2012 NBA Off Season Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves

2011-2012 Record: 26-40, 5th in Northwest
Stat Leaders: Kevin Love, 26.0 ppg, 13.4 rpg. Ricky Rubio, 8.2 apg. Anthony Randolph, 1.0 bpg

Depth Chart

C - Nikola Pekovic, Darko Milicic, Brad Miller (TO)
PF - Kevin Love
SF - Derrick Williams, Martell Webster (TO)
SG - Luke Ridnour, Wesley Johnson, Wayne Ellington
PG - Ricky Rubio, JJ Barea, Malcolm Lee

Restricted Free Agents: F Michael Beasley, F Anthony Randolph
Unrestricted Free Agents: F Anthony Tolliver

The Good: The Timberwolves were in the hunt for a playoff spot for most of the year until a late season fall off. Kevin Love turned in a monster season, exploding for 26 points per game, over 13 rebounds, shooting 82 percent from the free throw line and 37 percent from 3. He was a one man wrecking crew for the Timberwolves and looks like one of the ten best players in the league. Sure, he does not play defense but due his unique skill set and amazing production, he is the type of player you can build a team around. Horrid shooting percentage aside, Ricky Rubio had a fantastic rookie season. He was electrifying and dazzling as a point guard, dishing out assists left and right. Unfortunately his season ended early, and Minnesota was just not the same after that. Nikola Pekovic emerged as a very strong third option for Minnesota. He averaged 14 points and 7 rebounds per game for the year, and was one of the best centers in the league when he became starter. The Wolves have three very good young players to build around.

The Bad: Coming into the season, the Wolves were considered a very deep team due to all their talented young guys. Derrick Williams was okay as a rookie. I think his best position is clearly power forward, but with Love and Pekovic around, he will have to get his minutes at the 3. I think he will continue to struggle. Ditto for Wesley Johnson, who is not a shooting guard. He suffered through a terrible season and could get buried on the depth chart if the Wolves add real shooting guards in the off season. Michael Beasley regressed offensively and still looks lost at the NBA level at times. It does not help that the three players I mentioned played less then 30 minutes per game, losing minutes to bums like Martell Webster and Darko Milicic. The Wolves were a terrible 3 point shooting team. Love is their only real threat from outside, and you don't want your best rebounder out there too often.

Key Free Agents: Minnesota has two restricted free agents who have a load of talent but still need to figure it out. They could probably resign Beasley and Anthony Randolph on the cheap, but will they get any better buried behind Pekovic, Love and Williams? Anthony Tolliver is a solid, veteran big man who can rebound and block shots in very limited minutes. He could be brought back.

As a Nuggets fan, I am so glad Joe Dumars drafted
this guy instead of Carmelo Anthony.
Projected Cap Space: -$665,507. This is with Kevin Love's extension, which kicks in for the start of next season. The Wolves have 12 players under contract already. Terminating the contracts of Brad Miller and Martell Webster seems like easy decisions, and that will give Minnesota an extra 10 million dollars of cap space, which can be used to resign any of their free agents if they seem fit. The team will probably want to extend Pekovic's deal, which will expire this season. They have a few years until they have to extend Johnson, Rubio and Williams.

Amnesty Possibilities: Darko Milicic suckered David Kahn into giving him a long term contract then predictably went back to not giving a crap. He can block shots, if nothing else, and the Wolves don't have a back up big man. He will only be paid 5 million for another year so I doubt he is amnestied.

Free Agency Possibilities: The Wolves need a backup big man and some wing players who can shoot. They should have the money and could be a good candidate to overspend for Nick Young. He can't do much out there, but one thing he can do is shoot and score. If any team takes a flyer on Hasheem Thabeet, it could be the Wolves. They need shot blocking and he could do that in around 10 minutes per game.

Draft Possibilities: I have mocked Terrence Ross to the Timberwolves for months it seems. His size and shooting ability is a match made in heaven for Minnesota, who hasn't had a real shooting guard on the roster in years. He is a hot name though, and could be gone by the time Minnesota picks at 18. If Ross is gone, the Wolves don't really need to add another project to the roster, so they could target a guy like Royce White, Andrew Nicholson or Draymond Green.

Contending, Rebuilding or Status Quo?: The Wolves are definitely still rebuilding, years after trading away Kevin Garnett. They seem to have a trio of guys to build around in Love, Pekovic and Rubio. Hiring Rick Adelmen was a great move, also. The Wolves still have a ton of holes to fill and questions to answer. Are Wesley Johnson and Derrick Williams part of the future, or will they be moved for guys who are better fits? Can they find a second serious scoring option, especially on the wing? I don't think this team will get good enough to make the playoffs until they make smart free agent signings and hit on some of their high draft picks.

All logos courtesy of http://www.sportslogos.net/

Jonathan Carrano

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