Minnesota Timberwolves Season Preview

6 10 2008

My NBA Northwest Division preview continues with the Minnesota Timberwolves:

Minnesota Timberwolves

2007-08 Standings 22 – 60, 13th Western Conference

2008-09 Predicted Record 40 – 42, 4th Northwest Division, 10th Western Conference

Projected Starting Five:  Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Mike Miller, Randy Foye, Sebastian Telfair

Sixth Man:  Rashad McCants

Al Jefferson, Randy Foye and Corey Brewer are hoping to bring the Timberwolves back to respectability.

Al Jefferson, Randy Foye and Corey Brewer are hoping to bring the Timberwolves back to respectability.

As expected the Minnesota Timberwolves were one of the worst teams in the NBA last year. They traded away the face and heart of the franchise, Kevin Garnett, and watched as he won a title. At least it proved that GM Kevin McHale can build a championship team, only problem: it was his old team, the Boston Celtics.

Only the very churlish would begrudge Garnett his title but in many ways his triumph with the Celtics was a slap in the face for Timberwolves fans. It proved that if McHale had surrounded Garnett with class and talent they might have won a title.

Instead McHale proved incompetent at building a powerhouse contender (except for the one year when Garnett had Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell as his running mates) and last offseason they blew the team up. At least they acquired talent in exchange.

Al Jefferson is the cornerstone of the franchise. He is a powerhouse post player who will be an All Star sooner rather than later. However he is at best a lackadaisical defender, an area where Garnett excelled.

The other “star” of the team is Randy Foye. At the moment Foye shapes as another example of McHale’s incompetence. Foye was acquired in a draft day trade for Brandon Roy, AKA All Star Brandon Roy. While Foye projects as a solid NBA player, albeit one struggling to find a position (is he a point guard or shooting guard), Roy is classy and almost led the young Trail Blazers to the playoffs. If Roy was in Minnesota then most probably Garnett would be too. 

The remaking of the team continued in the offseason. The T Wolves drafted OJ Mayo then immediately traded him, Antoine Walker and Marko Jaric for Kevin Love and Mike Miller. For once the Timberwolves made a good transaction. Mayo is undoubtedly talented but he didn’t want to play in Minnesota. Love on the other hand did and provides the T Wolves with a passing big man. The fact they also acquired Miller, a classy underrated shooter and shed Walker and Jaric was a bonus.

However the Timberwolves have a weakness at centre and point guard. Jefferson is more of a natural fit at power forward but with Love on the roster he will be expected to log minutes in the middle. At the point Telfair is the starter but he has failed to live up to his potential so far.

The Timberwolves will be better this year. They’ll struggle to defend but they have enough young talent that they’ll start their climb back up the standings.

Coach:

Randy Whittman is the Timberwolves coach but he doesn’t inspire a whole mass of confidence. Minnesota has fired better coaches than him recently, most notably Flip Saunders but also Dwayne Casey.

Bench:

Minnesota have a solid looking bench. If Rashad McCants can adjust to a sixth man role he is capable of providing a spark. Ryan Gomes and Craig Smith are bruising reserves who would fit in well in Utah with Jerry Sloan. Corey Brewer needs to develop this season. He was a major disappointment last year though it was perhaps more puzzling why he was taken so high in the first place.

Star Player:

Al Jefferson is the Timberwolves undoubted star. This year he should go close to an All Star berth but he will have to raise his play to MVP level to make anyone forget Kevin Garnett.

Team MVP:

How Randy Foye plays will determine how good the Timberwolves can be. He and the coaches need to decide if he is a point guard or shooting guard. I’ve projected him as a shooting guard at this point. However he has a Chauncey Billups kind of physique, he just needs to develop a Billups like game.

Final Prognosis:

The Timberwolves will improve this season but not enough to make the playoffs in the west. In Jefferson, Love, Foye and Gomes they have a good young core and the addition of Miller brings some class and poise to the team. They could win anywhere between 30 and 40 games.

 

You can find an index of past Previews here.

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