Team Preview #27: Minnesota Timberwolves
by Eric Wong AKA Roto EvilSeptember 7th, 2008
LAST SEASONThe Timberwolves went 22-60, missing the Playoffs for the 4th year in a row. Randy Foye missed over half the season, but Minnesota simply wasn't a very good team.
They ranked 6th in field goals attempted, but just 25th in threes made, 26th in scoring, 26th in assists, 29th in blocks, and 29th in free throws attempted.
OFFSEASON MOVESKey Additions: Mike Miller, Kevin Love, Jason Collins, Brian Cardinal, Rodney Carney, Booth, Pekovic
Key Losses: Marko Jaric, Antoine Walker, Greg Buckner, Kirk Snyder
The T-Wolves definitely improved over the summer, trading away their top pick (OJ Mayo), a washed-up former All-Star (Antoine Walker), and two bad contracts (Jaric + Buckner) for Mike Miller, Kevin Love, Jason Collins, and Brian Cardinal. Cardinal still has 2 years and $13 million remaining on his contract, but Minnesota got the prospect that they wanted, an excellent offensive player in Miller, and a veteran big man.
In a separate trade, they also picked up the athletic swingman Rodney Carney, the 7-footer Booth, and a future 1st rounder from Philly for just a 2nd round pick and a trade exemption. Carney will likely replace Kirk Snyder, who played a key role off the bench for Minnesota last season. In the draft, they also chose the Serbian Nikola Pekovic at #31, who is 6-foot-11 and put up excellent stats in the Euroleague (16.4 points on 58.4% FG). The Wolves also managed to re-sign Ryan Gomes, Craig Smith, and Sebastian Telfair, 3 key players from last season.
ROTATION / PLAYING TIMEPoint guard is the biggest question mark for Minnesota. Randy Foye has flashed some potential, but he missed a big chunk of last season due to a kneecap injury (31 starts, 32.3 mpg) and has yet to really prove himself in the NBA (unlike Brandon Roy, the man he was traded for on draft night). They need Foye to step up, because Telfair (51 starts, 32.2 mpg) has improved, but he's clearly a backup and nothing more. If both are healthy, I'll project 32-34 minutes for Foye and 16-18 minutes for Telfair. Rashad McCants (75 starts, 27.0 mpg) played surprisingly well last season, but he's headed back to the bench with Mike Miller now in town. I'm projecting 34-36 minutes for Miller and just 16-18 minutes for McCants, while Carney is limited to garbage time.
At small forward, there's a battle for minutes between Ryan Gomes (26 years old, 29.7 mpg) and Corey Brewer (22 years old, 22.8 mpg). Gomes is a much better offensive player and more reliable to boot, but Brewer is the better defender. Since Minnesota could use some defense in their lineup, I'm predicting Brewer to start and get 24-26 minutes of action. Meanwhile, Gomes would be an excellent 6th man who can play 30+ minutes backing up both forward spots. Kevin Love should immediately step into the starting lineup and get 28-30 minutes off the bat, and possibly more as the season progresses. Al Jefferson is a lock for 36 minutes at center, while Craig Smith will get around 18 minutes as the first big man off the bench. The veteran crew of Jason Collins, Calvin Booth, Mark Madsen (yes, he's still around!), and Brian Cardinal will fight for the remaining minutes.
DON'T SLEEP ON: Kevin LoveTwo months ago, I called out Rotoworld for naming Craig Smith the starter and underestimating Kevin Love's fantasy potential. The former Bruin is going to flirt with double-doubles on a nightly basis, is an excellent passer, and should post solid shooting %'s. Here's what I said about Love's free throw shooting in particular:
25 NBA players averaged 9+ boards last season (Love pulled down 10.6 in college), but only 9 of those 25 shot 75% or better from the line (Love shot 76.7% FT). Now of those 9, only 5 averaged 4.5 or more free throw attempts per game (Love averaged 6.6 FTA at UCLA and had 11 games with 10+ attempts). Their names? Amare Stoudemire, Kevin Garnett, Yao Ming, Chris Kaman, and Antawn Jamison. Clearly, Love has a very good chance of joining a select group of big men who can provide you with lots of rebounds while also helping out (or at least not hurting) your overall FT%. That makes the rookie very valuable in my mind.
BE CAREFUL OF: Al JeffersonI'm high on Love, but I'm down on Big Al. Jefferson was the ONLY player to average 21+ points and 11+ rebounds in '07-08, but he'll have trouble duplicating those stats with the addition of Love. Last season, only 3 other players averaged 4+ boards for Minnesota: Gomes (5.8), Craig Smith (4.6), and Kirk Snyder (4.2). Gomes played a lot of power forward, but now he's going to slide over to SF to accomodate Love, who is a vastly superior rebounder. At shooting guard, Mike Miller (career 5.3 boards per 36 mpg) is also a superior rebounder compared to McCants (career 3.6 boards per 36 mpg).
Now consider Telfair's career average of 11.9 points per 36 minutes vs. Randy Foye's career average of 15.4 points per 36. A healthy Foye is capable of scoring in bunches and Miller is also an excellent offensive player, which means fewer shot attempts for Jefferson in '08-09. The 20 & 10 club is still pretty exclusive, but it's not the same as 21 & 11. Big Al is still one of the top fantasy centers, but I don't suggest using a Top 30 pick on him.
ROUND BY ROUND TARGETS(Where you should draft these guys in an 8-cat Roto league with 12 teams and 14 man rosters)
Jefferson: Late 3rd - 4th