October 17, 2009
Last Season’s Record: 24-58
Key Losses: Rodney Carney, Randy Foye, Mike Miller, Kevin Ollie, Craig Smith, Sebastian Telfair, Shelden Williams, Kevin McHale.
Key Additions: Wayne Ellington, Jonny Flynn, Sasha Pavlovic, Oleksiy Pecherov, Ramon Sessions, Damien Wilkins, Kurt Rambis, Bill Laimbeer, Reggie Theus.
What significant moves were made in the offseason?
Obviously, a lot has changed in Minneapolis. The turnover of players was massive, perhaps more than anywhere else in the NBA. But here are the two moves that matter most: drafting Jonny Flynn and signing Kurt Rambis and his team of assistants to coach this mess.
The fact of the matter is that nobody knows what David Kahn and the Wolves got in Mr. Rambis, but you have to like the assistants he’s assembled to work with this young group. Bill Laimbeer was as tough as they come as a member of the Detroit Bad Boys, and hopefully he can impart some of that on Kevin Love and mild-mannered Al Jefferson. 13-year NBA veteran Reggie Theus has head-coaching experience and brings some fire and experience to the bench. Kyriakos Rambidis was a garbage-man type of player, taking care of dirty work, so he should also bring a strong work ethic. That’s not all though, in addition to implementing Phil Jackson and Tex Winters’ triangle offense he’s going to bring some Laker pride back to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
A bulk of the national chatter surrounding the Wolves this offseason centered on their drafting of Ricky Rubio and subsequent inability to sign him. That’s fine, but there’s no reason to discuss him now because he’s not here. A month into the season, people are going to be talking about the Timberwolves point guards who are on the roster. Rookie Jonny Flynn is a tad undersized, but he’s a dynamic sparkplug and has all the potential to develop into the best point this team has had since a young Stephon Marbury was in town.
Flynn is extremely quick, aggressive on both ends and takes the ball to the basket with abandon. Against the Bucks earlier this preseason he shot a massive 15 free throws and knocked down 14 of ‘em. Flynn also has a decent jumper, but he should really thrive in transition for a young Wolves team that is committed to running more. The kid has the potential to be an All Star down the line, but Wolves fans are sick of hearing about potential. Fortunately I think they’re going to see results from the mature, professional young rookie this season.
Jonny Flynn Photo Credit: Icon SMI
The signing of Ramon Sessions was also an excellent move for Minnesota. It’s hard to believe a third-year guard with a career 6.0-2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio didn’t draw more interest on the market. Milwaukee messed with his minutes, but the kid has already scored 44 points in one game and recorded 24 assists in another. As a stater he’s dropped 14.8 points, 8.4 assists, 4.4 boards and 1.4 steals against 2.6 TOs in his short career. The Wolves got a major asset when they signed him to a four-year, $16 million in September. Kinda makes you wish they had gone after DeMar DeRozan instead of taking on the Ricky Rubio headache, no?
Breaking down Minnesota’s strengths and weaknesses, after the jump…
What are Minnesota’s biggest strengths?
Al Jefferson, rebounding, and a fresh start. Jefferson is one of the brightest young stars in basketball. He’s an All-Star caliber player with fantastic work ethic and post moves. Honestly, he may have the best low-post footwork in the NBA and his shooting touch is coming along. And while he’s miscast as a center, Jefferson can also clean the glass very well on both ends. Kevin Love will miss the first 6-8 weeks of the season with a broken hand, but when he’s in the game he’s one of the top five rebounders in the NBA already. Hopefully these two can learn to play defense together.
Al Jefferson Photo Credit: Icon SMI
What are the Wolves’ biggest weaknesses?
Minnesota has been a poor defensive squad for a while now. Part of that rests on Al Jefferson’s shoulders, as he’s not the defender he should be given his tools and he really doesn’t know how to play center. He’s a power forward guarding centers. Kevin Love just isn’t big enough to man up with NBA centers or bigger power forwards, not yet. The problem is compounded by Minnesota’s lack of defense on the perimeter. They have no 2s or 3s. Hopefully a healthy Corey Brewer can develop into the elite wing defender he was drafted to be. The lack of small forwards and shooting guards is a problem on both ends, as Minnesota lacks the dynamic scorers at those positions most teams lean on. Rookie Wayne Ellington is a strong spot-up shooter, and he should get plenty of burn this season, but he’s going to be a one-dimensional player for now.
What are the goals in Minneapolis?
Learn the triangle offense, develop an identity under Coach Rambis & Crew, develop and evaluate the raw talent of Jonny Flynn, Kevin Love, Al Jefferson, Corey Brewer and Wayne Ellington. And stay healthy. Really, that’s about it.
Why should we even watch the Timberwolves this season?
Minnesota Timberwolves fans are an ornery, self-abdicating, sadomasochistic bunch. And I’m one of them. We get no respect. We get little joy. We get no satisfaction. But we keep coming back. For years it was because of the big Ticket, Mr. Kevin Garnett, that we endured such on-court hardship and front-office incompetence. His heart and his game were that big. But he’s gone now, and we’re still here. All of us except for Ricky rubio, that is. I look at it this way: every loss, every losing season, every indignity – it’s a deposit into that emotional bank account as a fan. When this squad finally returns to respectability (championship possibilities are too distant to even think of) we’re going to be able to cash into that bank account, and it’s going to be one of the bigger accounts in all of professional sports fandom.
If you’re not a Wolves fan the only reason will be the individual play of Al Jefferson, Jonny Flynn and Kevin Love. They’re all great at what they do and a treat to watch when playing well.
Projected finish: 28-54, 11th in the Western Conference
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