With the start of the 2013-14 NBA season rapidly approaching, we thought it only fair to share what makes each team so exciting. Ontologically speaking, all 30 teams deserve our eyeballs this season. Even disastrous lineups still present oodles of plays, personalities, highlights and headaches. Here are five things to keep in mind for each team before flipping the channel.
Next up, a Timberwolves team we just want to see healthy for a full season.
[5 Reasons To Watch: Kings, Lakers, Knicks, 76ers, Bobcats, Cavs, Magic, Warriors, Timberwolves, Nuggets, Clippers, Clippers, Rockets, Bulls, Pistons, Bucks, Nets, Pacers, Wizards, Thunder, Heat, Mavericks, Celtics, Raptors Hawks, Spurs, Trail Blazers, Grizzlies, Suns, Jazz]
The Timberwolves have been ravaged by injuries the past few years, but the core is healthy heading into this year and expectations are high. The ‘Wolves should be one of the most exciting teams in the league with Rubio running the show and both big men back healthy. Here are five reasons to tune into their games on League Pass this year.
*** *** ***
Derrick Williams Making the Leap
Coming into the league in 2011, Derrick Williams was lauded by many as the most NBA-ready player in the draft. The Cavs even had serious discussion about taking Williams with the first overall pick that year. You look at some of his highlights from his days in Arizona and can’t believe his game hasn’t translated as smoothly at the next level. Here he is against Duke in the 2011 Tourney.
The guy is a monster and can stroke it to boot! Surprisingly, Williams hasn’t turned into the player many people thought he would. He has only shot 42.3 percent in his first two seasons and just hasn’t made the impact that seemed imminent coming out of school. While Williams has been a mild disappointment thus far, that is all about to change.
Early reports out of camp say that Williams worked out with Kevin Love‘s personal trainer this past summer and showed up slimmed down and in great shape, with an increased emphasis on his quickness in order to guard more small forwards. Williams will have to earn most of his minutes at the three with Love returning from injury. Chase Budinger is out for the foreseeable future, and those minutes at the small forward are there for the taking.
Williams is only 22 and has been playing under Rick Adelman, a coach notorious for taking his time integrating young players. It also didn’t help that the lockout was during Williams’ rookie season and prevented him from any training camp before his first game. Despite his low percentages, Williams still managed to average 12 points along with 5.5 boards in just 24.6 minutes per game this past season. He is a super athlete (check out this dunk reel) and started to find his stroke more towards the end of last year, shooting 34 percent on 3-pointers over the last 33 games of the season. Williams still oozes potential and gives the ‘Wolves a different dimension with his athleticism and ability to get to the rim. Watch for him to build on his strong finish from last year and earn major minutes this season, providing plenty of highlights along the way.
Ricky Rubio’s Razzle-Dazzle
Ricky Rubio has been in the limelight since he was a 17-year-old kid playing against Team USA in the 2008 Olympics. Just a few years later he is one of the most exciting players in the league. The Spaniard seems like he’s playing in the park, always looking to make fan’s jaws drop with his crazy handle and dazzling passes. The guy is simply a wizard with the ball. His rookie year he averaged 8.3 assists per game, staggering numbers for just 20 years old. Rubio can throw every pass from every angle and his teammates love playing with him because of his pass-first (and second and third) mentality. He is not the best shooter or the best finisher, but he can run a team with the best of them.
The knock on Rubio has always been his injury problems (and shooting). He is always nicked up, and though he has been in the league for two seasons, he’s only played in 98 games. He is again entering this season healthy and hopefully he can stay that way. The ‘Wolves have plenty of options on offense so they don’t need Rubio to score to be successful â€“ he can simply play the same role Rajon Rondo did in 2008 for the Celtics. The league has been deprived of too many Rubio games already in his short career. Hopefully this year he can avoid the injury bug and man the point for the ‘Wolves for a full season. Who doesn’t want to see more of him?
Love Boarding Up
Most of the injury talk this offseason has been about Rose, Kobe, and Rondo. Many are forgetting about the former Second Team All-NBA selection in Minnesota who is ready to make some noise this season as well. During the lockout-shortened season, Kevin Love was an absolute monster, averaging 26 points and 13.3 rebounds a contest. Love broke his right hand in the preseason last year and his shot never really recovered in the 18 games he played before he broke the same hand again in early January. Coming into this season fully healthy, Love will reclaim his status as one of the best in the business.
Love’s best skill is his rebounding. He had the first 30-30 game in 28 years back in 2010, and is one of the only players who can make rebounding entertaining (watch below when he shows he can even box out a sumo wrestler!). He still has the strength to create position, but over the past few years has gotten himself in tremendous shape and is much quicker as a result. Most guys wait for a bounce off the rim, but Love is always in motion as the shot is going up, and has a preternatural sense where the ball will go before anyone else does. With Dwight Howard and Omer Asik stealing boards from each other in Houston, Love should once again lead the league in rebounding with a healthy 2013-14 campaign.
Love is clearly one of the hardest workers in the league, and he always comes into each progressive season in better shape than the last. His hand should be fully recovered from last season so his shot should be back to the form that made him so deadly from the outside. There have been whispers that Love has looked great in preseason practices, but the team is tempering its enthusiasm until they see him in the games that count. Love will show off the skills that led to his All-NBA 2nd team selection just two years ago and lead the ‘Wolves as they pursue their first appearance in the playoffs in 9 years.
Seeing the [former] Boyfriend of Miss Universe 2006
Unfortunately, J.J. Barea is no longer dating Zuleyka Rivera, his girlfriend of two years and former Miss Universe. Otherwise, that might have been another reason to tune into T-wolves games this year. Watching Barea bounce around the court, might be even more fun.
The Puerto Rican is an energizer bunny out on the court. He burst onto the scene in 2011 during the Mavs championship run, and then cashed in on that run with the hefty deal he received in Minnesota. He is generously listed at 6 feet, but is definitely a few inches shorter than that. That size almost benefits him in some regards in that he can squeeze through spaces that most other players cannot.
Barea is lightning quick and great at creating off the dribble. He gets into the lane almost at will â€“ primarily to find his teammates â€” but he can also finish down in the restricted area as well. Barea can also hit the open 3, coming in at 35.4 percent from long-range last season. Barea has a winner’s mentality, and gave the Mavs the extra push they needed when he was inserted into the starting lineup midway through the 2011 Finals against the Heat. The ‘Wolves won’t lose much when Rubio leaves the floor this year because Barea is a very capable backup. But Barea and Rubio shared the court, they engineered some of the best plus/minus numbers on the roster last season. Barea is a fiery guy and a joy to watch, unless, of course, you are a fan of the opposing team.
Pekovic Going HAM
Nikola Pekovic is still a bit unknown outside of the Upper Midwest, but Timberwolves fans know him well. Owner Glen Taylor does too, as he just cut Pekovic a check for $60 million over the next five years. While that is an expensive deal, the contract is no overpay â€“ Pekovic is worth the money.
The man is a straight beast. Pekovic is 6-11 and 245 pounds of solid European ass-kicking. He is a great player in the post with a soft touch and has a surprising ability to get out in transition. Where Pekovic does most of his damage is rolling off screens. He is a steamroller on his way to the hoop, which collapses the defense and leads to open shots around the perimeter if he doesn’t get the ball himself. Pekovic and Love work in great harmony on the offensive end, as Love can step out and space the floor to let Pekovic do his thing down low. On any missed shot, the two attack the boards with reckless abandon, never giving the opposing big men a play off.
Although Pekovic is not a household name, players in the league are well aware of what he can do. New Pek teammate Ronny Turiaf is happy that he won’t go against the Montenegrin this year. Earlier this preseason, Turiaf said, “I know I hate playing against [Pekovic], because he’s a guy that’s relentless…He’s pound-for-pound the strongest center that I had to guard. Hands down.” What more would you expect from a dude nicknamed “The Bulldozer.” Pekovic has made vast improvements each year of his career, and last year he bullied his way to career highs of 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. The Wolves were smart to lock him up for five years, as he should only get better moving forward.
What do you think?
Follow Ryan on Twitter at @rsharry35.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.