The Minnesota Timberwolves are ready, ready to do what other teams finally leaving that “Trust the Process” phrase couldn’t. The Wolves have struggled, found success, fallen, struggled some more but now, 2016 it all should finally fall into place. The Wolves have went the Oklahoma City and San Antonio Spurs route, they built their team from the ground up while others have gone the quick route with big money signings and trades. It’s a great way to success but who doesn’t like the story of the underdog?
The Wolves in 2015 started off strong but inconsistent play hindered their finish as they ushered in a new era with their entire starting unit having played less than for seasons, not together, but every player in the starting 5 has been in the league less than 5 seasons. But despite that, the Wolves competed, and finished the season with a record of 29-53. The issue with the Wolves was not a lack of talent, it was a lack of experience as their starting unit is still getting their feet wet in the league.
What can we expect from the Wolves in 2016 is improvement in all fronts but more so on the defensive side of the court. With new HC Tom Thibodeau we should really see the versatility of Karl-Anthony Town and Andrew Wiggins. But the season will still fall on the shoulders of Ricky Rubio. Has he finally been through that learning curve you must master to become a true NBA PG?
Here are 3 reasons why the Timberwolves will make the playoffs:
To think a coach can’t make a difference is crazy. I understand the players must execute but the gameplan is key. The Wolves have been one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA for years, the same as the Bulls were prior to his arrival, but that quickly changed. In his first season the Bulls made a 20 game improvement, and I am expecting the same from the Wolves. Rubio is no Derrick Rose but Thibs will get in his face and challenge the PG to be the player we’ve expected him to be since his arrival in the NBA. The Wolves can score the ball, and if their defense can get around the league average they will create a path to the playoffs.
The season still falls on the shoulders of Rubio. His assist have hovered in the top half of the league for the past 3 seasons but Rubio can do more. With the talent surrounding him, and better chemistry we should expect to see him hit double-digits this season. The issue with Rubio has been his shooting percentage. He averaged 8 shots per last season, with his ball handling skill he should be able to get to the rim more but he seems to be more focused on a perimeter game which in turn handicaps the offense. This is where the experience of Thibs will come into play. He worked with Tony Parker and Rose, two driving PGs and watched as their stats and teams success rose by their attacking mode. Rubio is a stud on the defensive end but his offense, if improved will be a major reason the Wolves make the playoffs.
The West Is Wide Open
The West has their power teams such as the Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Grizzlies and now Portland but after those 5 it gets a little congested. Last season the Rockets had a chance but with Dwight Howard missing the team record with take a hit. The Mavericks may have taken a step back and OKC is a mystery which leaves the door open for a team like the Timberwolves to make a run. I know they finished 13th in the division in 2015 but the teams ahead of them have lost major pieces which should allow Rubio and Co to make up some ground. If they can stay the course, follow Thibs leadership, the Wolves can go as high as the 7th or 6th seed.
Plenty has to fall in place for the Wolves, much like they do for every other team but talent-wise they have a great team and should be able to make some noise on their way to the playoffs in 2016.