If you are a Timberwolves fan, you probably consider them an irrelevant NBA team. Due to Kevin McHale's numerous mistakes as GM, the team was forced to trade away our biggest star, Kevin Garnett. McHale's trade created a championship team, unfortunately it was for the Boston Celtics and not for our hometown team.
The Wolves won 22 Games last year, 17 of those game in the second half of the season. If you watched any of the games, you saw a remarkable improvement in play. This was mostly due to a vastly improved defensive game. In fact I think the team could have won 30-35 games last year if it wasn't for poor outside shooting.
There is currently some debate on whether Kevin Love will be able to contribute immediately. I haven't been able to watch him since Summer League, but if those games are any indication, I think he will be able to. His lines in the pre-season have been below mediocre, but he did pull down 10 boards in the last game. I think Love will be okay, and if he gets to see time along side Al Jefferson things will only get better. Of course it could take 20-25 games for him to get comfortable with the pace of the regular season, but he'll figure it out, he's a smart player and will be a good fit for this team.
Of course no Wolves conversation is complete without discussing the main piece of the Kevin Garnett trade. Al Jefferson is one of the best young players in the game and he is only going to get better. Last you he put up some very good numbers. There is one thing to consider about Jefferson which makes me think he will really improve this year. Remember that he went straight from high-school to the NBA. He was one of the last players to do this. His draft class of 2005 was one year after LaBron James was drafted. James has become a perennial All-Star, but did take a few year to fully develop. Considering that Jefferson is a forward, and it isn't unusual for big men to take longer to develop in the NBA than guards, he could be poised for a break out year.
The Wolves also are getting a healthy Foye back. Now everyone knows McHale got caught flat-footed in the Roy-Foye trade, but Foye isn't a bad player. If he stays healthy he should be able to start 82 games this year. He is going to have to learn on the job, but the additional of two veteran guards in Ollie and Mike Miller should help. Foye has a great jumper, and with the offense running through Jefferson his passing won't be a liability. If he can put up 19 points and 7 assists per night we can consider this season a success for Foye.
Cory Brewers' jumper is another reason for hope. He appears to have worked on it all summer and this has definitely paid dividends. His range and accuracy seemed much better than last year. He even appears to have a three point shot. If Brewer is no longer a liability on the offensive end, he will get more minutes and will be able to defend the star forward and shooting guards in the league. Getting Brewer's defense for 35-38 minutes a game instead of 22 would be a huge benefit.
If our core has improved and the additions of Love and Miller can contribute, we can consider this off season a success. We've added an additional outside threat in Miller which should help Jefferson immensely. McCants, Foye, and Love also have great range, so when the three of them are in the game Jefferson has all sorts of target to hit out of the double team.
That is where the biggest improvement comes in. We got rid of the slow, poor shooting, and expensive Marko Jaric, and added Miller who has always been a terrific shooter. The Wolves outside shooting was our biggest liability last year during the second half. If we can make some three pointers and keep the defense honest against Jefferson, we'll reach my prediction of 35-40 games. I'll looking forward to tonight's game as the Timberwolves rebuilding period hits it's stride.