2012/13 NBA season preview: Minnesota Timberwolves
For the first time since the Kevin Garnett era, there is cause for optimism in Minnesota.
The emergence of Kevin Love as a legitimate superstar, along with some intriguing personnel additions, has ensured that this Timberwloves squad is the most talented in recent memory.
So talented, in fact, that the team may make a long overdue return to the playoffs.
However, they will have to overcome injuries: Kevin Love broke his hand this week and is out for at least a month, and Ricky Rubio is still to return from his knee injury.
Here are the three biggest questions for the Timberwolves in 2012/13:
Will the Timberwolves make the playoffs?
The Western conference is incredibly strong – and deep – this season. Something would have to go seriously wrong for the Lakers, Thunder, Spurs or Clippers to miss the playoffs.
Then, right behind those four teams are the Nuggets, Grizzlies, Jazz and Mavericks. Throw in the Trailblazers, Warriors and the Rockets, and you start to understand how difficult it will be to make the top eight.
Yet I truly believe that the Timberwolves can make it this season.
The team is led by Kevin Love, a player who has become a star through hard work and a curious mix of outside shooting and rebounding – two skills you rarely see in one player.
When Ricky Rubio returns from injury, the team will have a prototype point guard who Magic Johnson rightfully stated has ‘the passing gene’.
When you have a good point guard and a great power forward, you simply need to surround them with solid wing players.
However, the Timberwolves didn’t settle for ‘solid’. They signed Andrei Kirilenko, a man who does literally everything on the basketball court, and then resuscitated Brandon Roy’s career.
Roy, who was a perennial All Star and one of the top three shooting guards in the league, is making a comeback after his knees caused him to retire prematurely. Or so we thought – it seems his previous team, the Portland Trailblazers, actually made him retire, reluctantly.
If Roy can be half the player he was, he’ll be a significant upgrade for Minnesota, and you can be sure that he’s circled the dates on which the Timberwolves play the Trailblazers.
This team is well balanced, talented and has one of the NBA’s best coaches in Rick Adelman. The playoffs are their goal, and I think it’s achievable.
However, their healthy players will need to hold the fort and keep the Timberwolves’ win/loss ratio respectable until Love and Rubio return.
If the Timberwolves do make the playoffs, should Kevin Love get some MVP love?
While LeBron James was realistically always taking home the MVP trophy last year, Love was right in the discussion at the halfway mark of the season.
However, Ricky Rubio’s injury and the Timberwolves’ subsequent slide out of playoff contention proved to be the death knell for Love’s MVP chances. You need to make the playoffs to poll strongly.
This year, provided Love doesn’t miss too much of the opening part of the season, the Timberwolves may just return to the playoffs. Which should mean that Kevin receives some well deserved MVP love.
He may not win, but he’ll be in the mix.
Is this the most exciting team in the league to watch?
It all depends on Rubio.
Minnesota were so much fun to watch last year because Rubio would get easy lay-ups, dunks and open three point shots for his teammates. That’s what a good point guard does.
It’s no coincidence that Magic Johnson’s Lakers, Steve Nash’s Suns, and any team Jason Kidd played on in his prime, were the most fun to watch.
That’s the beauty of a great passing point guard – they make the game enjoyable. So if the Timberwolves are to earn the unofficial title of ‘most exiting team to watch’, they’ll need to get Rubio back from injury sooner rather than later.
Another player to watch is Russian Alexey Shved. A combo guard with flashy passing skills and a nice handle, and an unconscious shooter from deep, he may be the surprise packet of the year. Keep an eye on him.
Minnesota Timberwolves Snapshot:
- 26 wins, 40 losses
- Finished 12th in the Western Conference, and 5th in the Northwest
- Did not qualify
Statistical leaders in 2011/12:
Points: Kevin Love (26.0 ppg)
Rebounds: Kevin Love (13.3 rpg)
Assists: Ricky Rubio (8.2 apg)
Andrei Kirilenko, Brandon Roy, Alexey Shved, Chase Budinger, Greg Stiemsa
Michael Beasley, Darko Milicic
Career Record: 971 wins, 656 losses
Predicted finish in 2012/13:
- 8th in the Western Conference
- 3rd in Northwest Division
- Lose in the first round of the playoffs
Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network and NBA Down Under, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.