Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pre-Hibachi's: Minnesota Timberwolves

Lemme start this off by giving myself my own introduction. I am Moose (as you probably figured out by now), and you might know me as a regular commentor from slamonline.com (where I go by the name Moose as well). I am the newest member to Hibachi 2.0, and I am a Celtics fan, though I keep the biases out of the writing. So I'll be writing on here from now on, you guys'll probably get to know me a little bit more on here. So let's get rollin' . . .

Last year, the Timberwolves were . . . well . . . let's just say that they were not as good as some other teams. It was their first year without the freakishly athletic power forward Kevin Garnett, and at 22 wins and 60 losses, the Wolves had close to the worst record in the league. And to add insult to injury, the team that they had traded the face of their franchise to, the Boston Celtics, went on to have one of the best seasons in the history of the game. They were, and still are, a young team without a great deal of playoff experience. But that is to be expected when the average age of your probable starting lineup is 24.4 years. But with these young players being some of the most gifted sophomores/rookies/third year men in the league, the Wolves are on the rise. Still in the rebuilding process, not playoff caliber yet, but on the rise nonetheless.

(Probable) Starters:

PG: Randy Foye
One of the Timberwolve's best reasons to hope for the upcoming season is Randy Foye. Missing the first 43 games of his second season last year due to a stress reaction in his left knee, the 6 foot 4 combo guard was hurting Minny with his absence. They went 8-35 while he was injured, and when he came back they went 14-25. The numbers don't lie here. With Foye (hopefully) in there for a full season, Minnesota's record could improve significantly. And shooting .412 from downtown, the man can shoot the J as well, and has a knack for scoring, an attribute that is found to be greatly respected when you have a job in the NBA. His defense is about average, but that will probably pick up as he gets more significant minutes. Foye is looking great, and is certainly in a good spot for a breakout year.

SG: Mike Miller
Getting Mike Miller, a 28 year old veteran with a Rookie of the Year award and a Sixth Man award under his belt was a great move by the T-Wolves. Acquired from the Grizzlies in the post-draft trade that sent O.J. Mayo to Memphis for Kevin Love and him, the 6 foot 8 shooting guard brings a great three point shot, shooting .432 from long. Adding Miller added on to their already great outside shooting, and it also added a veteran presence to the young Wolves. Averaging 16.7 points per game, 6.7 boards per game and 3.4 dimes per game in the 2007-08 season, Miller brings to the table a great variation of skills for the rebuilding T-Wolves. Miller will get the solid minutes that he has gotten for his whole career in Minnesota, and they will be happy that they picked him up. A lot of this season has to do with if Miller is up to the task of being a leader on the young team.

SF: Ryan Gomes
Ryan Gomes is another player acquired from the Celtics in the Great Garnett Deal of '07. At 6 foot 7 and 250 pounds, the muscly 26 year old does not exactly typify a swingman, yet he will most likely be starting at that position for the T-Wolves this year, and getting a lot of shared time with Corey Brewer. Last year Gomes averaged 12.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in 29.7 minutes. Showing good footwork and ability to score from most parts of the floor, Gomes is a good multi-purpose swingman who will only improve.

PF: Al Jefferson
The marquee player on the young Timberwolves, Jefferson has been hyped since high school, averaging 42 points and 18 rebounds per game at Prentiss High School in Prentiss, Mississippi. And since his high school days, not so long ago, Big Al has delivered. Acquired from the Boston Celtics in the massive Garnett trade, last year the 23 year old power forward showed what he was made out to be, averaging 21 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game, while playing in all 82 games and averaging 35.6 minutes per. There is more to come from this young star, maybe including a starting all star slot in the 2008-09 season (I'll predict that, and you can hold me to it). He has great post moves, and he finishes well around the basket. His offense is great, but his defense his another story. It isn't that great, to make a long story short. But the Wolves are giving him flack for his D, and they are making him work at it, so expect an improvement this year. Watch out for Big Al Jefferson in 2008-09, baby!

C: Kevin Love
Sent to the T-Wolves alongside Mike Miller for O.J. Mayo soon after the draft, the 20 year old Center-Forward out of UCLA will more than likely be placed right in the starting lineup for Minny. Standing sturdy at 6 foot 10, 255 pounds, Kevin Love is the son of 1970s NBA forward Stan Love, who is an inch shorter than Kevin. Love shows a great basketball IQ, and shows good decision making. He is also a great passer, famed for his greatly accurate and quick outlet passes, and for his full court chest passes into the hoop. (If you haven't seen it, go to youtube). He has great post moves, and he also showed a good college three pointer at UCLA, but he'll probably have to settle for the midrange in the pros, because of the difference in three point line. He will probably rebound well, because he has a great body frame for it and knows how to get good positioning. His defense is on par, and it should improve as time goes on, seeing that he's only 20 years old.

Key Bench Players: Sebastian Telfair, Corey Brewer, Rashad McCants, Craig Smith, Rodney Carney
The Wolves' bench is similar to their starting lineup in a few ways. One, the players are again quite young and without much experience, and two, the potential is great. Sebastian Telfair, standing at 6 feet tall, is a 23 year old guard who has been greatly hyped up since high school, and has yet to live up to his hype, but his potential is sky high. Corey Brewer, 22 year old swingman who stands at a wiry 6 foot 9 inches and 185 pounds, will most likely be the backup for Ryan Gomes. A sophomore out of Florida, his defense is of note. Rashad McCants, a 6 foot 4 24 year old 2 guard also has a pretty reliable three ball, shooting .407 last year. Craig Smith, the 24 year old undersized forward-center, standing at 6 foot 7, 272 pounds, also provides good insurance off the bench. And, pretty much last on the list of key bench guys, we have Rodney Carney, 24 year old swingman that they acquired from the Sixers in the offseason.

Bottom Line:

The Timberwolves are still in the rebuilding process, and in the hellacious Western Conference, don't expect much out of Minny this year. I predict 25-35 wins, and an improvement from the younger guys. But with defensive improvement, breakout players and younger guys living up to the hype, they just might surprise us. Don't expect much this year, but the Wolves look to be going in the right direction.


DP said...

Moose on deck! cool preview my man. I hate Mike Miller's guts but for some reason I think he is going to thrive in Minny. He better, seeing that I picked his pippy longtails ass in my fantasy draft today! more about what y'all think about my picks later in the week. play wit it.

DP said...

I guess I never noticed Mike did that good last year because they were the Grizz. But with League Pass(thanks for the birthday gift mom!) in my possesion, game notes will be a must this whole season. play wit it.

Moose said...

Speaking of game notes . . . Boston Celtics, anyone?

Ryne Nelson said...

Moose: Great stuff. If it wasn't for Myles Brown, you'd be on the radar for next year's Wolves preview.

Moose said...

Thanks a lot, Ryne. I would do any of the SLAM previews next year, especially the Celtics one, if it happens to be open. But we'll see about that when the time comes, huh.

Eboy said...

Not too shabby, little Moose man. I don't know where the Wolves stand as far as getting more than 28-29 wins this season, but they need to get a coach that mold these young dudes, cause there's some solid talent there.

Moose said...

Thanks, E.

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