In the wake of yet another 3 game sweep of the playoffs for the Twins my attention has been drawn yet again to Timberwolves basketball, at least until November. I was overly optimistic at the beginning of the 2009 and 2010 season when I thought the Timberwolves would win somewhere between 25 and 30 games. I thought that Kevin Love and Al Jefferson would be able to coexist. 15-67 record later I look foolish. This off season David Khan is in part 2 of his secret and puzzling master plan to return Minnesota back into at least a playoff contender. It seems so long ago (6 years) since the Wolves actually were competitive.
A new look roster (again) is leaving fans somewhat optimistic that Khan and Kurt Rambis may be able to turn this thing around. The Wolves are starting to fit the mold for Khan's vision and that is a young, athletic, quick paced and sharp shooting team. You have to admit that they are young (youngest in NBA) they are athletic, they can run and they have some really good shooters. But will it translate in the court. So far this preseason the Timbewolves are 4-1 which sounds great and all but Cleveland, Golden State and Memphis are ally playing just as good if not better. What does that say? That preseason anything is not something to look at.
So..... how good are the Wolves? They are still a mystery filled with questions?
1) Will Michael Besley be the guy?
Be Eazy Beasley is now 2 years removed from his dominant year at Kansas State and after a troubling go around with Miami, Beasley is looking for a fresh start. The good news is he still has a world of talent and seems to be motivated. He also has quickly fit in to the organization and knows that the team and management has his back. He is also twenty bleeping one years old. Beasley has cemented the small forward position and will be the go to guy. At 6 feet 9 he will be able to over power most of the guys in the league but will have to work extremely hard to guard the Carmelo Anthony's and LeBron James' of the world. I am currently optimistic.
2) How will Kevin Love do now with a starting position at the 4 spot?
With the trade of Al Jefferson to Utah, Love is now finally in the starting role that he most deserves. He is one of the hardest workers in the league and one of the more creative rebounders. Although he may not have the appeal of a Bosh or a Pau, he still can be a focal point in a playoff caliber teams offense. Love's career numbers could translate to a player who could average somewhere around 17 to 20 points and 12 to 14 rebounds per game. The main question mark is how will he be able to defend?
3) How will Johnny Flynn vs Luke Ridnour turn out?
Luke Ridnour has looked pretty good in the preseason. He also seems to have a pretty good knowledge of the offense. He can bring some veteran leadership to the Wolves. What is good about this is he can possible be a even better mentor to Ricky Rubio if he decides to come over in 2011. What is bad about this is if he shows up Johnny, then it kills Flynn's trade value. Minnesota had an opportunity to move Flynn to Indiana for the number 10 pick. If he struggles again in year 2 by not running the offense properly, taking care of the ball and at least playing average defense, then we can start talking disaster considering what he was taken ahead of at the 6th pick. I do not need to repeat but I will anyway (Stephen Currny, Brandon Jennings).
4) Is Darko worth $20 million dollars?
I still think no, along with every other human out there but for what Minnesota is asking him to do and seeing that Brendan Heywood and Ahmir Johnson got max contracts, it may not be as bad as people think? However if Darko does not at least live up to the potential that Khan thinks he has (which is a solid NBA center), and DeMarcus Cousins ends up a superstar, people will want to riot. Darko will be pushed by Nikola Pekovic for playing time, who has been at times beastly in games.
5) Can Wes Johnson live up to 4th overall pick expectations?
I actually went over what this team could have looked liked dozens of times. If Minnesota traded Johnny Flynn for Pacers for 10th pick they then could have taken DeMarcus Cousins at 4 and Paul George (similar to Wes) at 10 and then go into season with starting rotation of Cousins, Love, Beasley, Brewer, and Ridnour with potential that a 6 feet 9 George would take over at SG soon enough and then Rubio dishing to all these monster next year. But that was my mind just wandering about a team that would start 4 guys between 6-9 and 6-11.
But seriously though. Wes needs to be good. Really good. It is already expected that Cousins is going to be a 20 and 10 center with Sacramento and he will definitely pair well with Tryreke Evans. But for Wes who was taken a pick ahead to not have similar expectations is already a drag. What's good is that Johnson is already the best athlete and the best shooter on the team. He can play very good on ball defense and should at times cause match up problems. Main question mark for him is if he can handle the ball enough to create his own shot. We have seen some sloppy play from Johnson so far this preseason and for a kid who is a 23 year old rookie (same age as veteran teammate Martell Webster) there is not much more room for error. In recent drafts we have seen what can happen to Minnesota getting caught up on taking system players rather then best on board. You get Stephon Marbury over Ray Allen or Kobe Bryant or Randy Foye over Brandon Roy or even Rudy Gay or Johnny Flynn over Stephen Curry. This may be 5th on the list but in my opinion is the most important. Wes Johnson needs to live up to being a top 4 pick. And Khan and Rambis need to just let the kid play and not hold him back.