SI's Weirdly Balanced Preview

I got inspired by Eric In Madison's homage (read: I wrote a comment that was so long it was essentially a post), and with all the talk of lack of content, I thought I'd be brave, jump into the fray and make my first fan post. As a warning, I'm not a super-statistician (although I am starting grad-school for a stats related field next month and hope to bring a secret project back to Canis this year!), and I'm still new to frothing-at-the-mouth basketball fandom (learning quite quickly!).

What I am is a "middle-path" kind of guy. I kind of cringe when people preview which player will have a stellar year, because it's really like playing Keno. If you say something and exactly that happens, it's usually luck. What we can do is look at things from a broad perspective, and treat our players like little pools of diffuse expectation, so let me try my hand below the jump.

I have a little more faith in our management than Eric (see sig) and I think it'll take more than Kevin Love going all diva on us to scare Rick off. The pessimistic worry to me is that Kevin bitches his way into the doghouse, Rick refuses to play him for a month, Kahn panics, and we end up shipping him and Derrick Williams off for Pau Gasol and a potato that bears a slight resemblance to Glen Taylor's niece.

The realist in me says this:

Somebody on this team is going to piss us off. Maybe Shved, maybe Bud, maybe Cunningham. Maybe Brandon Roy. We are going to be cringing when somebody gets minutes. I'm reasonably confident our cringing will be of higher quality than it was last year. Wes did a pretty good job of deactivating my cringe reflex, as it became bored and slumped off to a dive bar so it could think to itself, "Working this many hours of overtime, and I still can't afford a boat..." I'm thinking my disappointment will at least show up on game day this year. He'll even have a favorite player. The Christmas surprise will be who that is, but they will be glorious in their badness.

One of our stars will underperform. Probably Rubio. Even "better than expected" is beneath our consensus expectation on the site, let's face the fact. But who knows? Maybe Pek, Love, or AK will slump. One of the guys we need to be stellar will be "solid." Mystery man will deserve the minutes, but we'll talk about him being a "headcase" and lament the fact that he "just doesn't look the same/comfortable/confident." Maybe he'll get pulled out of the rotation for a couple of spurts like we saw with various players last year. Best case is that it'll be Cunningham. One of our guys will underperform.

We'll realize we traded some useful players. I would really like this to not be Wes Johnson. As much as I like the guy, if he blows up and manages to score 20 points a game all season for Phoenix, I will eat my hat. Not because it is so unlikely, but because, like Cthulu's tentacled visage, it will drive me batcrap crazy. I will eat the hat, it will be delicious, and I will store my hats in a pizza box from there on out. Likely our team will have a hole somewhere, and one of the guys we shipped out will over-perform filling that hole for another team. Beasley, Randolph, AT ... sigh... Wes ... somebody.

Somebody will get injured. I'm knocking on the headboard of my bed here. I'm hanging lucky jockstraps around the window like I'm making a makeshift curtain. May the basketball gods bless us with some hamstring strains and a twisted ankle or two and nothing else. That said, somebody on the team is likely to go down for the count this year. Two if we get dealt a really bad hand. If we're lucky, it won't be our key guys, and it won't affect the outcome of the season or their careers, and other injuries across the league will neutralize the effect. Fingers crossed, roll the dice.

HOWEVER on the bright side, there will be silver linings, too!

Somebody will break out. Somebody on our team will overperform and have an exceptional season. It'll probably be Love or Pek making marginal improvements. AK was a monster when he was healthy during the Olympics. Shved's in the running. I still have faith in D-Will. We've done a good job of stacking this deck in our favor. We're going to have a huge change of chemistry on the court this year, and it will have positive consequences for individual players. There are some really interesting guys on our team this year that are in make-or-break mode. Somebody will step up. If two guys have breakout years, we are two rounds into the playoffs.

Our overall quality will improve. We have addition by subtraction this year. I really think ESPN in particular has underrated our offseason. This team will be stronger than it was last year in talent, even though Ricky will be gone for at least a part of the season. We may witness a balanced, capable team that can route around guys having a bad night. We may see a team that shows it can go from decent to good. We might see a whole season of just-above-league-average basketball. Even for that, angels would sing on high in Target Center.

We will finally see Rick Adelman's system run correctly. Dude didn't get a preseason last year. Compressed schedule made it harder to train. Guys had a bad attitude and didn't listen to him. Well, guess what. We have time this year, the bad attitude is gone, and we have it all with additional pieces that our coach wanted. Remember, this guy is the king of second half adjustments. We saw it last year, even when Ricky was out. He's been telling us about it in the post-game interviews for a year now with that look in his sad eyes that says, "These mere mortals... they do not comprehend." He will have time between games to adjust and run practices with players, and it will show.

Target Center will show up and the year will just get better. The fans are in it this year. I think this will be one of the best years for Timberwolves fans so far. There's buzz, people are excited, and you can bet that even if Ricky comes back at half strength - even if he comes back and the Wolves haven't won a single game - when the kid steps back into the building there will be a sell-out crowd, and they will be going crazier than me with my pizza box full of Italian bowlers.

We're going to see some good stuff, and it's going to be a hell of a lot of fun.

The balanced preview says we go 46-36, but screw that. I changed my mind. None of the bad stuff will happen. We're going 82-0.


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