5 Steps: Fixing The Timberwolves
There are many areas to address when attempting to resurrect the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team finding itself in perpetual rebuilding since they traded Kevin Garnett. This is a team that currently stands at 17 wins and 51 losses, which is already a better record than their 15-win season a year ago. There are many areas in which the Timberwolves need to improve, but following the steps here would be a good start.
1. Honest Assessment
In order to move forward confidently towards their stated goal of respectability, followed by contention, the Timberwolves must honestly look at themselves under the microscope. This starts with team owner Glen Taylor, who states he is sick of losing and wants to see a winning product on the Target Center floor very soon. The team recently joined the City of Minneapolis to come up with renovation plans for the facility and although many of the events within the building are not basketball related, it will be difficult to convince tax payers to spend their money when the Timberwolves continue to be a bottom-dweller of the NBA.
In another long season, the Timberwolves should have already learned many things about the pieces they do have to build around. Kevin Love claimed his first All-Star berth and went into the history books with the longest double-double streak since the NBA/ABA merger, a streak that ended against the Golden State Warriors in their last game. Love has accomplished wonderful individual feats this season, far beyond what David Kahn admits expecting from the third-year player, but at his current skill level Love is not the number one guy on a playoff team. Splitting hairs, he very well could be the 1B player to a stud 1A, but he cannot be the number 1 alone.
Michael Beasley, Wes Johnson and Wayne Ellington have all progressed well this season, but also have major flaws in their games. With Beasley in particular the team must decide if they are going to bank a major part of their future on his development on the court and maturity off the court. He has made great strides in each, but a decision must be made if they truly believe that Beasley can turn into the number one option and show the dependability of someone with that status on an NBA squad.
What about Darko Milicic? Do the Timberwolves truly believe he can be the starting center on a playoff team? While Milicic is averaging career-highs in points and blocks, he remains maddeningly inconsistent.
It is areas such as these where the Timberwolves must honestly look at the season’s progress made by individuals and make the difficult decisions on players who are showing positive signs. They must now decide if the progress made is enough to keep them around as a part of their core.
2. Fix the Turnovers
The Minnesota Timberwolves lead the NBA in turnovers with over 17 per game, which is obviously a problem for any team. For this young team, it is a major problem since team confidence comes from competing in games. At the beginning of the season when turnovers would pile up, you could almost see the team put their heads down and admit defeat, but throughout the season they have been able to fight back on many occasions to get themselves within striking distance.
While the Timberwolves certainly aren’t world-beaters, it would be interesting to see how many more games they could find themselves in during crunch time if they could find a way to cut down on the turnovers. This high number was expected coming into the season for many reasons, such as a team with many new faces attempting to learn each other’s tendencies on the court and their collective age. However, if they expect to make any sort of noise in the NBA landscape, this number will need to drop significantly.
3. Get Veteran Help.
The Timberwolves made the executive decision to allow their incredibly youthful roster the court time this season to make mistakes and learn while on the job. One can argue the pros and cons of doing so, but now it is time to begin forming the plan to add to what they consider to be their young nucleus. At this time, that nucleus consists of Love, Beasley and Johnson. If at any time they can upgrade their point guard and center situations with a veteran who would understand their place on the team, they would and should do so.
The fine line the Timberwolves must walk though is to accomplish this goal of getting more veteran help on their roster is to accomplish that at the same time as…
4. Don’t Have Too Much Turnover
Due to the fact the Timberwolves decided to go young and allow them to develop into what they hope will be a nucleus which stays together for many years, they cannot deviate from the plan without backlash from fans. Although Timberwolves fans are rightfully skeptical, they have gone through the beginning stages of the process and expect to see a team built quickly.
In David Kahn’s first year on the job, he drastically changed the face of the squad. In a little over a season, the nucleus of the team went from a trio of Al Jefferson, Randy Foye and Mike Miller to Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson, the latter a trio with much more potential. Now they must build around that trio in a manner which keeps them comfortable and happy while challenging them to develop into what they can be in the future. Continuously changing the roster around them is not going to foster constant growth.
5. Figure Out the Coaching
Recent reports state the Timberwolves are ready to fire Kurt Rambis at the end of the year and hire Milwaukee assistant Kelvin Sampson. However, the Timberwolves are on record disputing the report regarding Sampson, but not exactly saying Rambis is guaranteed to return next year. Either come out and completely support your current head coach or be honest with the fans who buy the tickets and say his job status will depend on how the team finishes the season.
One major reason the Timberwolves may not completely tie themselves to Rambis while distancing themselves from Sampson is due to the current status of Bill Laimbeer. If the Timberwolves do in fact decide to go another route with their head coach, the idea of a more vocal coach on the sidelines does make sense. Bill Laimbeer certainly fits that category, as well as has experience as a head coach during his time in the WNBA. As an assistant in Minnesota, he already has relationships with the players and, if you watch closely, does a lot of the talking to the team during timeouts already. One thing is for sure, the young Timberwolves respect Laimbeer. If the Timberwolves do decide to fire Rambis, Laimbeer should move one chair over to the driver’s seat.
Those who actually watch the Timberwolves see glimpses of progress in the team this season, remarkably, but the fans deserve more. They deserve a winner on the court, rather than feel good rhetoric followed by confusing decisions. When hired, David Kahn put a timetable on the turnaround and is behind the self-imposed timeline, so it is now to speed things up.