The Western Conference team with the best off-season in the NBA was not the Houston Rockets, which added Dwight Howard. It was not the Golden State Warriors, which added Andre Igoudala. It was not the Los Angeles Clippers, which added Doc Rivers. It was not the Memphis Grizzlies, which added Mike Miller. It was not the San Antonio Spurs, which added a year to each life of those old codgers. It was not the Thunder, which added a year to each life of those young codgers.
It was the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The T-Wolves, who haven’t made the playoffs in nine years, acquired Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer and Ronny Turiaf. They re-signed Chase Budinger, which is a nice move, and center Nik Pekovic, which is a fantastic move. They also drafted UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad and Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng, and if only one turns into a ballplayer, Minnesota is ahead of the curve.
And suddenly, Minnesota has a ballteam. Kevin Love is back from injury. Ricky Rubio is back from another season of rope-learning. Circle K is a scorer who will get the ball much more than he did sharing the court with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in OKC. And Pekovic is one of the NBA’s best offensive centers.
This is a squad with legitimate playoff aspirations in the loaded West. I am picking Minnesota seventh in the Western Conference.
In a chat the other day, off the top of my head, I went: 1. OKC; 2. Clippers; 3. Memphis; 4. San Antonio; 5. Golden State; 6. Houston; 7. Minnesota; 8. Denver.
OK. Who did I leave out? I like Portland. Portland’s a contender. New Orleans is better, but no. Dallas is no good. The Lakers, no. Sacramento and Phoenix, no chance. Utah, no.
So yeah, I like the Timberwolves a lot. Portland will make some noise, and the Mavs and Lakers will make it interesting, and Denver could implode and open a spot for everyone. But I like Minnesota to make the playoffs. The Timberwolves were 24-58 in 2008-09, 15-67 in 2009-10, 17-65 in 2010-11, 26-40 in 2011-12 and 31-51 last season. Rick Adelman has coached Minnesota the last two seasons, when injuries have derailed a promising roster.
If the Timberwolves stay healthy, they will make the West playoffs.