The T'Wolves Are Only Getting Better
*Photo via NBC.com
It all started when the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted Ricky Rubio with the 5th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. Finishing towards the basement of the league would grant you the opportunity of picking in the lottery, and the in the 2008-09 season, the Wolves finished 24-58. The Wolves haven’t made the playoffs since the 2004-05 season when Kevin Garnett was the face of the franchise and more importantly, one of the faces of the NBA.
Due to years of ineptitude as a franchise and several selections in the lottery, the Wolves are primed for a revival in the tough Western Conference. Their resurgence is led by an infusion of talented youth who have put the bounce back in Minnesota’s step.
The 19 year-old, reigning 2015 Sprite Slam Dunk Champion, Zach LaVine, is box-office material because of his athletic ability. However, don’t be fooled, he can do a lot more than just dunk. He’s capable of playing point and two-guard, can shoot the long ball and has the athletic ability to be a defensive force on the perimeter. But he is the dunk champ, so let’s watch some dunks.
Both Shabazz Muhammad (22 years old) and Gorgui Dieng (25 years) are fresh off encouraging sophomore seasons for Minnesota in which both played major roles. Anthony Bennett (22 years), showed out in the 2015 Toronto Pan American Games, highlighted by a double-double, 18 points and 14 rebounds performance against Team USA in an OT win.
And did I mention Wiggins (20)? The number one overall pick in 2014, validated the hype during his rookie year Wiggins 16.9 points on 43 percent shooting and was the runaway 2014-15 Rookie of the Year winner.
Sounds like a promising young core right? It gets better as the Timberwolves selected Karl-Anthony Towns 1st overall, gaving them the perfect side-kick for Wiggins. Minnesota also traded for the home-town guard Tyus Jones, who is fresh off winning the 2015 NCAA Title with the Duke Blue Devils, to add backcourt depth.
The Wolves have been stockpiling young-and-talented prospects the last couple of years and for a fan-base that hasn’t had much to celebrate in recent memory; those days are on the brink of being history.
Let’s be honest.
The Wolves probably will miss the playoffs next season, but I guarantee that they will be must-watch television. With the future of the NBA in Towns and Wiggins, the Wolves will get plenty of chances to showcase their gifted youngsters on national TV and earn plenty of fans worldwide.
The aforementioned core, along with Nikola Pekovic, Robbie Hummel and Kevin Martin, will annoy and irritate the top-tier teams in the West. The Wolves will play a brand of basketball that will definitely cater to the fans and terrorize almost every opponent in the league, and I’m predicting a bevy of fast-breaks. How many alley-oops dunks will Towns and Wiggins flush? How many breakaway chances will LaVine have at the rim all by his lonesome? And how many assists will Jones and Rubio accumulate by seasons end? The Wolves have the horses to run for 48 minutes and the defensive potential to create those chances with Towns, Dieng and Pekovic protecting the rim.
With the return of Kevin Garnett, the Wolves brought their native son back home to retire as the greatest and most iconic player in franchise history. I can’t imagine the impact that KG will have on this young group, especially KAT and Wiggins. Garnett has seen it all during his Hall-Of-Fame career and has even earned a ring, something he could use to sell to the youngsters about what it takes to be great.
And to further that education, the Wolves also added Andre Miller to the mix. The “Professor,” will be entering his 17th season in the NBA and his leadership will be vital to the young core as Jones and Rubio, specifically, should be the beneficiaries of his basketball intelligence. Miller can teach them a thing-or-two about running the point in the NBA after having a successful tenure.
Wolves management, after a number of bad picks during the years, O.J. Mayo (‘08), Johnny Flynn (‘09), Wesley Johnson (‘10) and Derrick Williams in (‘11), have finally struck gold in LaVine, Towns and Wiggins, among others. The Wolves are still a couple years away. It will take time for some of the Wolves premier young talent to develop into the stars they are projected to be, but that’s the beauty of it.
Minnesota will have the opportunity to watch this young group gel the next couple of seasons comparable to when Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder were figuring it out. Without a doubt, it’s safe to say that the Wolves have the NBA’s best prospects and will be a contender sooner rather than later.
Stats and information courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and ESPN.com