2013 Minnesota Timberwolves

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Minnesota Timberwolves (Last Year: 31-51)

2012-13 Season Summary:
The Minnesota Timberwolves were sexy sleeper playoff picks in the Western Conference during preseason predictions, but once again fell short and the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season. A huge reason for that was due to all the injuries up and down the roster.

The Timberwolves began at a disadvantage since Ricky Rubio was still recovering from a torn ACL and LCL that forced him to miss the first month and half of the season. It only got worse as Kevin Love was unable to shake a nagging knee injury and had season-ending surgery which sidelined him for 64 games. Brandon Roy and Chase Budinger were acquired in the offseason to provide some scoring punch on the wing, but Roy couldn’t shake his ongoing injuries and only appeared in five games. Meanwhile, Budinger suffered a knee injury six games into the season and was limited to 23 games of action. On top of that, Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko each missed significant time as well.

As a result, Minnesota was left grasping at straws especially on the wing where they tried, but failed, to find replacements by signing Mickael Gelabale, Josh Howard, and even former first-round pick Lazar Hayward. Derrick Williams finally got his chance to play starter minutes at power forward, but failed to capitalize on the opportunity. With all of this going on, the Timberwolves failed to take a step in the right direction and actually regressed.

2013-14 Projected Depth Chart:

C: *Nikola Pekovic/#Greg Stiemsma

PF: Kevin Love/Derrick Williams/#Dante Cunningham

SF: #Andrei Kirilenko

SG: Luke Ridnour/Alexey Shved/Malcolm Lee

PG: Ricky Rubio/J.J. Barea

NBA Free Agents:

*C-Nikola Pekovic (RFA)

#SF-Andrei Kirilenko (TO)

#PF-Dante Cunningham (TO)

#C-Greg Stiemsma (TO)

SG-Brandon Roy (UFA)

SF-Chase Budinger (UFA)

SF-Mickael Gelabale (UFA)

C-Chris Johnson (UFA)

2013-14 Team Salary: Approximately $59.4 million

NBA Offseason Team Needs:

1. Pay Pek?: Pekovic is about to get paid this summer and receive a hefty raise from the $4.6 million he made this past season. Since he is a restricted free agent, Minnesota does have the right to match any offer sheet Pekovic signs this summer. Any deal will likely cost at least $12 million per year since big men are always in demand in the NBA (i.e. Roy Hibbert and Brook Lopez getting max deals last summer.) I would be very surprised if the Timberolves didn’t re-sign Pekovic and just let him walk without getting something in return.

2. Get AK47 to Stay: Kirilenko has a player option for this upcoming season worth $10.2 million. At 32 years old, he might choose to opt out in hopes of signing one final, long-term deal and have the opportunity to play for a contender. Kirilenko’s versatility was very valuable to the Timberwolves this past season, and if he opts out and doesn’t re-sign with them, finding a small forward will become a pressing need for the new front office team. Quite frankly, I don’t think the franchise can afford to re-sign both Kirilenko and Pekovic to monster deals, so Kirilenko would be the more likely to walk.

3. Shooting Guard: Minnesota hasn’t had a true answer at the shooting guard position for a few years (the Brandon Roy experiment didn’t exactly work out, huh?) and once again enters the offseason with this being a hole in their lineup. The team really runs four point guards in its two backcourt positions, but adding a true shooting guard with prototypical size and the ability to knock down shots is sorely needed. The Timberwolves finished dead last in the league in three-point percentage this year by a WIDE margin. (Minnesota shot 30.5 percent, second worst was Orlando at 32.9%)

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