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2016-17 Minnesota Timberwolves Preview

Brandon Wagenfeld, Blueprint Contributor

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Not once in the history of the Minnesota Timberwolves have fans been so excited to watch the team play. Traditionally, like most other Minnesota sports teams, the Timberwolves have sucked, but this year, it could all be worth it because the Timberwolves actually have a chance to, dare I say, make the playoffs.

Led by superstars-in-the-making Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, as well as borderline all-star point guard Ricky Rubio, sharpshooter and 2-time dunk champion Zach Lavine, and exciting young big man Gorgui Dieng, the Timberpups have as good of a chance as any Wolves team in recent history to break the streak of lottery-bound teams, which as of now stands at 12.

Karl-Anthony Towns has gone from a center with a jump shot and defensive potential to a big man who can shoot from practically anywhere within 25 feet of the hoop, post up, handle the ball, and play solid defense within one year of playing in the NBA.

Look for him and versatile power forward/center Gorgui Dieng to form a formidable duo in the front court. Both are adept post defenders, and in new coach Tom Thibodeau’s offense (a variant of Hall-of-Fame coach Phil Jackson’s famed Triangle Offense) which relies on frontcourt passing, their ability to move the ball and score will be incredibly useful. Both are also insanely hard workers, which coach Thibodeau will definitely value.

Andrew Wiggins has reportedly been working on his strength and shooting, two areas that he definitely needed to improve on after his second year in the league. After averaging twenty points last year, Wiggins should score even more this year with a new offense, courtesy of Thibodeau. He will also be expected to perform better defensively under the new coach who demands nothing but excellence from his players.

Zach Lavine has appeared to improve his shot based on preseason play, which of course doesn’t mean much, but shooting of any kind is appreciated on the Timberwolves based on their three-point shooting percentages from the past few seasons. If he continues to settle into his role as starting shooting guard as expected, he should be expected to average around fifteen points a game and even a few assists here and there, and of course, a few highlight reel dunks.

Ricky Rubio should continue to be a great two-way player this year, averaging around nine or ten points and assists each per game as well as two steals. But what Timberwolves fans should be looking for this year is improvement in his jump shot and finishing ability around the basket, which are two weaknesses that have plagued him throughout his career. Over the last five years, Rubio’s game hasn’t changed much, and neither has his shooting, which is a problem in today’s game where shooting is expected not only from guards but also wings and bigs.

If no improvement is seen from Rubio, he could be traded at the deadline this year and replaced in the starting lineup with rookie point guard Kris Dunn, who has a similar game to Rubio’s but is much more athletic, yet more turnover-prone. Like Rubio, Dunn has struggled with his jump shot. However, if he suddenly develops an above-average shot, Rubio could be out of Minnesota sooner rather than later.

Tyus Jones, despite being the third string point guard, could actually see some minutes this year, just because of how well he played in summer league. He has shown that he can run an offense, and appears to be a better shooter than both Rubio and Dunn, but has not gotten a whole lot of exposure to the NBA game.

Backups Shabazz Muhammad, Brandon Rush, and Nemanja Bjelica should see plenty of minutes as microwave scorers and shooters off the bench. Jordan Hill and Cole Aldrich will likely do a solid job shoring up the frontcourt defensively as well. Guys like John Lucas III, Adreian Payne, and Nikola Pekovic (who is out for the year… again) probably won’t see the court a whole lot, but will hopefully make great cheerleaders as every benchwarmer should.

Overall, I project the Timberwolves to win anywhere from 38 to 46 games this year, and predict them to slip into the playoffs as a seventh or eighth seed, and potentially give teams such as the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs some trouble.

Make sure if you’re a fan of the Wolves, or if you’re a fan of the NBA in general, to catch as many games as possible to witness the rise of a potentially great team.

 

 

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2016-17 Minnesota Timberwolves Preview