I'm very excited to start the Wolves regular season tomorrow. I'm kind of relieved to enter a season in which not finishing last will exceed my expectations. The past two versions of the Minnesota Timberwolves were not only disappointing, but also very boring. KG's style of play requires competent shooting and continuous effort out of his teammates and, unfortunately, the Timberwolves could give Kevin neither with any consistency. I cannot even count the amount of times I watched the Wolves get up by ten points in the first half, only to watch them fail in the end. As a fan who came to 40 of 41 home games last season, the sports entertainment value was unnacceptable.
This offseason, the Wolves traded Kevin Garnett in the least attractive of the several deals out there for him. However, the organization did a solid job of retaining its stated cornerstone for the new project (Jefferson resigning) and has earnestly opened the door for the future.
Now, I will give you the opportunity to see what I'm looking for this season and my NBA picks (if you click "Read More") or to skip over this entirely and move to the next post (likely).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
I don't think this team is going to win a lot of games, so besides entertainment, this is what I'm watching for from this team:
1) Continued rebuilding
When the Wolves made the trade with the Celtics, the deal maker was Al Jefferson. At a young age, with the size to play his position and clearly developing post-skills, Al Jefferson is a realistic building-block for the team. However, with the 11:59 deadline approaching on October 31, I was nervous about this team's call on Jefferson. They got it done the way they should have. Pay Al Jefferson a hefty sum under the max. I can almost guaranty Al Jefferson would have received the maximum. The Wolves played the cards right, kept to a long-term deal without offering max money. Jefferson played his cards right as he now will make $65 million dollars. I also feel the Wolves exercised the proper options. We'll see next summer if they overpay for a couple guys who are due up for extensions.
2) An Alpha Dog
One minor disappointment is that Antoine Walker is the only guy who's coming out and saying this team is going to win some games and be competitive. You don't need a player claiming championship team status when they're clearly not, but the players on this team should be more vocal and confident in the talent that is here. No one expects this team to do anything and Walker was the only guy to come out and talk like this team has game. Somone needs to emerge as the club house leader. This doesn't mean they have to be the best player, although that would be preferable (hint: Al Jefferson).
3) Point Guard Play
If you've read any posts of mine, you already know I'm not confident about this team's point guard situation. I think the Wolves are one major item and one minor item away from going to the playoffs. The major item is point guard, as I don't think any team can realistically win without a serviceable player in the point guard position. I don't think we have that (and I think Foye should be groomed as a shooting guard). I could go on, but I think I'll be complaining enough this season about the point guard position. Now the minor item:
4) Consistent Jump Shooting
The Wolves have everything in place for a solid inside-out style game, but there are no lights-out shooters on this team. A couple of the guys can get hot in stretches, but we don't have that automatic jump shot player right now to spread the floor. I think a few of the players can develop this skill, but I'll believe it when I see it.
5) Pick and Roll Defense
This team got destroyed by the pick and roll the past two seasons and I think there's really two main culprits: Michael Olowokandi and Mark Blount. Now that the Wolves have a center that can anchor the post, I think they'll quit being burned by this scheme. However, if they are getting burned, then the blame starts falling on Witt more than the former "centers".
6) Putting Away Games
I went to too many games last season where the Wolves took an early lead only to lose. Winning teams don't let a 10 point lead disintegrate to a loss on a regular basis. When you have a lead, you have to do all the things necessary to keep or extend that lead. Every team has a guy that can get hot, so as a team, you have to do everything you can to let another team know that they're not going to be able to make a comeback. We'll see how they do with that this season.
Projected record: 24-58 - Fifth place in Northwest Division, 14th in Western Conference.
MVP - Kevin Garnett (preseason hype + performance + team record)
Rookie of the Year - Kevin Durant (unanimous)
Most Improved Player - Al Jefferson
6th Man - Leandro Barbosa
Defensive Player of the Year - Tim Duncan
Wild Cards: Boston, New Jersey, Chicago, Orlando, Indiana
Most Difference in Win Column: Boston
Most Media-Overrated Team: Orlando
Worst Team: Philadelphia
Wild Cards: San Antonio, Houston, Denver, LA Lakers, Memphis
Most Difference in Win Column From Last Season: Memphis
Most Media-Overrated Team: Golden State
Worst Team: Sacramento