October 22, 2008
SI.com's NBA Enemy Lines
Minnesota Timberwolves
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Timberwolves

This could be a bit of a surprise team. They finally have some pieces, some maturity. They've got Randy Foye and Mike Miller in the backcourt and Kevin Love and Al Jefferson up front.

The key is getting a great perimeter offensive player in Miller to balance with the inside presence of Jefferson. Miller can put the ball down if you play him tough on the jumper. He's a good kid, a little bit full of himself, but that's why he is good. Even during the bad years in Memphis, he kept himself in good physical shape. He's a workaholic, a perfectionist in his shooting. He can be good as an example of work ethic to his young teammates.

Now that Jefferson has some pieces around him, I think we'll see that he can pass effectively out of the post. He has a great basketball IQ, and if he feels pressure from the weak side and he has someone to finish on the perimeter, he'll get the ball out there. When he first got to Minnesota and signed that big contract [five years, $65 million] -- which was a good deal for the Timberwolves -- he felt he had to put up numbers, and that was also the best thing for his team. He scored against everybody -- bigger guys, quicker guys. Opponents put a 4 on him, a 5 on him, they double-teamed him and he scored no matter what. He's only 23, and he has the ability to be a seven-to-10-year All-Star. You can play through him as the focus of your offense. He wants the ball.

By apparently committing to Love as their power forward for the future, they've forced Jefferson to be a full-time center. I'm not opposed to that because of Jefferson's abilities down low. The problem may be on defense, especially for Love trying to guard the big athletes at power forward. The good thing is that both of their big guys can pass.

I think the Timberwolves have great faith in Foye as a point guard, though I see him as more of a scorer than a playmaker. To me, he's more of a Ben Gordon type. One thing I know he can do is penetrate-and-kick, and he has size and toughness and a strong scorer's mentality with the ability to get to the rim.

I'm changing my opinion on his backup, Sebastian Telfair. He came into the league as a high school superstar out of New York, but he's out of the limelight now and that's a good thing for him. The guy really is a talented player in terms of being able to push the rock, and if the expectations don't get out of whack and he chills out and realizes he is just one of a lot of good guards in the league, then he'll have a chance. He loves to play, he's a gym rat. He's learning to see the floor better and learning that he's not good enough to do whatever he feels like doing on the floor.

Corey Brewer could be a decent player in the league, though his shot selection was poor as a rookie last year. He could be a very good defensive player. Offensively, he's a slasher who at the end of the clock can put it down and try to create something. But he was doing that too early in the offense, with 17 or 16 seconds on the shot clock. Being around Miller is going to be a good thing for him.

Rashad McCants is a guy who needs the ball to be effective, and I don't think he's good enough to warrant that type of indulgence on a good team. His goal should be to come off the bench and be an instant scorer, to give off some energy and not be a liability at the defensive end. When he goes to the basket, he's only thinking score, score, score.

Ryan Gomes is a utility forward who rarely will hurt you and often will help you. He's a great teammate and community guy.

You notice Rodney Carney's athleticism something like once a quarter. He's a typical guy from Memphis who in college could play athletically with the best of them, but at this level that's not good enough. I understand he's a good kid and a gym rat, but at the same time he doesn't have a good offensive skill set.

I think Randy Wittman is a good coach, but I wonder if he delegates too much at the defensive end. If it were me, I would take more control of that end of the floor and make it more of a priority. Offensively, he runs a lot of stuff that Flip Saunders used to run, and Wittman has added some nice options to it. But he's also one of the guys who appears to grate on his players over time, and he's under some pressure this year.

This isn't a playoff team, but I can see them winning 35 games and letting everyone know they're on the rise this year.


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