The end of the Minnesota Timberwolves preseason concluded Friday October 26 with a 5-2 record. Minnesota looked poised and ready to get off to a strong start, but Kevin Love went down with a hand injury putting a damper on the expectations. Love suffered a broken bone in his shooting hand that will more than likely put him on the bench until early December. It was bad enough for Timberwolves fans to star the season without Rubio, who will sit out until about mid to late December dude to a torn ACL suffered last season. Management made several key acquisitions over the offseason with the signing of Brandon Roy and Andre Kirilienko who look to make an immediate impact both offensively and defensively.
Playing without Love and Rubio: For the Timberwolves to play without Love and Rubio can be compared to the Miami Heat playing without LeBron James and Dwyane Wade for 20 games. Just like the Miami Heat would be, The Minnesota Timberwolves are playing with a big hole in their roster. The workload will now, temporarily, be put onto the new big 3 of Nikola Pekovic, Andre Kirilienko, and Brandon Roy who all have the talent to make plays.
|17||Lou Amundson||F||6-9||225||12/07/1982||Nevada-Las Vegas/USA||6|
|11||Jose Barea||G||6-0||175||06/26/1984||Northeastern/Puerto Rico||6|
|47||Andrei Kirilenko||F||6-9||235||02/18/1981||St. Petersburg, Russia||10|
|9||Ricky Rubio||G||6-4||180||10/21/1990||FC Barcelona/Spain||1|
This is the Minnesota Timberwolves 2012-2013 roster for the start of the season and the starting lineup looks like it will be Luke Ridnour (point guard), Brandon Roy (shooting guard), Chase Budinger (small forward), Andre Kirilenko (power forward), and Nikola Pekovic (center).
Luke Ridnour will be preforming in his 3rd season with the Timberwolves and never seems to disappoint being one of the most consistent guards in the league. Ridnour is quietly one of the best shooters in the NBA and knows how to drop a dime to open teammates when needed. Averaging a career high 12.1 points per game last season, the nine-year veteran should not be underestimate as a backup for Rubio. Ridnour excels from beyond the arc shooting at a 35.7% career average. In the 2010-2011 season he finished with a 44.0% 3-point percentage, the highest percentage of his career. Ridnour brings experience and leadership to the Timberwolves being the oldest player on the team. As long as Ridinour can stay healthy the Wolves should be getting good production while Rubio is absent.
Brandon Roy was the biggest free agent signing of the offseason for the Timberwolves and has the potential to be the steal of free agency this year. Roy didn’t play in the NBA last year after deciding to retire due to constant knee issues. Last year Roy had the same knee operation Kobe Bryant once had. The still young and talented shooting guard will play in his 6th NBA season and the first season not being a member of the Portland Trailblazers. Averaging 19.0 points per game and a career shooting percentage of 46.0% with the Blazers, the former rookie of the year award winner chose Minnesota for his comeback team. Roy was actually originally drafted by the Timberwolves but was traded to the Trailblazers within a matter of minutes. In preseason Roy averaged 10.0 points per game on 45.7% shooting.
Acquired by the Timberwovles in a trade of their 22nd pick in the 2012 draft, Chase Budinger was bought in as a threat the shoot the long ball. In his career Budinger has a 3-point percentage of 36.3% and finished last season with a 40.2% from beyond the arc. Budinger was as red hot as his hair this preseason averaging 13.3 points per game on 52.5% shooting. Shooting an astounding 53.1% from the 3-point line, Bundinger, so far, is living above the expectations of the Timberwolves. He provides the offensive threat the Timberwolves will need in the absence of Kevin Love.
Returning back to the NBA from the Euroleague, Kirilenko will be the defensive big man under, inside, and around the basket. Kirilenko recently won the EuroLeague MVP award last year for his defensive ability. He previously played 10 seasons with the Utah Jazz and in 2005 he lead the league in blocks with eye-popping 3.3 blocks per game. Minnesota signed him this offseason to a 2-year $20 million deal and be looked upon to establish a functioning Timberwolves defense. Kirilenko is looking to add a resurgence to the once prominent Minnesota defense.
Entering his 3rd season in the NBA, center Nikola Pekovic brings the most support to the team with Rubio and Love out. Pek plays tough effective inside basketball and causes problems for both defending and scoring opposing player. Pekovic played very well last season averaging 13.9 points for and 7.4 rebounds per game. The Timberwolves need his big-man ability underneath the basket and is a necessary piece to the Timberwolves roster.
Key Acquisitions: It was a busy offseason for the Timberwolves management with trades and free agency signings. More then 50% of the roster has changed over the past summer. Offseason losses included Michael Beasley (forward), Wes Johnson (shooting guard), Darko Milicic (center), Wayne Ellington (shooting guard), Anthony Tolliver (power forward), and Anthony Randolph (forward/center). The biggest losses to the team were Michael Beasley and Wes Johnson who both found a new home in Phoenix. Both Beasley and Johnson are more or less busts. From the start they never lived up to expectations and found themselves struggling with injury and shooting. Darko, Ellington, Tolliver, and Randolph were all bench roll players for the Wolves but didn’t fit into the Minnesota scheme. All of which saw limited minutes and played very inconsistently when given the chance. Darko Milicic could be named one of the biggest disappointments of in recent history being drafted by the Detroit Pistons. Drafted in the same draft as LeBron James, the pick order went #1 LeBron James, #2 Darko Milicic, #3 Carmelo Anthony, #4 Chris Bosh, and #5 Dwyane Wade. Obviously some very poor drafting by the Pistons passing on 3 NBA All Stars and potential Hall of Famers for Milicic.
The eight new additions to the Timberwolves roster are Brandon Roy, Andre Kirilenko, Alexey Shved, Dante Cunningham, Will Conroy, Lou Amundson, Chase Budinger, and Greg Stiemsma. Big men Dante Cunningham, Lou Amundson, and Greg Stiemsma were brought in to give the Timberwolves the defense they need. Last season the Timberwolves averaged a 25th worst most opponent points per game with 100.1 and a 24th worst 4.4 blocks per game. Minnesota was very good at defending around the arc holding opponents to a 6th best 34.0% 3-point percentage but a 22nd worst total opponent field percentage with 45.5%. That being said Minnesota made there attempt to help with their paint defense and defending close to the rim.
The Kings are coming off a tough 2011-2012 season finishing the Pacific Division in dead last with a 22-44 record. The Kings franchise player is the young center DaMarcus Cousins who looks to be one of the future stars in the NBA with his deadly talent in the paint. His only flaw would have to be keeping his attitude together and prevent technical fouls but that might come with experience in the league. The Kings added some very good young talent to their roster through the draft with signing of Thomas Robinson out of the University of Kansas.
Rebounding: Both the Sacramento Kings and the Minnesota Timberwolves were top ten teams in rebounding but the Kings were 2nd overall in offensive rebounding last season with 13.4 per game. With that they were also 3rd worst overall at the other end of the category giving up 12.3 offensive rebounds per game. Minnesota gave up the 20th most amount per game (11.7). A majority of the Sacramento rebounds should be credited to DaMarcus Cousins who averaged a 4th best 11.0 rebounds per game and led the league it total offensive rebounds with 265. Listed at 6’11”, Cousins is one of the hardest working offensive players in the league by never giving up a play a turning any missed shot into points. Cousins will be matched up against Nikola Pekovic who is a big scorer for the Wolves but not a very dirty player. Cousins brings to the table a sense of toughness to the basket and will do whatever possible to get the ball through the net.
Jason Thompson was the second hand rebounder on the Kings roster. With a total of 443 rebounds and 166 offensive rebounds, the power forward brings more depth to the Kings roster. In his 5th season in the NBA, Thompson looks to improve his effectiveness around the rim even more.
Guard Play: Isaiah Thomas, a second-year point guard out of the University of Washington, has great talent with shooting the ball but lacked on one part of the stat sheet, assists. Averaging only 1 assist per game is something you don’t want your point guard doing. Thankfully for the Kings, he can shoot the ball and use his quickness to start fast breaks. Isaiah shot 44.8% from the field and 37.8% from the 3-point line. He was very good at not turning over the ball with only 1.6 turnovers per game. He’s often talked about for his lack of height but its nothing to discriminate against. Shooting guard Tyreke Evans was both a big scorer and all around player for the Kings. Evans got himself 16.5 points, 4.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game. Tyreke was a great player for Sacramento in all parts of the game but struggling badly in his 3-point shooting finishing the season at only 20.2% from beyond the arc. As a whole the Kings shot only 31.6% from the 3-point line for 2nd worst total across the league just edging out the Bobcats of last season. Thomas and Evans will be facing off against the point guards JJ Barea and Luke Ridnour and new Timberwolves shooting guard Brandon Roy. This will be a great test for the both sets of guards as the both have their own talents to display.
The keys to the home opener at the Target Center for the Minnesota Timberwolves will be outrebounding the Kings. Without the help of debatable the best rebounder in the league, Kevin Love, it will be a great test to Nikola Pekovic. As for the Kings is will come down to scoring the ball, something they did very well in last year. It will be DaMarcus Cousins leading the way for the very young Kings roster against Nikola Pekovic and the new look Timberwolves.
Timberwolves win: 96-88