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2015-16 Minnesota Timberwolves Season Preview

Basketball Insiders previews the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 2015-16 season.

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Updated 10 months ago on
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The Minnesota Timberwolves finished the 2014-15 season with the worst record in the NBA. However, with top overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns, an emerging star in Andrew Wiggins and a cast of exciting supporting players, the Wolves could turn the corner fairly quickly if they can stay healthy.

Basketball Insiders previews the 2015-16 Minnesota Timberwolves.

Five Thoughts

The Timberwolves have assembled one of the most intriguing young cores in the NBA and I’m excited to watch them develop over the next few years. With Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio, Shabazz Muhammad, Adreian Payne, Gorgui Dieng, Anthony Bennett and Tyus Jones among others, this is a team that could be very, very good several seasons from now. I love the one-two punch of Wiggins and Towns. I also love the fact that Minnesota has brought in veterans like Kevin Garnett, Tayshaun Prince and Andre Miller who know their role and are there to help the team’s young players. I’m a big believer in surrounding a young core with strong veteran leaders who can help them adjust to the league (on and off the court) and I think it helps those prospects maximize their full potential. The Wolves should show some improvement this season since they’ll have internal development and added some veterans, but they’re likely still going to be near the bottom of the standings. That means they’ll add another top prospect to this core in next year’s draft, making their roster even scarier. This is definitely a team that I’m keeping a close eye on as they develop and approach their collective prime.

5th Place – Northwest Division

– Alex Kennedy

The future is bright for the young Minnesota Timberwolves. Not sure if you have to wear shades to view them just yet, but the post-Kevin-Love era is undoubtedly headed in the right direction. The addition of veterans Kevin Garnett, Andre Miller and Tayshaun Prince gives the team’s young core much needed maturity. The problem is those guys are no longer capable of playing major minutes for extended periods of time. This means Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine and the other young gunners need to be ready for prime time. They’re not. But this squad is going to give plenty of teams headaches this season before fading late in games. We’ll call it growing pains.

3rd Place – Northwest Division

– Lang Greene

As far as burgeoning cores go, there really isn’t a more exciting one in the league than Minnesota’s right now. Granted, this is a terribly inexperienced roster that managed only 16 sad wins a year ago, so it’s ridiculous to expect them to make a meteoric rise, but some sort of measured improvement will be obvious this year as these young pups start to come into their own. Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins is a bona fide stud (as we knew he would be), but other youngsters like Zach LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns, Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad inspire optimism as well. They’re fast, athletic, well-rounded and actually pretty intimidating defensively. Don’t expect the playoffs, but they won’t be a basement dweller this season either.

4th Place – Northwest Division

– Joel Brigham

The Timberwolves are an intriguing mix of highly touted youth and proven veterans. The roster includes the last three first overall picks, combined with players in the final chapters of their lengthy careers. This season, the rebuilding process will continue for the Timberwolves. The difference is they will have players who can also double as coaches on the court and in the locker room. The playoffs are still a ways away for this squad. This season, the focus is on building the foundation for the future.

4th Place – Northwest Division

– Jessica Camerato

I remember co-hosting one of our Basketball Insiders podcasts back in June and suggesting to Alex Kennedy that the Minnesota Timberwolves would have a puncher’s chance of making the playoffs. I immediately walked back on that assertion when I realized that we are going to witness the most competitive Western Conference ever this coming season. To be frank, I’d give the Timberwolves the same chance of making the playoffs this season as I would Kevin Garnett winning the league’s Most Valuable Player Award, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not excited for what the future of the franchise holds. Andrew Wiggins, without question, is as good as advertised and with Karl-Anthony Towns joining him in the middle, you’d probably have to go back to the late 1990s to find a similarly talented duo in the Twin Cities. So yes, the Timberwolves have reason to hope for big things in the future, especially when you realize that you can easily rattle off the names of quite a few veterans who should help make immediate contributions. The list begins with Garnett and continues with Andre Miller, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and Tayshaun Prince. Each of those five may be over the hill, but their contributions will be felt in the locker room and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tyus Jones, Anthony Bennett and Shabazz Muhammad benefit mightily from learning from the veterans. I nearly talked myself into giving them a puncher’s chance to get into the playoffs again, but then realized that there are still a far cry from the New Orleans Pelicans, and even Anthony Davis’ team will have to scratch and claw their way in. I’m inclined to put the Timberwolves ahead of the Denver Nuggets and the Portland Trail Blazers out in the Northwest, but I don’t think I have that type of courage yet. I’ll split the difference and give them the nod over one of those teams, but I admit that this depends greatly on the health and play of Ricky Rubio.

4th Place – Northwest Division

– Moke Hamilton

Top Of The List

Top Offensive Player: Andrew Wiggins

Once Wiggins settled into the NBA, the 2014 first overall pick and 2015 Rookie of the Year went on an offensive surge to finish his first season. Wiggins increased from 12.3 points per game in November to 23.2 points per game in April. He averaged 20 points after the All-Star Break. At only 20 years old, Wiggins still has a high ceiling, and his numbers should improve with another offseason of work under his belt and veteran leaders surrounding him.

Top Defensive Player: Karl-Anthony Towns

Last season, Gorgui Dieng led the Timberwolves with 8.3 rebounds and 1.73 blocks per game. This time around, watch for this year’s first overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns to make an impact on the defensive end. The big man averaged 12.8 points and 7.2 boards, including two double-doubles, at the Las Vegas Summer League. Towns will be learning hands-on from Kevin Garnett, a mentorship that should translate to success on the court.

Top Playmaker: Ricky Rubio

The oft-injured point guard is set to return from an ankle injury that required season-ending surgery. He was limited to just 22 games last year. But when healthy, Rubio can be a driving force in the backcourt. Last season, he averaged a team-high 8.8 assists. He also contributes across the stat sheet, posting 10.8 points and 5.7 rebounds as well. There is no doubting Rubio’s ability to create for his teammates. It’s being able to stay on the court that will be key.

Top Clutch Player: Kevin Martin

The Timberwolves will search for their top clutch player this season as their talent continues to grow. In the meantime, Martin has the veteran know-how to create plays down the stretch. His years of experience give him the edge to stay cool under pressure, whereas his younger teammates haven’t been in as many close NBA game situations yet.

The Unheralded Player: Shabazz Muhammad

Muhammad was in the midst of a breakout year before undergoing season-ending surgery on his shooting hand (finger) last season. The former 13th overall pick followed up a disappointing rookie campaign by increasing his numbers from 3.9 points and 1.4 rebounds to 13.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. His career got off to a lackluster start, but he was in the process of turning it around before the injury.

Best New Addition: Karl-Anthony Towns

Landing the first pick in this year’s draft gave the Timberwolves the opportunity to add Towns and piece together a young core that has the potential to grow into a legitimate contender down the road. By landing Towns, the Timberwolves now have a dangerous one-two punch with him and Wiggins that they will be able to build around.

– Jessica Camerato

Who We Like

1. Kevin Garnett: One of the best basketball minds in the game, Garnett brings so much more to the Timberwolves than just his ferocious intensity. There will be stories of how he barked at his younger teammates and anecdotes of scaring rookies straight, but this future Hall of Famer is one of the best assets any roster could have.

2. The Youngsters: The Timberwolves already have a bevy of young talent that the team can mold and develop. With players like Wiggins, Towns, LaVine, Muhammad and Dieng on their roster since their rookie years, the Timberwolves are able to develop their talented players from the very start of their careers rather than acquiring them later on. This is a luxury some teams don’t have.

3. Gorgui Dieng: Dieng quietly emerged in his sophomore season to average a near double-double with 9.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. He nearly doubled his numbers from his rookie season and showed the Timberwolves his potential to grow. Dieng is set to earn $1,474,440 this season, a bargain for what he can contribute.

4. Tayshaun Prince: The signing of Prince didn’t make much noise – another veteran signing with another non-playoff team. Prince, however, is a high-caliber veteran presence who brings championship-winning experience to this inexperienced team. The combination of Prince, Garnett and Andre Miller will offer an invaluable wealth of wisdom to the young roster.

– Jessica Camerato

Strengths

The Timberwolves have four top overall picks on their team, including the previous three in Towns, Wiggins and Anthony Bennett (Garnett is the fourth, drafted in 1995). The Timberwolves have youthful hunger and veterans to help guide it. This team has a core of emerging talent that, when paired with a trio of veteran leaders, could be a successful combination to build a foundation for years to come.

– Jessica Camerato

Weaknesses

The youth and inexperience of the Timberwolves will work against them when competing in the ultra-deep Western Conference. They are going up against teams that have already won together, boast multiple title winners and have established themselves as annual contenders. It is a long road to earn a playoff spot in the West.

– Jessica Camerato

The Burning Question

Can Anthony Bennett make an impact?

Bennett was the first pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. His career got off to a rocky start with a disappointing rookie year and a battle with injuries. He averaged 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds last season, after being traded to Minnesota from Cleveland. Now, entering his third season, the learning curve should be behind him. It remains to be seen if the projected top-tier talent will emerge or if Bennett will continue his struggles as a top pick that hasn’t panned out. His time starring for Canada this summer may give him a confidence boost and help get his development back on track.

– Jessica Camerato

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