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NBA 2015-16 Team Previews: Minnesota Timberwolves – Ascending Youth

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Minnesota Timberwolves

Our NBA 2015-16 Team Previews begins in the Northwest, next up the Minnesota Timberwolves

2014-15

Record:  (16-66) 15th in the Western Conference, 5th in Northwest Division, Failed to make playoffs

Rank: Offense: 99.8 (26th)   Defense:109.6 (30th)  Differential/Net: minus -9.8, (28th) Pace: 97.0, (10th)

Key Stats: (as per J. Schuhmann)
The bad: Opponents held an effective field goal percentage (efg%) of 53.7% which was is the highest efg% in the past 18 years, 30th in field goal percentage defense at the basket, 28th in 3-point defense and 30th in defensive rebounding percentage leading to second chance scoring.

The Good:Ranked in top 10 of forcing turnovers and kept opponents off line by not being lured into fouling

Off Season Moves

Key Areas Needing Addressing:

  • Defense, Defense, Defense
  • Learning how to win
  • Staying healthy

Draft: Karl-Anthony Towns selected first overall, Tyus Jones  selected 24th by Cavaliers and traded to T-Wolves,

Player Additions/Players Re-Signed:

Players Exiting:

2015-16

Core Players:  Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Kevin Garnett, Karl-Anthony Towns

Key Reserves: Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng,

Outlook

Rising Star: Take your pick of the talented youngsters, but it’s seem sacrilegious to not focus on Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins who is set for another break through year. Odd to say that given the accolades he collected last year, but he spent all summer working on improving every aspect of his game. Watching him on court he’s like a cross between a graceful gazelle with his natural ease and a powerful tiger who is ready to pounce at any second.

On The Bubble: Ricky Rubio has been mired by injury throughout his short career having suffered a torn ACL and last season missing 62 games due to ankle problems. Though he’s been compared to Pistol Pete Maravich for his craftiness it’s his poor shooting stroke which has been under scrutiny. The issue is whether the T-Wolves management will be willing to keep him in the fold even if he performs well. Barring the team getting out to a blistering start and an organic chemistry existing  between Rubio and the starters his fate may already be determined to be traded.  

X-Factor: Shabazz Muhammad– when the young forward was on the court alongside Wiggins the ROY noted how much easier the game was for him and the team performed at a much higher level. Entering this season expect Mohammad to showcase further growth and if the T-Wolves get close to sniffing a playoff spot coupled with LaVine’s slow rise expect to see Wiggins moved to the SG and Shabazz to fill the SF role in the starting line-up.

Best Case: I’ve ranted quite incessantly about the T-Wolves both on SCS and on the NBA Full Court Radio Show. My gut is telling me they make a huge leap this season and even contend for the 8th seed or better! Unlike most teams in the Association the schedule Gods were extremely friendly to Minnesota giving them just 14 back to back sets and a relatively easy opponent list to start the season (9 EC teams and low end West teams). If they can take advantage to get some wins they’ll build confidence early it may be all they need to carry them through the season.

Of all the young rising teams only Minnesota went out and added veteran leadership adding Garnett, Prince and Miller all players with championship experience (or deep playoff runs in the case of Miller). Each of them offers brings a skill set within their own position (power forward/center, wing, guard respectively) which should pay huge dividends in the development of Minnesota’s youth.

With so much depth Minnesota can also look at trading players like Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and/or Ricky Rubio to bring in a specific player that could push them over the top. Also the last time Sam Mitchell was head coach of a young under performing team he improved them 17 spots on the defensive ladder, won 47 games, his teams division as well as Coach of the Year.

Worst Case: The past few seasons this team has been mired by injury, so getting through the season relatively healthy is key. For as many pundits who expect the team to improve there are an equal number who rank them finishing in the bottom three of the league again. In fairness the team has no expectation on it (other than internally where it was rumored Mitchell told every individual if they weren’t ready to contend for the playoffs not to show up at training camp) so another sub par season won’t surprise outsiders, but it could hurt the mindset of the youth on the team.

Prediction: I’m boldly predicting the Timberwolves contend for the 8th seed and capture it on the final day of the regular season.

Games versus Rockets:

  • January 13th: At Toyota Center in Houston
  • March 18th: At Toyota Center in Houston
  • April 11th: At Target Center in Minnesota

Fansided Affiliate Site: Dunking With Wolves

Make sure you catch up on our entire Team Preview Series, our Houston Rockets Player Profile Series as well as our SCS Round Table Sessions to help you get through the early season. Start your morning with SCS Rocket Science Daily and visit us throughout the day to keep abreast of all your Houston Rockets news and updates.

Next: Jazz Preview

Next: SCS Complete Round Table Sessions

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