Positional Previews: The Wings
The first true superstar to play for the Wolves was Kevin Garnett, a power forward. Eventually, he was traded for Al Jefferson, a power forward/center, who was eventually (and, arguably, unnecessarily) replaced by Kevin Love, a power forward. Heck, even Tom Gugliotta and Christian Laettner put up big numbers for the Wolves in the early-to-mid 90s.
Power forwards have led the Timberwolves for nearly the entire existence of the franchsie. Thaddeus Young has a chance to lead the team in scoring this year, but for the first time in nearly two decades, the current shape of the franchise does not revolve around the development of a promising young power forward.
It’s unfair to put on too much pressure on a guy who has yet to play a second of real NBA basketball, but Andrew Wiggins was the “big get” in the Kevin Love trade. Thus, an ideal scenario would include Wiggins, the top overall pick in a notoriously deep 2014 draft, to reach his full potential and serve as more than just “the next guy”.
SF- Andrew Wiggins
Last season (college stats): 35 GP, 17.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.5 apg, 32.8 mpg
Corey Brewer may very well end up as the starting small forward on opening night, but I’m not sure I see a scenario where Andrew Wiggins doesn’t eventually take his place. Much like when Ricky Rubio sat behind Luke Ridnour his rookie year, not only will there be pressure on Flip Saunders to make the switch, most hope Wiggins will have enough ability to earn the spot on talent alone.
Guys like Brewer and Kevin Martin each have some tricks that Wiggins may be able to use in his own game. Can you imagine Wiggins with the ability to lean in and draw fouls like Kevin Martin? And while Wiggins is probably already more calculated than Brewer when it comes to entering passing lanes, I’m guessing there are a few tricks Brewer will teach Wiggins once they hit the floor together.
SG- Kevin Martin
Last season: 68 GP, 19.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.8 apg
Martin came into Minnesota last season and did exactly what many expected him to do. He shot the ball well, drew fouls, played iffy defense, made the occasional lazy pass, and missed over 10 games. When Kevin Love was in Minnesota, they revolved the offense around him. Now that he’s gone, Martin may have more opportunity to create for himself. At the very least, he’ll get more shots up.
That could be good on some nights, but historically, teams with Martin taking the most shots haven’t fared well in the win column. And while Pekovic, Young, and Wiggins will all get into the scoring column, Martin is probably the top candidate to lead the team in scoring this year. To this point, it’s unclear whether that’s good or bad.
Last season: 81 GP, 12.3 ppg, 1.9 spg, had a 51 point game once
Remember this? REMEMBER THIS?
Okay, maybe Brewer won’t do that again this year, but his sparkplug-ability has never been in doubt. Whether he’s starting or not, and weird as it may be, Brewer will come into this year as one of the veterans of this team. He may fit into that role perfectly, too. He has the perfect personality for young players to look up to, and nobody will ever question Brewer’s effort. Ever.
Last season: 37 GP, 3.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 7.8 mpg
Trying to figure out where Shabazz Muhammad fits on an NBA roster can cause headaches, and his lack of playing time last year (which was probably justified) makes it even more difficult. Last year, Muhammad couldn’t get time behind Brewer, Martin, Budinger, Mbah a Moute and (briefly) Derrick Williams.
This year, it can be argued that with Wiggins, Young and LaVine added to the mix, it could be even tougher for Muhammad to find minutes. At training camp a year ago, I was surprised, more than anything, when the media got a chance to see how good Muhammad was on the offensive glass. In fact, just about all of his best qualities, including scoring the basketball, involve him playing in the paint. Steve wrote about Muhammad’s development in great detail, and about how modeling parts of his game after Thaddeus Young may be in his best interest.
Last season: 41 GP, 6.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg, .394 FG%
I remember telling myself that once Chase Budinger got back, the Wolves’ bench problems would start to fix themselves. It’s easy to look back now, and realize how unfair that was to Bud. Not only was he coming off his second knee injury in as many years, he was also coming back to a bench that was never able to find an identity.
A fully healthy Chase Budinger would have helped the Wolves last season, but it’s unfair to assume that it would have fixed the bench. This year, expectations for Budinger are at an all-time low. Maybe the lack of expectation will be good for him? It’s possible that he’ll be in a position battle with Shabazz Muhammad and Robbie Hummel for the backup small forward spot, but a healthy Budinger should have the advantage.
Last season: 53 GP, 3.4 ppg, .379 FG%, .360 3PT%
The re-signing of Robbie Hummel wasn’t a unanimously popular decision, but it’s understandable why they brought him back. His shooting is far from consistent, but he does space the floor, and did shoot a decent percentage from deep (numbers went up as the season went on). He also rebounds well, and usually positions himself well on the defensive end.
It’s entirely possible that Hummel will end up in his 12th/13th/14th man role that he played in a year ago. It’s also possible that he’ll get some minutes backing up Young, Wiggins and Brewer. It all depends on how things shake up between him, Budinger and Muhammad to start the year. The best guy will get the job.
Glenn Robinson III
Last season (college stats): 37 GP, 13.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, .488 FG%
I don’t think I’ve ever heard so many “I’m going to be so pissed if [insert name here] doesn’t get signed” for a second round pick before. But then again, GRIII is pretty awesome. Robinson was an early second round pick in a ridiculously deep draft, and many say he has first round-quality talent.
His finishing ability at the rim gives him an advantage over most wings coming into their rookie season, including guys like Zach LaVine. I’ve even heard takes from pro scouts who say GRIII is a better outside shooter than his 30 percent number (over two years) lets on. Maybe he’ll play like a first round pick, who knows? Maybe he’ll sit towards the end of the bench like most second round picks. Either way, he’s signed.