The Minnesota Timberwolves have been sitting on their couches during the playoffs for nearly the past decade. And once Kevin Garnett departed for greener pastures (the Boston Celtics), Minnesota appeared to possess little hope of returning to the promised land.
But there is a plethora of talent within the Timberwolves organization going into the new NBA season.
Here are (the lucky number) seven reasons that Minnesota will end their playoff drought in 2013.
Andrei Kirilenko will add a punch on defense
After signing a contract with the Timberwolves for 2-years/$20 million, the Timberwolves have added a versatile small forward who has a well-rounded game.
Over the course of his NBA career, Kirilenko has only once averaged below 10 points per game and has a career average of 2.0 blocks per game. His brief stint last season in Russian basketball has really “helped his body…He feels as good as he’s ever felt,” according to Timberwolves president and general manager David Kahn.
Also, the retirement of Brad Miller makes the Timberwolves an even younger team. But at 31, Kirilenko will add a veteran presence necessary when Minnesota is ready to make a late-season playoff push.
Utah and/or Dallas won’t make the playoffs
Even with the signing of former Memphis Grizzlies’ star O.J. Mayo, the Dallas Mavericks are on the rapid decline. A mere season after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder en route to an NBA championship, the Mavericks went down in a sweep to the Thunder in the first round of the 2012 playoffs.
Similar sentiments can be expressed for the Jazz, who lost in a sweep to the dominant San Antonio Spurs. With little depth behind Al Jefferson, Utah is not in a position to compete as aggressively as the Timberwolves are.
Look for the younger squads to make a run—the Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves will take over the final playoff spots come 2013.
Ricky Rubio will return ready
When Ricky Rubio tore his ACL last season, the Timberwolves knew it would be a very tough season. The flashy European point guard excited not only the Minnesota fan base but also the entire NBA.
Watching plays like these can’t help you but to watch in amazement at someone who has the potential to become one of the league’s premier facilitating point guards.
If Rubio can return healthy—in what seems to be no earlier than December—then the Timberwolves will have someone to lead the way on the offensive side of the ball and dish to Kevin Love, Brandon Roy & Co.
Kevin Love continues to dominate
The all-star forward in Minnesota is reminiscent of another big-time big man who played in the blue and black. Comparisons have been (and will be) continually made between Love and Garnett.
The tendency of some analysts and fans to discredit Love’s efforts because of the lack of supporting cast is not valid. His night-in and night-out efforts have paid dividends and the results have followed.
Love is one of the premier players in the NBA.
Just look at the numbers that he put up just last season: 26.0 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game to go along with a respectable 37 percent three-point shooting percentage.
His player efficiency rating (PER) was top-five in the league.
Derrick Williams, Greg Steimsma and Nikola Pekovic will support Kevin Love
When your worst-case scenario is a “more athletic Antawn Jamison,” experts definitely have high expectations of you. And that is exactly what was said about the Minnesota draft pick, Derrick Williams.
At 6’9”, Williams is a power forward who will likely spend time as the back-up and/or splitting minutes with Kevin Love. Greg Steimsma has also showed that he is a very capable role player in the minutes he was on the court for the Celtics in the 2012 playoffs.
Nikola Pekovic is a 6’11” and 290-pound center who has established himself as a respectable big man. In 47 games played, Pekovic had an impressive 18.5 points and 10 rebounds per 36 minutes.
With Love, Pekovic, Williams and Steimsma, the Timberwolves just may have one of the deepest front lines in the NBA.
Brandon Roy will contribute enough—and maybe more
A former superstar, it was a very sad story to see Brandon Roy tell the Portland Trailblazers that he was retiring due to nagging knee injuries in 2011.
But the Timberwolves managed to pull the three-time All Star out of retirement in 2012 free agency. According to NBA.com, Roy has shot .421 on field goals in game-tying or game-winning opportunities over the course of his career.
As GM David Kahn said in that same article, “Brandon’s talent, experience and leadership will be helpful…[he] is one of the best shot-makers and clutch performers in the NBA.”
If he doesn’t get re-injured (which is by no means a guarantee), Roy could be the piece that really helps Minnesota compete with the best in the west.
Youth capable of competing late into the season
The Oklahoma City Thunder have shown over the past two years that age does not amount to much.
Making playoff-savvy teams look like nothing is a credit to the culture that GM Sam Presti and coach Scott Brooks have created in OKC, and Minnesota is capable of creating something similar.
While they don’t have a Big Three of their own, the Timberwolves have a host of players capable of putting together a good season. With Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and Andrei Kirilenko leading the way, Minnesota will land at least the number eight seed in the west in 2013.