After a season full of injuries, Rick Adelman’s squad hopes to put it all together in 2013-14. Minnesota was expected to contend for a playoff berth last year before injuries to Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, among others, derailed their season. The Timberwolves not only brought back their foundation in those two players, but added former All-Star guard Kevin Martin to the mix this offseason.
Points Per Game: 20th
Points Allowed Per Game: 15th
Rebounds Per Game: 14th
Point Guards: Ricky Rubio, J.J. Barea, A.J. Price – Grade: B
Ricky Rubio returns from an injury-plagued season to run the offense. First order of business for the third-year guard? Make more shots. Rubio is a pass-first point guard and that’s a good thing considering he’s connected on only 36 percent of his attempts so far in his NBA career. Rubio simply needs to spend more time in the gym with his jump shot and get better as a shooter for this team to realize its full potential.
Primary backup Luke Ridnour moved on this offseason and with that, J.J. Barea becomes the main reserve behind Rubio. He may not see an increase in minutes, though, since the 23 he averaged per game last season came largely due to Rubio’s injury.
Shooting Guards: Kevin Martin, Alexey Shved – Grade: B
Minnesota addressed their offensive woes in a big way by signing star guard Kevin Martin. Martin doesn’t do much other than score, but that ability should help jumpstart an offense that was fairly dormant last season. His stats took a bit of a hit in 2012-13 playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but with only one ball to share along with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, shots were a bit harder to come by. His 10.1 attempts last season were fewer than he was accustomed to and really contributed to his 14.0 points per game (fewest since his second season in 2005-06).
Small Forwards: Corey Brewer, Chase Budinger, Shabazz Muhammad, Robbie Hummel – Grade: C+
After starting his career with Minnesota in 2007, Brewer returns to the team after spending two seasons in Denver. His addition is a big one, giving some much-needed experience to a young unit after last year’s starter, Andrei Kirilenko, joined the Brooklyn Nets this offseason. Chase Budinger was the favorite to seize the job but a knee injury put him on the shelf to start the season, opening the door for Brewer.
A career 42 percent shooter, Brewer’s not the most efficient scorer. His 3.1 rebounds per game are below average for a forward, too. Still, his addition is a decent one in terms of needing a replacement for Kirilenko and his 12 points a game last year prove he can score in a supplemental role.
Until Budinger gets healthy, the team will look to power forward Derrick Williams to fill some minutes at small forward. Rookie Shabazz Muhammad and/or second-year forward Robbie Hummel should get some looks, too.
Power Forwards: Kevin Love, Derrick Williams, Dante Cunningham – Grade: A
Kevin Love is, of course, not only the star here but is establishing himself as one of the best power forwards in basketball. He returns after a disastrous 2012-13 season when he played in only 18 games after injuring his shooting hand.
Love enters the season after some criticism of the Timberwolves’ front office when he suggested the team needed more help. Averaging just over 17 points and 12 rebounds per game in his six-year career, there’s little doubt that Minnesota needs to do what they can to make him happy. Martin’s addition at shooting guard should help in that regard.
Backup Derrick Williams hasn’t been the star Minnesota hoped for when drafting him No. 2 overall in the 2011 NBA Draft, but he has been serviceable. Last season he averaged 12.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest in 24.6 minutes per game and at only 22, is still learning out there. He shouldn’t get too comfortable, though, since Dante Cunningham will also challenge for minutes.
Centers: Nikola Pekovic, Gorgui Dieng, Ronny Turiaf – Grade: C+
Nikola Pekovic begins his second season as Minnesota’s full-time starting center and fourth overall with the team. Averaging 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds last season, he was arguably one of the league’s most underrated centers. The Timberwolves rewarded that play with a five-year, $60 million contract and are hoping for at least that much production over the next few seasons. Pekovic may never be relied upon to be an offensive star for Minnesota with Love, Rubio, and Martin around, but as long as he rebounds well and puts in the occasional bucket, he’ll be doing his job.
Veteran Ronny Turiaf and rookie defensive specialist Gorgui Dieng will see time behind him as well. Not much offense there, but the pair will provide some experience and defense off the bench.
Coach: Rick Adelman – Grade: B-
Much is expected from Adelman in his third year with the team. In his first season with franchise in 2011-12, he didn’t have the pieces needed to become a viable threat in the Western Conference. Last year, the team missed the playoffs again with the rash of injuries they suffered. Adding Kevin Martin at shooting guard, Minnesota has the most talent they’ve had in his tenure with the Timberwolves. The longtime veteran coach made two early trips to the NBA Finals with Portland early in his career, but has also been plagued with numerous first-round exits. If the team remains healthy and Adelman doesn’t get this team to the playoffs, it could cost him his job.
Team Grade: B-