Last season: 40-42, 3rd Northwest Division (10th Western Conference), Missed Playoffs
Notable Acquisitions: G/F Andrew Wiggins (trade w/ CLE), F Thaddeus Young (trade w/ PHI), G Mo Williams (free agent, POR)
Draft Picks: G Zach LaVine (UCLA, 13th overall), G/F Glenn Robinson III (Michigan, 40th overall)
Notable Losses: F Kevin Love (CLE), F Dante Cunningham (free agent), G Alexey Shved (PHI), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (PHI)
Burning Question: Will life after Kevin Love be addition by subtraction?
Losing a franchise player isn’t usually a good thing for an up and coming team. However, the Wolves seemed to struggle surrounding him with the right talent and never reached the playoffs during his six seasons in Minnesota.
Rebuilding around Andrew Wiggins and Ricky Rubio makes a ton of sense for the Wolves in the long run.
The writing was on the wall for a couple of years. Finally, Kevin Love got his wish and was dealt to a contender. No longer subject to satisfying their superstar power forward’s tremendous needs, the Minnesota Timberwolves can now move on into the future.
A new, exciting future that includes number one overall pick, Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins, considered by many as the one of the most intriguing prospects in a decade, played well in his lone collegiate season at Kansas.
He wasn’t able to live up to the ridiculous hype surrounding him but was still impressive enough to warrant being taken first overall in the deepest draft in 11 years.
Along with emerging point guard (and future max player?) Ricky Rubio, the Wolves now have a duo to build around. The opportunity to win a championship with Love as the team’s top player was very slim, so owner Glen Taylor and GM/new head coach Flip Saunders decided now was the time to rebuild.
Aside from the acquisition of Wiggins, Minnesota also traded for Anthony Bennett (2013 no. 1 overall pick), combo forward Thaddeus Young and drafted a pair of young athletes: Zach LaVine and Glenn Robinson III.
LaVine is already looking like a potential steal of the draft with his ridiculous athleticism and shooting ability. Though there is not an immediate opening for him to play behind Rubio and Kevin Martin, LaVine has star upside. He “self-dubbed” his partnership with Wiggins as the “Bounce Brothers,” so there will be plenty of highlights up north this year.
Sadly, the highlights will be Minnesota’s biggest draw all season long. Beating a dead horse isn’t productive for anybody, so we’ll avoid explaining what happens to most young, inexperienced teams in the Western Conference. Bruising big man Nikola Pekovic and a few other veterans like Mo Williams, Corey Brewer and Martin will keep them competitive but don’t expect much else.
Let’s just say, if Minny wins more than 30 games, it’ll be a huge shocker. But it isn’t all bad…a dormant franchise now has incredible buzz and energy for the first time since the Kevin Garnett era.
If Wiggins pans out and Rubio, Gorgui Dieng and others can improve, the long-term future is looking bright.
Projected Starting 5:
Lob City North:
The T-Wolves are definitely a league pass team to watch this year. If Flip Saunders lets his team run, Rubio and the gang will get out in transition and produce plenty of highlights. The young spaniard loves playing an uptempo style and should have plenty of recipients to throw lobs to. Not only can the “Bounce Brothers” soar in the air, Brewer and Martin can finish on the break with the best of them.
Monitoring the progress of number one overall pick Andrew Wiggins is one thing but with LaVine, Rubio, Young and Bennett, the entire team is a nightly draw and will end up on Sportscenter’s top-10 plays all year long.
Can I Get a Wing, Guy??:
The Timberwolves have a huge logjam at the wing positions. On paper, it seems like Coach Saunders has plenty of options to play with. If you look closely, however, most of Minnesota’s shooting guards and small forwards mirror each other.
Since there’s so many options, we’ll attempt to predict the future of each wing player for this upcoming season:
Andrew Wiggins: Rookie of the Year candidate; likely starter at small forward; should be a force on both sides of the ball from day 1.
Projected Stats: 15 ppg, 6 rpg, 2 apg
Corey Brewer: Will lose minutes as the Wolves work Wiggins into the fold; great transition player; sticky defender when motivated.
Projected Stats: 9 ppg, 4 rpg, 1 apg
Zach LaVine: Outside of a few highlights and a possible dunk contest appearance, LaVine might not play much as a rook; could see minutes at SG in case of injury.
Projected Stats: 6 ppg, 2 apg, 2 rpg
Kevin Martin: Excellent outside shooter who can still get to the free throw line at times; starter at shooting guard; will have plenty of looks playing with Rubio.
Projected Stats: 16 ppg, 3 rpg, 3 apg
Chase Budinger: Great shooter; injury prone; will be a huge surprise if he is on the roster by the trade deadline.
Projected Stats: 8 ppg, 38% on three-pointers
Shabazz Muhammad & Glenn Robinson III: Both of them will likely log a ton of minutes in the D-League; Muhammad is more ready to contribute but still has to work on his shaky jumper.
As you can see, the Wolves are primed to be involved in a lot of trade talk. With a surplus of young, athletic wings, they’ll have plenty to offer teams looking for emerging talent with reasonable contracts.
Best Case: Minnesota is exciting and shows promise for the future while maintaining a top 3 pick.
Worst Case: The Wolves finish last in the West, yet fall to the number 4 pick in next year’s draft.
5th, Northwest Division (15th Western Conference), Will Miss Playoffs
“Hol’ up, hol’ up, we dem boyz”- Wiz Khalifa