Timberwolves basketball is back. Sort of. The Wolves first basketball game since April ended in a 103-90 loss to Indiana. Since only 14 players can dress for preseason games, Mo Williams and Nikola Pekovic sat out. Kevin Martin and Anthony Bennett were also inactive, due to minor injuries. Consequently, the majority of the Wolves minutes went to the young guys. The result was fans receiving an unobstructed view of what the future has in store.
The Minnesota Timberwolves announced their 2014 training camp roster this week with little to no surprises. The team has eighteen players on the camp roster and will need to cut that down to fifteen for opening night, 10/7 in Indianapolis to take on the Pacers.
Here is a look at the roster by position and probable depth chart heading into training camp:
- PG: Ricky Rubio, Mo Williams, JJ Barea
- SG: Kevin Martin, Zach LaVine, Corey Brewer, Brady Heslip
- SF: Andrew Wiggins, Chase Budinger, Shabazz Muhammad, Glenn Robinson III
- PF: Thaddeus Young, Anthony Bennett, Robbie Hummel
- C: Nikola Pekovic, Gorgui Dieng, Ronny Turiaf, Kyrylo Fesenko
Several players on the roster can and will spend time at multiple positions. The five players at the end of each position are also the most likely to not make the roster and you can make an argument for and against each one.
First and foremost, the team still needs to find a new home for JJ Barea. If the team can’t find a team willing to part with him for a second round draft pick and/or another expiring contract, it would behoove Glen Taylor to eat the money and simply buy out Barea. There is absolutely no reason for him to be in the locker room for the 2014/15 season. With Mo Williams as the veteran, backup PG and some minutes likely going to Zach LaVine as well, Barea simply doesn’t need to spread the cancer around the club, particularly with so many young, impressionable players on the roster.
Brady Heslip is the next most likely candidate to miss the opening night roster. He and Kyrylo Fesenko are the only two without guaranteed contracts. Barring injuries to players ahead of them, in particular Heslip, it is very unlikely either make the cut. In Fesenko’s case, there is still a longshot chance that the Wolves are looking to find a new home for Nikola Pekovic to make the rebuild 100% official. However unlikely this is, there is still a chance.
The other player that Flip Saunders could be looking to move is Kevin Martin, who had a disastrous first season in Minnesota last year. After a strong first two months, Martin’s game fell off a cliff. Again, in the spirit of a true rebuild, Martin (and his contract) should expect to have a new home at some point heading into this year’s trade deadline.
Who do you think misses the opening night roster for the forthcoming season? Remember, training camp is from Tuesday, September 30th through Sunday, October 5th – highlighted by the midnight “Dunks After Dark” event on Monday, 9/29.
It is August 23rd and the Wolves are back in the news, as it is now 30 days since Andrew Wiggins signed his NBA rookie contract and can now be traded. It didn’t take long for today’s announcement, as Wiggins and Anthony Bennett are on their way to Minnesota for three time All Star, Kevin Love. As had been rumored for weeks, the Philadelphia 76ers worked their way into the deal and will send PF Thad Young to the Wolves. In return, the 76ers will receive Alexey Shved, LRMAM, and Miami’s 2015 #1 pick.
There are a number of pieces to this puzzle worth commenting on, so I’m going to break this up a bit. The future of the Timberwolves is now much clearer and there is some strange light that I’m seeing in the distance.
Au revoir Kevin Love
First and foremost, I think the Wolves did a great job in finding a new home for Kevin Love when all things are considered. He wanted to go play in a specific city and the Wolves found themselves able to acquire a decent haul that provides them with both talent and flexibility moving forward. Love has never been able to get the Timberwolves into the playoffs, has occasionally been considered a stats-focused player, and certainly has limitations on the defensive end of the floor. That said, he is an all-world rebounder, fantastic offensive player and is, in my opinion, the best PF in the game today.
Love has been the face of the franchise since 2010/11 when he became the teams go-to player. Statistically speaking, he hasn’t disappointed. In the four seasons as a regular starter, Love has averaged over 22ppg and almost 14rpg and that includes an injury riddled – knuckle push-ups led – 2012/13 season. While he has been the most marketable player for the franchise, he has not been able to get the club back into the playoffs. There are any number of caveats that can be thrown on this statement, but the fact remains that the Wolves did not make the playoffs during Love’s tenure with the club. His attitude has been called into question and the quotes provided to the media left a lot to be desired.
It was time to move on and we should all do the same. Kevin Love was not the next Kevin Garnett. He was the first Kevin Love, an exciting player that brought some attention to the franchise. Let’s not forget that a lot of this may have been avoided if David Kahn and Glen Taylor just gave Love the max-max deal and/or didn’t agree to his opt-out clause in his current contract.
The franchise core moving forward
Flip Saunders now turns his attention to rebuilding the Wolves once again. There are certainly pieces to work with, including Ricky Rubio, last year’s 1st round pick Gorgui Dieng, and this year’s selection, Zach LaVine. When you throw in Wiggins, there is a lot of promise and potential in the Twin Cities. This is certainly a core group that Wolves’ fans can get excited about and it is a group of players that should be able to grow together with extended minutes on the court next season.
There is one glaring need when looking at that core of four and it is outside shooting. That is where the remaining flexibility that Flip has, or will have in the coming 18 months, needs to be focused on. For those wondering, no, Kevin Martin is not the answer here. He and JJ Barea are the next two players that need to be moved to another city.
The remaining pieces of the Wolves roster
Anthony Bennett had a terrible rookie season, averaging 4.2ppg and 3rpg in under 13mpg. However, he is 21 years old and now has a season under his belt. I’m glad he is staying with the Wolves and was not part of the package that went to Philadelphia, based simply on a “let’s roll the dice and see what we have with him” philosophy. He may not get much better, but he’s one year into his rookie contract so there isn’t much to lose in this situation.
Thad Young just turned 26 years old this summer but has seven years of NBA experience. He is a fantastic athlete who averaged 17.9ppg and 6rpg last season on the 76ers. I’m skeptical as to what Flip Saunders thinks he is getting in Young, but for what the Wolves gave up to acquire him, this was a no-brainer.
(You can pretty much assume that Chris Bosh gets injured this coming season, the Heat sit Wade once this happens and Miami wins the NBA lottery, thereby giving the Sixers this pick. This is what happens when the Wolves are involved in the lottery. The title of a novel based on the Wolves’ history in the lottery would be rightfully named “The Worst”.)
The only other player on the Wolves roster that warrants mentioning here is Corey Brewer. He is likely the only other (relevant) Pup that I see being with the Wolves 24 months from now. His ideal role is an off-the-bench, energy guy in a 8 or 9 man rotation. Assuming Coach Flip doesn’t have a “we must win this game” mentality next season, Brewer should start to become acclimated to this role.
Pinch me, but I think the Wolves received quite the return package for a player that wasn’t going to be here much longer and two guys that underachieved and/or underwhelmed during their tenure in Minnesota.
What do you think Wolves Nation? Are you happy with the return or are you boycotting the Target Center next season? I think you’ll see some exciting basketball being played on the floor, with a good number of speed bumps hit along the way. I’m happy to see this drama resolved, that we have a core group of guys that can grow together and players that could very likely lead this team back to the playoffs one or two seasons from now.
It’s official. pic.twitter.com/cnr7WSoy0k
— Kyle Ratke (@Kyle_Ratke) August 23, 2014
The Minnesota Timberwolves finished the Las Vegas Summer League with a 2-4 record. After losing their first three games, the Wolves were the last seed at the start of tournament play only to pull off an ‘upset’ by defeating the Phoenix Suns in the first round. The Sacramento Kings knocked the Wolves out of the tournament the next day – and wound up with the league championship. The Wolves finished their stay in Las Vegas with a victory over the Pelicans last Friday.
What did we learn in Las Vegas? How did our Pups perform, particularly those that are more likely to be on the opening night roster? Let’s take a look back at #WolvesInVegas with a ranking of the top performers on the squad and what implications said performance may have on the Wolves this forthcoming season. [Read more…]
(Note from John: While this is under my name, Lindsey Young carried the load on this recap. Due to some computer issues, I filled in the blanks for Lindsey. You can thank her for this recap!)
On Thursday afternoon, the Timberwolves faced the Kings in the Wolves’ first game of the 2014 NBA Summer League tournament. Coming in as the #24 seed, the Wolves were definitely the underdogs against the #8 seed Sacramento. The Wolves put up a valiant effort, but in the end they fell short in the final score. Shabazz Muhammad led Minnesota with 24 points, while Gorgui Dieng had an impressive 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Minnesota’s starting lineup featured the following: Zach LaVine, Kyrylo Fesenko, Dieng, Shabazz and Brady Heslip. The game opened on a missed alley-oop by Ben McLemore followed by a nice dish by Muhammad to LaVine for the bucket. McLemore redeemed himself on the following play, though, hitting a long three. [Read more…]
The Las Vegas Summer League started the tournament portion of its competition on Wednesday, kicking off with the #9 seed Phoenix Suns against our #24 seed Timberwolves. Despite being 0-3 in its prior Summer League action, the Pups came out on Wednesday and produced a solid victory to move on in the winner’s bracket.
The Wolves opened up with Zach LaVine, Markel Starks, Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, and Kyrylo Fesenko in the starting lineup. A little “twin tower” action up front for the Wolves and perhaps a preview of things to come in the 2014/15 season. Dieng, Fesenko and LaVine all started off strong, while Shabazz Muhammad got off to a 0-6 start from the field, continuing to move his shooting percentages in the wrong direction in Vegas. At the end of the 1st quarter, the Suns held a 19-14 advantage. [Read more…]
The Timberwolves fought hard in attempt to gain a summer league win, but in the end their offense proved no match against Chicago, and Minnesota came up on the short end of the 107-73 final score. Kyrylo Fesenko and Zach LaVine led the Wolves in scoring with 13 and 12 points, respectively. The Bulls boasted an all-around stronger lineup with six of their guys scoring in double digits. No. 11 draft pick Doug McDermott led all scoring with 20 points and six assists.
The contest started out rather evenly, a back-and-forth battle that saw the lead change three times. In the early part of the second quarter, the Wolves delivered a solid performance. Georgetown alum Markel Starks grabbed a three-pointer immediately followed by a Fesenko slam dunk. Minnesota held the lead at 27-24. However, Lance Thomas answered with a long three of his own, and from that point on the Bulls held the upper hand.
Fesenko played well with rookie Zach Lavine, each of them putting up strong numbers this week. At 7’1″ and 280 lbs, Fesenko could be a huge—pun intended—asset for the Wolves. The Ukrainian has been in the NBA since 2007, but he has struggled to find real success with any team. His longest stint was with Utah, from 2007-2011. He also made appearances with Indiana and Chicago. It will be interesting to see what relationship the Wolves choose with Fesenko following summer league.
Despite watching Minnesota lose its first three games in Vegas, Timberwolves fans have reason to smile about their team’s No. 13 draft pick. LaVine impressed the crowd at the Target Center scrimmage last week, and he’s continued to draw attention on the road. LaVine averaged 12 points, five rebounds and 2.3 assists over the trio of games. According to Wolves writer Megan Schuster, “LaVine had a few tough baskets in the quarter, taking a leadership role while playing point.”
Both teams scored well from downtown, hitting over 40 percent from behind the three-point line. It was in free throws, though, that Minnesota fell miserably short. Chicago knocked down 13-16 from the charity stripe, while the Wolves made only 12 of 22 attempts. The young lineup also struggled to consistently handle the ball, and 18 turnovers certainly hurt in the end.
Shabazz Muhammad also played well, adding 10 points for Minny. One surprise performance for the Wolves was D.J. Kennedy. Kennedy, who went undrafted in 2011 and has been playing for the Israeli Basketball Super League, tallied nine points and four rebounds in just 18 minutes on the floor.
A few Wolves players never got off the bench—among them third-year guard Alexey Shved. Shved played well in the first two games this summer, leading the team in scoring. Minnesota fans are anxious to see if his regular season performance improves over last year.
Minnesota will face Phoenix this afternoon for Game 4. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. CST.