NBA: Five Reasons the Minnesota Timberwolves Will Make the Playoffs Next Season
NBA: Five Reasons the Minnesota Timberwolves Will Make the Playoffs in 2013-2014
The 2012-2013 season started with lots of promise for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but it will come to an end Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs without a playoff berth and at best a 31-51 record. A couple of positives to come out of the season for the Timberwolves is reaching 30 wins for the first time in franchise history without Kevin Garnett on the roster, along with a record of close to .500 (20-21) at home.
An avalanche of injuries hampered Minnesota right from the start, as point guard Ricky Rubio worked his way back from a torn ACL and All-Star forward Kevin Love suffered a bizarre hand injury just prior to the season and played just 18 games. The failed signing of guard Brandon Roy was also notable, as he played just five games as his chronic knee issues came back.
It could be a summer with lots of turnover for the Timberwolves, with the status of coach Rick Adelman and vice president of basketball operations David Kahn both up in the air. Center Nikola Pekovic is slated to become a restricted free agent, and he may simply be too expensive to keep. It should also be another summer with plenty of trade rumors surrounding forward Derrick Williams, who was the second overall pick in 2011.
Improved health across the roster should automatically bring some improvement for the Timberwolves next season, but by this point it’s hard for fans and followers to have any expectations for a significant reversal of their fortunes.
The Timberwolves have not made the playoffs since making a run to the Western Conference Finals in 2004, but here are five reasons they can end that long drought and make the playoffs in 2013-2014.
5. Better Outside Shooting
Barring something completely unforeseen Minnesota will finish last in the NBA in three-point shooting this season, making just over 30 percent of their attempts from the beyond the arc entering Wednesday night. Injuries to Love, forward Chase Budinger and Roy took away some good outside shooters for large portions of the season, which surely played a role in that ineptitude. Adding a capable shooting guard via trade, free agency or June’s draft should help the Timberwolves turn things around from the perimeter next season.
4. Two First-Round Picks
The Timberwolves will again have a lottery pick in June, and they own the first-round pick of the Memphis Grizzlies as well, which should fall somewhere around 26th overall. Minnesota's most glaring weakness is at shooting guard, and there looks to be plenty of depth at that position in this year’s class. A couple of players that could be available with that first pick are Victor Oladipo and Shabazz Muhammad.
3. Rick Adelman
There has speculation Adelman will retire after the season, but a recent report suggests he intends to be back as Timberwolves’ head coach next season. Everything depends on his wife’s health, as he was away from the team in January when she battled seizures. Adelman’s overall acumen brings credibility to the organization on a national level, and his absence would be damaging to any hopes of ending the franchise's playoff drought. One possible scenario is Adelman stepping aside as coach and replacing Kahn in the front office, but time will tell if that becomes anything close to reality.
2. Kevin Love
This season was a lost one for Love, with two surgeries on his right hand and surgery on his left knee officially ending any hopes of a return. His consistent criticism of the organization is noteworthy and could help facilitate a trade this summer, but the potential departure of Kahn may change his stance. Love is perhaps the Timberwolves’ all-around most important player right now, and he will surely be plenty motivated to put this season behind him and have one of his best seasons in 2013-2014.
1. Ricky Rubio
Rubio missed the start of the season due to the torn left ACL he suffered in March 2012, and he had his minutes limited as he worked his way back to full strength. But he has finished the season strongly, averaging 13.3 points, 8.3 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 2.9 steals per game in 36 games since early February, and if he improves his outside shot Rubio could become one of the best point guards in the NBA next season. The Spaniard's improvement, and a season of full health, is likely to mirror whatever success the Timberwolves have next season.