I post this article by way of suggesting how different perception can be among the national media when there is no time and no inclination to actually go beyond the 'quick grab' storylines surrounding a team or a player. The original article is here, and please understand that this material is not my own (I don't want to be accused of plagiarism) but that I've changed the names in the article to make it sound as if it's been written about the Wolves in order to make a point. I present this as evidence of how pre-conceived perceptions about the Timberwolves have tainted most assessments of them up this point. The team this was actually written about has arguably as many questions as we do, yet the perception is vastly different both in the near and long term. (FWIW - we are much better suited in the long term except for the fact that we are in the WC vs. the EC for the original team referenced in the article). It will be interesting to see which team wins more games next year.
LAS VEGAS — The transformation was more deliberate than dazzling, a subtle, fundamental evolution. The Timberwolves set out this summer to buy stardom and instant credibility. They settled for an extensive makeover.
Over a number of days in July, the Wolves spent $33 million, acquiring youth, length, speed, size, shooting and stability. They traded for a number of new players, started developing two rookies [three once Pekovic arrives] and restored a sense of direction.
The lineup that Coach Kurt Rambis will present this fall will be more talented, balanced and logically assembled, and quite possibly playoff worthy in a couple years. It is a start, albeit a more modest one than a team built around a big name free agent.
“This is the best position that we’ve been in in many years,” Rambis said last week, a renewed enthusiasm in his voice.
Last season, Rambis essentially presided over a demolition job. From June 2009 to this month, the team president, David Kahn, acquired and released 34 players, all in a furious effort to slash the payroll and create salary-cap room.
Major free agents declined their riches and the burdens of playing in cold weather. So the Timberwolves committed to one potential star, Michael Beasley, and a range of role players who fit Rambis’ style. They also retained enough cap flexibility to go shopping again next summer.
The Timberwolves are much younger now, with an average age of 24 and no player in his 30s. Ryan Hollins and Darko Milicic are the oldest, at 26. Aside from Beasley, the Timberwolves’ most talented players are some of the youngest: Kevin Love, 21, and Jonny Flynn, 21.
“The weakness we have is experience and youth,” Rambis said. “And that’s something that with time we’ll take care of. But we do have a lot of young guys out there. You never know how they’ll react to everything.”
It is an almost entirely new roster, with just four players left from opening night in 2009 (if Ryan Hollins departs via trade), and just two holdovers from April 2008, the end of the season before Kahn and Rambis arrived.
“It’s exciting,” Rambis said. “I think we have a lot of talent.”
Rebuilt nearly from scratch, the roster is now much better suited for Rambis' open transition offense and should provide appropriately speedy results.
The system needs “spacers,” as Rambis called them, primarily 3-point specialists. The Timberwolves now have a decent supply, with Wesley Johnson — a 41.5 percent shooter from the arc last year at Syracuse — joining new addition Martell Webster (37.3) and holdovers Corey Brewer (34.6) and Wayne Ellington (39.5). Their young point guard, Jonny Flynn, has a spotty shooting history but posted a respectable 35.8 percent from beyond the arc last season.
Beasley, although a poor long distance shooter, also qualifies as a spacer because of his ability to pull opposing big men away from the paint with his ball-handling and driving skills.
The system also needs players who can penetrate and get to the rim. Webster and Johnson are far superior to Damien Wilkins and Ryan Gomes, the players they replaced. Beasley and Brewer are excellent slashers.
The offense relies heavily on the pick-and-roll, and new addition Luke Ridnour’s skills are crucial here. Flynn, who started 81 games in his rookie season, has shown progress as a pick-and-roll point guard.
Mobile big men who can set picks and dive to the rim are critical. Beasley “has the potential to be best in the league at it,” Rambis said, and opposing scouts echo that assessment. Darko Milicic and Nikola Pekovic, a young Montenegrin center who is expected to sign next week, hold promise.
“So we’ve added a lot of elements in what we like to do,” Rambis said.
Then again, the Timberwolves’ roster is mostly unproven and dotted with asterisks. With nine new players, it will take time just to establish an identity and some chemistry. But they are younger, cheaper, tougher, faster and more promising than the group that ended last season.
The roster churning is over. The focus is finally on the present.
“Every move now,” Rambis said, “is made to win and to keep building.”