Blog Entry

The Season Opens

Posted on: October 28, 2009 4:41 pm
In a few short hours the Timberwolves will open the 2009-10 campaign against their mirror image in the Eastern Conference, the New Jersey Nets. In recent years both teams have completely deconstructed their core veteran team and have begun the lengthy process of rebuilding around a young and dynamic player. The Wolves with Al Jefferson, the Nets with Devin Harris. Both teams feature a promising 2nd year big man, who surpassed all expectations during their rookie seasons. The Wolves with Kevin Love, the Nets with Brook Lopez. Both teams are stock piled with young potential, which may someday amount to something special or something all together worthless. The Wolves with Jonny Flynn, Corey Brewer and Ramon Sessions, the Nets with Yi Jianlin, Courtney Lee and Terrance Williams. 

As for the Wolves, success this season will come in the form of effort, development and chemistry. Wins are ideal, but if that's the only barometer for measuring success then us Wolves fans might as well start planning for the 2010 draft now. They're simply too young, too inexperienced, too injured and and too unfamiliar with each other to realistically make a legitimate push this year. What I do realistically envision is a move like Oklahoma City made last year and Portland made several years ago just before becomming a playoff caliber team. That being a transformation to a scrappy, yet inconsistent team that will be on the losing end of their fair share of blow outs but from time to time will also flash their enormous potential and beat a few of the league's best, earning the reputation as a team better than their record and most definitely on the rise. Combine that with another high lottery pick, two additional 2010 1st round picks, Ricky Rubio's perceived value, enough cap space next offseason to offer a max contract and several expiring contracts that could aide in a deadline deal, and the Wolves could be back in the playoffs sooner rather than later. Or at least sooner than the Nets.

If pressed to put a number prediction on wins I'd say somewhere between 28 and 35, which is presumably where they would have ended up last year if not for losing Jefferson for nearly half their games. I think the additions of Jonny Flynn, Ramon Sessions, Wayne Ellington, Sasha Pavlovic, Ryan Hollins and Kurt Rambis easily offset, if not improve, the losses of Randy Foye, Mike Miller, Sebastian Telfair, Craig Smith, Mark Madsen and Kevin McHale. For the Wolves to end up on the higher end of that prediction or even exceed it, the following things will need to happen.

Al Jefferson - will need to be healthy. If his knee isn't right the Wolves are in big trouble. His well documented 30 lb. weight loss seems to suggest he'll be fleeter of foot on both defense and fast breaks but first he'll need to ease everyone's fears that his knee is going to give out every time he jumps for a rebound.

Jonny Flynn - will need to be wise beyond his years. Truthfully, he's probably the best true PG the Wolves have had since Terrell Brandon. If he can come in and be more Chris Paul than AC Law, then the Wolves will be better than anyone would have thought.

Kevin Love - will need to get healthy. A broken bone in his non-shooting hand should keep him out well short of the projected 6 weeks. When he's back he'll need to prove that his ridiculous rookie rebounding rate wasn't a fluke and that his conditioning has improved. After all, you can't average 12 rebs per game if you can only play 30 minutes a game.

Corey Brewer - will need to build on the preseason. This is the first time I have given Brewer a compliment without surrounding it with a ton of "buts" and "ifs" and "maybes". He was genuiniely good in the preseason, which can be inflated but can also be a sign of things to come. Shit, I said "but".

Ramon Sessions - will need to make Milwaukee regret letting him go. Right now, he could be Mike James (circa Raptors to Wolves, 2006) having just parlayed a bunch of empty stats on a losing team into a longterm contract. Or he could be Chauncey Billups (circa Wolves to Detroit, 2002) having just begun to show what he's capable of and on the verge of establishing himself as a force in the league. Most likely, he's somewhere in between.

Ryan Hollins - will need to block a lot of shots. They don't need him to do much. Just block shots. He should be watching every minute of Chris "Birdman" Anderson film he can get his hands on. Or rather video. The kids watch video these days.

Wayne Ellington, Sasha Pavolvic and/or Oleksiy Pecherov - will need to become reliable outside shooters. Right now the deep ball is this team's major weakness and if they can't hit shots Love and Jefferson will eat non-stop double teams.

Ryan Gomes, Damien Wilkins, Brian Cardinal - will need to be steady veterans. Outside of these three guys everyone else on the team is 25 or younger. No one is expecting much out of them production-wise, but they will need to be the on court teachers to do the little things that build a winning team.

Mark Blount - will need to sit on his couch, collect a paycheck and wait to be traded or cut. Nice career.

Kurt Rambis - will need to be as good and as patient as advertised. Hopefully, all those years sitting next to Phil Jackson pay off.

Enjoy the season.

Since: Apr 10, 2008
Posted on: November 3, 2009 7:34 pm

The Season Opens

1. Rose
2. Westbrook
3. Lopez
4. Love
5. Mayo
6. Beasley
7. Galinari
8. Gordon
9. Randolph
10. Thompson

Since: May 5, 2009
Posted on: November 2, 2009 2:37 pm

The Season Opens

Staying off topic...

I agree with the projection of Lopez at 3 (I'd actually put him 2).  I would like to say I am not huge on Mayo.  He a natural scorer, no doubt, I'm not t sure he is good enough to build a championship team around. His game demands the ball like a number 1 player and his talent is more like a 1.5-2ish player.  I see him flourishing on bad teams.   I would rather have Love.  A potentially very good player that can win you games in ways that don't require the ball, a very good cog.  I also think that Mayo is going to develop that Vincsanity of choosing to play and choosing not to play depending on what is best for his contract situation. I truly think we will know a lot more about the Love-Mayo comparisions after this year.  Memphis may be better in final records than MN but I suspect by the end of the year Memphis will be flatlined at putrid and MN should (hopefully) have an upward trajectory. If that is the case scorers on bad teams are a dime a dozen let's not forget Mike James was once a 20 pt scorer. 

With that said I would put the draft:

1. Rose
2. Lopez
3. Westbrook (mostly this high on upside)
4. Beasley   (Am I alone in getting that sense that we are watching a promising career circle the drain? By the end of this season this top 10 list may not have him on it)
5. Randolph (all upside at this point.)
6. Mayo  (see above)
7. Love 
8. Gordon (sort of see above but watch out for the LA-B to be decent this year)

Since: Aug 20, 2006
Posted on: October 31, 2009 10:37 am

The Season Opens

A little off-topic, but since the Love-Lopez comparison was touched upon it got me thinking about the 2009 draft.

It it were held again what would be the top ten?

It'd say -

1. Rose
2. Beasley (I still think teams belive in his upside)
3. Lopez
4. Mayo
5. Westbrook
6. Randolph
7. Gordon
8. Love
9. Galinari
10. Augustin

Now I don't hate Love by any means, I just think Lopez for example has shown the ability to maybe a team's top big man. 

Since: Mar 23, 2009
Posted on: October 29, 2009 10:23 am

The Season Opens

Since: Jan 29, 2009
Posted on: October 28, 2009 7:47 pm

The Season Opens

Good analysis.  I think the coaching staff is going to be the biggest factor this year. If current players, and players considering to become wolves, respect the coaching staff the team could have a productive year.  

Since: Nov 29, 2007
Posted on: October 28, 2009 4:54 pm

The Season Opens

It feels strange knowing that the fate of Minnesota basketball is in the hands of two of my least favorite hoopsters of all-time (Rambis and Laimbeer). Though I guess the one I did like as a player wasn't real good at operations.

I'm happy that hoops is back, and I think the Wolves will touch 30 wins, but not by much. They will be better than the Rockets, however.

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