2012-13 W-L: 31-51
New Faces: Flip Saunders (President of Basketball Operations), Corey Brewer, Kevin Martin, Ronny Turiaf
New Places: David Kahn (President of Basketball Operations), Andrei Kirilenko (Brooklyn), Malcolm Lee (Phoenix), Luke Ridnour (Milwaukee), Greg Stiemsma (New Orleans), Michael Gelabale, Brandon Roy, (waived)
Drafted: Shabazz Muhammad (14), Gorgui Dieng (21), Lorenzo Brown (52), Bojan Dublijevic (59)
The Timberwolves had numerous problems last season, but one stood out more than any other: they simply could not shoot. Only four teams this millennium posted a lower field goal percentage on shots from beyond the arc than last year’s Minnesota squad’s 30.5 percent mark – the 2000-01 Warriors, the 2001-02 76ers, the 2002-03 Nuggets and the 2011-12 Bobcats, otherwise known as the worst team in NBA history.
So when Flip Saunders took over for David Kahn in May, he set out to acquire some snipers. He re-signed Chase Budinger to a three-year, $16 million contact. About a week later, Saunders swung a trade for Kevin Martin, re-uniting the former King and Rocket with his former coach, Rick Adelman. Prior to both of those moves, he selected Shabazz Muhammad – who connected on 37.7 percent of his three point tries in his only season at UCLA – with the 14th pick in the draft. Along with the (hopefully) healthy return of Kevin Love, fielding those three shooters in the lineup should ensure that Minnesota doesn’t have the fifth worst outside shooting season of the millennium again.
Along with the shooting, Saunders made big men a priority. Though it took forever and a half, Nikola Pekovic was brought back into the fold with a five-year, $60 million deal that does NOT count as the Wolves’ Designated Player contract, leaving the door open to use it on Ricky Rubio down the line (and yes; it still makes no sense that Kahn didn’t give Love a five-year deal). Pekovic and Love leave something to be desired as a rim-protecting tandem, but they’re a picture perfect fit on offense, where Pek bangs and bruises down low while Love fires away from outside and snags every rebound in sight.
Gorgui Dieng had a breakout season at Louisville, and though he’s somewhat raw for an older big man prospect, he should be able to at least help on the defensive end of the court right away. The lanky Senegalese big man blocked 3.2 and 2.5 shots per game in his last two seasons as a Cardinal, and he added 1.2 and 1.3 steals per game as well. All told, he racked up over 300 combined steals and blocks in 73 games.
Another player who should help on defense is Corey Brewer who, though prone to bouts of over-gambling, does have a tendency to snag steals at a prodigious rate and can bother all kinds of wing scorers with his length and quickness. Brewer will also make for a nice pairing with Love, who throws the league’s best outlet passes. As too few know, Brewer may well be the best leak-out man in the NBA.
Much of Minnesota’s improvement this coming season should be of the internal variety, as Love should play more than 18 games and shoot far better than 35 percent, and Rubio will be one year further removed from his knee surgery. Losing Andrei Kirileno obviously hurts, but none of the other departed players really did anything of consequence last season. The new additions will be counted on to provide much of what the Wolves were missing, and whether they do or not could be the difference between a team that makes the playoffs and one that is on the outside looking in.