The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Timberwolves poised for future success

By Mark Thomson

At 4-9, the Minnesota Timberwolves appear to be pretty far from contention. Indeed, their point differential is last in the league, and only four teams have a worse record than them. Most people are projecting them to finish at the bottom of the Western Conference. They traded their best player, Al Jefferson, during the offseason. Ricky Rubio, their 2009 first round draft pick and the best European guard prospect ever, refused to join the team and is still playing basketball in Barcelona. The Timberwolves haven’t been relevant since Kevin Garnett was draining 20 footers at the top of the key. Yet I’m still optimistic. Just to be clear, I’m not saying they’re going to make the playoffs this year, or even next year. There are still quite a few holes in their roster and last time I checked, Darko Milicic is still wearing a Timberwolves uniform. And the Western Conference is quite deep this year. But there are definitely pieces in place.

First of all, the Michael Beasley trade was outstanding. It’s probably a little premature to say it, but the Timberwolves absolutely hustled the Heat. For two second round draft picks, they’ve gotten a 21-year-old player who’s averaging over 20 points a game and shooting almost 50% from the field. Of course, trading Beasley allowed the Heat to free up enough cap space to sign both Lebron James and Chris Bosh this offseason, so maybe Pat Riley figured his 2008 2nd overall draft pick was a fair price to pay.

Having gone to almost half of their home games this year, I can tell you that Beasley is playing like a man possessed right now. He’s driving to the lane determined to score. He’s deferring to his teammates when need be. He’s made 11 out of 22 three pointers (an admittedly unsustainable pace). There’s no reason why this third year player can’t be a franchise cornerstone for years to come.

I’ve also been quite pleased by the play of Wesley Johnson, their 2010 first round draft pick. Despite the fact that his NBA career has only lasted 12 games thus far, he’s third on the team in scoring, third in assists, and fifth in rebounding. He makes about two plays a game where my jaw just drops (he had a ridiculous dunk over Luther Head in his NBA debut earlier on October 28th). I think he can be a very solid player in the league.

Jonny Flynn, taken the pick after Rubio in the 2009 Draft, has a lot of upside as well. Sidelined since the start of the season with a hip injury, he’s a legitimate NBA starting point guard. He could use some work on being a more efficient scorer and distributer (both his shooting percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio were rather pedestrian) but I liked what I saw last year.

I’m also a huge Kurt Rambis fan. I think they have the perfect head coach as long as he’s able to stay patient. He was the longtime assistant coach for Phil Jackson during the Lakers dynasties earlier this decade, winning four NBA championships. Hopefully he can turn around the culture of losing currently plaguing the Timberwolves.

Finally, and most importantly, the reason for my optimism is Mr. 30-30 himself, Kevin Love. Taken three picks after Beasley in the 2008 Draft, he’s been nothing short of amazing this year. His player efficiency rating, as determined by famed statistician John Hollinger, is an All Star-caliber 21.76. He’s averaging 14.3 rebounds per game, first in the league despite averaging fewer than 31 minutes per game.

He’s demonstrated the ability to take over ball games this year, highlighted by his 31 point, 31 rebound game against the Knicks on Nov. 12th. He’s showcased his game on the international level, winning a gold medal this past summer at the 2010 FIBA World Championships. He’s only 22, playing with the maturity of a player 10 years his senior. He’s the type of player teams build around.

In short, there are a lot of extremely talented pieces on the Minnesota Timberwolves roster. They may be a year or two away from contending, as all of the aforementioned players are 23 or younger. But as Lil Wayne would say, this team’s “got no ceilings”. They just need to find a way to tap into this potential.

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