This past year, the Minnesota Timberwolves quietly had their best season since the Kevin Garnett trade, chalking up 31 wins in a campaign that included two wins over our beloved Pelicans. Since then, they have gotten rid of their questionable General Manager, David Kahn, and installed Flip Saunders as the new President of Basketball Operations. Saunders knows the Wolves well, as he led the team to the Western Conference Finals as the Head Coach in 2004. With new management in the front office, the Timberwolves got busy this offseason.
Andrei Kirilenko left the Wolves for the big city Nets in Brooklyn. The Wolves also waived center Greg Steimsma, who now will be patrolling the paint for our squad in New Orleans. To fill his shoes, they signed veteran big man Ronny Turiaf. However, their big signing of the offseason is the aging but still productive guard, Kevin Martin, who averaged roughly 14 ppg last year in 27.7 mpg with the Thunder a season ago.
A major factor in the increase in success last year for the Timberwolves was Nikola Pekovic, who torched the Pelicans in our three meetings last season, putting up 62 points. Pek was the anchor for the Timberwolves’ successes last season, starting in all 62 games he played, averaging 16.3 and 8.8 points and rebounds per game, respectively. His health and consistent play was huge for the Wolves last season. Though he has not yet re-signed with Minnesota, opposing team’s hesitance to make an offer suggests the Wolves view him as a valuable future contributer. When the Pelicans face them this year, Davis and Withey will have to use their quickness to outwit him defensively, while Steimsma will have to rely on brute force to slow down the 6’11” Montenegrin beast.
For this upcoming campaign, the guard play of Rubio and Martin will be the Wolves’ other focal point of success, and thankfully for New Orleans, we will have a much better time defending against this attack with our three headed monster of Holiday, Gordon, and Evans. All three of our superb guard trio can effectively defend either player and hopefully hold them in check during our face-offs this season.
To me, the biggest question mark of the Timberwolves, and this is by no means a surprise, is the health of Kevin Love. If Love is healthy and can consistently start for the Wolves, I see Davis having serious trouble matching up with his mid-range ability combined with his strength and rebounding ability. It is no secret that Davis is on the slimmer side of power forwards in the league, and with only one year of NBA level defense under his belt, our budding superstar may have difficulty slowing down a healthy Love.
The Timberwolves will be one of the best teams in the paint this season if the injury bug does not bite, but their guard play on defense will be lacking, especially against teams with more athletic guards, such as the Pelicans. Kevin Martin is now 30 years old, and probably would have a hard time containing a younger and quicker Evans and (a healthy) Gordon, and the bench guards, J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved will struggle to make a defensive impact. With how much Davis will hopefully improve this season, along with a much more athletic team overall from the Pelicans as a whole, I think that we will fare much better this year against the Wolves. But the future does look bright for Minnesota, and will likely eclipse 30 wins for the second year in a row.