backed up by Gorgui Dieng, who shined exceptional bright in the waning weeks of the 2014 season averaging a double-double of twelve points and eleven boards per game to go along with two blocked shots in the month of April. Anthony Bennett may be considered by many as one of the biggest flops in NBA draft history, but remember that much of his rookie season he had been held back by injuries that made him miss the entire Summer League as well as the pre-season resulting in his rather poor conditioning and equally poor performance.  However, after a rather impressive Summer League performance as well as entering the season at full health, Bennett will look to silence his doubters and prove why he was selected first overall in the 2013 draft.

Add a dash of dead eye perimeter shooting in the forms of veterans Kevin Martin, Mo Williams, JJ Barea, and Chase Buddinger, you have a extremely explosive recipe of youth, talent, athleticism, size and skill that will have fans at the edge of their seats with excitement.  The responsibility of mixing these delicious yet dangerous ingredients will fall upon a familiar face in Flip Saunders, who had led the Wolves previously to seven straight playoff appearances followed by three straight appearances to the Eastern Conference Finals as coach of the +Detroit Pistons.  His resume took a severe hit with a rather forgettable coaching stint with the +Washington Wizards, but if there is anyone that can bring credibility to a long struggling and languishing franchise, it will be Saunders.  He already sports an excellent track record, minus the shameful debacle in Washington, and remains Minnesota's winningest coach in the franchise's history; however, handling such a rebuilding project will be daunting for any coach in his position.  Flip will certainly have quite the challenging time finding minutes for all the returning players, plus his talented youth who will need the playing time to develop, and somehow make a delicate balance in which this will all work.

Nobody is expecting any miracles from this group, in fact the expectations will be rather low considering this team should be called the Timber-cubs instead of the Timberwolves due to the   youth and extreme lack of experience on this team.  Sixty percent of the teams fifteen man roster are under the age of 25, with five of them being 21 years old and younger, and two of whom are still "teenagers" themselves at nineteen.  There will certainly be a lot of growing pains with this young group, and patience will certainly be a necessity from the players, the coach staff, the front office, and most importantly, the fan; however, one thing that the Minnesota Timberwolves have is time.  In a rather deep and fiercely competitive Western Conference where five of the eight playoff spots are basically spoken for, there is little or no chance given to the Wolves to even crack the .500 mark, let alone make the post-season.  Nonetheless, even if they finish among the bottom of the league, the Timberwolves will still be considered as "Must See T.V" with an exciting lineup of young talent which other NBA teams better not take too lightly.