UA-59049186-1 NBA Team Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves - Good if it Goes

NBA Team Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves

Offseason:

Draft Picks: 5. PG. Kris Dunn

Key Acquisitions: C. Cole Adrich, PF. Jordan Hill, SG. Brandon Rush

Key Losses: PF. Kevin Garnett, SF. Tayshaun Prince

Player Profiles

Projected Lineup

PG. Ricky Rubio: 6’4, 194

  • Long, savvy pass-1st PG who has elite vision and passing ability.
  • Limited shooter who has worked hard to become at least somewhat respectable. Made some teams pay from deep who sagged off last year, especially late in games.
  • 1 of the top defensive PGs in the NBA. He’s fantastic navigating screens and thrives off the ball as he doesn’t lose focus or take plays off like a lot of other PGs.

SG. Zach LaVine: 6’5, 189

  • Ultra athletic combo guard with jump out the gym leaping ability.
  • Ability to actually play PG is a work in progress. He’s developing as a scorer with the ball in his hands but seems to be more comfortable at the 2 where he can play more off the ball and show off his improved 3 point shooting or utilize his athleticism as a slasher.
  • Despite all of his athleticism he’s been a horrible defender in his 1st 2 seasons often being the brunt of the T-Wolves defensive misfortunes.

SF. Andrew Wiggins: 6’8, 199

  • Long, athletic wing looking to break out and reach all-star status.
  • Made huge strides as a scorer last year flashing the ability to better create space for himself and make contested shots. We know he can penetrate and slash but the outside jumper and his ability to create for others are both things he needs to get better at.
  • The potential to be not just good but perhaps elite on defense is there for Wiggins who at times shows flashes on that end. But so far he just hasn’t lived up to what many thought he could be defensively coming out of Kansas. Doesn’t compete night to night and doesn’t show enough urgency battling screens.

PF. Gorgui Dieng: 6’11, 241

  • Quality starting 2-way big man that can play PF or C.
  • Offensively, he finishes at the rim at a high rate and is very good from mid-range.
  • Defensively, he’s not there yet but he’s showing signs of becoming the elite defender many draft experts thought he could be during the draft. He’s incredibly active and does a little of everything from getting steals and blocking shots.

C. Karl-Anthony Towns: 7’0, 244

  • Superstar in the making on the verge of being an elite player in the NBA. Had 1 of the best rookie seasons of the modern NBA era.
  • Doesn’t appear to have any real flaws in his offensive game. Can score on the block with his back the basket, can face up and shoot or drive, and he can even hit 3s.
  • Defensively it’s rare that you see rookies play so well. Even ones who have all the physical tools to do it still have some struggles adjusting to speed of the game. Towns can and will get better and by no means is an elite defender yet but I was highly impressed with how he played defensively as a rookie.

 

Bench

PG. Kris Dunn: 6’4, 210

  • Huge PG and one of the top rookie prospects in the league this year that plays with a high motor on both ends of the floor.
  • He’s got some things he’ll need to improve or be more consistent on offensively if he wants to be a star and not just a decent starter such as his outside shooting and overall scoring ability but he has a very good offensive foundation to come into the league with. He’s already got great instincts and good passing skills and he can get to the rim and finish.
  • Has the potential to be an elite defensive player. Has the athleticism, strength and length to defend any position on the perimeter and more importantly he has great hustle on that end. Some guys play defense because they’re required to this guy Loves to shut people down.  

C. Cole Aldrich: 6’11, 250

  • Incredibly productive player in small minutes per game. Only played in 13 mpg but his numbers averaged out of 36 per were 15 ppg and 13 rpg with over 3 blocks. Obviously he isn’t that if asked to play 30+ mins and start every night but if you play him in a certain role for a certain amount of minutes he was a 20 PER guy.
  • Very effective scorer around the basket. Not a traditional back to the basket post player but utilizes post moves very well off the catch.
  • Not the most nimble guy, but has found a way to be very effective defensively in today’s NBA despite his lack of quickness. Appears to be very smart on defense and was very good protecting the rim.

PF. Jordan Hill: 6’10, 235

  • High-motor athletic big man that brings instant energy to the floor.
  • Big time hustle guy on offense that crashes the offensive boards, rolls and cuts hard and can just get buckets playing with high energy.
  • A quality defensive big despite his lack of shot blocking. Can hold his own in PnR situations and makes good rotations.

SF. Shabazz Muhammad: 6’6, 223

  • Big, physical wing with a penchant for scoring inside.
  • At his best inside of 10 feet scoring as a slasher or even posting up. His outside shot comes and goes with the latter being true more times than not.
  • Can be decent in 1 on 1 situations against bigger slower wings but not an overall good defender. The effort isn’t great and neither are his feet.

SG. Brandon Rush: 6’6, 210

  • 3-point specialist shooting guard that brings value off the bench.
  • Doesn’t offer much else offensively besides his shooting.
  • Underrated defensive wing that plays smart and utilizes his size and strength effectively. He also rebounds well for a wing.

PG. Tyus Jones: 6’2, 195

  • Young playmaking PG that did a good job of distributing off the bench averaging nearly 7 assist per 36 mins.
  • Has a long way to go offensively as a scorer. Struggles to even get to the rim and when he does struggles to convert. Hasn’t been able to create much space for his jump shot and wasn’t very good from 3.
  • Small guard that struggled defensively as expected in his rookie season and I don’t think he will ever be much of a factor at that end.  

C. Nikola Pekovic: 6’11, 307

  • Incredibly injury prone big man who’s career is in danger of being over.
  • Back when he was healthy and playing he was big brute of a center that can could score a little down low but didn’t offer much outside of the paint.
  • Incredibly slow prehistoric big man who might not be able to warrant many minutes due to his game not translating.

PF. Nemanja Bjelica: 6’10, 240

  • Serbian stretch 4 reserve
  • Can really stretch the 4 as a big. He shot over 38% from 3 last season.
  • Not much of a rebounder and isn’t a very good defensive player either.

 

Breakdown

Everything is in place for the T-Wolves to break through and make the playoffs this season. They have two all-star caliber players in Towns and Wiggins and really good pieces around them. Let’s examine their starting 5. I think to start games they’ll go with LaVine at SG but to close games we’ll see a Dunn/Rubio backcourt. The biggest problem this team had a year ago was playing defense, it’s as simple as that. With the additions of guys like Dunn, Jordan Hill, Cole Aldrich, and Brandon Rush plus guys like Towns, Dieng, and Wiggins all a year older and more experienced the defense should definitely be better. And I didn’t even mention their new head coach Tom Thibodeau, who is a defensive mastermind. Deing and Towns have the potential to be one of the best defensive big man tandems in the league and when Dunn is on the court with Rubio and Wiggins they have the potential to be one of the best perimeter defensive trios in the game. Offensively this team is going to be a nightmare to deal with if Wiggins can start hitting 3s at a high rate. LaVine is the best 3 point shooter among the starters based on last year and Towns would be next. If Wiggins can start shooting over 35% from 3 and Towns and LaVine also shoot it well, combined with Dieng’s light out mid-range shooting, it would be the perfect supporting cast for a guy like Rubio who loves to pass the ball giving him multiple targets to find that are capable of knocking down shots.

 

The T-Wolves also have an intriguing bench which figures to be lead by Kris Dunn who should be able to feast on 2nd unit guards and shut them down defensively. Spacing could be an issue if he has to play with Muhammed, Hill, and Aldrich all at the same time as none of them shoot the ball well even if Rush is on the floor at SG. On the flipside it’s also a unit that could be 1 of the better 2nd units in terms of defense. A lot of teams have starting lineups capable of playing defense but what separates good defensive teams from the elite ones is that the elite defensive teams can still play defense with their reserves on the floor. This was something we saw the Bulls do well back with coach Thibs was in Chicago and I expect him to bring that same mentality with him to Minnesota.

 

Expectations

It’s always hard to predict how a team filled with young players will do in a season but I’m going out on a limb and predicting the T-Wolves make the playoffs in the West as a 7 or 8 seed. They’re not ready to make any noise once they get there but they are definitely good enough to get there. This is a team that has one of the best coaches in all of basketball and talented 2 way players which is how you win in the NBA. Ultimately how far they go will largely depend on just how much better Towns and Wiggins are from last season and how fast Kris Dunn comes along. I expect to see major improvements from Wiggins and I expect to see Towns on an All-NBA team. People are fawning over Simmons and with good reason but Dunn is the rookie I think best suited to come in and have the biggest immediate impact. With productive players in the starting 5 and coming off the bench Minnesota is in perfect position to turn things around starting this season.

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