While admitting that I'm blatantly stealing from PoorDick and David Letterman, I thought it'd be useful to bring this back and focus on the current roster's chances.
Top 10 Reasons for Optimism That Wolves Fans Can
Delusionally Cling To Count On
Average veteran teams can make hay in the regular season. Let's compare the current lineup to that of a team who won 44 games and made the playoffs: Luke Ridnour/Raymond Felton; Brandon Roy/Stephen Jackson; AK47/Gerald Wallace; Dante Cunningham/Boris Diaw; Pek/Tyson Chandler. Is there an appreciable difference between that team and the 09-10 Charlotte Bobcats? It's reasonable to hope for a .500 record in the first 3-4 weeks of the season until Love returns.
- They have enough ballhandlers to weather the storm. In Adelman's system, it's the fluid that keeps everything running. Last year's end of the season highlighted many problems, but the most prominent one was playing a 5-7 SG at PG with no good ballhandlers around him and backing him up with 6-5 rookie who had been injured most of the year and was much more SG than PG. I can't emphasize enough how much this hurt them. This year, they are 5 deep with guards who can handle the ball (and Lee would be much more comfortable if pressed into action at SG) and a SF/PF who finds shots for others.
- They can create more open shots through passing and movement. Preseason is preseason, but it's clear that the team understands the efficiency of creating offense through running sets and getting easy looks before the defense sets up. Besides the cutting and setting up Pek down low, they've moved it around for corner 3s and had some good curl action to set up FT line jumpers.
- They doubled down on their biggest offensive strength from last year. They realized last year that their bread-and-butter was Love and Pek getting to the foul line. Roy's career average FT/36 is over 5 (in the neighborhood of guys like Tyreke Evans), and Kirilenko's is 5.7 (for reference, Love's is 6.6). This means they don't have to radically alter their offensive goals.
- Their coach understands how to weather the injury storm. Here's another lineup comparison: Ridnour/Kyle Lowry; Roy/Kevin Martin; AK47/Battier; Cunningham/Scola; Pek/Chuck Hayes; 4th-year Budinger/2nd-year Budinger; Barea; Courtney Lee; Shved/subpar version of Dragic or Aaron Brooks; Williams/Jordan Hill; Stiemsma/Brad Miller. That other team won 43 games.
- AK47 and Roy are, at this point, on the court. One of the reasons for concern was that neither would play a full season. While that is something to be concerned about, if they can both make it through the first 4-5 weeks healthy, the concern about this team is reduced.
- They have a seemingly-friendlier schedule to start. Last year, when Rubio went down, the Wolves had to deal with their toughest month schedule-wise, which included long stretches on the West Coast and road games against top teams. Then they had to play without Love against the teams fighting for playoff spots and positioning. Their current squad makes them more susceptible to teams like Orlando and Charlotte at home, but at least it's not games in San Antonio and OKC.
- Pek doesn't absolutely need Love to be productive. After watching Ricky's only home preseason game last year, I thought they could make Pek productive by pairing the two. As it turns out, he's just productive on his own. He continued to put up numbers without both top players while playing with bone spurs.
- Dante Cunningham and Chase Budinger are good and show up every night. I think we all know which former players are being referred to by mentioning this. As for one current player...
- Derrick Williams is better this year. I'm guessing that comments about this opinion alone will outnumber all others, but I see a more active and improved player who can produce more than he did last season.
To be honest, I don't know how many of these will matter. They were so unprofessional at the end of last season that my hopes aren't up, and there's also the problem of getting so many new players on the same page. Also, if Roy, Pek, and/or AK47 have to sit a lot, all bets are off. They'll struggle on the defensive glass and probably have some offensive moments like they did in the first half vs. Maccabi Haifa. With all of this said, it's just possible that this group doesn't do too much negative damage to their playoff hopes.
Oof, that ended negatively. Let's all exaggerate the positive by making hyperbolic statements about my top 10 list!