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NBA 2016-17 Team Preview – Minnesota Timberwolves: The Organic Super Team

By Tamberlyn Richardson
Mar 14, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine (8), center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) and guard Andrew Wiggins (22) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns defeated the Timberwolves 107-104. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 14, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine (8), center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) and guard Andrew Wiggins (22) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns defeated the Timberwolves 107-104. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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Mar 14, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine (8), center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) and guard Andrew Wiggins (22) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns defeated the Timberwolves 107-104. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 14, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine (8), center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) and guard Andrew Wiggins (22) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns defeated the Timberwolves 107-104. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 14, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine (8), center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) and guard Andrew Wiggins (22) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns defeated the Timberwolves 107-104. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

 NBA 2016-17 Team Preview – Minnesota Timberwolves. With stars abandoning  teams to form ‘Super Teams’ they should be looking over their shoulders at this young Wolves team who’ve formed an ‘Organic Super Team’.

To prepare our readers for the regular season SCS provides our series entitled  NBA 2016-17 Team Preview for each of the Houston Rockets’ 29 opponents.  Who will return to the playoffs? Which team will fall from grace and who will be the Cinderella team?

Get a complete break down of each team. Included in the profiles are:

  • Where the team finished 2015-16
  • Key 2015-16 stats
  • Future draft pick status
  • Current and future salary rank
  • Off Season Moves
  • 2017 Free Agents
  • Schedule, NBA League Pass and Win Projection Ranking
  • Team Overview entering season (Starting 5, reserves and notable injuries)
  • When each team will play the Houston Rockets
  • Strengths, Weaknesses and Prediction

NBA 2016-17 Team Preview now looks at arguably the toughest division – the Northwest. Next up is the team who is sure to be the next major player in the West: the Minnesota Timberwolves.

NBA 2016-17 Team Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves

2015-16 Record: 29-53

Playoffs:

Missed playoffs finished 13th in Western Conference

Points Per Game: 102.4 (15th )

Opponent Points Per Game:  106.0 (23rd)

Pace: 95.2 (20th )

Offensive Rank: 106.5 (12th )

Defensive Rank:  110.1 (28tht)

Three Point Rank:  33.8% (25th)

Rebounds: 41.6  (29th)

Assists: 23.4 (8th)

Steals: 8.0 (14th)

Blocks: 5.2 (19th)

Turnovers: 15.0 (23rd)

Next: Future postioning - draft, free agents

Oct 21, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Ramon Sessions (7) shoots the ball over Minnesota Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng (5) during the third quarter at Target Center. The Timberwolves won 109-74. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Free Agents:

Restricted:

Unrestricted:

  • John Lucas III
  • Brandon Rush

Future Draft Picks

See Real GM for full details:

Incoming:

  • 2017 second round draft pick from New Orleans
  • 2019 second round draft pick from Miami

Outgoing:

  • 2017 second round draft pick to Boston
  • 2018 first round draft pick to Atlanta
  • 2019 second round draft pick to Portland or Cleveland

Average Age of Team: 26.1 years

Next: Off Season Moves

Oct 21, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Kris Dunn (3) dribbles the ball during the fourth quarter against the Charlotte Hornets at Target Center. The Timberwolves won 109-74. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Draft Picks

Round 1: Kris Dunn (5)

Round 2: N/A

2016 Free Agents prior to July 1, 2016:

Timberwolves began their 2016 free agency with the following free agents:

Unrestricted:

  • Tayshaun Prince

Restricted:

  • Damjan Rudez

Moves made following July 1, 2016:

Incoming:

Exiting:

  • Damjan Rudez has training camp invite with Magic
  • Kevin Garnett retired

Waived: Greg Smith

Next: Schedule, League Pass, Win Projection Rankings

Oct 12, 2016; Lincoln, NE, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) talks to forward Andrew Wiggins (22) during the game against the Denver Nuggets in the first half at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas over-under for wins: 41.5

Schedule strength:

As ranked by ESPN: 15th with 1.25 extra wins

The Wolves are young and energetic, and the schedule should help their athletes stay sharp. Minnesota is one of the 10 teams without a four-in-five cluster.

Games versus Rockets:

  • Saturday December 17th at Target Center, Minneapolis, MN, at 8:00PM EST
  • Wednesday, January 11th, at Target Center, Minneapolis, MN, at 8:00PM EST
  • Saturday February 25th, at Toyota Center in Houston, TX, at 9:00PM EST
  • Wednesday, April 12th: at Toyota Center in Houston, TX, at 8:00PM EST, final regular season home game

Zach Lowe NBA League Pass Rank: 4th

We’re all going to regret this, but for now, it’s fun to get carried away with Wolves Mania. Thibs is back, flapping his penguin wings and bellowing in that unmistakable baritone: “ICE, ICE, ICE!!” Thibs teaching Zach LaVine defense stands as one of the greatest educational challenges in modern world history.

This team is thinner than the hype train realizes, particularly on the wing, but the nucleus of Ricky Rubio, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins inspires legit butterflies. Can we not be in such a rush for the Wolves to trade Rubio, by the way? There isn’t much evidence their offense can subsist without him, the few teams that need point guards don’t have a ton to trade, and his backups might not be ready for major NBA minutes.

Next: Team Overview

Oct 21, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns (32) backs down on Charlotte Hornets center Frank Kaminsky III (44) during the first quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Committed Salary

2016: $83,932,588 – 26th ranked

2017: $59,387,539 – 28th ranked

Team Salary Ranking as per Hoops Hype, and team salary overview also via Hoops Hype

Starting 5:

Point Guard: Ricky Rubio – 10.1  points, 8.6 assists, 2.1 steals

Shooting Guard:  Zach LaVine –  14.0 points,  3.1 assists, 2.8 rebounds

Small Forward:  Andrew Wiggins, – 20.7 points, 2.0  assists,  3.6 rebounds

Power Forward: Gorgui Dieng –  10.1 points,  7.1 rebounds,  1.2 blocks

Center: Karl-Anthony Towns – 18.3 points, 10.5  rebounds, 1.7  blocks

Reserves:

Guards: Kris Dunn, Tyus Jones, *John Lucas III,

Wings: Nemanja Belija, Shabazz Muhammad, Brandon Rush, Adreian Payne, *Rashual Butler, *Toure Murry

Bigs: Cole Aldrich, Nikola Pekovic, Jordan Hill

Notes: * technically everyone else is committed to, Pekovic hasn’t played in forever and is out for the season. Not sure what the insurance implications are or if the team will just waive him. Plus Payne hasn’t risen to the challenge but 2 ayers still need to be cut. Butler and Lucas are players Thibs has a history with so he may want to retain them.

Injury News:

  • Pekovic: out for season
  • Wiggins had a bad allergic reaction which kept him out of the Wolves final 2 preseason games, but knowing Wiggins he’ll be ready to play on opening night. (Not listed on rotoworld as out, so assume he’ll play in season opener).

All injury news as per rotoworld

Next: Strengths, Weaknesses, Prediction

Oct 10, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) shoots the ball as Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) defends during the first quarter at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Team Needs & Notes 12 consecutive seasons out of playoffs

Strengths:

The Thibodeau Factor – one look at the preseason and it’s clear to see Thibs has already made his mark on the teams’ defense. They were abysmal last season, so his presence was definitely what the doctor ordered. Let’s not forget Thibs improved the Bulls by 21 extra victories in his first season in Chicago. Furthermore, Thibs has never suffered a losing season!

Want more proof? When Thibs joined Chicago, the Bulls featured a squad virtually the same as the season prior other than the addition of Carlos Boozer who wasn’t exactly a defensive specialist.  Further in the 5 seasons Thibs coached the  Bulls the worst they finished was 45-37. Notably that record would have placed the Wolves 5th in the West and tied for 7th in the East.  Another interesting take away is the year after Thibs left the Bulls despite an improved roster they finished outside the playoffs with their lowest record since the year prior to Thibs becoming the head coach.

Granted these Wolves are young, but from a talent and athleticism standpoint they are superior to Thibs first year Bulls team.

Karl-Anthony Towns may be young and inexperienced, but he’s ready to take the next step. By year end I expect NBA fans, pundits and even the casual fan to be forgetting about the likes of Boogie Cousins and Anthony Davis. KAT has arrived and he’s not afraid to assume the top spots as the best center league-wide.

For as much as I’m all in on KAT my gut tells me Andrew Wiggins will flourish under Thibs and become a 2-way player on parallel with Kawhi Leonard. The only thing that may stop him is moving to the small forward to make room for LaVine in the starting rotation. The truth is Wiggins hasn’t even come close to showing his full potential,which is a little scary.

Weaknesses:

Depth: while the starting 5 feature a bevy of young talent the fact remains the bench lacks a little to be desired.

Inexperience: will the pressure of many expecting the Wolves to succeed get to this young  squad? Or can the team use it as motivation to improve?

Can Thibs back off his grueling practice sessions?  If he learned anything during his year off it’s not to push players past their limit.

Defense: In 9 of his past 12 coaching seasons Thibs’ teams finished  top 2 in defensive field goal percentage . Granted it will take some time for these young Wolves to fully grasp, but Wiggins, Town, Dieng, Rubio  and LaVine are committed which is more than half the battle.  I’m earmarking check points for Christmas and the All-Star Break. If at either of those junctures the Wolves are hovering around the .500 mark, watch out.

Prediction:

Thibs is still riding a happy wave of euphoria after his coveted draft pick Kris Dunn fell into his lap on draft night. I know the Wolves are inexperienced, I know they play in the power house West, and I know they need to add some 3 point shooters. But, I fully expect the T-Wolves to be this years Cinderella team.

They’ll be the Association’s most improved team and they’ll surpass perennial contenders (the Jazz/Pelicans) to get into the post season. And I won’t be surprised if they vie for home court.

This team is going to be my guilty pleasure again this season and mark my words they’ll be worth adding to your play list because they’ll combine new found defensive aptitude with high octane offense.

Should the Wolves improve as dramatically as I believe they will, watch for players to be in consideration for awards. Specifically, Rubio, Wiggins, Towns, Dieng, Dunn or Belija could factor. And should the team improve enough to gain a playoff berth Thibs himself

Two parting thoughts to remember, Thibs has never had a losing season as a head coach Depending on what tweaks Thibs makes over the course of the season will determine exactly how high they can climb. But if you look at  how far the Bulls fell in one season without Thibs (and with a healthy Rose), the sky is the limit for these young Wolves.

Bottom line, whether it is this season or my prediction is put on hold one more year, this team is on the rise and it’s inevitable these Wolves, though organically grown are the true ‘super team’ on of the NBA’s future.

Next: 2016-17 Thunder Preview: Russell's Revenge tour

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