This season has been the definition of disappointing to say the least. The additions of Andrei Kirilenko, Alexey Shved, Brandon Roy, and Chase Budinger caused a stir of excitement and optimism among Timberwolves fans to begin this 2012-13 season, and many basketball fans around the league even believed that this squad not only had the chance to achieve a postseason berth, but that the team also had the depth and talent to make a run in this years playoffs. However, all of that came to a violent halt when we obtained the bubonic plague as we call them… (Injuries). It was not comprehendible during our summer of optimism that nearly every player on the Wolves would ultimately fall to injury at some point during the season. The dream lineup of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Roy, Nikola Pekovic, and AK never had the opportunity to log big minutes together and create the necessary chemistry to legitimately compete for a bottom seed in the Western Conference. Oh, and our head coach, Rick Adelman, was gone for an extended period of time with family reasons. This season has been a catastrophe in the minds of Timberwolves fans alike.
As this season carries only future implications towards draft position and free agency, this team has A LOT of issues to address. To begin, Minnesota statistically has the worst three-point shooting in the NBA and the Wolves do not have a player that can help to alleviate some of the offensive pressure off of K-Love. In addition, we are still missing that shooting guard in our lineup that we all hoped Roy could be. Glen Taylor and David Kahn will need to dig deep into team funds and allocate money towards a marquee scorer who can create his own shot and knock down shots on the perimeter. Kevin Love, as we all know, is not happy about the current state of affairs within the organization. Adding to the frustrations, our once-smiley Rubio is having a very difficult time with all of the losing and the great pressure being exerted upon him to do virtually everything for the offense to work.
Considering all of these factors, I have considered three soon-to-be unrestricted free that would be excellent fits for the Wolves. The players I chose are Monta Ellis, JJ Redick, and Paul Millsap. Any one of these players would provide an instant upgrade in multiple facets of the game for Minnesota and would allow our team to elevate to a higher level of competitiveness in the Western Conference. In order to get over the hump and be able to match up against teams like the Thunder, Spurs, and Clippers, we need legitimate scorers to fill the holes in our roster. It is unreasonable to expect that Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio will be able to carry us to the postseason in a very competitive Western Conference all by themselves.
The future 2013 free agent of whom I believe would provide the largest upgrade to our team is Monta Ellis. Before you roll your eyes, consider the fact that the Timberwolves currently possess one player that can create his own offense and that the team has a very difficult job doing the most important thing in the game: scoring the basketball. Although Monta may demand an inflated contract and may likely get overpaid this summer, he would provide tremendous value to our team in a variety of ways of which we currently struggle. The guy can flat out score the basketball, and that will never be a topic of debate. The addition of Ellis would help take pressure off Love in the 4th quarter and would keep opposing teams honest. Also when considering his ability to play off-ball, pairing Monta with a play-maker like Rubio could create for a very exciting backcourt.
While it can be easy to blame Minnesota’s inefficiencies on injuries and a lack of talent, there is no excuse for their fading defensive intensity and critical turnovers late in games. Both aspects have greatly hurt the team this season as they rank 24th in turnovers per game and 25th in opponents field goal percentage. The Wolves need to take care of the ball and be quicker on rotating on defense instead of allowing so many open looks by opposing perimeter players. These are basic fundamentals that Rick Adelman has undoubtedly preached this season, and the players need to put his words into a tangible product night-in and night-out.
Another important area for improvement is the team’s transition defense. If you go to the stat line of the Heat vs. Wolves games this season, we have had an enormous edge in the rebounding battle. However, the Heat destroyed us in fast break points and transition offense which led to us losing late in each game. The importance of success in transition cannot be stressed enough as it continues to separate legitimate NBA playoff teams from the lottery losers.
To reiterate, if we want to be a championship contender we have to have the firepower to be able to beat teams like the Heat and Thunder (elite teams). We won’t be able to accomplish any of this without an increase in talent and greater accountability from the players, the coaching staff and the front office. To be brutally honest, Minnesota right now is a LONG ways away from being a true contender in the NBA, although they possess the proper foundation to build a very good team in future years. Just like we saw with Rick Spielman’s genius drafting for the Vikings just one short year ago, a few good moves can fundamentally change the dynamic of a ballclub.