Here at Blue Man Hoop, we’re gearing up for the 2012-13 season by looking around the NBA to see how each team matches up with the Golden State Warriors. We’ll give you an overview of each opponent, a matchup or stat to watch and a measure of just how big a threat each opposing squad represents for the Dubs. Be sure to check out the other previews we’ve done so far on Blue Man Hoop: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, L.A. Clippers, L.A. Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks.
Minnesota Timberwolves Overview
The Minnesota Timberwolves were two different teams last year. They were 18-13 in games Ricky Rubio started, but after his injury on March 9, they totally fell apart, amassing just five wins in their final 25 games. If Rubio was guaranteed to play a full season, the Wolves would almost certainly be a playoff team. But as it is, the Spaniard has optimistically put his own return date sometime in December, meaning he’ll miss at least a full month of games.
That makes Minnesota a little more vulnerable.
Aside from Rubio and double-double machine Kevin Love, the Wolves were pretty unremarkable last year. They finished in the middle tier of the NBA in just about every major stat category, with one of the only exceptions being their high Pace Factor of 96.0—fourth-highest in the league. All in all, they were pretty average.
But their offseason moves were decidedly not average.
By acquiring the unretired Brandon Roy and bringing Andrei Kirilenko back from Russia, the Wolves quickly tossed two recent All-Stars into their starting five. If Roy’s knees are healthy, Minnesota suddenly has an elite shooting guard. If Kirilenko is mentally engaged, suddenly Minnesota has one of the most versatile defensive forces of all time. If both of those things happen, look out.
In the addition by subtraction department, the Wolves got rid of Michael Beasley and his penchant for low-percentage shots. In his place, Minnesota brought in Chase Budinger, Russian rookie Alexey Shved of CSKA Moscow (Kirilenko’s team) and American rookie Robbie Hummel of Purdue. All told, Minnesota’s roster is much improved over last year’s version.
Golden State took two out of three from Minnesota last year, and David Lee was a big reason why. Lee averaged 28 points and 8.5 rebounds in the two games he played against the Wolves. On the other side of the power forward matchup, Kevin Love went for averages of 33 and 14. That doesn’t tell us anything about these two we don’t already know—unless you didn’t know that both are stat stuffers who don’t play defense, in which case you should probably acquaint yourself with a televised game occasionally.
Whichever player decides to defend, even just a little, will give his team an edge in the four upcoming contests in 2012-13. One key advantage for the Warriors is Carl Landry, who’ll back Lee up against Love. And there’s not another capable power forward on the Wolves’ roster.
Threat Level: 8/10
The threat level’s extra high here not because the Timberwolves are an elite team, but because they are directly competing with Golden State for a playoff seed. With the top six spots pretty much assigned to the Thunder, Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, Spurs and Grizzlies, there’ll be heavy competition for the last two between the Warriors, Mavericks, Wolves and Jazz. Minnesota and the Warriors are gunning for the same thing, and their rosters are comparable from a skill perspective. It’ll be a dogfight. Hence the elevated threat level.