COMMENTARY | In professional sports, a team's preseason schedule is not the most intriguing aspect of their calendar year. Yet, that might be far from the truth for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Timberwolves' seven-game preseason schedule will tip off October 7 with a visit from CSKA Moscow and show off several of the team's new additions from this past offseason.
With new additions come several questions that will need to be answered before the games start counting October 30 with a home date with the Orlando Magic. How they answer those will go a long way in determining whether the Timberwolves are a threat in the Western Conference.
1) Will Shabazz Muhammad Be a Contributor off the Timberwolves' Bench?
Minnesota's first-round draft pick from last June carries a lot of baggage, but can make an impact coming off the pine for a team that has lacked a decent bench for a good part of the past decade.
Muhammad has the ability to add scoring whenever he's in the game. Whether that's because he refuses to pass the ball or he has a knack for getting to the rim is for you to decide, but he's someone you wouldn't mind having in the game when the starters need a rest.
If he's able to knock down a couple shots and provide energy, it will be a successful year for a player that the organization views as a project that will have a bright future if he plays his cards right.
2) Can Gorgui Dieng Be a Viable Backup for Nikolai Pekovic?
The other first-round pick for the Wolves is intriguing as well, with Flip Saunders believing that Dieng can backup their highly paid center.
Dieng has a great skill set for a big man, but, most important, he brings a defensive edge to the middle of the lane. He also has a skill set that is raw, but enough to stay productive when their bruising center has to take a breather.
If Dieng can play to the level he's capable of, the Timberwolves will have a deeper bench than expected.
3) Does Lorenzo Brown Have a Future in Minnesota?
An interesting prospect for the Timberwolves has to be Lorenzo Brown, who was drafted in the second round in last June's draft.
A slim point guard with the ability to create his own shot, Brown regressed mightily in his junior year at North Carolina State, which forced him to slide in the draft. However, he was able to have a solid performance in the summer league that gave him an opportunity this fall to earn a roster spot.
With Malcom Lee being traded to the Phoenix Suns over the offseason, the door is open for Brown to fill that guard role on the bench and see some playing time as the season progresses.
4) Is Kevin Martin's Offense Enough to Offset the Downgrade on Defense?
It's been no secret that the Timberwolves have struggled in stopping their opponent and hitting an open shot. The signing of Martin solves one problem, but makes the other a glaring concern.
The Timberwolves didn't sign Martin to be a defensive stopper. He has flourished offensively in head coach Rick Adelman's system and figures to be the guy catching and shooting on the end of some ridiculous Ricky Rubio passes.
But his defensive play remains a concern. If the Timberwolves are able to get some players to help pick up the slack on that end of the floor, then Martin will be a huge addition. If not, we could see some high scoring games in Minnesota.
5) Can the Timberwolves Stay Healthy This Preseason?
A year ago, Minnesota's season was derailed before it even started with injuries to key players such as Kevin Love and Brandon Roy. It didn't help matters that Rubio was also on the shelf as he continued to recover from a torn ACL.
That's why the Timberwolves need to remain healthy throughout October if they want to contend when the games start counting.
They've already been dealt one blow with the announcement of Chase Budinger needing knee surgery, but so far things look better than they did last October. If that's the worst of the preseason news, the Timberwolves will have all hands on deck for what could be an overachieving team.
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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