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2013/14 NBA Team Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves

Season Review 2012/13:

Advanced Stats

4 Factors

Monthly Performance

Last season was supposed to be the year where the Timberwolves would finally fight for a playoff spot for the first time since the Kevin Garnett Era ended. They were able to get a respected coach in Rick Adelman, while their projected starting lineup was a pretty one on paper, with Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Love, Andrei Kirilenko, Brandon Roy/Chase Budinger and Ricky Rubio.

But everything that could have possibly gone wrong with the Wolves last season really went wrong. Everything started with Kevin Love breaking his hand in a pre-practice workout with his personal trainer at his home on October 17. Here is the injury report of the Wolves throughout the season: Kevin Love broke his hand twice and only played in 18 games, Ricky Rubio missed the first 25 games of the season after his brutal ACL knee injury, Nikola Pekovic missed 20 games, Brandon Roy missed 77 games, Chase Budinger missed 59 games and even Andre Kirilenko missed 18 games.

The Wolves were still able to be competitive early on the season and at the end of December, they had a respectable 14-13 record and this good performance was anchored by a terrific Wolves defense that was #6 in the league in defensive efficiency at the time. But as soon as their defense regressed, Minnesota couldn’t remain being competitive and they ended the month with an awful 113.0 defensive rating and its correspondent poor 3-12 record.

Offensively, the Wolves were a subpar team all season long, as they just couldn’t shoot behind the arc to save their lives! They ended the regular season dead last in 3pts% with 30.5% and so, their opponents focused in limiting their inside game due to their inability to shoot from long range.

At one point in March, Rick Adelman was “forced” to use a starting lineup with the following players for eight straight games: Greg Stiemsma, Derrick Williams, Mickael Gelabale, Luke Ridnour and Ricky Rubio. You can’t be competitive with such little talent on court and the Wolves lost six of those eight games with their losses coming by an average of 15.8 points.

After their 14-13 start of the season, Minnesota won just 17 of their remaining 55 games, but I just can’t blame Rick Adelman for any of this. He had to deal with some terrible personal problems of his own and with so many injuries, nobody could have done much better than Adelman did. It was another lost season for the Wolves, but this time their expectations were legit.

Offseason Report:

Possibly the best move that the Timberwolves made on this offseason wasn’t related with any player, but with the fact that they replaced David Kahn with former coach Flip Saunders, who takes over on constructing the roster! More than praising Flip Saunders, I’m calling out the horrible job that former GM David Kahn did on the organization over the last few years with terrible draft picks and poor trades as well.

The Wolves had the resigning of both Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko on their minds, but they were only able to lock up Pekovic. They reportedly offered Kirilenko the mid-level exception in a three-year deal, but he declined after opting out and ended up in Brooklyn on a 3M per season contract. On the other hand, the Wolves were smart in the process of Pekovic and resigned him on a 60M 5-year deal.

The SG position was very problematic for the Wolves last season and so, they decided to sign free-agent Kevin Martin on the off-season. To replace Andrei Kirilenko, Minnesota expect Chase Budinger to be healthy this season, while they were also able to get Corey Brewer on free agency, besides drafting the problematic Shabazz Muhammad as well.

For the frontcourt, Nikola Pekovic was their main target on the offseason and they got him, while they also added Ronny Turiaf and drafted Gorgui Dieng to give them some depth at the center position.

Season Preview:

The Wolves have potential to surprise and to make a run to the last playoffs spots in the West, but if everything goes wrong with injuries once again, then the team won’t be able to be competitive.

It was obvious that the team’s main goal on the offseason was to sign players that could improve their long range shooting, after the terrible season that they had last season on this department. The best 3pts shooter of the team last season was Juan Jose Barea with 34.6% 3pts, something that says a lot about how incapable this team was on outside shooting the past season. Kevin Martin will immediately be their best shooter and he is coming from a super efficient season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he had some great shooting numbers: 45% FG, 42.6% 3pts and 89% FT! However, one thing is Martin being the team’s #3 option on offense like he was with the Thunder and another completely different thing is Martin being the Wolves’ #1 option on outside shooting. Nevertheless, Martin brings a vastly improvement to the Wolves on offense.

Another player who will also help the Wolves in being a better shooting team this season will be Kevin Love. I have no doubt that Love’s hand injury affected his shooting confidence, as even his shooting stroke was weird last season. On the 18 games that he played last season, Love had awful numbers with 35.2% FG, 21.7% 3pts and 70.4% FT! A healthy Love will not only dominate the boards as usual, as he will also show that he is a decent outside shooting, as he shot 41.7% and 37.2% 3pts on the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. With better shooting around him, this is the season where Kevin Love will have to emerge as a superstar in order to put the Wolves into positive record territory.

This will be Ricky Rubio’s first season where he is fully healthy, after a season ending injury in 2011-12. Rubio’s minutes were limited and closely managed by the Wolves last season, but he was able to play 32.3 minutes per game and he looked fine at the end of the past season. Unfortunately, the Wolves had a bunch of injured players and with little offensive talent on court around him, Rubio was forced to have a more active role on shooting the ball and the results weren’t good as expected with a 36.8% FG, but this was certainly a good lesson for him as well. However, his playmaking and defensive abilities are never in doubt and we can count on him to have another good season.

More than having a good offensive season, the Wolves need Rubio to be one of the best defensive guards in the league. He averaged 2.9 steals per game on the second half of the past season, the #2 best mark in the league, only behind Chris Paul. Minnesota’s backcourt will also be composed by Kevin Martin, J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved, Chase Buddinger, Corey Brewer and the rookie Shabazz Muhammad. We are dealing with a bunch of players who are very far from being decent defensive players, so Rubio will have to perform at a very high level on defense to lead this group of players into becoming a decent defensive unit.

On the other hand, Nikola Pekovic will be the team’s X factor for the upcoming season. He enjoyed a good season last year with 16.3 points per game, while shooting 52% FG and grabbing 8.8 rebounds per game (3.7 offensive rebounds/game). His role this season will be extremely important as not only he is a terrific player on finishing pick and roll plays (mysenergy sports ranked him #16 in the league with a great 1.23 PPP last season), something that is great news for Ricky Rubio, but his ability to score points down low will give space to Kevin Love on offense, something that didn’t happen last season due to Love’s lack of confidence in the few games where he was on court.

Derrick Williams hasn’t been able to be the player that the organization was expecting him to be, but it is really tough to judge a young player who is inserted on a losing team. Williams finished the past season in a high note with 47.6% FG, 40.9% 3pts and 89% FT for 13.1 points per game in April, so the Wolves hope that he can build on this good month to have a more consistent season this year.

The rookie Shabazz Muhammad has been in the news due to his off court behavior and that’s not a good sign. Let’s hope that he learnt his lesson because his offensive talent can indeed provide some good scoring punch coming off the bench for the Wolves. But if that doesn’t happen, then Muhammad will become another wasted draft pick for the Wolves, something that has been recurrent over the last few years.

The Wolves look like a quite unbalanced team on paper for the upcoming season. Their effort to improve their shooting ability might open a black hole on the defensive end. On the other side, a healthy Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic will absolutely own the glass and that should be a huge strength for the Wolves in a league where teams usually only have one true post player on the court. For now, I don’t expect the Wolves to make a playoffs run this season, as I believe the goal for them on the upcoming season will be to have their best players having a healthy season and then, who knows?

My name is André Gomes, I’m from Portugal and I am a Professional Handicapper. My sole purpose is to constantly beat the sportsbooks by taking advantage of the evaluation errors they make. It is most... Read more

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