Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Once again back is the incredible ... Ball Don't Lie's NBA previews, outlining offseason moves, projecting win totals, spinning tracks and much, much more. It's a fun, hot mess. On deck, the Minnesota Timberwolves.

2008-09 Record: 24-58, fourth place in Northwest Division
Head Coach/Glasses: Kurt Rambis/Unfortunately no
Key Additions: Ramon Sessions(notes), Jonny Flynn(notes), Wayne Ellington(notes), Ryan Hollins(notes), Sasha Pavlovic(notes), Oleksiy Pecherov(notes), Damien Wilkins(notes)
Key Losses: Mike Miller(notes), Rodney Carney(notes), Craig Smith(notes), Randy Foye(notes), Kevin Ollie(notes), Sebastian Telfair(notes), Shelden Williams(notes)

Minnesota had a terrible season in 2008-09, but it had to have a terrible season. It needed it, badly, after suffering through some pretty crummy seasons in the years previous. There's a difference, you know.

The team needed to bottom out. It didn't exactly need to sit stud center Al Jefferson(notes) on the shelf, put him through the misery of an ACL-tear rehabilitation, and the roster the squad churned out night after night wasn't worth the good people of Minneapolis' time.

That said, the season was bad enough to send Kevin McHale on his way. I still say McHale had his good points as both a GM and a coach, but by 2009 the man had to go. Probably had to go as soon as he made the (astute) Kevin Garnett(notes) deal and shepherded the Timberwolves (and their 14 psuedo GMs) into a rebuilding process.

In his place is David Kahn, a former hoops scribe and sometimes Bob Costas errand-boy who comes highly regarded. And in spite of an iffy draft, this re-gard-a-tion should sustain. The guy has really cleaned up this roster.

For one, the Wolves will finally have some cap space to deal with, the first time that's happened in well over a decade. When the team picks up its options on Ryan Gomes(notes) and Kevin Love(notes) next summer, while smartly declining to keep Corey Brewer(notes) and Oleksiy Pecherov around, the Wolves will be on the hook for only a little under $36 million in salary without free-agent selections factored in.

I'm not telling you that LeBron James(notes) is due to hit the Twin Cities anytime soon, but Minnesota can be a huge facilitator in trades, it can still sign free agents and continue to keep the cap nice and tidy for the foreseeable future. Nobody's talking about it and they should be.

The problem with that is the right now. The right here and now, the right now that's here. It's not going to be pretty.

Minnesota will improve. Though Al Jefferson still looks like he needs another month to get his legs completely back, a full season of this monster down low will help pull in the wins. And though Kevin Love will be out until December (newly signed Ryan Hollins will be a solid stand-in), the guy is an absolute beast on the boards that can really help a team offensively in several ways.

Did the Wolves blow it with the Jonny Flynn and (especially) Ricky Rubio(notes) picks? Probably. But the team didn't need Mike Miller or even a youngish player like Randy Foye at this point. It didn't need an undersized shooting guard and a properly sized older shooting guard who refused to shoot. It needed to start over.

Rubio as the payoff? Not so hot, so far, I admit. But there are bigger things going on, though the current flow will look pretty nasty.

Brewer's just not an NBA player, and rookie Wayne Ellington has shot terribly in the preseason. Those are your off guards. Love is out, and though the team can use Flynn and Ramon Sessions in a smallish backcourt, it isn't ideal. Especially with the awful backcourt depth (I don't mind Jason Hart(notes) and Damien Wilkins, it could be worse, but come on).

And the new coaching staff intrigues. It's run by new head coach Kurt Rambis and they're trying to employ the triangle offense. And while the team is barely topping 40 percent shooting in the preseason, losing four of five, this tells me that Minnesota's braintrust has its sights set pretty high.

That this isn't just a mad dash to the middle of the pack. That this team is rolling the dice on potential game-changers, like Rubio (even if he can't score to save his life, wouldn't a pass-first guy be perfect on this team full of bigs who need the ball?), and offensive sets that teams will have a hard time matching once the roster is in place and the ball is moving.

This isn't a one- or two-year plan, and I like that. A proper rebuilding with two fantastic talents down low and cap space to come. This season is going to be pretty awful, but after too much time spent trying to chase down the eighth seed, you have to love this team's outlook.

Prediction: 31-51

Kelly Dwyer

Can the T-Wolves make the playoffs with a team consisting solely of power forwards and point guards?

No. They're trying, though, and that's something. And as underwhelming a start as David Khan has had, the man knows this league and will be an improvement over Kevin McHale. This may sound like slim praise, but McHale did have the Timberwolves in the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons. The Wolves have young talent, good talent and expiring contracts to throw around. Kahn isn't finished.

— KD, Yahoo! Sports 2009-10 NBA Preview magazine

TWolvesBlog: "Breaking 30 wins is a solid goal and I honestly think this team is better than last year. Losing Love hurts the first 1/4 of the season, but I do not forsee that affecting our final record too much. Anyone expecting more should follow another team, especially considering watching more than 55 games this season will be damn near impossible (local fans got screwed by cable, it's bad). In summary, this season is a placeholder for next season, when the front office plans to add significant talent. Any other question (i.e can Al and Love play together in the frontcourt?) doesn't even matter. Just try to stomach some basketball in Minny this winter and see what happens." [more]

Canis Hoopus: "Did David Kahn screw the pooch on draft night? [...] No. However, the (excellent) addition of Ramon Sessions begs the question of whether or not the Wolves could have walked away from the draft with Rubio and, say, DeMar DeRozan(notes) instead of Jonny Flynn. Sure, it would have been a big bet to wait out for Sessions, and who knows what would have happened with Sessions' negotiations if Rubio stayed in Europe and Flynn wasn't sitting there as a sure replacement, but ... well, it's pretty hard to ignore the fact that the Wolves had two big first rounders and a free-agent signing over the summer and they were all at the same position. Yes, it's at a position that has killed the Wolves since the days of Sam Cassell(notes), but isn't there a nagging little thought in the back of your head that is whispering 'it could have been done better'?" [more]

Empty The Bench: "Minnesota has been a poor defensive squad for a while now. Part of that rests on Al Jefferson's shoulders, as he's not the defender he should be given his tools and he really doesn't know how to play center. He's a power forward guarding centers. Kevin Love just isn't big enough to man up with NBA centers or bigger power forwards, not yet. The problem is compounded by Minnesota's lack of defense on the perimeter. They have no 2s or 3s. Hopefully a healthy Corey Brewer can develop into the elite wing defender he was drafted to be. The lack of small forwards and shooting guards is a problem on both ends, as Minnesota lacks the dynamic scorers at those positions most teams lean on. Rookie Wayne Ellington is a strong spot-up shooter, and he should get plenty of burn this season, but he's going to be a one-dimensional player for now." [more]

A Tribe Called Quest, "Check The Rhime"

To his credit, David Kahn has not yet tried to acquire Magic Johnson or John Stockton. Every other available point guard in the history of basketball, however, has been on the new Minnesota GM's radar. Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn and Ramon Sessions have all seen their names attached to the Timberwolves in the transactions section of the newspaper. So when you ask Kahn if he's on point, and he responds "all the time," you know he means it.

— Trey Kerby, The Blowtorch

Things are bleak and getting bleaker for the T-Wolves in terms of their contributions to fantasy teams this season. Much of their impact is tied to their two injured frontcourt studs, Al Jefferson and Kevin Love. Love we know will be out for most of the next two months because of a broken in his left hand. He's still a late pick in roto leagues, but he'll be nearly impossible to roster in H2H while he's inactive. And the latest out of Wolves camp is that Achilles tendinitis will sideline Jefferson for at least the immediate future. There aren't many specifics available at this point, but you've got to consider other players at the beginning of the second round while the details are sorted out. He's a per-game stud but there is little reason for the team to push him into action during what figures to be a loss-heavy season.

The team has a pair of excellent young point guards in Ramon Sessions and Jonny Flynn, but the fact that they have them both limits each of their potential impacts. It's why both players are going around the 10th round and why it's difficult to recommend anything earlier than that spot. Ryan Gomes is steady but unspectacular at forward, and he'll be needed to maximize his contributions while Love and possibly Jefferson miss games. He's one of the better late-round options currently available. Corey Brewer has made some noise as the probable starting shooting guard, but his offensive game remains limited enough to keep him out of standard-league consideration. Deep leaguers will want to at least keep an eye on Ryan Hollins and Oleksiy Pecherov while the frontcourt sorts itself out.

— Matt Buser, Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Basketball / BuserSports.com

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AGarner: Wayne and Flynn? Kahn just added 2 more guys to the wolf pack. Wolves, running around Minnesota together, looking for strippers and cocaine.
about 3 hours ago from web

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