Mar 20, 2012; Portland, OR, USA; Former Potland Trailblazers guard Brandon Roy sits court side as the Blazers play the Milwaukee Bucks at the Rose Garden. This was the first time Roy had been back in the Rose Garden since abruptly retiring at the beginning of the season. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-US PRESSWIRE

Why Minnesota Can and Will Make the Playoffs This Season

Step aside Ryan Kalil, we all know your Carolina Panthers aren’t winning the Superbowl this year.  I plan on toning it down with this guarantee, and hopefully it will generate some buzz.  Kevin Love and Co. will are feeling pretty good about their playoff chances this year, and I’m going to tell you five reasons why there’s an extremely high chance this team makes the playoffs.

Mar 9, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) sits on the bench after hurting his knee late in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at Target Center. The Lakers won 105-102. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

1.  Offseason acquisitions 

Chase Budinger:  He is a prototypical shooter/athlete off of the bench.  Great 3-point shooting ability combined with great length and speed provides Ricky Rubio with a nice new running mate.  Look for opponents to dread our bench players a little bit more this season.

Greg Stiemsma:  We all know he isn’t an all-star by any means, but he learned how to play basketball at a satisfactory level in Boston under coach Doc Rivers.  Stiemsma provides size and depth in the front court in addition to his shot blocking ability (1.5bpg in just 13.9mpg).  His addition should allow Nikola Pekovic to get some more rest once in awhile.

Nicolas Batum Andrei Kirilenko:  In hindsight, I’m glad we weren’t able to lure Batum away from Portland.  The team avoided giving up too many assets for the young, talented forward.  In signing Kirilenko, Minnesota gets the ultimate example of Mr. Do It All that isn’t named LeBron James.

Dante Cunningham:  A former college teammate of former Timberwolf, Randy Foye, Cunningham is a tweener forward without a true position.  He makes up for it with grit and hustle off the bench, including making a game-winning shot this year for his old Grizzlies team.  I won’t expect him to contribute much (or if he will even still be on the team by season tip-off), but he is part of a cultural shift in Minnesota for a reason.

Robbie Hummel:  The late second rounder out of Purdue brings a great all-round game to the table, but his two ACL injuries hurt his draft stock significantly over the years.  Whatever playing time he gets he will make the most of it.

Alexey Shved:  The 23-year old combo guard out of Russia has already been a professional player for the past 6 years.  He brings Euroleague playoffs and Olympic experience to this young team, and I haven’t even gotten started with his ability to handle a basketball.  The man seems to score at will and is a great distributor of the ball.  Look for him to pair up well with the next acquisition to be mentioned.

Brandon Roy:  If Isiah Thomas is right for once and Roy is really back, then this team just stole him from everybody else.  The former all-star is coming out of retirement to give it another go with Minnesota, and if he can even get back to 80% of his old self everything will go great in Minnesota.  Expect him, Shved, and Malcom Lee to rotate at shooting guard.

2.  We got rid of the ‘bad’-  By this I’m talking about not resigning Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph, and Martell Webster while managing to trade Wes Johnson, Wayne Ellington, and Brad Miller’s contract.  I hope Beasley finally flourishes in Phoenix, Randolph finally gets consistent minutes, and that Wes and Wayne find good roles with their teams as well.  The reason all of these trades were good is because they either A) were part of the losing culture for far too long in Minnesota, or B) not contributing to the fullest of capabilities.  Kahn did a great job by “blowing it up” this offseason.  It wasn’t too much to blowup, however.

 

3.  An increased fan base will mean more ticket and merchandising sales, but it will also mean that game attendance is going to increase significantly.  This is going to be the team to watch this season with all their new pieces they put together.  Unless your team is the Golden State Warriors or the New York Knicks, nobody is going to watch your games if your team sucks.  Based on last season we can expect the team to build up their home court advantage and win more home games.

 

4.  Derrick Williams is motivated by last season’s disappointment and is ready to make a splash.  However, the team must use his playing time wisely.  Lately I have developed the thought that if he could be like the forward version of James Harden, that he will play much better and give the team some much needed offense off the bench.   He is almost down to 225 pounds.  That’s light and big enough to play both forward positions, and he should be much quicker on defense now as well.  All Williams needs to do is play within himself and be more aggressive in attacking the rim.

 

5.  Isn’t it obvious?  Ricky Rubio’s return means instant success for the Timberwolves.  Nothing against Kevin Love, but that team wasn’t the same when he tore his ACL.  K-Love might have gotten 6th in League MVP voting, but our beloved Timberwolves clearly run to the beat of Ricky’s tambor (drum in Spanish).

 

There is no reason this team shouldn’t make the playoffs.  The only realistic “excuse” is if Ricky and K-Love collided with each other during tip-off of the season opener and tore both ACLs.

 

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