This could be a bit aggressive considering we were once two wins away from going to the NBA Finals, but I dare say that this moment in Timberwolves history provides more reason for Wolves fans to be excited about our team than any other point. We are currently blessed with a talented young core that hopefully can “grow up” together and blossom into a title contender within the next few years. With so much to be excited about, I thought I’d share precisely what I love most about each of our young core guys, which I’ll define as under 30 and could factor in to our potential future playoff runs.
Nemanja Bjelica – F – R – 27 years old – 6’10”
Bjelica has had an up and down rookie season in the NBA, but what I love most about Bjelica is his ability to take and make big shots. Some have dubbed him “Professor Big Shots” for that very reason. If he could stay healthy and get more minutes, his confidence hopefully could improve enough to contribute more consistently. We desperately need more production from our bench bigs, and Bjelica has the skills to do this if he puts it all together.
Tyus Jones – PG – R – 19 years old – 6’2″
I have been a vocal critic of the Wolves’ pick of Tyus in last year’s draft from day one. For starters, I think that he lacks ideal size and athleticism for an NBA point guard (that 6’2″ height listing is laughable). That being said, he has actually been a lot better than I thought he would be, which I guess lets you know how low of expectations I had for him, but I digress. He has shown some ball handling and shooting skills, but what I love most about his game so far have been his quick hands. Like I said, I think his athleticism is a bit lacking, but he’s made up for that defensively with active hands to make plays. The fact that he’s only 19 also gives a lot of hope that he could learn the point guard position one day and be a legitimate contributor in our rotation.
Adreian Payne – F – 1 year pro – 25 years old – 6’10”
Payne has a lot of room for improvement in his game, but what I like about him is his skillset is that of a modern NBA “stretch 4”. He has the size and athleticism to defend and rebound, and he has the range to knock down jumpers beyond the arc. He just has to improve these skills enough to truly be a factor on our team if we’re going to the places I hope we can go.
Gorgui Dieng – PF/C – 2 years pro – 26 years old – 6’11”
I loved this pick when we made it back in 2013 (as a part of the Trey Burke trade that also got us one more player I’ll get to in a moment) because I knew that Gorgui would be able to protect the rim and rebound at an NBA level. But what I love most about Dieng is his feathery touch. Now in his 3rd season, he’s emerged as a very reliable jump shooter when left open and he’s great at the FT line (81% this year).
Shabazz Muhammad – SF – 2 years pro – 23 years old – 6’6″
Shabazz, of course, was the other player we got for trading Trey Burke back in 2013. After a somewhat slow start to his career, he’s really become a nice player who always seems to provide instant offense off the bench when the Wolves need it most. So what I love most about Shabazz’s game, which I believe is integral in why he is such an offensive spark off the bench, is that he plays hard every second he’s on the floor. He’ll knock down a jumper if left open, but his first choice is to attack the rim, and better yet, bang down low for offensive boards and getting those valuable second chance points. You just have to love seeing that kind of effort possession after possession.
Ricky Rubio – PG – 4 years pro – 25 years old – 6’4″
It seems like Minnesota fans have been forced to choose a side on Ricky. Either you’re fed up with his lack of shooting touch and you think the chances he takes with the ball lead to too many turnovers or you love his creativity with the ball and true point guard instincts at both ends of the floor. I’m staunchly in Ricky’s corner, especially for the price we have him at, and despite all of his skills, what I love most about Ricky is his competitiveness. He’s had more than his fair share of losses thus far in his career, but you can see how much it bothers him in his body language and post-game interviews. He just competes and has that fire to win and he wills this team to play better, but it just hasn’t been enough most of the time these first few seasons. I do have a lot of confidence that with these talented young guys surrounding him that competitive fire will be sparking a fire under the asses of a more capable team that will win a lot more games in the future.
Zach Lavine – G – 1 year pro – 20 years old – 6’5″
My favorite young Wolf is none other than two-time slam dunk champion Zach Lavine. The easy choice for what to love would therefore be his athleticism, but what I actually love the most about Zach is he is a certified gym rat. Everything we hear about this kid from the Wolves’ coaching staff is that all this kid does is spend his free time in the gym working to improve his game. They even had to tell him to take it easy a little bit during training camp this past season because he was overworking himself outside of full team workouts. And of course, the hard work would mean nothing if it didn’t yield results, but he’s showing more and more positive signs of maturity and improved skills in games this year, especially of late. What’s NOT to love about this kid?
Andrew Wiggins – G/F – 1 year pro – 21 years old – 6’8″
Wiggins is making small steps forward this year after his successful rookie of the year season. He still lacks in ball security and outside shooting accuracy, but overall, I still think he’s eventually going to be an All-Star in this league. The reason for this, and what I love most of all about his game, is that his preferred way to score the basketball is by attacking the rim. He abuses smaller guards in the low post, and he drives on bigger forwards guarding him on the perimeter. He’ll settle for some bad midrange jumpers along the way, too, but just look at how much he gets to the line if you need proof of his aggression (6th in the league in FTA this season). And despite the fact that another certain number one overall pick has surpassed Andrew as our number one prospect, Wiggy is still our go-to guy in late game situations when we absolutely need a bucket, and he’s never afraid to be in that position.
Karl-Anthony Towns – F/C – R – 20 years old – 7’0″
I could write a blog as long as all the other guys in this post combined praising all of the good qualities young KAT possesses, but if I have to pick just one, it’s his quickness and mobility for his size. Towns runs the floor like a gazelle and looks unstoppable alongside Ricky Rubio in the pick and roll game on offense, and on defense he can step out and stick with a perimeter player on a switch just as easily as he retreats to the rim to block a shot. All of this with a seven foot, 244 pound frame. And just how excited does Karl have me about his future? The numbers he’s put up so quickly and his maturity on and off the court that he’s shown at only 20 years of age, I cannot fathom a scenario where he doesn’t end up in the Hall of Fame one day, barring a catastrophic injury. He’s that good.
Now, despite all of this young talent, we’re still are struggling to win games this year and we’ll end up with a top 6 or 7 lottery position for sure, but the silver lining, of course, would be the potential to add one more valuable young asset that could take us to the next level. But enough waiting, next year I’m calling that we finally do put it all together and make the playoffs. You heard it here first, folks.