The NBA season is upon us Wolves’ fans! With that in mind, we have put together an internal roundtable discussion on several hot topics with the 2014-15 Timberwolves. As we look towards the season ahead, which Wolves’ players will make the leap, how will the rookies do, what are we looking forward to the most, and similar topics are all covered below by the Timberpups staff for the coming season!
With our #EyesOnTheRise, here are a number of questions that we passed along to one another to collect opinions and thoughts.
Question 1: What Wolves player are you most excited about as we enter the season?
John: I’m most excited, maybe intrigued, by what Zach LaVine can bring to the table. Will he be able to effectively play both guard positions? Will he continue to progress throughout the season? How mentally tough is he as the season wears on and the losses likely start to pile up? He has all of the athletic talent in the world, as we have already seen. I want to see him run both guard positions, getting different looks alongside Rubio, Martin, and Brewer.
Lindsey: I’m most excited by Andrew Wiggins. I’ll admit that along with excitement also comes some anxiety. Having the No. 1 draft pick is awesome, as there is so much anticipation and enthusiasm surrounding him. However, it also means that we haven’t seen him prove himself in the big leagues yet. How will he do in the transition from college to the NBA? How will he mesh with Flip and his offensive schemes? My gut feeling is that he will be more-than-ready for pro action and will immediately improve our scoring and speed on the court.
Josh: As a whole, I’m excited about seeing the youth of the team grow. If I had to pick one that I’m most excited about, though, it would be Wiggins. Through two preseason games, he already seems to be NBA ready, especially on the defensive end. He seems to be a great listener and is willing to take advice from teammates and coaches. Watching his develop should be enough to keep Wolves fans entertained even if they do end up well outside the playoff picture.
Question 2: Who will play the bigger role at center this season? Nikola Pekovic or Gorgui Dieng?
Lindsey: I think that Pek will continue to play the larger role at center — as long as he’s healthy. Pek is hands-down one of the best players on the roster, but last year was challenging as he struggled so much with various injuries (foot, ankle, etc.). If he continues to have issues with injuries, I would not be surprised to see Dieng emerging and growing into the everyday starter. Although we only saw a little bit of him last season, he played very well as shown by his advanced statistics. Dieng took giant strides over the course of the offseason and has shown to be aggressive under the basket, an accurate shooter, and a strong defender as well. It’s certainly exciting to have a younger, promising center in the arsenal as a backup plan to Pekovic.
Josh: Gorgui. Watching him in the FIBA World Cup this summer, I couldn’t help but see the improvements in his game. Dieng, playing on a Senegalese team with little international experience, played like a veteran. Over six games, Dieng averaged gaudy numbers and displayed several new moves; including a Nowitzki-esque fadeaway that was surprisingly effective. Unlike Pekovic, Dieng is a net positive on defense. With the Wolves lacking defensive minded power forwards, Dieng will end up bearing the role of rim protector. With the defensive deficiencies of Pekovic, along with his injury history, I see Dieng taking the majority of minutes at center this season.
Alex: Although I am very optimistic about the quick improvements in Gorgui’s game, I firmly believe that Pekovic is poised to become the Wolves’ top option on the offensive end this season if he can manage to stay healthy. With Kevin Love chasing championship dreams in Cleveland, Pek will share the low block with a less prolific PF in Thaddeus Young and Pek should notice a corresponding spike in his usage rate. With Minnesota in rebuild mode, look for Flip to showcase Pek as the focal point of the Wolves offense in order to build his trade value and to hopefully move his bulky contract to a team looking to win now.
Question 3: Will Ricky Rubio end up being the leader of the Wolves this season, and how do you see his contract situation playing out?
Lindsey: Steve McPherson wrote an interesting take on this situation for ESPN. To answer the first part of the question, I absolutely think that Rubio is embracing the role of team leader both on and off the court this season. He outwardly expressed dissatisfaction with Love’s ability (or lack thereof) to fill this role in the past, and he has just as strongly accepted this position as his own. I honestly can’t say how his contract will play out in the end, but I will echo McPherson’s sentiments and leave you with this: a player can be extremely valuable to a team regardless of points scored.
Alex: I have always been a big believer of the intangibles that Ricky brings to the Wolves ever since he came to Minnesota, but have become extremely turned off to the notion of the Wolves having to spend anything close to a max contract to retain him. The 14-15 season will be Rubio’s most important season to date as he attempts to justify his lofty contract demands, and Wolves’ brass will have to decide just how much they value keeping a point guard who has yet to shoot 40% in a season to date. Don’t get me wrong, I have always been Ricky’s biggest fan. However, he will need to show noticeable improvement as a scorer and with his decision-making on both ends of the floor before he is worthy of making $11+ annually.
Question 4: How many wins do you expect to see from the Pups this season?
John: While this season will be exciting, I don’t envision the Wolves will be remotely close to the playoffs right now. For the record, that’s perfectly fine at this point as the team has almost fully committed to rebuilding. If Barea, Martin, and/or Pekovic can be moved, this number will be lower for the season but the light at the end of the tunnel likely becomes brighter (particularly if we move Pekovic, who should bring back a decent haul). I’ll say the team will win 31 games this season.
Josh: Projecting win totals for any team before the season starts is a difficult task, especially in the NBA, particularly with a team as young as the Wolves. The improvement of Ricky Rubio and the development of the rookies will have the largest impact on which way the Wolves record swings. That being said, as long as the Wolves aren’t bit by the injury plague again this season, 30 wins should be attainable.
Lindsey: I’ll go ahead and be a bit more of a rube on this one. I’m really expecting the best for this season! I think we can anticipate a lot of improvement from Rubio, in more ways than one. His outside shooting is looking much better in training camp, and I really see him stepping up as a leader in the locker room this season. In addition, we should see big things from Wiggins in particular — he looks ready to make the transition into the pros, and he immediately improves the Wolves’ offense. Finally, having Mo Williams provides Minnesota with a veteran presence it needs this season. I predict 36 wins for the Wolves this season.
That about does it for our first roundtable discussion of the forthcoming Wolves’ season! What do you have your eyes on as we near the start of the regular season? Let us know in the Comments below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages.