In the next two weeks, the Armchair crew will be taking on the NBA Regular Season preview. We will be taking on each team individually and looking into what to expect from each.
Past Record: 16-66
Key Additions: Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones, Andre Miller PhD., Nemanja Bjelica
Key Losses: Flip Saunders, Chase Budinger, Anthony Bennett, Anthony Bennett’s monthly dietary tab.
Good news for a lot of Wolves fans is that there is definitely hope on the horizon and potential for this team to be great. The bad news is that it’s probably not going to happen within the next three seasons. Unlike the Lakers however they have the right staff to make the young guys develop and unlike the Sixers they already have the core that will take them to the promise-land in tact.
Let’s get first thing out of the way first, best of luck to Flip Saunders in dealing with cancer and it is truly saddening to see him step away from the game. I wish him a good recovery and hope we can see him soon (if not on the floor then in the head office).
Luckily, the team is in good hands with Sam Mitchell, who has been itching for another chance to step into a head coaching role. Unlike Toronto, the expectations should be sky high the first season and Sam will get these kids playing defense, which is a good thin to develop in a young core. Expect them to be stingy and resilient on that end, using their athleticism to clog passing lanes and jump at every opportunity. They will need to settle down, but the physical attributes are there. The other side is that Kevin Garnett respects Mitchell and should help him control the locker room (putting the fear of being stabbed and/or strangled to death into all younger players).
Rubio is excellent at jumping the lane and coming up with steals. Wiggings is an athletic marvel who is probably a year away from being one of the best wing defenders, and Gorgui Dieng was starting to come into his own last year, so he should eat away at Nikola “Drinks Lion’s Blood for Breakfast” Pekovic. This is a team that, if coached properly, will be hard to score on in a few years. The question here is Towns and how he will hold up against NBA competition.
On the other side, this is a team that will be plagued by spacing issues. Towns being a good shooter helps, but I am not yet sold on Shabazz being a good enough sniper and outside of Martin that list gets fairly thin. Hopefully someone can explain to Zach LaVine that there are other facets to playing basketball other than jumping really high.
Potential is there however to build around Towns and utilize their slashers on a series of backdoor screens and cuts to the basket. Towns should keep the bigs honest when stepping out and leave plenty of room for Rubio and Prof. Miller to string passes in at an alarming rate. While I don’t quite get the Miller move, especially considering having Tyus Jones and wanting to develop LaVine as a ball handler, I like the fact that him and Rubio get to be on the same team with Wiggins, LaVine and Muhammad. You might actually have to dip your DVR into liquid nitrogen to keep it from spontaneously combusting at Minnesota games.
On the last note, I am not entirely sold on Wiggins as the next great superstar. The athletic ability is there, and so is the work ethic, but I have not seen anything particularly LeBron or Durant-esque from him. He can be really, really good. Or he could turn into a defensive beast with a second/third-offensive option game on the right team. Which is still not a bad place to be in the NBA.
Plausible best-case scenario: They click and buy into Sam Mitchell’s defensive focus. Wiggins develops on the scale that everyone expects him too and becomes a borderline All-Star playing next to Towns who easily transitions his game to the NBA. Teams don’t longer consider Minny a “night-off” on their schedule. They get roughly 25 wins and get another top 5 pick to keep the momentum going.
Plausible worst-case scenario: Towns struggles to adjust in the NBA and doesn’t have the impact everyone expects. Wiggins stagnates and does not develop a shot, giving this team further spacing problems moving forward. LaVine shows no interest in doing anything else but dunking. Kevin Garnett murders someone by the All-Star break.