The Minnesota Timberwolves are in 14th place in the Western Conference. Only one team (the Clippers) has fewer wins than the four W’s the Wolves have accumulated. And yet, they’re still better than a lot of analysts predicted during the preseason.
The Wolves have been competitive. They came within a few overtime possessions of snapping San Antonio’s early-season win streak when it was up to 11. They hung around with the Lakers before losing by five. They upset the Bucks in the second game of the season before the reigning Eastern Conference 6-seed began its current tailspin.
One reason Minnesota has to be optimistic is its young frontcourt, which seems to improve every day. NBA leading rebounder Kevin Love (19.0 ppg, 14.9 rpg) is making an All-Star case for himself, Michael Beasley (21.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg) is having his long-awaited breakout campaign, and NBA leading shot-blocker Darko Milicic (9.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.9 bpg) is more than justifying the $20 million contract he received over the summer.
The next step for the Wolves is shoring up the backcourt. Second-year pro Jonny Flynn, who started 81 games for Minnesota at point guard last season, has yet to play this year due to a hip injury. In his absence, veteran Luke Ridnour and Sebastian Telfair have taken turns starting.
Flynn is expected to return to the court next week, but before that, he will likely serve a stint with Minnesota’s D-League affiliate Sioux Falls Skyforce. Flynn averaged 13.5 points and 4.4 assists per game as a rookie who was thrown into the fire from Day One. The Wolves have the luxury of bringing him back from his injury somewhat slowly, since Ridnour and Telfair have been adequate, and because the franchise vision is long-term rather than finding quick fixes.
While the Wolves still wait to see how the Ricky Rubio situation works out, they have to like their active young core as-is. Love, Beasley and Darko all complement each other nicely with their respective specialties in rebounding, scoring and defense, and adding Flynn to the mix can be a boost for Kurt Rambis‘ new philosophy to push the pace. They are technically one of the worst teams in the NBA right now, but the Wolves are near the top of the list as far as teams with promising long-term potential.