Bring on the regular season! After a pretty exciting offseason, we finally got a chance to see the "New Era" Minnesota Timberwolves in action. The 'Wolves finished a shortened preseason with a 2-1 record, beating the Los Angeles Lakers once and split a series with the Golden State Warriors. No, preseason records don't matter, but that doesn't mean that the games are meaningless. With a small sample size of three games, here are some preseason takeaways for the Timberwolves.
Jeff Teague, Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, Taj Gibson, and Karl-Anthony Towns will be the starters this season from the looks of it. The starting lineup should have no issue scoring. The bench, however, is where the true test will lie. Last season, the Timberwolves ranked dead last in bench scoring production with an abysmal 22.8 points scored per game.
Jamal Crawford was a free agent signing that was meant to fix the Wolves' bench woes this season. Crawford, a three-time Sixth Man of the Year, had an overall lackluster preseason. In the three games, he scored a total of 8 points and went scoreless in the opener. Crawford, who turned 37 this year, will most likely have more of a veteran leader role on this Timberwolves squad. Of course, he's very capable of having those nights where he goes off and makes insane shots, and the Wolves will certainly have those nights where they need that from him.
A familiar face that Timberwolves fans were happy to see was Nemanja Bjelica. Bjelica suffered a foot injury that required surgery late last season. He made his comeback in the preseason opener against the Lakers. The second-year forward played 20 minutes per game while averaging 7 points, and he shot 42.9% from the three-point line. Bjelica will be solid off the bench this season. He provides spacing, 3-point shooting, and is serviceable defensively.
The Wolves also brought back Shabazz Muhammad on a one-year veteran minimum deal. Muhammad impressed in all three preseason games. He went off for 22 points and 6 boards in the game against the Lakers and had a total of 19 points in the games against the Warriors. Muhammad certainly has a lot to prove this year. He initially turned down a four-year offer from the Wolves in hopes to cash in this summer, but when that payday didn't come he decided to return to Minnesota. Muhammad will be a vital role player, and he will play with a chip on his shoulder in hopes of getting paid next summer.
Lastly, Gorgui Dieng. Dieng, a starter last season, will play with the second unit this season. He had an overall solid preseason, notching a double-double in two out of the three games. Moving Dieng to the bench provides the second unit with an efficient scorer as well as a rim protector that they've desperately needed.
The Point Guards
Everyone knows that Timberwolves fans adored Ricky Rubio. His replacement Jeff Teague said himself that all he's heard since being in Minnesota is how much everyone loved Rubio. In the three preseason games, Teague showed literal flashes of quickness as he blew past Lonzo Ball and Stephen Curry. While he isn't the passer that Rubio was, Teague shined in all of the areas in which Rubio didn't. He looked especially good in the preseason opener, ending the game with 11 points and 9 assists. Wolves fans will come to appreciate Teague's ability to finish at the rim, his 3-point shooting, and his ability to defend.
As far as the backup point guard position, based on minutes played, it seems as though Tyus Jones will get the edge over Aaron Brooks.
After a thrashing against the Warriors in their last preseason game, coach Tom Thibodeau made an interesting comment about "waiting on potential." Thibs said "If you're waiting on potential, you're waiting on losing. We can't wait on potential any longer." Comments like this are polarizing. The good is that Minnesota is definitely in "win now" mode. Wolves fans can certainly appreciate the urgency in Thibodeau's statement. They'll most likely come to find out that their new All-Star guard Jimmy Butler shares the same sentiments. For fans of a team that hasn't made the playoffs in 13 years, statements like this are welcome.
"If you're waiting on potential, you're waiting on losing. We can't wait on potential any longer" -Tom Thibodeau
The bad, however, is what this means for the younger stars. What does this sense of urgency do to the development of Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins? Is it worth it to rush the development of these young guys while the likes of the Warriors dominate the NBA? Time will truly tell.
In conclusion, the Minnesota Timberwolves showed flashes of how fun and how good they can be moving forward. This season will be a test, and it'll be about building that much-needed chemistry. Today, the regular season is upon us, and it'll be time for the "New Era" Timberwolves to show the world just what they're capable of.