With Flip Saunders pulling the strings as General Manager and Rick Adelman running the show from the sidelines, the Minnesota Timberwolves have made the right signings this summer to become a playoff team, but will it actually happen?
Many analysts began to hype the T-Wolves heading into last season, but with injuries to Kevin Love and the delayed return of Ricky Rubio from a torn ACL, the team’s season never really hit full stride as they struggled to find any sort of consistency and found themselves turning to the young Derrick Williams and Nikola Pekovic to make plays. They would miss the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season and frustrate fans, losing a number of close games and failing to even come to reaching that hyped potential.
But a year of frustration has been followed by an exciting summer for the fans as they’ve been assured of having a more talented squad in 2013-14. Kevin Love will return from injury this season and take the court next to Nikola Pekovic who this week signed a five year deal worth more than $60 million.
Free agent acquisitions Corey Brewer and Ronny Turiaf add some nice depth and the team added Kevin Martin via trade and brought back Chase Budinger to give them more outside shooting, an area the Wolves struggled greatly with over the entirety of last season. Add to that Minnesota drafting Shabazz Muhammed out of UCLA and young center Gorgui Deng, and the T-Wolves do suddenly have the pieces in place to be a playoff team.
The problem for the T-Wolves comes in creating a winning atmosphere. It’s been nine seasons since they last played postseason basketball, the last decade marred by losing and failures to sign a big name. They’ve been fortunate that the draft has gifted them talents like Love, Rubio and Williams, but the young core that they have in place has much to prove when it comes to consistency.
It’s easy to look at the team’s lineup and say that they will make wild projections, but it’s another matter whether or not they actually get over the hump. The fact is that the Northwest Division is shaping up to be one of the toughest in basketball, with Oklahoma City in the driver’s seat and the likes of Denver and Portland nipping at their heels. Minnesota has the talent, particularly if Love can stay healthy, to run with those squads, but can they rack up enough wins to make the playoffs?
The fact is the Western Conference is such a difficult conference to have any success in. It would take a major improvement for the Wolves to come close. On the up side, the Lakers and Jazz are likely to experience major failures this season, opening up the possibility that the T-Wolves could climb the standings significantly. With additions of Brewer and Turiaf, Minnesota has some solid veterans that could get them to that eight seed and a chance to play at least some meaningful basketball, but with so much as a bad start to the season, the Wolves will still end up outside the postseason, all be it by less than what they’ve experienced in recent years.