Ah, scrutiny at its finest. That is what Minnesota Timberwolves executive and head coach Flip Saunders will be dealing with over the coming years depending on how the young players he acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for All-Star forward Kevin Love pan out. Saunders pulled the trigger and sent Love to Cleveland in exchange for rookie Andrew Wiggins, second-year player Anthony Bennett and a protected 2015 first-round pick. Whether this was enough for a player who has statistically been one of the top five players in the league for a few years now remains to be seen, but regardless of how good the Timberwolves will be in the short and long term, the team will certainly be the most exciting.
That’s right; the Timberwolves now have the most exciting young talent base in the entire NBA.
It starts with newly acquired players Wiggins and Bennett. Wiggins has been heralded as the best NBA prospect since Kevin Durant, and for good reason. Wiggins’ athletic abilities are incredible for a young player, and those talents along with the foundation of skills he has to build upon make him the player with arguably the highest upside in the 2014 draft class. Wiggins must get better at being assertive in the offense, but make no mistake the skill set is there; it just has to be improved. And oh by the way, on defense, Wiggins is without question the best defender in the class and arguably now the best defensive player the Timberwolves will be able to feature due to his length and instincts on that end of the floor. Whether it is playing the passing lanes or guarding the other team’s best player one-on-one, Wiggins can do it all already on that end of the floor, making the Paul George comparison that much more accurate.
Then there is Bennett, who failed to meet any sort of expectations last year, but he has made a lot of changes to himself over the past year. During his rookie season, Bennett averaged 4.2 points per game and 3.0 rebounds per game on 35.6 percent shooting from the floor in just 12.8 minutes per game. Bennett could not play well enough and keep up with the pace of the game to warrant himself more minutes on the floor, so he was back and forth between bench warmer and NBA D-League player for the majority of the season. Sure, Bennett had a few games where he flashed his enormous potential as a stretch four in the league, but he was underwhelming to say the least. Then this offseason, Bennett went to work and had surgery to fix his sleep apnea, as well as took care of his body and lost a considerable amount of weight to get into better shape. Boy have these things paid off, as he took the NBA Summer League by storm, running all over the floor and scoring in a variety of ways as well as guarding multiple positions on the floor and holding his own on defense as well. If Bennett can continue to showcase what he did this summer, then he could turn into the special player many envisioned when he was taken No. 1 overall in the 2013 draft.
Rounding out the promising young core are the Timberwolves’ two main youngsters, Zach LaVine and Gorgui Dieng. LaVine was taken at the No. 13 spot in this year’s draft, and for good reason. He is an athletic highlight reel from the perimeter who can handle the ball and make plays for others as well as shoot the ball with unlimited range. LaVine has a variety of pull-up moves and can spot-up and shoot it from anywhere on the floor as well. If he can continue to develop his body, LaVine could be a major star down the road and will be able to make an impact now with his incredible athleticism and shooting skills. Dieng was a later pick in last year’s draft and showed his abilities when he got to start in place of the injured Nikola Pekovic last season. Dieng put up monster numbers, and showed he could be an all-around player in the post.
The Timberwolves are loaded athletically. Look out NBA.