Recap (OT): Timberwolves 120, Magic 115

Photo Credit: Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo Credit: Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Well, so much for an anticlimactic start to the season. It took the Timberwolves 53 minutes, but they ultimately held off the Orlando Magic winning by a score of 120-115. After appearing in only 18 games last season, Kevin Love rose to superstar status as he posted yet another 30-point, 15-rebound performance while hitting the game-tying three-pointer to send the game into extra minutes.

Game Summary

With the 2013-14 NBA season officially underway, the Wolves played host to the Magic (0-1) on Wednesday night for their home and season opener. Wolves fans got their first looks at the revamped roster that was effectively arranged and put together this past offseason by new President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders.

The Target Center was fresh with optimism following an exciting offseason of player and management turnover that has so far been positively received among the fan base. The team also experienced a relative bill of good health during much of the offseason and preseason, despite the setback of Chase Budinger as he continues in his recovery from corrective surgery. While the loss of Budinger was untimely, the core of the team remains intact while the depth has vastly improved due to multiple key free agent signings and the drafting of first-round draft picks Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng[Read more…]

Timberwolves Ink Nikola Pekovic to Five Year, $60 Million Extension

Nikola Pekovic is returning to the Timberwolves for five more years!

Nikola Pekovic is returning to the Timberwolves for five more years!

Pek is Back!

The stalemate is finally over. After long-winded negotiations for nearly two months proving fruitless, the Minnesota Timberwolves and restricted free agent center Nikola Pekovic agreed yesterday to a five year deal that will pay the Montenegrin around $12 million per season with an extra $8 million in bonus incentives, with all five years being guaranteed.

Jeff Schwartz, the agent of both Pekovic and fellow Pup Kevin Love, initially demanded a contract in the four year, $60 million range while the Timberwolves, led primarily by President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders, wanted something closer to four years and $48-50 million. The two sides were very adamant in their initial demands, and likewise the process dragged out until the middle of August. Nonetheless, the two sides found common ground by tacking on an extra guaranteed year while maintaining the Wolves initial demands of an annual salary of around $12 million.

The 27-year-old 7-footer had a career year last season, averaging 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in 62 games. His PER of 20.26 put him fifth in the league among starting centers, and he continued to dominate the paint even without Kevin Love by his side for the majority of the season.

The 31st overall selection in the 2008 NBA Draft, Pek has displayed remarkable growth since coming to Minnesota in 2010. He has quickly gained national recognition as an up-and-coming player in the league, and is characterized by his brute strength and aggressive playing style. In the 2011-12 season, we saw glimpses of how dominant a Pekovic-Love frontcourt can be when healthy, and the two players together will create possibly the top rebounding frontcourt in the NBA for seasons to come. Pek is arguably the strongest man in the league with a 290-pound frame that is nearly all muscle. His activity on the offensive glass creates second chance opportunities for his teammates while keeping the ball on the offensive end. Pek’s unique skill set fits in perfectly with Love’s ability to stretch the floor on the perimeter.

Implications of the Signing

Remember when David Kahn refused to give Love that extra year on his max contract extension? That obviously did not sit well with Kevin, and I would be surprised if he wasn’t a bit miffed when he saw that his frontcourt companion got the extra year that he and his agent (who happens to also be Pek’s agent) tried so hard to get in his extension. Sure, Love got more money in total and has more flexibility for the future, and obviously letting go of Kahn signified the organization’s acknowledgment of the mistakes made by the former GM. I do not believe that Love will hold it against the franchise for giving Pek five years, because when it comes time for Love to hit unrestricted free agency – whether it is in 2015 or 2016 – the club will be able to offer Love a maximum five year contract that would pay him more than any other competing offers. Minnesota will also likely lock up Ricky Rubio which will solidify Minnesota’s core for when it is time for Love to make his next decision.

It is important to note that giving Pek five years does not jeopardize the team’s ability to offer Rubio a five year maximum contract extension when it comes time to re-up on the Spaniard. The intricacies of the new CBA can be confusing to understand, but the truth of the matter is that the Wolves will be able to offer both of their stars five year contracts while the competition can only offer four years and a little bit less money annually. As of right now, it appears optimistic that Minnesota will be able to keep their core of Love-Rubio-Pekovic intact for many years to come. This is an enormous victory for the organization.

Rumors: Timberwolves Interested in Corey Brewer?

Corey BrewerBeing as it is July 9, the heart of the offseason for sporadic NBA rumors is among us with the latest rumor involving a potential return of a former Timberwolves lottery pick. The former 7th overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft out of Florida is Corey Brewer, the 6-foot-9 SG/SF who Minnesota fans remember best for his smile and big heart.

Brewer failed to live up to the hype after being a top-10 selection for the Wolves but proved to be a serviceable swingman in the NBA after  contributing in a reserve role for the 2010 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks and following the title victory with two productive seasons for the Denver Nuggets. [Read more…]

Timberwolves Ink Chase Budinger, Kevin Martin to Deals

Both Chase Budinger and Kevin Martin agreed with Minnesota on Tuesday, adding two much needed perimeter shooters to a group that ranked dead last in three-point shooting last season.

Both Chase Budinger and Kevin Martin agreed with Minnesota on Tuesday, adding two much needed perimeter shooters to a group that ranked dead last in three-point shooting last season.

Things just got very interesting for the Timberwolves only a few days into free agency. On Tuesday, Minnesota got things started by coming to terms with RFA SG/SF Chase Budinger on a three year, $16 million pact and made some noise later that day by agreeing to a four year, $28 million agreement with UFA SG Kevin Martin.

Budinger, 25, was originally acquired by the Timberwolves in a draft day trade last summer that sent Minnesota’s 18th overall pick to the Houston Rockets. The Arizona product had trouble staying on the court during his first season for the Pups, as he missed all but 23 games after tearing his meniscus just 6 games into the 2012-13 season. When healthy, he brings strong perimeter shooting and a very high competence of Rick Adelman‘s corner offense, of whom he played for in Houston for two seasons before ultimately landing in the land of 10,000 lakes. He will likely be the starter at small forward with F Derrick Williams and SF Shabazz Muhammad also seeing time at the 3. [Read more…]

The Timberwolves Newest Polarizing Player: Shabazz Muhammad

Shabazz Muhammad, 20, is one of the newest draft day additions for the Minnesota Timberwolves. How will the one-and-done swingman from UCLA fare as a role player for the Timberwolves?

Shabazz Muhammad, 20, is one of the newest draft day additions for the Minnesota Timberwolves. How will the one-and-done swingman from UCLA fare as a role player for the Timberwolves?

Following rumors that the Timberwolves were aggressively attempting to move up in Thursday’s 2013 NBA draft in hopes of selecting one of the draft’s premier shooting guards which included Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, Kansas’s Ben McLemore and Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Wolves found themselves out of luck when it came time for the 9th pick as all three prized shooting guards were off the board.

C.J. McCollum, the highly-touted 6-foot-3 PG/SG of Lehigh State, was apparently not on Flip Saunders’ radar as he ultimately passed up the scoring combo guard and instead took what he saw as the best talent available in point guard Trey Burke, despite  having no intention of keeping him. Flip immediately shipped the Michigan standout to the Utah Jazz in exchange for the 14th and 21st overall picks, despite already having the 26th pick received in a trade made last season with Memphis. Larry Fitzgerald Sr. had this to say about the move: [Read more…]

Timberwolves 2012-13 Player Grades: Guards

Ricky Rubio and Alexey Shved at the 2013 Rising Stars Challenge (NBAE/Getty Images)

Ricky Rubio and Alexey Shved at the 2013 Rising Stars Challenge (NBAE/Getty Images)

Following a disappointing 2012-13 season in which the Minnesota Timberwolves amassed a 31-51 record, it is time to individually break down the contributions from each of the Timberwolves’ guards over the past season.

 

Player: Ricky Rubio

Position: PG

Season Summary

After having his impressive rookie campaign derailed by a torn ACL and MCL, Ricky Rubio missed the first 20 games of the 2012-13 season and made his much-anticipated return with an epic performance on December 15 against the Mavericks, playing 18 minutes while recording 8 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals.The expectations for Ricky this season were relatively low as few people expected him to have an Adrian Peterson-esque return from ACL surgery. As the season crept on and the injuries compounded – including Kevin Love’s twice-broken hand – the fans focus for Ricky became centered around a cautious approach for the young Spaniard given the future health implications that come from knee surgery. As the playoffs became a pipe dream to even the most hopeful Timberwolves fans, we got much of our satisfaction watching Ricky make small, yet incremental improvements in his game before finally getting back to full speed for the final two-ish months of the season.

Despite playing without K-Love, Tricky Ricky showed us that he can be a game-changer by himself even if he is not an efficient scorer. Playing on a surgically-repaired knee, Rubio proved that he is back to where he was last season as a perimeter defender. In fact, the Catalan point guard recorded the most steals (43) in a ten game stretch since Ron Artest in 2002. Rubio’s length – 6’4″ with a 6’9″ wingspan – paired with his defensive instincts make him one of the top perimeter defenders in the NBA, and he should be a major contender to make one of the NBA All-Defense teams next season if he can stay healthy for most if not all of the season. [Read more…]

What Will the Timberwolves Do With the 9th Pick?

GREGORY SHAMUS/GETTY IMAGES

GREGORY SHAMUS/GETTY IMAGES

Representing the Timberwolves at the 2013 NBA Draft Lottery was Kevin Love, carrying a Ricky Rubio #9 action figure as his lucky charm. However, the Wolves failed to beat the slim odds of moving up and officially own the 9th overall selection in the upcoming 2013 NBA Draft. The news came as no shocker given that Minnesota only had about a 6% chance of moving up into the top 3, while having almost an 82% chance of staying put at their original position.

With new management taking over – led by former Timberwolves president and coach Flip Saunders – it will be imperative for the new boss to make his mark by erasing the infamous legacy of poor drafting left behind by David Kahn. While Saunders has discussed in the media that he is open to discussing trades for the 9th and 26th selections – whether to move up in the draft or to acquire a veteran – it remains to be seen what Minnesota’s course of action will be under the new regime.

Barring any serious injuries, the Timberwolves expect to have a fully healthy roster by the time training camp arrives. With the probable starting lineup of Rubio-Ridnour-Kirilenko-Love-Pekovic returning, the glaring need for a shooting guard will be the top priority to be addressed either through the draft or in free agency. [Read more…]