30 Teams, 30 Days
Minnesota Timberwolves Season Preview.
We continue previewing the Northwest Division with the Minnesota L-Wolves. You can read past previews here.
by Myles Brown / @mdotbrown
The entire front office has been restructured and only five players remain from last year’s roster, but somehow the Timberwolves are still a laughingstock.
I suppose it makes sense in a roundabout way; NBA fans need a comedic foil and practically no one lives in Minnesota. Why make light of the local team’s troubles when there’s an utterly barren franchise up north just begging to be mocked? “Their front office bungled the career of an all time great, they’ve won 44 games in the last two seasons combined and…..look! They just drafted another point guard!”
But when the Wolves are the local team hearing that shit isn’t funny. It’s about as cruel as mocking a blind man. “I suppose in your little scenarios Jonny Flynn is a bust and Al Jefferson gets traded back to the Celtics? Ha ha, very funny m*thaf*cka! Your team hasn’t been to the Conference Finals since 1970! You passed on Chris Paul and Deron Williams m*thaf*cka!”
I don’t consider David Kahn a managerial genius, but regardless of the cognoscenti’s consensus, I am pleased with his first summer on the job. I admired the honesty of considering Al Jefferson the second best player on a championship team. He’s discarded the ne’er do wells and malcontents, kept the right pieces and now has a respectable foundation with increased cap space for next summer’s free agent bonanza. Two game changing talents, surrounded by pliable teammates of good character who are well suited for the continued adjustments and experimentation to come? With a championship tenured coach who has learned from the game’s best? Sounds like the makings of a solid plan to me. What’s there to complain about?
Oh, that. Right.
Even though they were jilted by the prodigious point, drafting Ricky Rubio was still the best decision for the Wolves. Whether he actually believed both players could succeed in the same backcourt or not, Kahn knew well enough to stockpile talent in acknowledgment of the lengthy rebuilding process ahead of him. It would have been nice to choose between the two, but it looks as though Rubio will never play here. This doesn’t make him any less of an asset though; plenty of teams will still be willing to bid for his services when he finally does come across the pond. So it’s presumptuous to consider the pick a failure until a trade is consummated.
As for those who will be showing up to camp, this year’s team isn’t a noticeable upgrade, however it seems to have been conceded that this year doesn’t matter. No franchise in the business of making money would overtly say so, but ultimately this season’s success will be measured in player development, not wins and losses. Thirty wins is hardly a progressional landmark anyway. Drafting the Rookie of the Year, turning your All Star forward into a true leader and grooming one of the game’s best rebounders/sixth men are.
Those are the challenges facing Kurt Rambis. His resume is impressive, but it’s yet to be seen how much of an upgrade he is over Kevin McHale, who performed surprisingly well during his last days. He and Kahn see eye to eye on how long it will take to turn this team around; do they know how to do so? Rambis was a defensive guru in Los Angeles, however the focus in Minnesota has shifted to his offensive philosophies. As he’s mentioned, a quicker pace does suit this personnel well, if they’re used efficiently. That’s trickier than it sounds though.
The player who would benefit most from an uptempo offense is undoubtedly Jonny Flynn. He dominates the ball in an unselfish manner, sees both the passing lanes and angles of attack well, finishes with power at the rim, can pull up in transition or spot up for three and has already won his teammates confidence. He could run away with the Rookie of the Year award. Unless Ramon Sessions has something to say about it. Flynn may be asked to share the backcourt with yet another point guard which could compound an already challenging adjustment, but hopefully it doesn’t come to that since it’d be wasting valuable leadership for the second team. Bringing Sessions off the bench not only acknowledges the rightful pecking order, it balances the team’s assets in a manner that masks their deficiencies best.
But what will this do to Al Jefferson’s game? He’s already been played out of position at center for far too long. You adjust your gameplan to suit your 20 & 10 player, not the other way around, right? Nonetheless, Al has welcomed the change and coming into camp thirty pounds lighter should help him run the floor after snaring those rebounds. If he can strike a balance with Flynn in the half court and on the break, then the pieces for a dynamic offense are in place.
There are plenty more questions with this team that will reveal themselves during the season, there just won’t be any definitive answers. At least not this year. There’s an ocean between the Minnesota Timberwolves and redemption, both literally and figuratively. They’re just hoping they’ll get the last laugh.