Minnesota Timberwolves – I Heart KG

October 17, 2006

Website: I Heart KG
Author: Lil Dice

Team Name: Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Years Record: 33-49
Key Losses: Marcus Banks
Key Additions: Mike James, Randy Foye, re-signing Justin Reed, Craig Smith

1.What significant moves were made during the offseason?

Mike James- Outspoken, intense guard coming off a career year in Toronto. The Wolves are banking on a repeat performance, hoping that the fact that last season was the final year of his contract was coincidental. He scores, assists, and can make 3-pointers, a category in which the team did poorly last season. He answered KG’s call for more veteran experience on the team and will help locker room morale. His ability to be clutch is one the team sorely needs.

Randy Foye- A slasher who was shuffled among three different teams on draft night, finally ending up in Minnesota. For the rest of his career, Foye will be expected to prove that McHale knew what he was doing when he took him and traded away Brandon Roy. The summer league MVP got fans excited when they heard “Rookie Of The Year” buzz following his performance in Vegas. He’s been described as NBA-ready and Coach Casey called him a sponge, saying he learns quickly. His personal history alone is an asset for a team coming off the Eddie Griffin drama.

Rashad McCants- Last year’s rookie stepped up his game when he was given more minutes in the second half of the season, particularly helping out with his 3-point shooting. He’s now shutdown indefinitely because of microfracture knee surgery and is reported to be progressing nicely.

Justin Reed- A forward who works hard, did alright after coming over from Boston, and was re-signed for cheap.

Craig Smith- The second round pick has been a pleasant surprise so far in summer workouts and training camp. His rebounding and defensive skills may keep him from being shipped to the D-League.

Marcus Banks- Though a good backup PG, his services were no longer required after signing Foye and James. His offer from Phoenix was not one that the Wolves should have matched. Regardless, it didn’t look too good for the organization when, after not fully understanding their rights to the player, the guy they termed the “key” to the trade with the Celtics left for the Suns.

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?

Garnett- One of the best players in the league, his performance across the board is consistently stellar. No one doubts that he wants to win and he often plays like he does. However, Ticket is now 30 and about to start his 12th season in the NBA with no rings to show for it. It’s a situation he wants to immediately remedy. He got the veteran leadership he requested and has expressed excitement about the chemistry and potential for the year. Having a revved up, hungry KG is a good way to start the season.

Backcourt- For the last couple seasons, the backcourt was seriously lacking in consistency. James brings stability, leadership, and 3-point shooting to an area where all of that is desperately needed. If Randy Foye is able to step in and log productive minutes, he’ll join James and Ricky Davis in a backcourt with big-time scoring potential. Having last year’s starters coming off the bench instead should also be more effective. It’ll be up to Coach Casey to come up with a workable rotation for the guard-heavy team.

Chemistry – Halfway through Casey’s first year as a coach, McHale announced a trade that brought in a new crop of players who helped the team to their worst record in over a decade. This year, Casey coaches a team that, in efforts spearheaded by Garnett, had been playing together during a few weeks of informal workouts before training camp even began.

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?

Garnett- Having the highest paid player in the league limits a team that needs improvement, especially when the team still owes a couple draft picks (what up, Boston and L.A.), has unwanted players with bad contracts, and is approaching the luxury cap threshold. It’s difficult to get KG all the help he needs with little to offer except the player himself.

Frontcourt- Another season, another mediocre center. Garnett needs a big man to help him out with rebounding and interior defense. Mark Blount doesn’t fit the bill. Eddie Griffin can block shots and is a decent rebounder, but should never shoot the ball. The laser eye surgery he had this summer along with a desire to make people forget his off-court behavior should make him work harder. Craig Smith has shown some promise, but he is young and only 6’7” (though Coach Casey says he plays like he’s 6’11”). Mark Madsen provides energy off the bench, but his scoring and rebounding stats leave something to be desired. Because they couldn’t pull off a trade for someone like Reggie Evans, the team signed 34-year old recovering alcoholic Vin Baker to a non-guaranteed contract. Baker hasn’t played much in the last few years and, besides keeping Griffin in line, will offer little help. After James and Foye were secured, fans assumed the next logical step would be for the organization to finally bring in someone with similar talent for the center. Right now it’s looking like the team will have to go another year without.

Offensive Identity- Last season, too many 4th quarter and half time leads were blown, partly because of a lack of an experienced point guard on the perimeter. Too often, the PG looked hesitant or confused with the ball when it came down to crunch time. The lack of an offensive identity will hopefully be remedied by a knowledgeable veteran PG, more experienced coaching staff, early team chemistry, better shooting, and deeper bench.

4. What are the goals for this team?
a) Keep KG happy
b) Get players like Jaric, Griffin, and Blount to put forth more effort
c) Keep the players healthy
d) Make the playoffs
e) If a, b, c, and d don’t happen, use extreme caution in keeping KG injury-free
f) Regardless of the above, work on development of Foye and McCants

5. What will happen if the team doesn’t make it to the playoffs?
Coach Casey will be replaced by assistant coach Randy Wittman before the end of the season.
After orchestrating a monumental, multi-team trade of Garnett, Kevin McHale will be step down in favor of Fred Hoiberg.
The team will center its rebuilding project around Foye and McCants (if his recovery goes well).
Full-season ticket packages for the 2007/2008 season will start at $100.

Predicted Record: 42-40