October 28, 2010
Last year's record? 15-67, missed playoffs.
Projected record, as predicted three months ago in time to publish in Yahoo! Sports' NBA Preview Magazine? 13-69
Why I think that sounds about right?
Because of Kurt Rambis.
His three best players last season were Al Jefferson, Kevin Love(notes), and Ramon Sessions. His team traded both of those players in the offseason, and he's still playing Love less than half the minutes a game allows when the mood strikes him.
His team is full of interesting talents, and a good GM could do great things with the assets collected, but in spite of a sound preseason run, the Timberwolves are worse on paper than they were last year, and run by a coach who takes things that are good on paper and turns them into terrible, terrible things on the court.
Why I think I might be terribly, terribly wrong?
Because there isn't a terrible, terrible amount of talent on this team.
This squad truly does have 30-win talent. Maybe more. And that's not just dependent on Kevin Love getting the playing time he deserves. Luke Ridnour really turned a corner last season, Koufos and Pekovic can play, and Wesley Johnson might turn into one of those guys who underwhelm at the college level but play exceedingly well in the pros.
And, really, I'm rooting for that. Because this is a fan base that has been through a lot, and I've always had a soft spot for the Wolves. I want this team to turn it around. I want to be able to root for Rambis. I want this run to end.
It's hard to know where to start with the Timberwolves, statistically, because they were heinous just about everywhere last season.
They had the league's second-worst offensive efficiency and third-worst defensive efficiency marks. They were fourth from the bottom in both effective field goal percentage and eFG% allowed, and posted the NBA's third-lowest True Shooting Percentage. They finished 25th in free throw rate and 28th in turnover rate, and had the league's second-lowest team Player Efficiency Rating. (On the plus side, they were a middle-of-the-pack squad on the offensive glass, due in large part to Kevin Love's fantastic work on the boards.)
Which is to say: The numbers bear out just how tough a time Kurt Rambis' team had in 2009-10. The silver lining, of course, is that they almost can't help but be a little better this time around. On offense, at least.
Sure, they moved a dominant low-post scorer for a pair of first-rounders and Kosta Koufos(notes), but unquestioned starters' minutes for Love should mean an increase in his already excellent production (nearly 18 points, 14 rebounds and three assists per 36 minutes last season), and import Nikola Pekovic has a Euroleague pedigree as a beast on the block. The addition of Ridnour, who has finished about 30 percent of his team's possessions with an assist over the course of his career, should lend a steadier hand to the Wolves' offense. A healthy Martell Webster (a career 37 percent shooter from deep) and 2010 first-rounder Johnson (who connected at a 41.5 percent clip from distance for Syracuse last year) could help on the wing. A fresh start could help Michael Beasley(notes) get closer to fulfilling the offensive promise of his rookie season, when he averaged 20.1 points per 36 minutes (hitting 47 percent of his field goals and 40 percent of his three-point attempts) before sophomore slumping a bit.
That's obviously a lot of qualifiers, and this team will still have problems stopping most of their opponents (witness the 114.7 points per 100 possessions they allowed to the Tyreke Evans(notes)-less Sacramento Kings in losing last night's season opener). But as presently constituted, the Wolves appear at least a little more capable of cashing in on the other end of the court (witness the 113.7 points-per-100 they put up on Sacramento in the one-point loss), which would be a step in the right direction. A baby step, yes, but given last year's struggles and all the youth on this team -- Minnesota has one player, Ridnour, who was born before 1985 -- even that much would be encouraging.
"Wow, it says here that 18,038 pieces of wrought iron had to be joined together to create the Eiffel Tower. Isn't that neat, you guys?"
"Shut up, Wesley."
I know I should be focusing on the more uneven elements of Corey Brewer's profile -- the decline in his rebound rate since becoming a starter, the ghastly effective field goal and True Shooting percentages, the 13-point deficit between his Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating, and so on. But I seem to be having some trouble embarking on a serious, measured discussion of his strengths and weaknesses as a player because HOLY COW, DUDE.