Year one without Kevin Garnett is in the books and year two is on the horizon for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Last year was an absolute mess for Minnesota, but they were a very young team and had shown some valuable progression as the season went on. The T’Wolves added some nice pieces this summer in Mike Miller and rookie Kevin Love. Al Jefferson, though, puts the food on the table for this team, and will be the player responsible for leading the Timberwolves into the future. It would be nice if Randy Foye and Corey Brewer could step up and deliver alongside Jefferson, which would make the development of this team much smoother. Sadly, though, the Timberwolves are in the Western Conference, and their improvements will likely be hidden within their losses.
Offense: The Timberwolves had difficulties scoring points last season, and despite bringing in some solid offensive players, they will still struggle to keep up with the opposition. They will be improved, though, and Al Jefferson is truly a force to be reckoned with in the paint. Mike Miller brings some valuable experience and his great outside shooting will spread the floor for the big guys to work in the post. Rookie Kevin Love will provide relief for Al Jefferson in the post, and should be a nice complementary player to everyone on the court. Al Jefferson is the engine to this offense, and Minnesota will go nowhere unless he gets his touches. Even if no one is getting the ball to Jefferson, he makes sure he gets his shots, as he was second to only Tyson Chandler in offensive rebounds. Al Jefferson is a beast, and if Minny wants to win, they will give him the ball and let him dominate.
Defense: The Timberwolves also struggled heftily by giving up over 100 points a night, and losing by nearly 7. The pieces are there, though, and it all depends on whether or not the team can connect and play on the same page all year. Al Jefferson is a solid post defender, and his job will be much easier with Kevin Love at his side. Though inconsistent, Corey Brewer is a good defender, as is Randy Foye. Craig Smith may be the most valuable defensive player, however, as he can guard the smaller, quicker players, but can hold his own against the power forwards and centers in the league. If these guys can’t play together, though, they will let up over 100 points per game once again.
Strengths: The post duo of Al Jefferson and Kevin Love should provide a great strength for Minnesota for years to come. Neither player is a true center, but together they could create a two-headed monster both offensively and defensively. If Randy Foye can turn out a good year, he will see many open shots due to the congestion in the lanes from both Love and Jefferson. Not many teams have two strong post players, and with these two big men Minnesota could be a contender for the Playoffs very soon. They might even be in the hunt for the title in a few years if things go right.
Weaknesses: Randy Foye, Corey Brewer, and Sebastian Telfair all have tons of potential, but have all been underachieving thus far. If all three can be solid producers this year, they, and the team, are heading in the right direction. At this point, though, they are holding the Timberwolves back.
Five Players to Watch:
Al Jefferson - Perhaps not since Hakeem Olajuwon has there been a player with better footwork under the basket and overall post moves than Big Al Jefferson. Jefferson is quickly becoming one of the most dominant big men in the NBA, and is a legitimate superstar for the Timberwolves. Filling the massive shoes of Kevin Garnett didn’t seem to be possible for anyone to accomplish, but Al Jefferson is doing a spectacular job of it. Jefferson is the future for Minnesota, and Kevin McHale should reap the benefits from this talented young big man.
Mike Miller - Mike Miller kind of looks like a fish out of water on this young, struggling Minnesota team, but he had the same misfortune while in Memphis with the Grizzlies. Miller will likely make the best of the situation and will be a great role player and teacher for the younger players on the team. Aside from his talented offensive game, he actually tries to play defense, which could help bring a winning mentality to this team.
Randy Foye - Yeah, Minnesota traded Brandon Roy for Randy Foye, and so far, Portland has become a power in the Western Conference, whereas Minnesota…..Well, this year Randy Foye has the opportunity to step up and become a great role player for this team, perhaps even a star. The potential and talent is there for Randy Foye to be a star in this league, but if he can’t stay healthy or find a way to fit in with the rest of the lineup, he will be a regrettable bust. Either way, he’s a fun player to watch.
Kevin Love - He isn’t the most talented or physically gifted player, but Kevin Love is very fundamentally sound. He should be a great complement to Al Jefferson in the post, and his unbelievable outlet passes will ignite fast-breaks all season long. His one problem, though, is that he may not be able to play starter minutes, as his stamina is a question going into the year. He shouldn’t have too many problems working through that, however, and will be a soid addition to this team for years to come.
Craig Smith - “Rhino” is a fan favorite because of his hustle on both ends of the floor, and his toughness against even the biggest players. Once Smith gets in the lane, there is literally no stopping him, and if you go for the charge, expect to be run over and put on your ass. Craig Smith isn’t a star on this team, but his energy will be a catalyst for the Timberwolves if they hope for any success in the future.
Playoff Hopes: Realistically, the Timberwolves don’t have a shot at the Playoffs this year. That’s ok, though, because this year should be all about development and improving for the future. The team has a valuable core in Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, and Randy Foye, and if the team can grow together and play as one, they will be a beast in the league very, very soon.
Prediction: 4th Place, Northwest Division