Bye-bye Kevin Love, hello new exciting youngsters and a first-class ticket to next year’s lottery.
I gotta admit, I got pretty tired of the non-stop Kevin Love news over the summer. You knew he was going to the Cavs. I mean, maaaaybe the Warriors were going to pony up Klay Thompson and David Lee, but they really did not want to take on Kevin Martin’s contract. So, off he goes. Minnesota’s best player since Kevin Garnett off to join a budding superteam in sunny Cleveland and leaving his Woves behind.
To be clear, I think the Timberwolves got an excellent haul for Love. #1 draft choice Andrew Wiggins is a super-athletic 2-guard who projects as a great slasher and defender. He also comes in to a far more basketball-friendly situation out in the Mini-apple where he can take on responsibility and play a ton of minutes, instead of playing 3rd banana to Lebron and Kyrie Irving. The Wolves also netted last year’s #1 pick Anthony Bennet from the Cavs who started to disprove his reputation as a gigantic bust with an offseason of weight loss and spirited summer league play. And lastly, Minnesota hauled in Thaddeus Young from the 76ers, taking away Philly’s only remaining link to 2011’s playoff team and allowing GM Sam Hinkie to continue tanking, tanking, tanking.
Other than that, Minnesota features one of the league’s most creative passers in Ricky Rubio, gigantic Montenegrin center Nikola Pekovic, and the horribly overpaid three-point marksman Kevin Martin. Taken all together, its really not a bad starting line-up on paper with Rubio, Martin, Wiggins, Young, and Pekovic. The team even has Bennet, JJ Barea, and first round draft selection Zach Lavine coming off the bench to provide some scoring.
Let’s get a reality check though. This team just lost the best stretch 4 in the entire association and a guy who can average 20-10 EASILY. Love was also number 3 in the league in PER last year behind only Kevin Durant and Lebron James, and will try to be replaced by a guy who just spent a season on one of the worst teams in the league and Bennet, who has been considered the worst #1 pick blunder since Kwame Brown. This team missed the playoffs last year, didn’t reach .500, and had one of the league’s worst records in close games, which could be random but could also speak to their coaching and motivation.
A lot of people have seemed excited about the possibility of Ricky Rubio throwing alley-oop passes to the hyper athletic Wiggins and LaVine, but that’s not going to make this team watchable. Like it or not, the Timberwolves have just become a rebuilding team in the cutthroat West and they are going to lose a ton of games as they try to give their young guns some playing time. Look for Pekovic on the trading block this season.
X-Factor= Ricky Rubio
Rubio is a passing magician and comes dangerously close to leading the league in steals every year. What this guy can’t do is shoot. Not from 3. Not from the midrange. Just not, not at all. If the Timberwolves are going to stick with this guy in the long run, and it certainly looks like they are, this guy needs to improve that outside touch.