Biggest Hurdles Flip Saunders Faces with Minnesota Timberwolves This Season

Normally, a general manager’s goal is to plan for the future while the head coach focuses on winning now, but things won’t be that simple for Flip Saunders and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

In 2014-15, Saunders will have the almost impossible task of being both a coach and a GM. With these roles comes a plethora of difficult decisions that must be made.  

The Timberwolves had a very busy offseason, losing their best player in Kevin Love and gaining three unproven players with very high ceilings.  

Saunders must help develop these young players while also deciding which veterans he wants to keep or trade.

The theme for Saunders and the Timberwolves this year will be the future versus the present.

Begin Slideshow

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Minnesota Timberwolves Must Avoid Paying Ricky Rubio After Losing Kevin Love

They say it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

By now, the Minnesota Timberwolves know a thing or two about Love and loss alike. But after being cornered into trading away their disaffected star forward to the Cleveland Cavaliers, there’s a very real danger the franchise could overspend in a bid to avoid more loss.

It flirts with said danger on account of point guard Ricky Rubio, the Spanish would-be star Minnesota selected with the No. 5 overall pick in 2009.

To be sure, Rubio‘s situation shares little in common with Kevin Love’s. The 23-year-old has neither the superstar pedigree nor the requisite leverage to force a trade at this juncture.

Moreover, he’s given no indication that he intends to do such a thing.

“I’m loyal,” Rubio recently told Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. “I want to give them back what they gave me there: a lot of love.”

Unfortunately, that love—not Love—will come at a steep price by all accounts.

The organization has until the end of October to sign Rubio to an extension, but it appears little progress has been made to that end. The chief culprit seems to be a disconnect between Rubio‘s market valuation and his agent’s ambitious agenda.

Back in April, the Star Tribune‘s Jerry Zgoda speculated as much, writing, “Expect Rubio‘s side to push for a contract closer to a maximum salary than the four-year, $44 million extension Golden State’s Stephen Curry received, which the Wolves just might view as beyond their limits.”

Months later, little has changed.

Timberwolves reporter Darren Wolfson told Sportando’s E. Trapani in August that “Rubio is on notice. The Wolves are trying to sign him to an extension, and so far his agent, Dan Fegan, is balking at the idea of a 4-year, $43 million deal.”

“That’s plenty for a player of Rubio‘s caliber,” Wolfson adds. ”It’s a lot more than Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague makes—maybe a better player—and is what Golden State All-Star guard Stephen Curry makes. But Fegan is seeking the five-year max. That’s not happening. The situation is pointing toward Rubio being a restricted free agent next summer.”

In March, Grantland’s Zach Lowe described Rubio as “among the most divisive players in the league now, in part because of the sense that his agent, Dan Fegan, is going to demand an eight-figure extension that Rubio does not yet deserve.”

Accordingly, restricted free agency wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, especially for the Timberwolves.

Unless Rubio make significant strides this season, it’s unlikely other teams will offer him anywhere near a max deal. Even with the massive deals Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward recently signed, the market for a point guard with limited shooting ability is a different story.

The available body of evidence suggests Rubio remains a large step behind someone like Curry. Last season the Spaniard averaged 9.5 points, 8.6 assists and 2.3 steals per contest. There’s a lot to like about the line, but the bigger problem was that 2013-14 was the third consecutive season in which Rubio made well under 40 percent of his field-goal attempts—this time a career-high 38.1 percent.

Zgoda recently tweeted, “[Head coach and team president] Flip [Saunders] also said team will hire a shooting coach for this season. Rubio, [Chase] Budinger & others have been working [with] one based on LA.”

So there’s certainly a chance Rubio emerges as a much-improved shooter at some point this season, but it’s hard to imagine him approximating Curry’s production or efficiency.

The Golden State Warriors floor general averaged 24 points and 8.5 assists per game last season, converting on 47.1 percent of his field-goal attempts in the process. Rubio has a long way to go before putting up those kinds of numbers.

In turn, a deal that pays Rubio somewhere on the order of $10 million annually would seem nothing short of generous.

Exploring the free-agent market next summer may reveal as much.

In the meantime, Minnesota should resist the urge to overpay. Tempting as it may be to lock up a franchise cornerstone (shortly after losing another), Rubio is far more replaceable than Love. 

It’s true that teams like the Timberwolves sometimes have to sweeten deals due to the difficulties they have attracting external talent. Rubio‘s qualified commitment to the franchise may even indicate that now’s the time for such a loyalty bonus.

Until the Timberwolves start winning, money is all they have to offer.

“I like Minnesota,” Rubio explained to NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper in June. “But I want to win too. Of course when a big guy like [Love] leaves you’re thinking about what’s going to be happening with the team. Are we going to lose a lot?”

“Before I came to Minnesota, the season before they won like 17 games,” Rubio continued. “I was a little scared when I went there. I’m coming from Europe, where I was playing in Barcelona. I think we lost six games or seven games in two seasons, and every loss was a disaster. I don’t want to go through a process like every win is something special.” 

Wins may indeed be special this season, which could certainly lead Rubio‘s eyes to begin wandering.

There haven’t been any ultimatums thus far, though. In fact, Rubio has attempted to distance himself from the contract process.

“It’s something I’m not worried about,” Rubio told reporters in April. “It’s something my agent is going to talk [about] with Flip. It’s something I don’t have to be worried [about]. I just worry about playing.”

Soon enough, however, he may be worried about playing for a raise over the $5,070,686 he’s scheduled to make this season, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Unless his camp reaches an understanding with Minnesota, the campaign ahead reasons to be something of a league-wide audition.

An audition Saunders and Co. will watch closely.

In the event Rubio discovers a jump shot and transforms himself into a well-rounded scoring threat, the organization will happily reward him financially. But the Timberwolves would be well-served by allowing the market to make that determination.

They’ll have the right to match any offer Rubio receives next summer, so there’s little need to pre-empt that process with a potentially inflated extension.

This is no time for impulse buys.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Minnesota Timberwolves: Four reasons Kevin Martin steps up his game

It may seem odd to predict a significant improvement in play from a 31 year old player like Kevin Martin, but I think that there are a lot of differences from this year to last for Martin and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Reason number one: As a shooting guard, Martin’s main job on the basketball court is to put the ball in the hoop. Martin did pretty well at that last year, scoring around 19 points a game and shooting 43 percent from the field and above 38 percent from beyond the arc. However, for much of the season last year, Martin was dealing with a lacerated pinky finger, and while that is certainly an injury that Martin could play through, you could tell by watching Martin play that the injury was throwing off his shot, even if it was off only slightly so.

Reason number two: Another reason I think Martin will improve is the fact that he will be the main outside shooting threat for the Timberwolves, which will lead to him getting more chances to shoot and more chances to get into a groove. Even before K

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Minnesota Timberwolves: Should the rookies start?

This past offseason, the Minnesota Timberwolves got two rookies with a lot of potential and extreme athletic ability. Andrew Wiggins is the big name that the Timberwolves got in the Kevin Love trade, and was one of the most hyped prospects to come out of college. Zach LaVine was the Timberwolves 1st round draft pick in the 2014 NBA Draft and was an electric player for UCLA last year.
Wiggins dunks over TCU while playing at Kansas (Photo Credit: Brandon Wade/AP)
Both Wiggins and LaVine are set to be key players in the Timberwolves future. The question is what happens in the present? Wiggins and LaVine are extremely raw players with a lot of fundamentals to work on before becoming complete players in the NBA. The Timberwolves will surely give both LaVine and Wiggins a lot of playing time, but it remains to be seen how Saunders will construct the lineups, especially if Saunders is trying to create a team that will be in the playoff hunt.
With Wiggins, I believe he will be starting opening day. Although Corey Bre

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Predicting the Roles/Impact of Each Minnesota Timberwolves Newcomer This Season

With Kevin Love gone, the Minnesota Timberwolves must begin a new era with a new identity.  

This team is filled with unproven players with very high ceilings, such as Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Anthony Bennett. 

They also drafted Glenn Robinson III in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders spoke optimistically about the Timberwolves when asked which “rebuilding unit’s core” would he prefer:

I like what the Wolves have… I like Orlando… 76ers have some promise that needs to be shown… not sure the Bucks have anything yet.

I think Minnesota could make the playoffs this year if things break their way. Orlando could win 40 games this year too… Not sure the 76ers or Bucks win 40 games combined in the next two years — I am joking of course. They are both in the early stages of a rebuild, so Wolves & Magic within five years… in seven or eight… Philly gets in the mix for me.

In addition to the youth, the Wolves added veteran leadership by bringing in Thaddeus Young and Mo Williams. 

Fans in Minnesota may be excited for the future, but it’s time to focus on the now.  What impact will these new additions have on the team this season? 

Begin Slideshow

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Minnesota Timberwolves: Timberwolves playing well in international play

The Minnesota Timberwolves only have three players in the FIBA World Cup this summer, but so far Ricky Rubio, Gorgui Dieng and (J.J) Jose Barea have looked great. The tournament, held in Spain this year, is a mix of NBA players and the top international players so while the competition isn’t as fierce as it is in the NBA, there still are a lot of international teams  with a good amount of talent.
Rubio is the starting point guard for the Spanish national team, and so far in international play he is tied for the lead in assists per game at 5.8 assists. This might seem not very high, but Spain has been splitting a lot of time between its guards, so his assists per 40 minutes in the tournament is 11.7 assists which is the highest by a good margin in the tournament. Additionally, Rubio is leading the tournament in steals per game and he has been playing good defense throughout the tournament. One knock on Rubio’s performance throughout this international tournament, would be his tendency to turnover the ball

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Young Minnesota Timberwolves Will Be Worth Watching

It is fast becoming a new era in Minnesota. With the trade of franchise centerpiece Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Minnesota Timberwolves have invested heavily in their future. The trio of Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young mightn’t be the most experienced but they are energetic, exciting and they are the new, […]
Young Minnesota Timberwolves Will Be Worth Watching – Hoops Habit – Hoops Habit – Analysis, Opinion and Stats All About The NBA

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Minnesota Timberwolves: 5 reasons why Gorgui Dieng will be a future All-Star

It might not happen this year, but there are multiple reasons why it is only a matter of time before Gorgui Dieng of the Minnesota Timberwolves becomes an All-Star center. Dieng hails from Senegal, and was drafted 21st overall in the 2013 NBA draft after playing three years of college basketball at the University of Louisville. He has only played one year for the Timberwolves, but  he demonstrated at the end of last season that he has the tools to be a dominant NBA center.
Reason number one: The first reason that Dieng will develop into an All-Star center is that his stats already put him close to the stats of the best NBA centers. Roy Hibbert and Dwight Howard  both made their respective All-Star teams last year and their statistics per 36 minutes are very close to Dieng’s. Last year, Hibbert per 36 minutes averaged 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.7 blocks, while Howard stats per 36 were 19.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. In contrast, Dieng 12.6 points, 13.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per 36 minutes

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Why Kevin Love Trade Was Blessing in Disguise for the Minnesota Timberwolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves have officially lost their three-time All-Star Kevin Love, but this trade may be a blessing in disguise

Last season, Love had a career year, scoring 26.1 points per game and ranking third in Player Efficiency Rating, according to Hollinger Stats, courtesy of ESPN.

Love might be a top-five scorer in the NBA, but he showed no defensive intensity and was unable to carry the Timberwolves to the playoffs during his six-year tenure.

Since Love was drafted in 2008, the Wolves’ win percentage is well below 50 percent.  Their best season was last year with only 40 wins. 

To be fair, the Timberwolves’ struggles were not entirely Love’s fault.  Not only was his supporting cast very mediocre, but his team was also in a very tough conference.  Last season, if the Wolves were in the Eastern Conference, they would have clinched the eighth seed.    

Recently, Timberwolves’ owner Glen Taylor had a few strong comments toward Love during an interview on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities radio.

“I think where maybe he got away with some stuff not playing defense on our team, I’m not sure that’s how it’s going to work in Cleveland,” Taylor said.

In March, Tyson Chandler of the Dallas Mavericks also publicly criticized Love’s defense:

Along with poor defense, Love has been known for demonstrating poor sportsmanship.  Many fans might remember when he was suspended two games in 2012 for stomping on Luis Scola’s head. 

Even his response to Chandler’s criticism was cringe-worthy:

However, the Chandler/Love exchange was later revealed to be a series of friendly jabs between the two players.  

When Love was on this team, the Timberwolves were riding the waves of mediocrity, but now they have a new identity.  

In return for Love, the Timberwolves received Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young and a promising future.

Even without logging a single minute in an NBA game, Wiggins has become a household name.  His offense may need some work, but his explosiveness and defensive intensity will allow him to be an immediate impact. 

Bennett struggled in his rookie year due to injuries, but he bounced back with an impressive summer, averaging 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in the Las Vegas Summer League, per NBA.com.  Most importantly, Bennett reportedly lost weight during the offseason:

The Timberwolves also added experience to their roster by bringing in Young, a seven-year veteran.  He’s not an All-Star, but Young is a solid player coming off of a career year. The 26-year-old power forward averaged a personal-best 17.9 points per game while shooting slightly over 30 percent from three last season with the Philadelphia 76ers.  

The Timberwolves also have young talent in Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng.  

Muhammad and Dieng saw limited time last season, but per 36 minutes, both players were very productive.

Player PPG TRB
Muhammad 17.8 6.6
Dieng 12.6 13.2

Many fans are especially excited about LaVine due to his elite athleticism.

He showcased his incredible leaping ability when he challenged Wiggins to a dunk contest via Twitter:

LaVine was drafted as a point guard, but due to his length and poor passing ability, he’s probably better suited as a 2-guard.  Last season at UCLA, he only averaged 1.8 assists per game.  

Not to mention, the Timberwolves already have several proven players, such as Nikola Pekovic, Corey Brewer and Ricky Rubio (all of whom are under 29 years old). 

This team will probably adopt a fast-paced offense that will allow their young athletic players to flourish. Last season the Washington Wizards and the Toronto Raptors used their youth to their advantage by running an uptempo offense, and both teams made it to the playoffs.

Of course, a fast-paced offense may not suit Pekovic or the aging Martin very well.  With potential young replacements, such as Dieng and Muhammad on the roster, the Wolves may want to trade away some of their older assets.

Steve Kyler from Basketball Insiders weighed in on the possibility of a Pekovic trade, saying, “I wouldn’t rule it out, because Gorgui Dieng looked really good this summer, but given what Pek is owed, there isn’t a scenario that seems likely.”  

The future of the Wolves may be exciting, but Love’s departure does hurt them in the present.  The loss of their biggest offensive contributor will inevitably cost them a few wins in the upcoming season.

Remember, Wiggins and LaVine are only 19 years old and still very raw.  The development of the Wolves’ prospects may be fun to watch, but it won’t translate into victories for at least a few years.  

If all of their young talent can reach their full potential, the Timberwolves could be very dangerous two to three years down the road.

 

All stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted

Follow me on Twitter: @SupermanJZ

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Minnesota Timberwolves: Glen Taylor’s trade comments not needed

Earlier this week, ESPN reported that Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor made some statements about the Kevin Love trade, commenting on Love’s defense, claiming that Love will get the blame if the Cleveland Cavaliers struggle and bringing up Love’s injury history.
Kevin Love
I understand the frustration that Taylor must feel now that Love has officially left the Minnesota Timberwolves for the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team that with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and now Love, is in a strong position to make it to the NBA Finals, while the Timberwolves are rebuilding yet again. However, the Timberwolves got a great haul for Love, by getting Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young.
These are three players with a lot of potential that the Timberwolves would not have gotten if Love had left through free agency, and getting an established player in Young, and two former first overall players in Bennett and Wiggins is a lot better haul than most NBA teams have gotten for a superstar player who has de

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Next Page »