Talented youth headlines 2008-2009 T-wolves roster

By Jack Wickham

The Minnesota Timberwolves finished fourth out of five teams in their division last year. They were tied for the third worst record in the NBA. They traded their leading scorer, rebounder, and franchise star Kevin Garnett to the Celtics. Their 22-60 record was embarrassing by any account. All in all, it was not a good year for Timberwolves fans.

Looking at last season’s performance, the average person would never know how good Minnesota used to be. In the past twelve seasons, the Wolves have been to the NBA playoffs eight times, and they made the conference finals in 2004. Garnett averaged 20.5 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 4.5 assists during his tenure with the Timberwolves. The power forward was voted the Most Valuable Player in the league in 2004 and was widely regarded as the face of the franchise and the team’s most dominant player of all time, though he wasn’t alone in his efforts. All-star point guard Sam Cassell, while in Minnesota for only two seasons, averaged 16.7 points and 6.2 assists per game. Shooting guard Latrell Sprewell also added to the offensive effort with 14.8 points per game.

Things started looking down for the Wolves when Sprewell and Cassell both left right after the 2004-2005 season, Sprewell retiring and Cassell going to play for the Los Angeles Clippers. Though Garnett still put up stellar numbers in the two years he stayed, the Wolves still suffered, attaining mediocre records of 44-38 and 33-49.

On July 31st, 2007, Garnett was traded to the Celtics in the biggest ever trade for one single player. The Wolves received forward Al Jefferson, forward Ryan Gomes, guard Sebastian Telfair, forward Gerald Green, center Theo Ratliff, cash considerations, and two of Boston’s 2009 first-round picks in the draft. From this trade, Minnesota began to try and rebuild a team to return to its past level of talent. Coach Randy Wittman toyed with various different starting lineups to see which was the most effective, and while even towards the end most players were not consistent starters, one player showed himself to be the promise of the team for the future.

The 2007-2008 NBA season was a breakout year for Al Jefferson. As the Wolves’ starting center, Jefferson improved drastically from the previous season, averaging 21 points and 11.1 rebounds a game, one of only four players in the league to average 20 points and 10 rebounds. The team quickly adjusted and built its offense around him, and even though they did not have great success concerning wins and losses, they showed their potential in close games with San Antonio, Boston, and Phoenix, all strong teams.

The 2008-2009 team also has good potential on its roster. The tone was set after a blockbuster trade on draft night. Minnesota traded highly rated rookie, O. J. Mayo, along with three other players for three Memphis players and Kevin Love, another highly touted rookie. In addition to Love, Minnesota also received Mike Miller, an NBA veteran known as an exceptional outside shooter.

For this season, it looks again like Jefferson will be the cornerstone of the team’s offense. Though the team’s record is still a weak 4-12, the team has again shown promise with close matches against Portland and Denver. Perhaps Jefferson and the new team will be the next step in bringing the Timberwolves the respect in the NBA that it once had.