Predicting Minnesota Timberwolves’ Final 15-Man Roster
Predicting Wolves' 15-Man Roster
The Minnesota Timberwolves have been so close to reaching the playoffs the past couple of years, but injuries to key players have derailed their seasons and because of that they are coming off a disappointing 31-51 season. As of now the majority of the team’s key players are healthy with the exception of Chase Budinger. He missed 59 games last season, and after having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee late in September is not expected on the court for another 4-6 weeks.
Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, however, are fully healthy at the moment which is good news Timberwolves fans shouldn’t take for granted considering the time both of them have missed the past two years. The team did make some upgrades this offseason by bringing in sharpshooter Kevin Martin and defensive specialist Corey Brewer, who was with the team from 2007-2011.
The starting five for the Timberwolves will likely resemble something similar to Rubio, Martin, Derrick Williams, Love, and Nikola Pekovic, with the only real change from last season coming at the shooting guard position. Williams may not be penciled in as the starter right now, but reports are he has slimmed down over the summer and has a body that more resembles that of a small forward than power forward.
The Wolves have plenty of returning players from last season’s squad, but they did make a few free-agent signings and draft moves that brought in some new talent that may not be on the team’s final 15-man roster.
15. Kevin Love
Kevin Love will not only make the roster, but he will be the centerpiece for the Timberwolves this season. Love is a rebounding machine who has a career average of 17 points and 12 rebounds per game. Love has improved his three-point shooting each offseason, and if he comes out shooting even better this season he could seriously contend for the MVP award if the Wolves have some success.
14. J.J. Barea
What J.J. Barea brings to the table is very unique, but extremely important for the Timberwolves. Barea is an energy guy who always plays fast while on the floor and has shown an ability to get hot late in games and take over. While not very consistent, Barea did average 11 points per game last year and is responsible for quite a few Wolves victories, which will be important if they are to make a playoff run this season.
13. Corey Brewer
It has been two and half seasons since Brewer was last in a Timberwolves uniform, but in his time away he played for two contending teams and got some serious playoff experience. Playing for the Denver Nuggets the last two seasons, Brewer has logged an average of nearly 20 minutes of playing time in 13 playoff games and even averaged 12 points per game during the regular season. He will be used primarily as a defensive stopper, but he will also be able to run the fast break with Rubio at point.
12. Ricky Rubio
Ricky Rubio has quickly become one of the most underrated points guards in the league. Yes he has plenty of work to do on his jump shot still, but he is arguably the best passer in the league and has an unmatched defensive intensity. Last season is when I noticed Rubio really started to harass ball handlers, and with him and Brewer on the court at the same time opposing teams could have trouble moving the ball.
11. Chase Budinger
Chase Budinger missed plenty of time for the Wolves last season, and with a knee surgery currently keeping him out it may be awhile until we see him in action again. Budinger was supposed to bring the Wolves another three point shooting threat that also added length to the defense. It will be interesting to see how the team is performing when he comes back as he may only be a role player upon return.
10. Nikola Pekovic
The re-signing of Nikola Pekovic took awhile, but the five-year, $60 million contract he signed will not only keep him in town through the 2018 season, but it may also play a factor in the long-term future of Kevin Love as well. Love has been outspoken about his on-court friendship with Pekovic, and the two of them teaming up down low again this season means the Wolves should have a solid inside presence and be one of the top rebounding teams in the league.
9. Shabazz Muhammad
When the Wolves traded for Shabazz Muhammad on draft night many of their followers, including me, were upset. Muhammad has shown to be very self-centered on the basketball court and has even been seen upset after a teammate, and not him, hit a game winning shot while at UCLA. While I won’t dismiss Muhammad as a basketball player before seeing him on the court, he must adjust his attitude and prove he can be a team player if we wants to succeed at the next level.
8. Kevin Martin
Kevin Martin played for the Oklahoma City Thunder last season, and even with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook fighting for shots Martin was still able to average 14 points per game, which was identical to his average during the playoffs. Martin is yet another player who has prior experience playing for Rick Adelman which means he will likely have an immediate impact for the Wolves this season as a starter from day one.
7. Derrick Williams
Derrick Williams could very well be the best athlete on the Wolves’ roster, yet it seems that when the team is at full strength Adelman has a problem putting Williams on the court. When Love missed extended time, however, Williams stepped up and became the team’s premier scorer out of necessity. Since the team drafted Williams I have always been a fan of the explosiveness he brings, and I think this could be the year he finally breaks out as a consistent player and solidifies himself as a piece of this team going forward.
6. Alexey Shved
Alexey Shved was a crucial international signing last year for the Wolves as he quickly became a key piece of the team playing an average of 24 minutes per game. Shved was a bit of a streaky shooter at times last year and his shooting percentage suffered, but he did average nearly 10 points per game and will likely find plenty of playing time this season behind Martin.
5. Gorgui Dieng
Gorgui Dieng was another piece of the draft day trade with the Utah Jazz that brought over Muhammad in exchange for the player Minnesota drafted, Trey Burke. Dieng was part of the national championship squad at Louisville last season, and he was a player who really developed as the season went on. Dieng will be the second center on the team, but with multiple power forwards being able to play out of position he won’t likely see much playing time early in the season.
4. Ronny Turiaf
Ronny Turiaf found it hard to get playing time for the Los Angeles Clippers last season, and he will likely have a similar role for the Timberwolves this year as an energy guy who gets ten minutes per game off the bench. Turiaf is a physical player who can play both the four and five positions on the court, which is the reason why he will only play limited minutes as he will be mostly used to give Love or Pekovic a break.
3. Dante Cunningham
Last season Dante Cunningham was exactly the player the Timberwolves needed. While he didn’t play a lot of minutes, or even in every game, his playing time was based strictly off his on court performance. If Cunningham was running the floor well and scoring, Adelman allotted him more playing time, but in the games where he was a non-factor he rarely saw the floor which is likely the same way he will be used this season.
2. Lorenzo Brown
Lorenzo Brown was a role player at North Carolina State this past season, but that hasn’t stopped Wolves management from already saying he was a first round talent and they have high hopes for him. Brown will likely only get garbage minutes this first year as the team is extremely deep at the two guard positions, but it will be interesting to see if he can develop over the years into the player the Wolves think he can be.
1. Robbie Hummel
Robbie Hummel was once one of the top stars in college basketball before he unfortunately missed two years of playing time because of back-to-back ACL tears in his right knee. It really was tragic to hear he re-injured himself just days after returning to practice at Purdue, but since his second surgery he has never been the same player. He has spent the past two seasons playing in the D-League and overseas in Spain’s ACB League and by now is likely an NBA-calliber player. Hummel is a poor man's Andrei Kirilenko, which is why I have predicted him to make the final roster spot over Mickael Gelabale and Chris Johnson.
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