Positional Previews 2015 – The Wings



Unlike the uncertainty surrounding the “who will play?” question at power forward, the Wolves’ wing situation is mostly figured out personnel-wise.

Still, it’s very unclear, with the exception of Andrew Wiggins, how much time certain guys will see coming into 2015-16. Between Shabazz Muhammad, Zach LaVine, and Kevin Martin, everyone will undoubtedly play, but the addition (and expected minutes) of Tayshaun Prince may shrink small portions of time for a few.

This is probably the deepest pool of talent on the roster, even more exciting when considering that 3/5 of the wing core is under 22 years old. The obvious caveat of the excitement of this core is the uncertainty that comes with having a group this young to rely on. How good will Wiggins be? How good can Shabazz Muhammad get? Can Zach LaVine put it all together?

Lots of questions, yes, but there will be dunks involved. I’ll be watching.

Expected Starters:

Andrew Wiggins
Last season: 82 gp, 16.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.1 apg, .437 FG%

We all know what Wiggins did last year, and it got everyone (Wolves fan or not) excited. It came with him as a top-2 leader in minutes per game across the league, but Wiggins went from a timid rookie to an aggressive guy that dunks on DPOY candidates over the span of a few months.

Still, there are things Wiggins needs to do if he wants to fully live up to the ceiling he set for himself his rookie year. First, he needs to improve his ball handling, a problem he said he worked on over the offseason. If his outside shooting can become additionally consistent, Wiggins will become a force. More than he has become already.

Zach LaVine
Last season: 77 gp, 10.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.6 apg, .341 3PT%

The “LaVine starting over Martin” story is worth more than two short paragraphs (and will be explored at a later date, though Steve discussed it a bit already at Rolling Stone), so we’ll just focus on LaVine the basketball player right now. There’s plenty to talk about there.

LaVine showed strong ability to catch and shoot (though he didn’t get to do it much, playing mostly point guard), to hit tough shots from deep, and was a better finisher in traffic than advertised coming out of UCLA (still not stellar). He struggled mightily with playing as a primary ball handler, as well as perimeter defense as a whole, especially on the pick and roll.

In fairness to LaVine, he wasn’t supposed to play as much as he did out of the gate. He was supposed to get a year to sit and watch. Not start. Ricky Rubio wasn’t supposed to get hurt, and Mo Williams wasn’t supposed to get traded mid-season. All things considered, LaVine did fine with what he was given, and even had an objectively good last month of the season offensively.


Kevin Martin
Last season: 39 gp, 20.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, .393 3PT%

Based on his Media Day comments, Martin probably isn’t happy to be coming off the bench. Lucky for the Wolves, his one season as a backup – his lone season in Oklahoma City – was one of his most productive ones of his career.

Pairing him with Shabazz Muhammad in the bench unit will either be a great scoring push the team needs, or lots of stagnant chucking with not a lot of passing (or defense). Martin, thankfully, is a guy you can expect about 20 points on a decent shooting percentage on a nightly basis. Whether he starts or not, it’s nice to know there will be something steady off the bench.

Shabazz Muhammad
Last season: 38 gp, 13.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.2 apg, 22.8 mpg

Last season, Bazzy went from being my least favorite member of the Wolves to my favorite, and it didn’t take much time. I knew he worked hard his rookie year, and I knew he was trying, but rookie Bazzy didn’t impress me, and I dismissed him. Second year Bazzy came into the year in much better shape, and played like he wanted to prove everyone wrong. He certainly proved me wrong.

Had injuries not halted his sophomore campaign, he would have at least been a mention in passing in the “Most Improved Player” conversation (certainly not the winner). He averaged 18 points per game the one month (December) that he averaged over 25 minutes per game, and all of it came from heart, hustle, and athleticism. He still has work to do to make his outside shot consistent, and still has to learn when to shoot and when to pass. Still, I love the prospect of a Bazzy/Wiggins duo in the starting lineup down the line. But that’s down the line.

Tayshaun Prince
Last season (w/ Memphis): 58 gp, 7.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.6 apg, 24.1 mpg

Frankly, I havent seen much of Tayshaun Prince over the past few years. And, to my surprise, it sounds as though most of the Grizzlies fanbase liked Prince, and he had a mostly productive time over several years (in different stints) in Memphis.

According to Jonah Jordan of Grizzly Bear Blues, Prince struggled to shoot the ball, but made up for it (to a degree) in the post and….thunderous dunks? He’s not the defender he was (his first stint) in Detroit, but he knows how to play on that end too. Who knows? Maybe Prince will surprise some people. Sounds like success here wouldn’t shock Grizzlies fans.

Damjan Rudez
Last season (w/ Indiana): 68 gp, 4.8 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 0.7 apg, .406 3PT% 15.4 mpg

Rudez was traded for Chase Budinger over the summer, and if nothing else, it sounds like Rudez is going to shoot the ball well, something Budinger didn’t do as consistently as anyone (including, likely, Budinger himself) hope for. The only question for Rudez revolves around playing time, and whether he’ll make the roster at all.

He has guaranteed money coming his way, but so does Lorenzo Brown. Through solid preseason play and a greater general need at the position, Rudez is likely the favorite to get the spot. If he gets that spot, he’ll have to hit shots from deep on a consistent basis to keep it.

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2 Responsesso far.

  1. gjk says:

    Wasn’t much to say about all this until this week, considering the now-real possibility that they’ll be starting Prince and throwing the whole rotation out of whack. I get the benefits of playing Wiggins with a taller/stronger wing, but this would seem to be the time to play him against the bigger guys so that he gets used to it and continues to adjust his game with better ball handling and moves against those guys. Mitchell is starting to make me nervous with his “play LaVine no matter what” philosophy, and there’s no way it’s best for Wiggins/Muhammad/Towns/Dieng/Jones to play LaVine if he’s not effective on the court. At some point, the development of one guy could hurt the productivity of other, more-developed youngsters, much like what happened with Love and the pu pu platter of youth he was surrounded with.

  2. shlabotnik says:

    Agreed. Levine as the backup PG is bad for the development of other players on the team. I hope that Mitchell is not serious about that. I don’t mind Prince starting if it’s Mitchell’s intent to make the point that the young guys have to play good D to start. Mitchell is basically choosing to start his best 5 defenders and I can get behind that. But if Martin is the backup 2, then I see no other place for Lavine except the 3rd team. He should work there until he has a better feel for team D and team game and earns his minutes. Good Lord, please, not the backup PG.

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