A season after finishing with the worst record in the NBA, there seems to be a lot of optimism for the 2015-16 Timberwolves squad. Last summer they dealt All-Star, and face of the franchise, Kevin Love to Cleveland for the top overall pick in 2014, Andrew Wiggins, as well as 2013 top overall pick, Anthony Bennett. After an awful 14-15 campaign landed them the #1 pick in the lottery, they used it on versatile center Karl Anthony-Towns out of Kentucky. So for those playing at home, the T-Wolves have the last three #1 picks on their roster as well as other young first-round talent to go with them.
Let’s begin with last season’s Rookie of the Year, Andrew Wiggins. In Wiggins, the T-Wolves have their superstar in the making. Wiggins averaged 16.9 ppg, which happened to be a cherry on top of his rookie campaign. Everyone knew he was a great defensive talent, but seeing that he could lead the team in scoring on any given night was a huge plus. I expect in year two, with more help around him, that he will lead this team in scoring without question.
I can’t go on without talking about Wiggins’ fellow 2014 lottery pick Zach LaVine. There was that draft day issue where he didn’t seem too thrilled to be headed to Minnesota, which turned a lot of people off. Early on in his rookie campaign he seemed to get lost in games, only showing flashes of his potential. Then All-Star weekend rolled around and he became a household name as he destroyed the Slam Dunk Contest. After that, it seemed he gained some confidence, as he put together a very solid second half, scoring in double figures 18 times, including a 37-point outburst against the eventual world champion Golden State Warriors. He is currently listed as the backup two guard to Kevin Martin, but I expect the T-Wolves to get creative and find a way to have Zach playing with Wiggins as often as possible. Not to mention Kevin Martin could be an attractive piece to a contender come trade deadline time.
The biggest reason for all the hope in Minnesota is not the return of Kevin Garnett. (Yes, I’ll give you guys who figured he retired a second to wrap your head around that.) It’s #1 overall pick Karl Anthony-Towns, the do-everything center out of Kentucky. He has all the potential in the world. At 6’11” and lanky, he has better range than Okafor out of Philly. He should be able to spread out the defense and keep them honest when he leaks out to that 18-20 foot range, but he can beat up guys in the post. Being a big that can score from anywhere inside the arc will take a ton of pressure off of guys like Wiggins and LaVine, enabling them to get to the basket with ease. If it wasn’t for all the scoring options on Minnesota’s roster he would be the front-runner for Rookie of the Year.
Unlike the Philadelphia 76ers you can see a light at the end if the tunnel for this young Wolves squad. The plan seems to be working and paying off early if guys like Anthony Bennett can reach his full potential and they find a point guard that people are afraid of (Sorry Rubio, but everyone in the league knows you can’t shoot and it shows.) With a ton of young talent and bringing in guys like KG and Tayshaun Prince to teach these kids how to bark at opponents…..I mean, win at the NBA level, it should be only a couple more seasons before they are competing for a playoff spot in the gauntlet known as the Western Conference. Until then, Wolves fans, enjoy watching this young team blossom.
2015-2016 Prediction: 22-60, but they are on the rise.
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