Timberwolves’ ranking in the Western Conference – Part Two

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Dec 14, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) and Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) meet following the game at Target Center. The Lakers defeated the Timberwolves 100-94. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

This is Part Two of a three-part Western Conference preview. The Timberwolves were ranked in Part One, so be sure to check out where they landed. Stay tuned for Part Three on Thursday.

We kick off Part Two of the West preview with the Wolves’ opponent in their season-opener and round out spot #10 through #6 with a grizzled, veteran team fighting to remain relevant int he rough and tumble Western Conference…

10. Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant is back! The Lakers drafted D’Angelo Russell! Roy Hibbert and Lou Williams both don the purple and gold now as well! Playoffs!!

Slow down there, Lakers fans. Sure, Mitch Kupchak and the front office added a few good pieces, but they weren’t regarded as star pickups for a reason — the Lakers should know since they struck out on all of the superstars.

Kobe Bryant is definitely going to help the team, but are 22 points on 20 shot attempts really helping L.A. much more than before? We know Bryant was a special player in his past, and he could still very well be as good next year (though I doubt it), but at this rate in his decline, it should be about time to tell Kobe that he doesn’t need the ball on every single possession.

I believe that many are sleeping on Roy Hibbert. Yes, I know he’s had some games where it has seemed like he was invisible, and yes, I also know that there have been times where he didn’t record a single rebound in a playoff game. The positive with Hibbert is that while those two statements are true, he’s arguably a top-five defensive center and rim protector. And if we’ve learned anything from Dwight Howard, it’s that premier rim defenders can save a defense at times.

Lou Williams is one guy I’m not high on. He’s basically what Nick “Swaggy P” Young is aside from his height. Williams is a shot-chucker. And if he’s a chucker, and Young’s a chucker, and Kobe’s a chucker…uh oh.

I wasn’t sure why the Lakers took Russell over Jahlil Okafor (who, in the 76ers first preseason game, showed just how gifted of a scorer he was on the block) due to their somewhat crowded back court and lack of talent in the front court. But after trading for Hibbert and signing Brandon Bass, it might be the best move Kupchak will make — IF Russell develops into what the team hopes he will.

The team has a lot of young talent — Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, plus the two other rookies just selected — and they’ve got good veterans as well. The problem for them will be if those guys can play together. We’ll see if Byron Scott can figure that out, but for now, don’t expect much from the Lakers this year.

Next: #9 - Suns Back in a Valley