25 Moments in 25 Years

25 years of Timberwolves basketball!

25 years of Timberwolves basketball!

The 2013/14 NBA season is a time to celebrate for Minnesota Timberwolves fans, as the franchise is celebrating their silvery anniversary in the NBA.  I wanted to celebrate these 25 years with 25 special moments from the franchise’s history.  Are you ready for this?  Let’s get started with the countdown … because everything in the world today has to be done via countdown and ranking apparently.

(Quick note: YouTube clips are also hyperlinks below and will open in a separate window.)

#25 – 2008 NBA Draft night trade that yields Kevin Love for the Wolves

While I still would have demanded a PG (Lowry, it worked within the cap) in the trade, the Wolves traded OJ Mayo to the Memphis Grizzlies for Kevin Love with other pieces all around.  This trade would have been ranked higher if Mike Miller didn’t stink up the Target Center for two seasons.

#24 – Isaiah Rider’s circus shot in Sacramento

Preface: I loved Rider.  There, I said it.  You’ll see him again in this countdown.  This shot was on national TV and I talked about it for two days in school.  Have a look.

#23 – One of two 2nd round draft gems: Nikola Pekovic

Perhaps for the 30 year anniversary, this is ranked a bit higher.  You know how (12 adjectives worse than…) bad the franchise’s draft history is.  This pick also wasn’t too much of a “find” for McHale, as Pekovic was a 1st round talent that teams knew wasn’t coming over for a few years and the team swooped him up as the first pick of the 2nd round in 2008.

#22 – Two of two 2nd round draft gems: Doug West

In the franchise’s first draft (1989), the team wound up with a pretty decent backcourt consisting of Pooh Richardson and Doug West.  While his career got off to a slow start, West did overtake Tony Campbell as the franchise’s leading scorer for a while and had several solid seasons for the club.

#21 – 1992 Slam Dunk Contest w/ West

We really won’t talk too much about the early days and for good reason; Doug West simply appearing in the Slam Dunk Contest is a top 25 moment in franchise history.  Around the 8:45 mark of the clip below you will find the start of West’s performance.  However, you’ll miss Grandmama, Plastic Man, and Shawn Kemp if you skip ahead.  (In other words, watch the whole thing!)

#20 – Ricky Rubio’s first triple-double

Any time a Pup throws up a triple-double against the Spurs, you have my attention.  But when the Unicorn does so in spectacular fashion, it is a top moment for the franchise.

#19 – 2009 NBA Draft – Hello Ricky!

David Kahn somehow convinced the Washington Wizards to give up the 5th pick of the draft for Randy Foye and Mike Miller.  Sure, we picked up Stewie Griffin and a few other spare pieces, but the Wolves were able to land Ricky Rubio with the pick and the rest will become history.

Let’s forget about the 2009 draft in its entirety though: Point Guard-apolooza, Kevin Love’s “What are we doing?!?!?!” tweet, etc.  It never happened, OK?

#18 – Timberwolves fire David Kahn

Yep, this is a franchise highlight.  We’ve covered off on the 2009 draft, but we didn’t mention the selection of Wes Johnson the following year – the worst draft pick in the history of the Timberwolves.  Trust me, I’ve been watching this unfold for a long time.  There were none worse.  Throw in trying to freeze Kevin Love out of Minnesota and you have a train wreck for the ages that needed to be fixed.

#17 – Timberwolves hire Rick Adelman

Where Kahn deserves an iota of credit is in the hiring of Rick Adelman, by far the greatest basketball mind to ever grace the sidelines of the Metrodome or Target Center 41 times a season.

#16 – Isaiah Rider blocks Patrick Ewing

Earlier I mentioned talking about Rider’s shot in Sacramento for two days.  Being from the NY area, this play allowed me a full week of gloating in high school.  This was AWESOME

#15 – “Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, … Winner!” – The Timberwolves select Christian Laettner in the 1992 NBA Draft

Look, everyone will focus on the negative: we missed out on Shaq and Zo, Laettner was a locker room cancer (as referenced above perhaps?), that he wasn’t around for the long term, etc.  All of this is valid.  However, where would I be without the Wolves selecting Laettner in 1992?  I can assure you that I wouldn’t be writing for a Wolves blog.

As I started to hone in on the NBA around 5th-6th grade, the franchise came into existence.  That was a nice way for me to get a fresh start on a new NBA team.  What distinguished the Wolves over the three other new teams?  1. Team colors and 2. My dad was making business trips to the area every month and could bring home souvenirs.  Relatively sold, but not completely …

What took my fandom to the next level?  “With the third pick of the NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select … Christian Laettner from Duke University” – Stern, David.  How is this for a history lesson?

There is one more thing I want to cover here, completely realizing that I’ve already spent too much time on #15 in this list.  How is this locker room speech not more popular than Derrick Coleman’s “Whoopty-damn-doo”?  I mean, this should really be closer to Iverson’s “We talkin’ ‘bout practice?!  Not a game, not a game, but practice!”  Honestly, this can be used in so many aspects of life, at the very least in Minnesota.  Example: imagine giving the “Loser, Loser … Winner” speech for any of the following:

  1. Leaving a board meeting
  2. Quitting a job
  3. Leaving the bar
  4. Exiting a holiday house party
  5. Deflecting blame when caught by multiple boy/girl-friends

Seriously, this needs to become a more acceptable way of living your life.  Do it!  Vine it!  I will pay you at least $1.

#14 – Final home game of 1990 at the Metrodome

The third largest NBA crowd (49,551) packed the Metrodome for the last home game of the inaugural, 89/90 season.  The Wolves drew over 1 million fans into the stadium for the season!

#13 – First Franchise Win – 11/10/89

It took four tries and overtime, but the Timberwolves earned their first win in franchise history on 11/10/89 against the Philadelphia 76ers, 125-118.  Tony Campbell and Tyrone Corbin = Monsters!

#12 – Michael Williams Free Throw Record

What better way to get a jolt through your body than covering off on one of the few places you will find a Pup in the record books?  In 1993, the PG broke the record for the most FT’s hit in a row, finally ending the streak at 97.  (More fun facts on free throws)

#11 – Kevin Love’s double-double streak

Continuing a run of streaks (ba-da-bum) there aren’t many more impressive performances compared to the 53 games in a row in which Love put up a double-double.  From November 2010 through March 2011, Love poured it on night in and night out.  However, the run came to an end against the Warriors.   Oddly enough, the streak ended because Love only scored 6 points in a blowout loss.

#10 – A double overtime loss to OKC – 3/23/12

Wow, a loss winds up being a top moment in franchise history.  Why?  This is my list and I’ll do as I please.  This is the best regular season game I can remember.  From the opponent’s side, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook each went for 40+ points.  JJ Barea put up a triple double.  Kevin Love put up a modest 51 and 14.  This game was spectacular … including Wesley Johnson’s 0-1, 0 points effort.  Have I talked about him before?

#9 – Glen Taylor saves the Timberwolves

Say what you will about Taylor, and you have/will, but he saved this franchise back in 1995.  With the owners looking to sell the team to a group down in New Orleans, Taylor swooped in to purchase the club and leaving it in the Twin Cities.

#8 – Timberwolves retire Malik Sealy’s jersey

I debated whether or not this belonged in the countdown because the reasons that led to the jersey retirement suck, but also thought it might provide some perspective for some of the younger fans as to why the #2 hangs in the rafters.  We covered this tragedy in a VOTW last year.

(I’m still surprised that the entire halftime ceremony isn’t on YouTube.)

#7 – The original Big Three?  KG, Marbury, and Gugliotta

A second VOTW of focus in the top 10 … of course!  Before he ate a jar of Vaseline on YouTube, Stephon Marbury was a phenomenal addition to the KG-led Wolves.  Therein lied the problem, it was KG’s team and ‘Starbury’ wanted nothing to do with that.  Naturally, before a resolution could be found there, Tom Gugliotta decided that he had enough and went to greener pastures.  But before all of this … these three were awesome!  (Where are my Tums?!)

#6 – 1997 – Playoffs?  Playoffs?!  You kidding me?!

It took a while, but the Timberwolves made their first trip to the playoffs in 1997.  The team was quickly swept off the floor by the Rockets … but still … progress!

#5 – KG leads the Timberwolves in … everything in ‘02/’03

For just the third time in NBA history, a player led his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks for the season.  KG was good.

#4 – Kevin Love’s 30/30 game against the Knicks

The only reason this is #4 and KG’s season above is listed at #5 is because it was against the Knicks.  I’ve never claimed to be fair or unbiased.  Early on in the 2010 season, Kevin Love went off … way off … on the Knicks, to the tune of 31 points and 31 rebounds.  I don’t think this needs any further description.

#3 – The ‘East Bay Funk Dunk’

The NBA All-Star Weekend came to Minneapolis in 1994 and Isaiah Rider stole the show, winning the Slam Dunk Contest with his ‘East Bay Funk Dunk’.  A crowning achievement for the franchise who had yet to make the playoffs.  This too was awesome!

#2 – The 2004 Playoffs

Since 1989, the Timberwolves were the team to beat in the NBA exactly once, in ‘03/’04.  Everything was in place for a deep playoff run and more.  The team disposed of the Nuggets rather easily and then had an epic battle against the Kings.  KG jumping on the top of the scorer’s table after game 7 anyone?!  I still remember these series and locking myself in my Hoboken apartment.  With the great, however, came the ultimate disappointment in that Sam Cassell’s injured hip was not going to make a miraculous recovery for the series against the Lakers.  The Wolves didn’t have enough to compete with Shaq and Kobe.

However, if Sam was healthy, this team was going to the Finals and winning it all.  That injury still haunts me.  That injury also prevents the ‘03/’04 season from being #1 on this list.  If the team had at least the Conference Championship, it would be #1.  Alas …

#1 – The 1995 Draft

Before he was “The Big Ticket”, he was “The Kid”.  The Timberwolves selected KG with the 5th pick of the 1995 draft and the franchise was altered for a decade (and you could argue more, but we won’t).  There isn’t anything to say about KG that won’t ruin a future post about his career.  KG provided more than enough memories.  I rarely care about a player when they leave one of my favorite teams.  I became a Celtics fan so that KG could get a ring.  Best of luck to “The Kid” this season in Brooklyn and quite simply, “Thank you!”

So there you have it, 25 memories from 25 years of Timberwolves basketball.  What moments stick out the most to you?

Corey Brewer: It’s the Little Things

During the offseason Corey Brewer signed a deal worth a little more than nine-million guaranteed dollars to play a second stint for the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

Hopefully, for the Wolves sake, he’s able to compensate for the loss of Andrei Kirilenko. AK47 turned away Minnesota’s offer worth 10 million dollars and took a pay-cut to join the Brooklyn Nets.
 
George Karl, awarded Coach of the Year honors last season, described him as a “very interesting player.” 
Brewer started two games for the Karl with Denver Nuggets and appeared in all 82 games last season.
 
He’s averaged 10 points and 3 rebounds per game thus far in his career, however — he scored 16 points per game last season in 80 appearances off-the-bench. After only managing to shoot 29 percent from the three-point during the year, CBS’s Zach Harper brought to light a particular element spotlighting Brewer’s upside upside — his ability to contest shots, leak out, and eventually score, in transition. 
 
In the Timberwolves season opening victory against the Magic Brewer scored 12 of his 16 in transition, shooting 1 of 2 from the free-throw line and 1 of 4 from long-distance. He failed to hit from the left corner, his hotspot, despite shooting over 40 percent on 49 of 119 attemps from there last season.
 
Neither Derrick Williams or Shabazz Muhammad played in the season opener and Chase Budinger will remain sidelined with an knee-injury, Brewer’s the only one Head Coach Rick Adelman can confidently start at small forward. Where he makes an impact most is before the leak-out — on defense. 
 
Is he the Timberwolves new, lock-down, defensive specialist? Let’s take a look.
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Out of a Magic timeout, Brewer is assigned to defended the inbounder (Arron Afflalo) who throws the inbound pass to Victor Oladipo. On plays from the sideline and under the hoop, the inbounder is always a threat to score — Brewer’s task is not an easy one.
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Afflalo heads into the paint and pauses near the restricted area for a moment while two teammates approach from the free-throw line to screen Brewer. NBA team’s won’t often switch on screens unless it’s coordinated prior to the a play as an in-game adjustment or situational strategy. This defensive philosophy is known as ‘lock and trail’. Brewer must fight to close the gap between on Afflalo after screens spring him loose in order to contest the shot. As you can tell from the clock in the picture above, this is a critical possession late in the game.
(Below) Brewer snakes his way around a weak screen set by Magic forward Solomon Jones.
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The second screen, in my opinion, was a missed moving screen call despite the league stating this would be a point of emphasis this season. Anyway, Nikola Vucevic sets a strong screen that’s more difficult than the first for Brewer to work around.
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Look at the space Afflalo has after receiving the pass.
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 This is very, very good contesting of Afflalo’s jumper considering the work Brewer needed to do fighting through screens and closing the gap of open space.
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 This is the best look at how difficult Brewer makes shooting as an opposing scorer.
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(Above) Here’s an important possession late in the game, the Wolves need a bucket. Ricky Rubio fires up a midrange jumper, Love is crashing down the lane and Brewer is in the far corner. Afflalo stands between Brewer, the basket and K-Love and is unable to box-out both — he must choose, between the two, which player to put a body on (Below).
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The defender chooses wrong. Brewer takes advantage, skying for the rebound, tipping the ball into the hoop off glass and giving the Wolves a one-point lead late in the game.
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 Unlike the inbound play in the Magic ran out of a timeout, Afflalo heads to the top of the key, cuts through the double-screen toward the basket and back toward the nearside — Brewer is with him, again, the entire way. Orlando attempts going to a similar isolation scenario for the the game’s final possession during regulation.

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 brewer15
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It’s not a terrible look for a game-winner, but Brewer makes it a difficult shot for any player in the league.
The game heads to overtime, the Wolves win the tip but commit a shot clock violation on their first possession.
This is the first Magic possession during the overtime.
Vucevic attempts to set a down-screen hoping to free space for Afflalo to catch a pass from Jameer Nelson on the wing, Brewer has seen this countless of times in his basketball playing career, undoubtedly, at every level. It’s a basic start to a halfcourt set.
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The dunk put the Wolves ahead by two and they wouldn’t trail the Magic through the remainder of the game. This was easy pickings for the 9th year NBA Veteran.
He doesn’t completely replace Kirilenko, but, he does certain things (like defend) at a similar level. Some nights Brewer may contribute more on the stat sheet than one might expect, but, it’s his defensive intangibles and his ability to sneak out in transition that’s going to help this Wolves team win. Look for him to improve his backdoor cutting from the corner in offensive sets, something we didn’t see much of on Wednesday but will hopefully see improvement on during tonight’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Pups Cut From Pack

Today the Timberpups released Lorenzo Brown and Othyus Jeffers, the roster is down to 16 players — the team must cut to 15 by 4:00PM CST on Monday.

Brown was the Wolves second-round draft selection out of North Carolina State University. He missed only two games during his final season at North Carolina State where he averaged just over seven assists and was the primary facilitator in the Wolfpack’s offense. He averaged 19.2 minutes per game in LVSL, shot 50 percent from 3pt-range, 38 percent from the field and his 2.2 assists per game were negated by his per game average of 1.8 turnovers. Brown averaged 12.6mpg in three preseason games; averaging 4 points 1 rebound and 1 assist. His future remains bright, Brown is 23 years old and it’s likely we’ll see him playing in the NBA down the road.

The decision to cut Jeffers was not as clear-cut.

He entered the league undrafted despite averaging 24 points and 11 rebounds a game at Robert Morris University. Selected by the Iowa Energy in the 2008-09 D-League draft; Jeffers averaged 20 points and 9 rebounds per game and was named the NBADL Rookie of the Year. Jeffers had a team-high 13 points in the Wolves 98-89 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, shooting 5-of-9 from the field and tallying 6 rebounds.

 

The cuts mean there’s two places left for the taking, either Robbie Hummel, A.J. Price or Chris Johnson will be cut by Monday.

Chris Johnson has played the least this preseason and the Wolves signing him to a contract was the final move made by former President of Operations — David Kahn.

This leaves Price and Hummel as the players the Pups will retain going into the season. Hummel started the game at small forward Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers and is averaging 15 minutes in his four appearances this preseason. He’s tall, lanky and was the fan favorite going into Las Vegas Summer League as we told you earlier this summer.

Price will act as an insurance policy at point guard. If Ricky Rubio, Alexey Shved or J.J. Barea are to miss time due to injury this season *knocks on wood*, Price can step in and as a temporary and serviceable alternative — if an injury to the aforementioned three is a significant one; the Wolves should look to improve at PG through the free agent market or by trade.

 

The Pups’ Prince Hits Philly

There’s only a few minutes before the Timberpups take on the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. The game will not be televised or available on radio, but don’t worry — @timberpupsblog will be live tweeting the events.

 

I’m going to say sorry to the Sixers, they’re horrific and are expected to win the Andrew Wiggans Sweepstakes, an award handed out to the worst basketball team at the end of the season. I may say sorry, but I’m not.

The Sixers were last league in scoring in 2012-13 with 93.2 points per game and  it marked the first time in franchise history the team finished last in the league in scoring. It’s safe to say this season — they’re the favorite in the to win the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes. If you don’t know who Wiggins is, he’s going to be a freshman at the University of Kansas this year, the hype surrounding him in high school is similar to what we saw with LeBron James, though I understand that comparison is ridiculous.  Here are a few of his high school credentials.

  • Mr. Basketball USA (2013)
  • Gatorade National Player of the Year (2013)
  • Naismith Prep Player of the Year (2013)
  • McDonald’s All-American (2013)

How sad is it that I’m writing about a player Philly doesn’t even have yet. Sorry, back to the regular scheduled program.

The players on the court for the Sixers tonight, by default, are NBA players. Head coach Brett Brown had this to say about his team in article published by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“You have six NBA players and then you have a bunch of guys who are fighting for spots and want to be seen and need opportunity.”

 

By my count, six players is generous. I have Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Michael Carter Williams as credentialed NBA Players — though some guy named James Anderson has scored in double-figures in four of the six games this preseason.

The Wolves have a chance to demolish another feeble opponent tonight, they defeated the Boston Celtics on Sunday — 104-89.

Quick Rundown:

  • We saw more out of the starters than any preseason game thus far
  • Derrick Williams started the game at Small Forward (5 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists) and the team picked up his six-and-a-half million dollar option through the 2014-2015 season. He’ll be expected to pick up the slack in Budinger’s absence
  • Ricky Rubio scored 15 on five of 9 shooting from the field and was 2 for 3 from the three-point line — an awesome shooting night by his standards
  • Love struggled from downtown, he was two of eight from behind the ark though he still scored 22 and shot eight of nine from the charity stripe
  • Kevin Martin did Kevin Martin things, he scored 21 and was five of eight shooting from long-distance

I suggest you watch the youtube link below, HINT it’s Rubio highlights.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cizWRNt-Ydw

 

 

The Wolves might crack open the Liberty Bell that much more, at least I hope so. We’ll see how Rick Adelman decides to play the starters and go about running his offense. On Sunday against the Celtics the team was determined to execute in halfcourt sets, they did. Was it because of Boston’s pleathera of defensive weaknesses? I’m not sure, but they could have played a little more in transition — who knows?!

Maybe they work on their sets in the Princeton offense more tonight, but regardless, I’m expecting a Pups victory by a large margin tonight. They’ll travel to Detroit after the game, the Pistons are tomorrows foe in the back-to-back final preseason games of the season.

Robbie Hummel, A.J. Price, Lorenzo Brown, Othyus Jeffers and Chris Johnson are with the team on the trip, though the 15 man roster restrictions only allow for two of the five (if any) to make the team.

 

AGAIN, FOLLOW @TIMBERPUPSBLOG FOR ALL THE UPDATES YOU CAN HANDLE.

 

 

-Zach.

2013/2014 Eastern Conference Preview

 

It has been the Heat's Conference recently, does that change in 2014?

It has been the Heat’s Conference recently, does that change in 2014?

 

Last week we previewed the (stacked) Western Conference and now it is time to tackle the East.  The Miami Heat look to make it not one, not two, but three conference championships in a row.  Can they do it?  Who can rise to the occasion?  Who is at the bottom of the barrel?  Let’s start there …

15. Philadelphia 76ers: I find it glorious that for David Stern’s final season, there is a team with enough charisma to say, “Here we are … tanking in all its glory” from the day the draft took place all the way through the trading deadline.  Where will Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young wind up?  I’m not sure they care, as long as it is out of Philly.  While I like what Philly did on draft night acquiring Noel and MCW, there is no hope for this team in 2013/14.  Zero.  Zilch.

14. Orlando Magic: Victor Oladipo is very likely going to be a very good NBA player, but this team lacks talent across its frontcourt.  If they can find a taker for Jameer Nelson during the season, they might give the Sixers a run for their money on ping pong balls.

13. Cleveland Cavaliers: Dan Gilbert wants this team in the playoffs, yet continues to do the strangest things on draft night.  I love Kyrie Irving, I just wish he played almost anywhere else in the league.  Cavs fans have to hope that Michael Bennett doesn’t eat himself out of the league (not a ringing endorsement for the #1 pick of the draft) and rely on getting something from Andrew Bynum and/or Anderson Varejao.  This isn’t going to end well.

12. Boston Celtics: The Celtics are rebuilding but I can’t put them any lower than this, given what you just read.  In fact, I actually wanted to put them a little bit higher, but figure this seems about right if Danny Ainge wakes up one day and says, “You know what, we are too good to get enough ping pong balls, Rondo needs to go”.  Rajon Rondo and the supporting cast (Jeff Green, Courtney Lee) are good enough to stay ahead of the prior three teams.

11. Charlotte Bobcats: On paper, this is a pretty intriguing team that you might want to keep an eye on, but then you remember it is the Bobcats.  They have a serviceable rotation of guards, signed Big Al Jefferson, and I love MKG.  Then I remember that they are the Bobcats and just drafted Cody Zeller at #4 ahead of a handful of others that would have been a nice fit.  Would the real Bismack Biyombo please stand up this season?

10. Detroit Pistons: This is going to be fun, right?  Right?!  Chauncey Billups returning to Detroit and trying to lead the Pistons with Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, and Andre Drummond.  At what point does Billups flat out retire?  It would be great if he just walked out of the locker room at halftime to never come back.  This is where we start thinking about teams that could sneak their way into the Eastern Conference playoffs … with 35 wins.

9. Toronto Raptors: Another team that is intriguing on paper and then you give yourself a reality check on second glance.  Do you want Kyle Lowry as your starting PG?  Is DeMar DeRozan ever going to turn it on?  How much of a leap is Jonas Valanciunas really going to make in one year?  Is Rudy Gay just going to shoot 33% from the field this year on 1,500 shots?  Sorry, no playoffs for this franchise.

PLAYOFF TEAMS                                                                                                                               

8. Washington Wizards: Relying on the health of an already injured Emeka Okafor may not be the wisest strategy, but there is too much talent here to not make the playoffs in the East.  John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr. (another great pick from the Wizards front office?), and enough able bodies for big men.  If you go to their second unit, you have some defensive studs as well with Singleton and Ariza on the wing.  This could be a team to keep an eye on and is already on my League Pass watch-list.

7. Milwaukee Bucks: Every year I get sucked in and every year there is disappointment.  Where OJ Mayo goes, so does some bizarre allegiance to overrate the team he’s playing on.  That bus landed in Milwaukee this year.  I like their big men as a group, but not any particular individual.  You have ex-Wolf Luke Ridnour and Brandon Knight as the PG’s and Gary Neal as the fourth wheel in the backcourt.  It will be interesting to see what they get out of the SF position where the Bucks have two wily veterans in Caron Butler and Carlos Delfino.  This roster is good enough to make the playoffs.  (Until it isn’t)

6. New York Knicks: Look at how the NY Giants football season is going and that is what I would like to predict for the Knicks.  However, they have too much talent for the Eastern Conference to go any lower than this.  They will play .500 ball and get into the playoffs with ease.  Here’s what I like about the team: Tyson Chandler, from a few years ago.  That’s it.  There is nothing on this roster that I like.  Despite his gaudy numbers, there is virtually nothing Carmelo can do to not make me believe that he is an underachiever; outside of taking less than max money in his next contract and deferring to another star in order to win a championship.

5. Atlanta Hawks: This is my Eastern Conference “I have no idea where to put this team, so they are going here”.  I cannot give a team home court advantage in round 1 of the playoffs if that is my general feeling towards the team, so they land at #5.  Love the Paul Millsap and Al Horford combination, like Jeff Teague, but have no idea what to think of their rotation of wings.  The Hawks’ wings really just need to fill roles though, right?  That should be good enough for a .500+ record and another trip to the postseason, only to be quickly disposed by the …

4. Chicago Bulls: We’ll get to this when we go through the playoff brackets later, but I see the Bulls coasting through the regular season, monitoring Derrick Rose’s minutes, resting him occasionally, etc. This team is tough as nails and will do what is necessary to get to right around the 50 win mark.  It won’t be pretty, we won’t enjoy it when they beat up the Wolves in the paint, but this team will get it done.

3. Brooklyn Nets: Prokhorov’s tax bill is “a bit” much, but you have to love an owner that is willing to spend any and all money possible to put together a championship contender.  Unfortunately for the Nets, there are too many stronger teams that will grind this team out of the playoffs at some point.  Deron Williams has a lot to prove and I see this team putting together a very strong regular season due to all of the veterans in the locker room.

Best of luck to KG in Brooklyn and a big “kudos” for the Big Ticket in wearing the #2 jersey with the Nets – in memory of Malik Sealy.  I might have to drag myself to the Barclay’s Center to see KG one last time in person.

2. Indiana Pacers: The country finally got to see who Paul George was and what this Pacers roster is all about in last year’s playoffs.  I don’t expect them to digress whatsoever.  In fact, if Danny Granger can stay healthy and Luis Scola provides quality backup minutes at the PF/C spots, this team is very, very dangerous.  Quite honestly, I love this team.

(You didn’t think I would talk about the Pacers and not mention David Kahn’s selection of Wesley Johnson over Paul George, did you?  The worst lottery pick the franchise has ever made.  The worst … and the bar is pretty ‘high’ for that proclamation.  THE WORST!  Let’s move on before my blood pressure pills start wearing off …)

1. Miami Heat: The Heat won something like 75 games in a row (it was 27) last season and the NBA Championship.  You know the story and the cast of characters.  Until someone knocks them off the pedestal, it is hard to place them anywhere else.

Which brings us to the playoffs, based on the seeds above.  Here is how I see the Eastern Conference Playoffs unfolding:

Eastern Conference

The top four teams in the East are light-years ahead of the rest of the conference, so they should all advance pretty easily out of the first round – unless you like the Knicks.  Then things get very interesting.  As mentioned above, I think the Bulls take it “easy” in the regular season a bit but knock out the defending champs, which sets up a close to epic battle against the Pacers.  I simply believe it is the Pacers time.

The early exit for the Heat leads to about 15 million stories and rumors about LeBron heading back to Cleveland, to the Lakers, etc. etc.  That’s going to be a lot of fun!

What do you think?  Is it too early to dethrone the Heat?  Do they have another trophy coming?  What are your surprise or disappointment teams in the conference?  Let us know below!

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Welcome to the new and improved Timberpups.com!  We are excited to announce the rollout of our new Forums section – a new home for all of your thoughts on the Timberwolves!  Whether it is roster moves, rumors, or game day coverage, look towards Timberpups.com for all the latest news and opinion on our beloved Wolves.  As you will see when visiting the Forums page, we have also set up areas for broader NBA discussion; including the draft and next summer’s free agency.  We will customize this further in the future as we search for and receive your feedback.

The good news doesn’t stop there!  We have some even greater news to go along with the deployment of our new message board system for one lucky Timberwolves fan!  One of the first 500 guests to register on the site will win two tickets to a future Timberwolves game at the Target Center!*

That’s correct, we’re buying you tickets to a future game.  Our staff will be randomly selecting three numbers 0-9.  The registrant with the matching number will be notified on the Forum after the drawing.  We will work with the winner’s schedule accordingly.  However, it would be great if we could somehow align calendars and all attend a game while John is visiting the Twin Cities this fall.

*Here are the legalities:

  • Timberpups.com will provide the winner with two tickets to a home game at the Target Center during the 2013/14 season.
  • The winner is/will be responsible for all other logistical planning.  If travel is necessary and not feasible for the winner, we will work with you and send a Timberpups Fan Pack!

We are looking forward to the evolution of Timberpups.com and want to hear from you.  Let us know what you think of the Forums section, what you see are improvement areas, what you may like, etc.

Thank you!

~ The Timberpups.com team

2013/2014 Western Conference Preview

Western Conference Logo

Well, we can now call this an annual tradition, so welcome back to another Timberpups.com’s preview of the NBA’s Western Conference.  I’m going to stick with a similar flow for the preview, ranking the conference from worst to first and taking a stab at how I see the playoffs unfolding.  As I was ranking the teams this year, I quickly realized that there isn’t a team in the conference that doesn’t have its flaws.  I also have no idea how things are going to pan out at the top of the conference given injuries, old age, and a few other wrinkles we’ll tackle when we get there.  Enough foreplay, here we go …

15. Phoenix Suns: I’m not even sure where to start.  If I were a Suns fan going to home games, my regular attire would start with a brown bag.  The owner is reprehensible, the front office is something a little less derogatory, and the roster is a mess.  Eric Bledsoe is going to be a fantasy basketball stud.  Marcin Gortat should put up nice numbers as well, given the Suns’ rookie is Alex Len and already listed as “Day-to-Day”.

14. Sacramento Kings: Any time you have a coach-killing, I don’t give a crap, locker room cancer up for a new contract, you have to max them out, right?  Particularly after a lost season when your old ownership group dragged the entire city through the mud.  This will be a fun team to watch with Greivis Vasquez and Ben McLemore in the backcourt, but I hate their frontcourt and I’m not moving this team up any further with Cousins the proud new owner of a max contract.

13. Portland Trailblazers: This is likely where I lose a lot of readers, but I foresee a lost year for the Blazers, who will be held hostage by LaMarcus Aldridge – reportedly not happy with the team and looking to move on.  The Blazers are another team that will look great playing small ball with Lillard, Matthews, Batum, and McCollum, but I think they suffer from the distractions.  One final question: is Thomas Robinson going to figure out life in the NBA this season?

12. Utah Jazz: The Timberwolves’ trade partner from draft night!  Trey Burke and Alec Burks make for an intriguing backcourt (and an announcers nightmare).  This team still has 2 or 3 too many wings on the roster and a complete lack of balance.  They have no depth at PF/C, so expect a lot of run for Favors and Kanter, and then expect them to hit a wall after the all-star break.

11. Los Angeles Lakers: Who knows when Kobe will come back, but what I do know is that he isn’t human.  So when he does return, he’ll be at least 80% of Kobe and that’s better than 90% of the players in the NBA.  At the same time, I think this team can tread water thanks to Nash, Gasol, and to a much lesser extent, Kaman.  If they would have signed one decent wing this offseason, I think they would fight for the last playoff spot.  Sorry, Nick Young and Wesley Johnson fans.

10. Denver Nuggets: This year’s winner of my “I literally have no idea what to expect from this team” award.  I think Brian Shaw is going to be a good coach, unless he tries to replicate Kurt Rambis’ performance in Minnesota.  I like Lawson and Faried, while Gallinari/Chandler are certainly serviceable (note that Gallinari is injured).  But then I look and see their SG rotation (Evan Fournier, Randy Foye, and Quincy Miller) and their starting Center (JaVale McGee) and think there is no way this team flirts with 40 wins.  Again, I have no idea where this goes.  (#Analysis)

9. Dallas Mavericks: This was my surprise team in last season’s preview.  That didn’t go too well, but the team was still competitive.  They are another year older (Dirk, Marion, and Wince Carter) and have a huge question mark in the paint – Sam Dalembert.  The addition of Monta Ellis adds a lot of intrigue, if only to see how long it takes for Rick Carlisle to become the first coach to ever attack a player on the floor with a chair from the first row.  The West is too strong/competitive for the Mavs to make the playoffs in my opinion.

PLAYOFF TEAMS                                                                                                                               

8. New Orleans Pelicans: New team name, new mascot, and a few new faces.  This is one of the few teams that are on my “must watch” list to see how these guys work together.  The Pelicans stole the draft by getting Jrue Holiday, but then went out and got Tyreke Evans.  If Eric Gordon or Austin Rivers can stay healthy (I know, I know), this team is going to be highly entertaining.  I haven’t even mentioned Anthony Davis yet, who had a strong rookie season and will only get better.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves: So, I have to be honest.  The Western Conference is ridiculously loaded and I wound up seeding the playoff teams with two thoughts: 1. some semblance of how I legitimately thought things would wind up and 2. one eye on the playoffs and creating exciting first round match-ups.  We’ll get there, trust me.  The Wolves are already down one man (Budinger) after last season’s debacle and really can’t afford to lose anyone else, particularly on the wing.

Last season was supposed to be the year the team returned to the playoffs and broke the curse, thereby allowing this season to be “the next step”.  So we are behind a year on that roadmap, but I do believe this team is a lock for the playoffs if it can stay healthy.  How far it can go heavily depends on Love returning to his “Best PF in the NBA” tag and Rubio making a significant leap in rankings among PG’s.  If those two things happen, and they are big “if’s”, this team can do a lot of damage, as all of the complementary pieces are there – shooting, depth, veterans, young guns, and more.

One last thought: Derrick Williams or Shabazz Muhammad must wedge themselves into Adelman’s rotation to fill minutes at multiple positions.  If this happens, the team will be ready to roar come playoff time.

6. Golden State Warriors: This team is scary good on paper and there lies the problem.  Do I really want to rely on Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut to stay healthy and not miss significant time over the course of a season?  Is Harrison Barnes going to breakout?  Is Andre Iguodala a nice stats, falters when it matters type of player?  Everything about this team says it could be a top four team in the conference, but I couldn’t bring myself to move it any higher than this spot.

5. Memphis Grizzlies: We know what Memphis did last season in the playoffs and quite honestly, that is the only reason I have them above GS.  I really like what the Grizzlies did in getting Ed Davis.  However, I thought Tayshaun Prince could have been shopped this offseason in order to find an upgrade on the wing.  Gasol and Randolph are going to bring it every night and Mike Conley has found himself as a PG in the NBA.  This is just a really good “team” on both ends of the floor and I’m not going to discount that.

4. Los Angeles Clippers: Here is what I wrote last season for the Clippers:

I hate watching the Clippers, which bothers me because I used to love watching Chris Paul.  However, the LA hype that they get now just bothers me.  Paul and Griffin whine to the refs at every whistle.  Anyone that thinks Griffin is a better pro than Love doesn’t understand basketball.  The owner of this team is disgusting.  Have I mentioned I don’t like the Clippers? 

Nothing has changed.  In fact, I had them at #4 last season as well.  Chris Paul is running the entire franchise, but to his credit, players are coming to LA to play for the Clippers, the latest example being JJ Redick.  They have a solid starting five and three solid backups in Collison, Crawford, and Barnes.  Beyond that eight man rotation though, it is a little frightening if you are a Clippers fan (Byron Mullens, Ryan Hollins, and Antawn Jamison?  Yikes!).

3. Oklahoma City Thunder: Well, the James Harden trade certainly didn’t work out.  As I mentioned after the trade, I hate seeing teams sell when they have a very legitimate shot at a ring and that’s what Sam Presti did and now they have to figure out how to right the ship.  It always helps when you have Kevin Durant.  The injury to Russell Westbrook will cost the team at least a couple of wins in the early part of the season and that is going to cost them a top two seed in my opinion.  Are we sure Serge Ibaka is only 24 years old?  He was drafted by the Sonics and that team hasn’t been around in what feels like a decade.

2. Houston Rockets: You may notice what I’m doing here if you are a Wolves fan, but I slide the Rockets into the 2 seed of the conference.  You may have heard that Dwight Howard signed with the Rockets this offseason.  James Harden took ‘the leap’ last year and became one of the top players in the league.  PG play is a concern, but the Rockets have good depth at the forward positions (while not spectacular) and a top three player at their respective positions in Howard and Harden.  This equates to a lot of regular season wins and the 2 seed in my book.

1. San Antonio Spurs: Why?!  Will this team please go away!  I say this half in jest because the Spurs play great basketball and showed the nation that they could hang with the Heat.  The NBA Finals were as good as professional basketball can look.  Naturally, the Spurs found diamonds in the rough in Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green and every other franchise just continues to shake their collective heads.  I can’t make a case for anyone else in the 1 seed, given the injury to Westbrook in OKC.

Here’s how I see the playoffs shaking out:

2014 Western Conference Playoff Predictions

As mentioned earlier, I tried to make the first round as entertaining as possible with the seeds.  Spurs roll over a ‘happy to be here’ Pelicans team, the Clippers again in the 1st round (YES!), the Thunder take care of a pesky Warriors team, and the Wolves upset the Rockets!

Come on, look at all those storylines: Adelman vs. McHale, Dwight choking in the playoffs, the Wolves getting stronger as the season progresses and culminating in the upset!  This would be fantastic.  Honestly, name a worse first round opponent for the Rockets, not named the Spurs and Thunder.  Pekovic and Love can frustrate the heck out of Howard, and the team can throw a number of players out there to man up on Harden … or at least provide their respective six fouls.  Make this series happen!

Beyond the first round, you see a pretty straightforward run by the Spurs and Thunder, setting up the rematch to represent the conference in the Finals.

Where am I off my rocker in the conference rankings?  Who do you see representing the conference in the Finals?  Let us know in the comments below.

Also, be on the lookout for an Eastern Conference Preview within the next week or two.