COMMENTARY | The Minnesota Timberwolves need to make the playoffs.
That phrase may be enough to make the average NBA fan say, "Well, that's cute." But it's true for a team that has revamped its roster and front office in an effort to make the playoffs a reality in Minneapolis for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
If those visions don't come to fruition, it could have serious consequences for the Timberwolves. The team's star, Kevin Love may decide he's had enough of losing and make the decision that he can't win in Minnesota. That would trigger a trade, leading to a full collapse for a team finally heading in the right direction.
Such a fate would be on par with a team that has never had luck on its side. These five concerns could be what tips it from playoff contender to once again relying on ping pong balls:
The Timberwolves are set to be a team that will put up points in bunches. That could become irrelevant if the team can't stop anyone on the offensive side of the court.
The Timberwolves lost Andrei Kirilenko over the summer to the Brooklyn Nets and replaced him with athletic wing Corey Brewer. His youth could present an upgrade in the long run, but he'll need to play as well as he did with the Denver Nuggets a year ago in order to keep opposing teams from driving into the lane.
While Brewer will be a main key to improved defense, they'll also need improved efforts from Love and Nikola Pekovic in order to keep frontcourts from dominating in the paint.
If the Timberwolves buy in defensively, they'll have a much easier path to the postseason.
Derrick Williams' Transition to Small Forward
Williams was the second-overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, but hasn't been able to truly emerge as he tries to find what position is best for him to succeed. With the Timberwolves, he's had no choice but to convert to small forward as Love occupies his natural position of power forward.
Williams has not taken this lightly as he's dropped 20 pounds while having surgery on an alignment issue in his jaw that's expected to improve his conditioning.
Whatever it's going to take will be needed as Williams needs to show the Timberwolves that he's a part of their long-term future while improving off of a solid season a year ago.
Will Kevin Martin Thrive Once Again in Rick Adelman's System?
It has already been mentioned that the Timberwolves will be challenged on the defensive side of the court. They're hoping that Martin will be so good offensively, they won't have a problem with it.
Martin had a rough season coming off the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but still has the reputation across the league as a scorer. That reputation should grow as he reunites with Adelman, who produced some of his best seasons as a pro with the Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets.
His shooting will be a major asset on the back end of Ricky Rubio's flashy passes and if he connects, this team will be scary enough on offense to make defense irrelevant.
Will the Timberwolves Stay Healthy?
The Timberwolves had the same "Playoffs or Bust" scenario a season ago, but a slew of injuries put them out of contention early.
It didn't help that Rubio was recovering from a torn ACL suffered in March of 2012, but then Love broke his hand doing knuckle pushups with his trainer. Chase Budinger tore his meniscus in the opening weeks of the season, and Pekovic missed 20 games with several nagging injuries.
This had a big part in the Timberwolves finishing 31-51 rather than competing for a playoff spot. Although Budinger has already injured his knee, the team is healthy to begin the season and will need to do so for a successful season.
Does Love Want to Remain in Minnesota?
From the "Dwight Howard Drama" department, a big long-term concern could be whether Love has made up his mind and had enough with an organization that has become accustomed to losing.
Love has made it known that he wants to play for a winner no matter where it may be. The only question is whether he is convinced that the Timberwolves can become that team in the near future or it would be best to move on.
The organization has made several steps to keep Love happy by hiring Adelman a couple seasons ago and giving vice president of basketball operations David Kahn his pink slip in order to hire Flip Saunders in his place.
If that's enough, we could be looking at a motivated Love willing the Timberwolves to the playoffs. If it's not, this could be the beginning of the end.
Chris Schad is a lifelong Timberwolves follower who has seen a plenty of losing efforts during the franchise's history. His work has also been published on Bleacher Report and Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter @crishad.
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