The Minnesota Timberwolves must take that step up this season. If they don’t make the playoffs now, their future is going to be very uncertain. Kevin Love already holding some doubts about this team, now is the time the Wolves must make the most of their young talent. If Love isn’t satisfied with the results at the season’s end, expect him to ask for a change of scenery. Kevin Love has the kind of power to demand a trade. Will Minnesota forget its shortcomings in the last two years and make that big leap in the 2014 season? I’ll give you my perspective on it’s situation:
Guards (B+): Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, J.J. Barea, Alexey Schved, A.J. Price
Another backcourt that’s going to run into some issues on the defensive end. It seems like there are just so many of those now. I do think the Ricky Rubio-Kevin Martin duo has a tremendous amount of potential, making the inadequate defense more tolerable. Rubio is an incredibly gifted point guard with spectacular court vision. Rubio’s crafty point guard play often finds itself on the highlight reel, and deservingly so. Rubio needs to start being more confident with his jumpshot. He hits shots here and there, but is one of the more inefficient shooting point guards in the league. I think Minnesota is a perfect fit for the 30-year-old Martin, who will now be reunited with Coach Rick Adelman on a third different occasion (SAC, HOU, MIN). Martin is proven to excel under Adelmen’s system while being a focal point of the offense. K-Mart brings improved production on the wings to a team who heavily struggled with that in the last few years. J.J. Barea and Alexey Schved are two solid foreign players who should stick around in this league. Both are not afraid to put on the moves and shoot from all different areas of the court.
Forwards (B+): Corey Brewer, Kevin Love, Shabazz Muhammad, Derrick Williams, Dante Cunningham, Chase Budinger (IR)
This group of forwards has a lot of talent but it also has a heck of a lot to prove. Derrick Williams, 2nd overall pick of the 2011 draft, has earned just satisfactory playing time thus far in his short career. There have been many doubts about Rick Adelman wanting D-Will as a key contributor in this offense. Regardless of where Williams ends up, he’s expected to make a considerable improvement this season, given he can log better minutes. Corey Brewer looks set to be the starting small forward. I think that’s a bit of an iffy decision. Brewer works really hard and is a solid head-to-head defender but isn’t necessarily a starting talent. Rookie Shabazz Muhammad is another question mark at the forward position. He has the talent but his attitude and work ethic have been highly questioned. Rick Adelman won’t tolerate any nonsense so I see Muhammad contributing more year-by-year as long as he cooperatively plays his role. Kevin Love’s health is the key for Minnesota. If he’s healthy, the Wolves should be a playoff team. If he’s out for an extended time, they won’t make the playoffs. Kevin Love is a superstar. It’s as simple as that.
Centers (B+): Nikola Pekovic, Gorgui Dieng, Ronny Turiaf
I love Nikola Pekovic’s game. He is as intimidating as they come down low. He openly welcomes contact and does an excellent job drawing fouls. Pekovic is shaping up to be one of the game’s few traditional and highly effective post players. Pekovic is only improving and the combination of he and K-Love should definitely give opponents a bit of a chill down the spine. I’m a fan of the draft move Minnesota made to acquire shot-blocking specialist Gorgui Dieng. Granted the Wolves do end up losing Love or Pekovic to an injury, the rookie will step in with a lot of responsibility.
Defense (C+): Minnesota’s defense, as a whole, was just below average last season. Although Love isn’t a particularly great defender, the loss of him didn’t help because he grabs rebounds at an exceptionally high rate. Nikola Pekovic doesn’t make the most of his size on defense. He seems to suffer from flat-footed syndrome and doesn’t have the reflexes to successfully protect the paint. The size and aggressiveness of the two doesn’t hurt their case, though. Corey Brewer and Derrick Williams will likely be asked to defend more talented wing players on a consistent basis. Brewer is a pretty dependable perimeter defender and Williams needs to be able to utilize his body and athleticism to become a productive defender.
Shooting (B-): Ranking far last in three point percentage last season, Minnesota needs to find some outside shooting in order to contend for the playoffs. They added Kevin Martin in hopes of dramatically improving its outside shooting. I’m not so sure Martin has the impact to fix Minnesota’s shooting woes all by himself but he is pretty good at creating offense. Kevin Love being hurt didn’t help that cause either as he’s become adapted to firing perimeter shots off the catch-and-shoot. Him and Rubio on the court together, that should benefit Love’s shooting opportunities. Alexey Shved likes to try and make the best of his outside jumper but is inconsistent in that area. However, I believe his shooting ability is better than his considerably low percentages show.
Experience (C+): Although Minnesota has a handful of young players, it is expected to compete in the West this year. Kevin Love, going into his sixth year, is a superstar veteran status. Rubio’s age is no indication of his basketball I.Q. as the game comes natural to him. Kevin Martin is the player with most valuable experience. That, as well as the offense he creates, should benefit the Wolves on and off the court.
Standing – 7th West: This season is boom-or-bust for the eager Timberwolves. I can’t stress enough how important getting off to a hot start will be. It’s not particularly fun when you are one of five teams shooting for two playoff spots. The Wolves don’t want to be in that situation. Needless to say, there’s a good chance there will be that type of situation as the Western Conference is just overwhelmingly deep.