The Minnesota Timberwolvesk wrapped up their 2010 pre-season with a 6-2 record. Most bandwagon Wolves fans think this is far from carrying any meaning, and who can blame them? They’re coming off a 2009-10 campaign in which only one team (New Jersey Nets, 12-70) had a worse record than their 15-67 mark. It’s natural to put little faith in a solid pre-season.
It would be quite the uphill battle to try and convince Wolves nation that it will carry over into significant regular season improvements. Trying to preach optimism doesn’t go over well to a fan base whose former face of the franchise is now with division rival Utah, and budding superstar is still in Spain.
That said here are my five bold predictions.
(Note: in my weekly podcast last spring I boldly predicted Albert Pujols would win the Triple Crown. He came scary close to doing so. I’m just saying.)
5) Wes Johnson wins the Rookie of the Year award.
He will have stiff competition from two men; Washington’s John Wall, and Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins.
Presumably the 6th man; Johnson will get a lot of run against other teams’ second units early in games, but will also be seen in crunch time with the chance to hit big shots in big moments. His ability to finish in traffic, create his own shot, and run the floor are assets that will bode well in Kurt Rambis’ new run-and-gun system.
He’s a lock for 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists per game with the potential to add on those numbers. He’s a polished 23 year old that will have no grace period in getting into an NBA rotation. Plus two of the last five ROY recipients were the number 4 overall selections (Tyreke Evans 09-10 and Chris Paul 05-06).
4) Corey Brewer won’t finish the season on the Timberwolves’ roster.
The Wolves added four players this off-season who will have an affect on Brewer’s playing time (Beasley, Webster, Johnson, and fellow rookie Lazar Hayward). If Johnson contributes like they expect him to, and second year man Wayne Ellington continues his progression as a three-point threat; look for the Wolves to deal Brewer at the deadline to a team in need of defensive help. Or if the Suns feel that they need to add another wing; you never know.
3) David Kahn will make a trade that makes sense.
It may be the potential move mentioned above. Another foreseeable scenario would be trading away, again, Sebastian Telfair (once Johnny Flynn comes back from hip surgery). There may be a contender out there who thinks a late first round pick is worth the price for an insurance piece at the point guard position. In that event, even Kahn couldn’t resist making the move.
2) Kevin Love will average 18 points per game and 13 rebounds per game.
There is unlimited value in the experience Love gained by playing in the FIBA World Championships this summer, and by winning a gold medal. He played phenomenal in limited minuets for the USDurants.
Of those who played in 50 plus games last season Love led the league in rebounds per 48-minutes at 18.4 (second was Dwight Howard at 18.3). His points per 48-minutes were 23.6. Al Jefferson is gone which means two things; Love will play more minutes, and get more looks on the block. Add in the continued progress of Love’s 3-point shot (35-106 last year) and it seems possible.
If you take Love’s per 48-minute totals from a year ago and translate that to 35 minutes per game; you have 17.2 points and 13.4 rebounds. Now 18-13 seems realistic.
1) The Timberwolves will at least double their win total from 2009-10
My buddy Eren got into an argument with my co-host on my podcast a few weeks back when he claimed that the Wolves “will win at least 30, maybe 35 games.” I didn’t say anything. Didn’t want to get involved.
He’s not wrong.
Bold predictions 2 and 5 will be key for this to come true.
The Wolves are young and athletic, and their new system will play right into their strengths. Rambis has his first full season under his belt, and he made a great decision to all but scrap the triangle offense.
They will have more offensive continuity with the subtraction of Al “don’t kick it back out” Jefferson. They have a great nucleus of positive attitudes. Flynn (once he comes back) has a year and a couple thousand tweets under his belt, and look for him to increase his production immensely.
They have depth inside, and they have scoring throughout their lineup. Everyone who comes in will be a threat to score, something the 15-win team from a year ago lacked mightily.
Brett and Mike Gallagher do a weekly podcast at www.thebackdoorcut.mypodcast.com , you can follow him at twitter.com/brettcloutier , or you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow paulmbanks