Preseason is history, and the Timberwolves’ season opener against Orlando is just three days away. Here’s what we know — and don’t know — from a month preparing these remade Wolves for a season in which they intend to make the playoffs for the first time in a decade.
Five Things They Know
1 This team CAN shoot it
There’s no need to wail or gnash your teeth anymore about the league’s worst three-point shooting team.
Kevin Love and his right shooting hand are back, healed and healthy. Kevin Martin’s arrival means the Wolves finally have a shooting guard who fits his position’s name. J.J. Barea is healthier and more effective than at any time since he signed in December 2011.
And guess who shot better during preseason than any of them? Ricky Rubio, the Wolves’ shooting percentage-challenged point guard who made more three-pointers (six) than he missed (five).
The Wolves shot 37.7 percent on threes during the preseason and weren’t shy about doing it, shooting 23 a game after they made just 30.5 percent last season.
“If we’re open, we’ll shoot ’em,” Barea said about a team still waiting for injured Chase Budinger to return, probably sometime in December. “If we shoot that much, we have to make some.”
2 This team can move the ball
Injuries galore last season forced Wolves coach Rick Adelman to abandon much of that “corner” offense that made him rich, famous and headed to the Basketball Hall of Fame someday. Instead, he was forced to rely too much on the pick-and-roll with the ball mostly in Rubio’s hands.
This season, expect to see more of Adelman’s offense, with Love as well as Rubio used as “facilitator” and Martin, Corey Brewer and eventually Budinger cutting without the ball. In preseason play, the Wolves were second in the NBA in scoring (104 ppg) and, believe it or not, first in fewest turnovers (15 a game).
“The ball movement has been really good,” Adelman said. “We can score points. When we’re playing together as a group, then I think we can be a pretty darn good team offensively.”
3 They’ll rebound
The Wolves have invested $120 million-plus in Love and Nikola Pekovic, a tandem that Flip Saunders, president of basketball operations, calls the “Bruise Brothers.” That combination presents its own defensive issues, considering that neither is a noted individual defender or shot blocker.
But Love is a rebounding savant, and Pekovic is the proverbial immovable object. Together, they anchor a team that Adelman is confident can go get the ball.
“We should be able to do that,” he said.