2012-13 MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES SEASON PREVIEW
While the 2011-12 Minnesota Timberwolves 26-40 finish didn't exactly look impressive on the stat sheet, the team saw some signs of significant growth and hope for the future during the campaign. The season brought the debut of point guard Ricky Rubio, who was a contender for the NBA Rookie of the Year Award before tearing his ACL in a collision with Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. The T-Wolves were as busy as ever during the offseason, making a flurry of trades to improve the team's depth and become a factor in the Western Conference playoff picture.
The Timberwolves remade practically the entire bottom half of their roster, trading away a first round pick in the draft to the Rockets for shooting guard Chase Budinger, who could improve the team's three point percentages. The team dropped the expiring deals of Michael Beasley, Anthony Tolliver and Anthony Randolph, but weren't able to make a huge splash on a top tier free agent. Instead, general manager David Kahn signed talented foreign players like guard Alexey Shved and forward Andre Kirilenko. The T-Wolves also brought in former Trail Blazer Brandon Roy and swung a deal for Memphis forward Dante Cunningham.
Looking at the Timberwolves' starting lineup, with Ricky Rubio expected to be out until December, the task of leading the offense falls on Luke Ridnour. Ridnour has proven to be a savvy veteran point guard over the years and could prove to be invaluable when Rubio returns. At forward, the offense revolves around All-Star Kevin Love and Derrick Williams, who will continue to see plenty of action in the paint. At center, Nikola Pekovic has proven to be a worthy enforcer under the net, and the team also signed Greg Stiemsma in the offseason to reinforce the depth at the position.
With teams all over the Western Conference making significant improvements, the Timberwolves have stuck to their plan and are clearly in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. With solid starters like Love, Derrick Williams, Ridnour and the eventual return of Ricky Rubio, the T-Wolves may have put together a rare form of team basketball that could overcome the star-packed rosters that have dominated play over recent years. With a bevy of proven veterans, role players and young talent, the T-Wolves have a compelling lineup of players from various backgrounds that could come together come playoff time and surprise a lot of people.
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES FRANCHISE FACTS:
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Stadium: Target Center
Conference: Western Conference
Division: Northwest Division
Dancers: Timberwolves Dance Team
Notable Players: Malik Sealy
Minnesota Timberwolves Championship Titles: 0
Minnesota Timberwolves Conference Titles: 0
Minnesota Timberwolves Playoff tickets
Minnesota Timberwolves Season Preview History
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES EXPERIENCE:
The Minnesota Timberwolves are a relative newcomer to the NBA that joined the league as an expansion team in 1989 with the Orlando Magic. Much like many teams that are starting from scratch, it took a few years of struggles on the court and winning over new fans in the Minneapolis area before they gained prominence. The T-Wolves initially played their games at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the home of the Minnesota Vikings, until they moved into their permanent home, the Target Center.
The Timberwolves followed the path of many expansion teams by starting off slow in their first few years. The team was led by shooting guard Tony Campbell during their inaugural season, who scored an average of 23.2 points on the court per game. The successive years saw the Timberwolves pick up a number of first round selections, such as Christian Laettner and Isaiah Rider.
The tide turned for the T-Wolves in 1995 when the team selected high school standout Kevin Garnett and hired coach Flip Saunders. They also traded the underwhelming Laettner to the Atlanta Hawks for Andrew Lang and Spud Webb, and traded Donyell Marshall for the Golden State Warriors' Tom Gugliotta. The following year, the Timberwolves swapped the Milwaukee Bucks' Ray Allen for point guard Stephon Marbury. Finally, the Timberwolves had a foundation to work with, and it paid off with Garnett and Gugliotta being named All-Stars during the 1996 season. The team was an exciting addition to the Western Conference that combined Garnett's go-to presence in the paint with the speed and agility of Marbury's ball handling skills.
As the years unfolded, the Timberwolves had a series of personnel changes, but exploded onto the scene during the 2003-04 season. The team won its division title that year and made quick work of the Denver Nuggets and Sacramento Kings in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Unfortunately, the T-Wolves lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals and haven't been back since. With the trade of Kevin Garnett in 2007, the team entered rebuilding mode and began working to get back in the right direction. A bevy of young talent and a new management direction helped the T-Wolves improve steadily as they worked to break their playoff drought and return to prominence in the Western Conference.
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