So, with training camp and the season around the corner, I got to thinking. We all know this season will not end with a playoff appearance, or anything approaching a good won-loss record. So why is it, exactly, that I'm so excited for the season to start? I think the answer is that I'm really eager to see certain, specific things from different players on the team that will hint, preclude, or allow future success. Since there's nothing else Wolves-related to talk about, what are some things Canis Hoopus as a whole are going to be keeping an eye on this Wolves season? Some of my ideas below the fold.
- Maybe the biggest one: The defense of Love and Jefferson. With this coaching staff, and an improved perimeter defense, it's officially nut-cutting time for this pair. If they are as bad on D as they were last year, then we need to start thinking about moving one of them and pairing the other with.. let's all say it together.. "An Athletic, Defensive-Minded, True Center!"
- A mid-range, maybe extended to 3-point range jumpshot from Love. I think we all expect him to add this to his game, and if he does, it could be huge. He was really effective last year, and didn't shoot well from outside all season. If he can hit a jumper off the pick-and-pop, and play a high-low game with Jefferson, they could be the best offensive frontcourt tandem in the league already.
- Improvement from Corey Brewer in every skill that involves the possession of a basketball. Brewer is athletic enough, brings enough energy, and has shown enough flashes of a spot-up 3, that he has an outside shot at being a Trevor Ariza-like role player for the Wolves. He needs to make big, big strides offensively this season, though, otherwise he's gone.
- Finishing ability and perimeter defense from Jonny Flynn. He was a stud finisher in college and Summer League, so I'm confident he'll do fine. But if he doesn't, he'll really struggle, and our expectations for him will be tempered. Also, he's quick and tough enough that he should be able to defend, and I know he blew Kahn away in the point guard workout with his defense, but he did play a zone both years at Syracuse. It will be comforting to see for sure that he can guard NBA point guards man-to-man.
- Ramon Sessions.
- This is a less obvious one, but one I think we can't ignore. The body language of the team's established players, particularly Al Jefferson. The Wolves are going to lose a lot this year. Again. It's going to start getting old for Big Al. The most worrisome part, to me, of starting a new rebuild is the effect on Al's psyche. If he's showing signs of frustration, or defeat, or a lack of interest, that's a major cause for worry. Losing is a powerful coach (not sure who to quote for that), and I think there's a frightening possibility that this is the year that buries Al Jefferson.