Bold Predictions For Timberwolves Season [Opinion]
The Minnesota Timberwolves' are only a few days away from tipping off their 2014-15 season. The offseason moves that Flip Saunders made has the Timberwolves' organization and fan base excited and intrigued.
It is very difficult to predict this upcoming season for the Timberwolves' mainly because we do not know how fast Wiggins and LaVine will learn and develop and we do not know how the other veteran players' like Rubio, Martin, and Pekovic will play without Kevin Love. In the West it's very likely that five or six teams will be battling for the seventh and eighth seed and because of the ultra-competitive Western Conference, I don't see our team winning more than twenty-six games.
With the season arriving soon, I chose to make this column focus on 2014-15 Bold Predictions.
#1 Ricky Rubio will shoot above 43% this season and become a top 15 Point Guard.
Shooting has been Ricky Rubio's biggest deficiency since entering the NBA. People speak about his strong work ethic and the time he spends shooting after practice, but improvements haven't been seen from the Spaniard. Two particular statistics summarize Ricky Rubio's shooting performance during the 2013-14 season. 1) Ricky Rubio shot only 46% in the restricted area last season. 2) Rubio shot only 28% from mid-range. Among starting NBA Point Guards last season, Rubio ranked last in restricted area shooting percentage and mid-range shooting percentage.
So, why would I expect a sudden rise in shooting percentage from Rubio?? The answer is simple. Rubio's shooting percentage in those two areas can only get better and I look like a genius if this is the year that Rubio finally finds his shooting stroke. But seriously, one of the things that seems very noticeable throughout the preseason is Rubio's strength and build. Rubio's arms look a lot stronger and that improvement should help him finish with more consistency in the restricted area. You don't have to be a good three point shooter to be a good scoring Point Guard, but you do need a consistent mid-range jump-shot. With a consistent mid-range jump-shot, Rubio's passing lanes will widen and he would be a top ten Point Guard in the league.
#2 Our defense will finish top five in steals, but will finish bottom five in points allowed.
Most people know that we have multiple players' on our team that have the ability to get a lot of steals. Ricky Rubio and Thad Young finished top three in steals last season. Corey Brewer is another defender on our team that is pesky and frustrating to opponents. Andrew Wiggins should also have the ability to gets steals on defense and I also think that Wiggins will be our best all-around defender. Although we have many defenders that have the ability to get steals, steals don't mean good defense. Ricky Rubio got torched last season by average Point Guards, Kevin Martin doesn't understand the term "defense", Wiggins will be a solid defender, Thad Young lacks in size and Nikola Pekovic is not a rim protector. Our defense will be poor, but getting steals will provide entertaining transition basketball.
#3 Our bench will be ranked in the top twelve.
#4 Nikola Pekovic (again) will play less than 65 games.
Flip Saunders thinks that putting Nikola Pekovic on a strict time limit will keep him on the floor for most of the season. Flip's thought process makes sense because you need your starting Center on the floor, but I think Pekovic is destined to get injured again. Pekovic is just too big. Lots of times Pekovic gets hurt stepping awkwardly while running up and down the floor. You cannot control that, and if you could, Yao Ming would still be in the league.
#5 Andrew Wiggins will average 12.0-15.0 points per game (ppg.) before the All-Star break, but will average 16.0-19.0 ppg. after the All-Star break.
A lot of rookies start out their NBA careers by getting a feel and understanding of how the NBA game is played. Here is the way I look at it. Wiggins will score his 12.0-15.0 ppg. before the All-Star break by scoring in transition, getting offensive rebounds, knocking down open jumpers and cutting to the rim. Wiggins has crazy athleticism so his ability to score 12.0-15.0 ppg. will appear easy to us. Wiggins will feed off his teammates for points before the All-Star break, but he is learning and practicing his signature moves that will show after the All-Star break. After the All-Star break I think we will see a more aggressive Wiggins. He will make more individual 1 on 1 moves to the basket, which will ultimately lead to more points per game.
#6 Thad Young will lead our team in points per game.
Flip Saunders did a very good job of staying patient this offseason, and countering trade offers for Kevin Love, because it ultimately landed us Thad Young. Thad Young's greatest strength is his scoring and because Wiggins and Rubio are still unproven scorers, we needed Young in that trade to make some shots. Thad also fits the theme of our team by being an athletic Power Forward. He also gives our team much needed floor spacing. If Thad can knock down the 15-20 ft. jumper consistently, he will open up passing lanes for Rubio and cutting lanes for Martin and Wiggins.
#7 We will make a trade during the season
One of our veterans will be traded during the season. It could be J.J. Barea, Chase Budinger, Shabazz Muhammad or Corey Brewer. There are not enough minutes within a game or room on our bench for all of those players' listed above to get minutes. Also, the players' listed above are not 38 year old veterans who just hope to make an opening day roster, they think they can make a difference coming off the bench for a playoff team. Flip's 9-10 man rotation can not bring playing time to all those players, so don't be surprised if one of them is traded for a 2nd Round pick.