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Tuesday, October 7th, 2008 at 8:00 am  |  28 responses

Minnesota Timberwolves Season Preview

Meh. Wait, let’s try that again….Meh!

We continue previewing the Northwest Division with the Minnesota Timberwolves. You can read past previews here.

by Myles Brown

Let’s be honest.  It’s particularly difficult to look excitedly into the immediate future of a team with relatively high promise without ignoring their realistically low expectations.  The only surprise will be in how far short they fall of the goal.  For this reason chances are many of you won’t be reading much further, but this preview needs to go in the books anyway.

The last chapter of the Twin Cities Tale of Two Kevins ended this June with our working class hero clinching a championship in Boston while his much maligned counterpart sought to repair the broken franchise left behind.  The 2007-08 Minnesota Timberwolves were a hastily assembled hodgepodge of greenhorns, ravaged by injuries and the harsh realities of a loaded Western Conference.  While fans and management alike were willing to suffer through last year’s growing pains and only a scant few envision a playoff push next April, this still must be the year the Wolves turn a page toward better days.

Speaking of better days, for those of you who are still reading and didn’t know, I got a phone call this summer…

“So I’m sitting here one afternoon doing some light reading when I get a call on my cell. Caller ID says ‘Ryan’, so of course I pick up. Im greeted with a familiar voice that says “Hey this is Kevin Love. I heard you don’t want me on the Timberwolves. Heard you thought it was stupid to trade OJ Mayo for me. What’s the matter, you don’t like white basketball players?” Ah, the President of the KLove Media Fan Club giving me more shit. But as always, I was willing to play along and retorted, “It’s not that I don’t like white basketball players, it’s that I dont like white people in general. You and OJ could’ve both been chemists and I’d still think he’s better. Besides, theres too many f*cking white guys on the Wolves already. Madsen, Cardinal, Miller AND you? Are we trying to field a basketball team or cast a f*cking Dockers commercial?” And on and on it went, my denigrating white folks-mostly in jest-and my punching bag willingly absorbing the blows. Thing is, it wasnt Ryan. It actually was Kevin Love. That was kind of embarrassing.”

Thing is, I really did feel that way.  Well, at least about the draft.  With Minneapolis being the unattractive free agent destination it is, I considered OJ Mayo to be the type of exceptional talent that could only be acquired through the lottery.  And as usual I was ready to deplore another draft day gaffe, but Kevin McHale may have actually done something-gulp-right.  By removing the cancerous contracts of Antoine Walker and Marko Jaric the Wolves have a clean bill of health heading into next summer, well under the cap with a healthy core of talent.  Now the task at hand is for that talent to show enough this season to attract that elusive free agent to bring Minnesota toward those better days.

So with that in mind, Kevin Love should operate free of any pressure to be a franchise savior and blend nicely with his new teammates.  His range and vision are welcome additions to a team that boasts three 40% 3PT shooters (Foye, Miller & McCants) and is bereft of interior passing.  (As many ways as Al Jefferson is Love’s superior, that is one area where the rook could teach him a thing or two.)  And as much has been made of Love’s superfluous stature, those extra pounds may help him bang in the paint, where he should be spending most of his time anyway.  But speaking of time and stature, Love is also roughly the same size as most of his frontcourtmates which will almost assure Jefferson more undeserved minutes at center, Craig Smith far less minutes, and Chris Richard another trip to the D-League.

The commitment to smallball was a disastrous-yet necessary-experiment that continually left the Wolves pummeled by opposing postmen last year, but I can’t imagine the Jason Collins experiment lasting that long.  He’s an obstacle-at best-defensively and essentially non-existent on the offensive end.  Love’s skills are too valuable to the offense, no matter his defensive deficiencies, so I expect to see Collins used sparingly and a lot more smallball.  Perhaps this year’s version will be more fluid, with a balance of post and perimeter play, but in order for it to yield any results in the win column they’re going to have to score a lot of points.

In order for that to happen, the point needs to be addressed.  Point guard, that is.  Sebastian Telfair enjoyed a minor resurgence in 07-08, suprising many with his steady hand and leadership, but he still hadn’t rid himself of a shaky jumper which kept him from becoming a true threat at the point.  Conversely, Randy Foye continued to develop his reputation as a slashing sharpshooter, but exhibited an inability to recognize the best scoring opportunity for anyone but himself.  This isn’t to say that he’s a selfish player, but to say that he’s simply not a point guard.  However due to Bassy’s bricklaying, the two will continue to compete for minutes this season, with Foye likely to get the starting nod.  Which is a shame, because in the interest of compensating for both of their shortcomings, it would seem best to play Foye with a dependable passer in Love while surrounding Bassy with shooters like Miller and McCants along with Jefferson.

Nonetheless, this roster is deep enough to experiment and is primarily filled with players willing to make the necessary adjustments.  All too familiar with masonry himself, rookie Corey Brewer struggled mightily with his shot last season, but showed flashes of brilliance in his defensive intensity.  Though reed thin, his long limbs and boundless energy harassed opposing wing players as well as anyone and word is he’s had a productive offseason.  Ryan Gomes pliable skill set and infectious positivity should keep him on the floor to fill holes in the lineup.  Gomes’ knack for making the right play will only be enhanced by the higher basketball IQs surrounding him this year.

Then there’s Rashad McCants, who could be a primary key to team success or a thorn in their collective sides.  I can say with complete confidence that McCants is the best athlete and pure scorer on this team.  He’s capable of getting his shot off from anywhere and is known for finishing strong at the rim.  He can make the defense pay for doubling his teammates in the post or overplaying them on the perimeter.  Unfortunately now that Toine and Marko are gone, I can also say with complete confidence that Rashad is easily the most petulant player on the team.  Frustrated by a perceived lack of respect and denied a consistent spot in the starting lineup, Shaddy is capable of shooting four consecutive times downcourt and pouting at the other end in counterproductive attempts to prove his worth.  He can make things easy on a defense-and hard on his teammates-with his headstrong nature.  If he can put his ego aside and recognize that he can light up any second-team guard in the league, he’ll be heralded for his efforts.  If not, he’s trade bait by January.

I expect the Wolves to make significant strides in the right direction this year.  If I had to put a number on it, I’d say barring any serious injuries, a respectable 37-45 campaign sounds about right.  I know, nothing special at all, but it’s still a 15 game improvement and another lottery pick.  Which hopefully will be enough to maintain team morale, build through the draft and free agency and get me a slightly less confrontational phone call from Kevin Love.

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  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Shaddy pretty much has to end up in Denver, doesn’t he?

  • andrew

    Where is USA-4-LIFE? There’s a bassy reference!

    The headline does, indeed, say it all. Meh. Sad that Love will be confine to a mediocre team in a basketball backwater – I still have never had a chance to watch him play, and likely never will as long as he’s on the L Wolves.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    “Let’s be honest.” From the first sentence, you’ve established there will be nothing but lies in this preview. Nice work!

  • Michael

    seriously, it took 4 comments for someone to mention that photo?

  • andrew

    Michael – I was going to say something, but I was literally speechless. What can be said about it? The WNBA needs to work on their Getty Images files.

  • http://www.another48minutes.blogspot.com Gerard Himself

    Mike Miller looks really happy.

  • http://www.friendster.com/sesa Sesa

    That picture is giving me nightmares

  • WhaHuh

    I think the trade was best for both teams. OJ Mayo will ALWAYS be a bigger name and lesser teams need these players to increase attendance. Hopefully the Jefferson/Love front line works and this team FINALLY has someone who can shoot 3s (Miller).

  • GOAT

    Miller is in the picture, but not mentioned in the article….whats with that?

    37-45 is a bit ridiculous too. I’m thinking more like 27-55 (if they are lucky)

  • iLL 949

    i HATED that draft day trade for one reason and one reason only: we never got to see the GAY/LOVE tandem in memphis LOL

  • http://hoops4life.com overtime

    not a good article

  • http://www.another48minutes.blogspot.com Gerard Himself

    iLL 949: that’s sad, childish, etc.! But it made me chuckle a bit, and now I feel bad.

  • http://www.ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Allenp

    Good assessment of McCants.

  • http://www.nba.com/bucks/ Keith

    Minnesota has a basketball team?!

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ B. Long

    Not really.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com DP

    The only sure thing about this team is Big averaging 20 and 10. and Mike Miller screwing up his hairstyle like 5 different times during the season.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    37-45 wins is a bit optomistic for this band of misfits (speaking of the guards mainly), but I am interested in seeing how Love and Big Al do this year.

  • tinchek

    it’s weird how bassy is irrelevant.
    he came into the 2004 draft like a superstar

  • WhaHuh

    Apparently bassy played well pre season but took some bad shots. Also I dont think playing in an NBA team and earning millions is “irrelevant”, we’re still talking about him

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ B. Long

    I actually like Mike Miller as a basketball player and human being in general but if he takes another picture like that someone needs to kick him in the nuts.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    First, it took me a while to get to it, but Myles, really well done piece. Kind of discouraged that two of the better pieces (this one and your Lakers one) gathered so few comments, this is really well done, again. Second, Mike’s sister, Diana Turasi, would have been a better photo choice because at least the illusion of a female in the picture could stave off any nightmarish thoughts I may run into each time I look at a blank, white wall going forward thinking some fruitty ass dude was about to break through it and toss headbands at me.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    I am interested to see what will become of Kevin Love in the big leagues. He’s pretty undersized and his team is ridiculously awful, but maybe he can get to a good start and carry Minnesota with Big Al.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    PS: Mike Miller is creepy… It still bewilders me why Team USA wanted this guy. Though he’s a decent player, there were and obviously are even MORE decent players than him, if you catch my drift.

  • chronically_ill

    I could see Kevin Love playing like an Anthony Mason with a jumpshot. Mase was another undersized 4 that could dime a bit, so I can see Love playing that kind of role.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Stick McCants down on the block on some iso plays. Maybe when Jefferson is off the floor? Hes really underrated down there. I remember he would get 6-8 points every game down there for UNC.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ B. Long

    Check ur email Hursty!

  • WOOOZE

    Corey Brewer has to step up a bit over the next couple of seasons if he doesn’t want to be considered a draft bust.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=627550406 KA

    worst preview pic ever.

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