Oct 9, 2013, 8:45 AM EST
Last season: The Timberwolves never had much of a chance to finish better than their 31-51 record, thanks to a rash of injuries to the team’s top players. Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Chase Budinger and Nikola Pekovic all missed substantial time due to injury, rendering the season an unforced failure in the process.
Signature highlight from last season: Rough year in Minnesota, so how about we spread the wealth a little? Here are the top 10 plays as determined by the NBA, and notice there’s a lot of Ricky Rubio, a little Derrick Williams, and not much else — indicative of the kind of season it was.
Key player changes: The biggest improvement in Minnesota will come from its healthy star players, but there were a few free agent additions that the team hopes will complement the talent it already has in place on the roster.
- IN: Corey Brewer, coming off of a huge season in Denver, was signed as a free agent to complete his second tour of duty with the Timberwolves. Minnesota also decided that Kevin Martin was worth four years and more than $27 million, and they signed veteran Ronny Turiaf to a small two-year deal to add another big man to the frontcourt rotation. Shabazz Muhammad is a rookie who was selected with the 14th overall pick in this summer’s draft.
- OUT: Andrei Kirilenko signed with the Nets in free agency. Greg Stiemsma was signed by the Pelicans in free agency. Luke Ridnour was traded to the Bucks.
Keys to the Timberwolves’ season:
1) Stay Healthy: The Timberwolves have done an excellent job of assembling talent through the draft, signing existing quality players to long-term deals, and adding role players in free agency. Now, if they can only stay healthy.
Give us anywhere close to 82 games from the combination of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and the rest of the team’s role players, and along with a tenured and proven head coach in Rick Adelman guiding the ship, it’s tough to envision Minnesota finishing out of the postseason once again. The talent is there; it simply needs to materialize on the court for more than twenty-something games in a single season.
2) Don’t slip defensively: As troubled as the Timberwolves were a season ago with their high volume of injuries, they managed to finish 14th in defensive efficiency. The offense was brutal, of course, but that’s to be expected when your star players are sidelined. Defense is about individual effort and team scheme more than anything else, and if Minnesota can replicate last year’s defensive output with this year’s talent, substantial improvement should not only be expected, it should be evident very early in the season.
3) Can the offense catch up? Theoretically, having a full complement of talented players would fix any team’s offensive woes. In Minnesota’s case, that would mean a necessary improvement in a category where the team ranked near the bottom of the league (25th) last season.
Three-point shooting has become a critical component of successful NBA teams in recent years, and the Timberwolves ranked dead last in that category by shooting 30.5 percent from beyond the arc as a team last season. The presence of Love and the return of Brewer should help in that area, and it better if Minnesota wants to increase its offensive efficiency — a statistic that (normally, unless you’re the Bulls) directly translates into wins and losses.
Why you should watch: It’s easy to follow the favorites, but it’s more fun to join the journey of a good team on the rise. Rubio and Love are two of the more fun players in the game to watch, and they’re going to be in the mix for a playoff spot all season long.
Prediction: Minnesota has too much going for them (when healthy) not to make the playoffs. The mere presence of Love and Rubio, along with the additions of Martin and Brewer should be enough to show dramatic improvement offensively. That should in turn result in enough wins — in the 45-48 range — to secure the Timberwolves a postseason spot.
Dec 11, 2013, 2:51 AM EST
Here is our nightly look at some of the noteworthy things around the NBA, the things you missed while freaking out that there are now cockroaches which can survive a freezing winter just fine… Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers. He looked better. Kobe was more fluid and in part because (as he noted after the…
Dec 11, 2013, 12:24 AM EST
Kobe Bryant can dunk again. It’s not going to be remembered as one of his most thunderous throw downs, but he got around P.J. Tucker with the spin, got to the rim, took off with both feet and dunked. It’s about steps with Kobe on his return. His turnovers were down, he got a dunk…
Dec 10, 2013, 11:59 PM EST
Amir Johnson has had a couple strong games — 32 points against the Lakers Sunday, then another 19 points and 9 boards against the Spurs Tuesday. Plus this awesome block of Kawhi Leonard at the rim. Leonard is athletic, has a freakish wingspan and goes up strong. Johnson was stronger. That is what rim protection…
Dec 10, 2013, 10:09 PM EST
The Pacers wanted their Dec. 10 game vs. the Heat a whole heck of a lot more than Miami did, after falling to the eventual back-to-back champs in the Conference Finals a season ago and being very open with their goals heading into this year’s campaign. Indiana hasn’t been shy about declaring its desire to…
Dec 10, 2013, 7:40 PM EST
Jeremy Lin was playing his best basketball — at least since a couple weeks in New York a couple years ago — to start the season, having shown off a new-and-improved jumper (39 percent from three). He was a great spark plug sixth man. But he tweaked his knee back on Nov. 27 and has…
Dec 10, 2013, 7:01 PM EST
The Charlotte basketball organization will revert from the Bobcats to the Hornets next season, in a move that has hopes of re-engaging the local fan base with what has been a historically terrible basketball franchise. Winning solves any team’s problems in terms of ticket or merchandise sales, of course, but in absence of that, an…
Dec 10, 2013, 5:52 PM EST
NBA coaches comprise a fraternity. Many coaches like each other after years of working in the same field. Even the ones who dislike each other share an understanding of the responsibilities and pressures of this incredibly demanding job. That’s why it’s incredibly rare for a coach to publically criticize one of his peers, even if…
Dec 10, 2013, 5:40 PM EST
Danny Granger was a key reason the Pacers were supposed to be better this season — whether starting or coming off the bench, this is a former All-Star who can score the rock and add another offensive weapon to a team with the best defense in the league. However, a calf injury has sidelined him…
Dec 10, 2013, 4:44 PM EST
The Denver Nuggets have been outscored in every first quarter they’ve played this month. They’ve scored a little and fallen behind (22-18 to the Wizards on Monday night), scored a lot and still fallen behind (29-27 to the Nets on Dec. 3) and have just been plain routed (39-15 by the Celtics on Friday). Yet,…
Dec 10, 2013, 4:00 PM EST
Tuesday night we are getting an Eastern Conference Finals preview — Indiana vs. Miami. Please let it be an Eastern Conference Finals preview, because if one of these teams stumbles due to injury or whatever else the other one can start planning what to wear to NBA Finals press conferences. It’s a two-team East this…
Dec 10, 2013, 3:23 PM EST
The Clipper locker room is not like others — Chris Paul‘s son has the run of the place and some other team members regularly bring their children in. It’s different, but it works for the Clips, who have pretty good team chemistry. Now ‘Lil Chris is showing up in the latest Foot Locker ad. And…
Dec 10, 2013, 2:32 PM EST
Randy Wittman, coaching a Wizards team that has a singular focus of reaching the 2014 playoffs, watched his squad start 2-7 – placing him firmly on the hot seat. Washington then won seven of its next nine, and even with losses in its last two games, that should be enough for Wittman to keep his…
Dec 10, 2013, 1:58 PM EST
How much do the Chicago Bulls miss Derrick Rose at the point? It looks like they are going to pick up D.J. Augustin, who was waived Monday by the Toronto Raptors. So reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. The Bulls lost superstar point guard Derrick Rose for the season, and have been searching for further…
Dec 10, 2013, 1:29 PM EST
Paul George not only has to be the focal point of the Indiana Pacers offense, but also he usually gets assigned to cover the other team’s best wing player. LeBron James does too, but often only for a quarter or so. Even Michael Jordan had a great defender in Scottie Pippen to carry the load…
Dec 10, 2013, 12:44 PM EST
This is as it should be. On Jan. 31 next year the Jazz are going to retire a number in honor of Jerry Sloan. For 23 years Sloan was the Utah Jazz — not the face of it (that would be John Stockton and Karl Malone) but the driving force behind a franchise that played…
Dec 10, 2013, 12:23 PM EST
Asked after the game Sunday night what he thought of his form in his return from an Achilles tendon rupture, Kobe Bryant said, ““Right now my form is a horse s— form” and gave himself an “F.” A day later, he softened his tone, speaking to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles. “It wasn’t as…
Dec 10, 2013, 11:40 AM EST
NBA basketball right now is entering a golden age. Just not everybody appreciates that. Charles Barkley swung by the Dan Patrick Show on Monday and together they sounded like grumpy old men telling you how basketball isn’t as good now as it was when they were fans of the sport. At least they didn’t throw…
Dec 10, 2013, 10:58 AM EST
Rudy Gay did not suit up for the Sacramento Kings Monday night. Not that they needed him, they got 32 from DeMarcus Cousins, 31 from Derrick Williams and 24 from Isaiah Thomas as they rolled to an impressive win over Dallas. However, when Gay (and Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray) walked into the building Monday…
Dec 10, 2013, 10:16 AM EST
Our own D.J. Foster asked this question in the Extra Pass this morning and he is not the only one: What is the point of the divisions in the NBA anymore? Teams don’t play the other teams in their division more than other teams now — the NBA has a “balanced schedule” where teams play…
Dec 10, 2013, 8:46 AM EST
Rudy who? The shorthanded Kings played well and put on a show in a win over Dallas Monday night. The highlight of that show? Isaiah Thomas on the fast break going off-the-backboard with the pass to Derrick Williams for the finish. Thomas had 24 points and 12 assists, Williams had a career-high 31 points in…
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