NBA Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Record:  32-50, 3rd (tie) in Northwest Division, 12th (tie) in Western Conference

Statistical Comparisons:

Notable:

28th in steals

Others:

20th in the league in scoring (96.1 ppg)
19th in opponent scoring (99.7 ppg)
25th  in ppg differential (-3.7ppg)
13th in field goal %  
16th in opponent field goal %
17th in three-point %  
7th in assists
24th in blocks
19th in turnovers
24th (tie) in opponent turnovers
Poor offensive rebounding team
Average defensive rebounding team

Significant Additions:  
Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Juwon Howard, Greg Buckner, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, Corey Brewer (R)

Significant Subtractions:
Kevin Garnett, Mike James, Troy Hudson, Trenton Hassell

Coach:  

Key Players

PG:  Randy Foye, Sebastian Telfair, Marko Jaric
SG:   Ricky Davis, Gerald Green, Rashad McCants
SF:  Corey Brewer, Ryan Gomes
PF:  Al Jefferson, Craig Smith, Juwon Howard
C:  Mark Blount, Theo Ratliff

Comments:  Minnesota used to be a big muscle car you'd parade down the street with pride, hanging your arm out the window and revving the engine at stoplights.  In recent years the team had become a dented two-tone tan Pinto with duct tape over the right taillight and a horn that plays "La Cucaracha".  Basically you just wanted to get from the garage to your destination as quickly as possible and get out.  So this summer they traded in the clunker and went a whole new direction:  hybrid.  They've mixed a lot of young kids with a few grizzled veterans and are hoping that in another three years they'll have a solid foundation along with some contract space.

On the upside they have a reasonably talented roster on paper.  Al Jefferson is considered by some the Next Big Forward.  He shoots, scores, rebounds, and even defends a little.  Randy Foye can score a ton.  Corey Brewer is going to shine in this league.  Ricky Davis can score.  Gerald Green could be a force if he comes into his own.  Rashad McCants can put it in the bucket.  Ryan Gomes and Mark Blount will give you decent scoring as well.  They have a lot of weapons for a rebuilding team.  Juwon Howard, Theo Ratliff, and Blount all know how to play in the frontcourt and won't embarrass you.  It's not a disaster of a roster.

On the other hand Minnesota has a couple of serious gaps.  First they lack a solid playmaker.  Mike James was all over the place last year, up and down seemingly by the week (mostly down).  His signing was almost a disaster and they did a good job dumping him.  On the other hand Randy Foye is really more of a shooting guard, Sebastian Telfair is unproven and unreliable, and the less said about Marko Jaric the better.  Foye is the bankable player there but when you start looking at Davis, Jefferson, and Blount--all of whom need touches and shots--he may not be the right fit for this lineup.  Second, and probably worse, this is a woeful, awful backcourt when it comes to defense.  That's no exaggeration either.  Look at those names at guard.  That's not a small leak in the dam, that's someone firing a torpedo into it.  This squad is going to put enormous pressure on the bigs.  They don't have Garnett in there anymore to cover mistakes either.

It's hard to predict complete disaster for this team.  I'm not sure they'll be much worse off than they were before.  It's hard to imagine them getting better either.  You can't lose that much talent and assimilate that many new people without some growing pains.  If they have 5-6 of their current players on the squad when they start getting good again they'll have done well.  Between now and then you hope for some growth plus lottery luck and a heck of a draft scouting crew.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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