What are you looking for out of Andrew Wiggins this season?
Jonah Steinmayer (Howlin' T-Wolf): Some might be expecting a monster season out of Wiggins, but I like to play the role of the realist. Because he's yet to even scratch the surface of his potential, I'm curbing my expectations to see plausible, consistent improvement for Wiggins across the board. I want to see his turnovers decrease, his 3 point shooting percentage increase, and a more prominent leadership mentality. Wiggins had a great rookie season but there's so much potential there, I'd rather see him improve in stages than to try to morph into the top-five player many believe he can be. Let's just be realistic with expectations for the 20-year old.
Dan Slaubaugh (On The Prowl): What I am looking for out of Wiggins is that he stays aggressive throughout the entire season. If he has that "aggressive" mentality, rather than a passive one, he should improve in a lot of areas. Andrew said he really worked hard to improve his ball handling skills this offseason, which I think (if improved) will vastly open up his driving game because it will help him get to the rim easier. I expect Andrew will once again lead the team in minutes played and will have every opportunity (as he should) to improve in every aspect of his game.
Andy Grimsrud (Punch-Drunk Wolves): More three-point shots. Last year, in his rookie season, Wiggins only shot 1.5 threes per game. I'm hoping that number triples this year, with Ricky Rubio setting him up for perimeter shots that are both worth more points and take less of a toll on his body.
Zach More (On The Prowl): This year I am looking for Wiggins to become more consistent with his aggressiveness. At times last year he would be aggressive and it looked like he turned the corner, then the next game he was back to playing passive. I am also looking for more 3 point attempts and a better percentage from him this season.
Drew Mahowald (Dunking with Wolves): What I'd like to see from last season's Rookie of the Year is simply more development, especially on the offensive end. Last season, he was a pretty inefficient scorer and he also didn't showcase much in terms of passing. If he can show improvements in those two areas, I'll feel really good about where his career is headed.
What are your expectations for Karl-Anthony Towns this season?
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): I may have bigger expectations from Towns than I did with Wiggins in his rookie season last year because he's playing on a better team. There are aspects that will be as difficult for Towns as it was for Wiggins last year, including the fact that he's now the best shot-blocking big on the team. He also possesses this 3 point shot that no one's really seen from him against real competition. To me, it's realistic to expect him to start the majority of this season's games at center and lead the team in blocks. The rest is just gravy to me.
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): I expect him to steadily improve as the season progresses. The experience part will be the greatest value he will receive, just as it is for every rookie. I fully expect him to struggle offensively against elite defensive centers (M. Gasol, D. Jordan, Gobert) early in the season and that may come with some frustration because of the fact that he has always had his way down low. One of Towns attributes I believe will most impress people is his passing. I can already tell he understands whether to take the shot (when posting up) or kick it back out for a three pointer. That is something many young bigs struggle with early in their careers. When the season is all said and done, I expect his stat-line to look something like this: 11 ppg, 7rpg, 2apg, 1.5bpg.
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): I expect Towns will struggle on defense, particularly adjusting to NBA rules like "defensive three seconds." On offense, I think it will be a mix of the coaching staff trying to force-feed him the ball on the block (like they did last year) and Towns trying to fit in with the playmakers around him. He will have some 20 & 10 nights, and some "Towns looks lost" nights. He's a very young rookie whose future will be a lot more important than his present.
Zach More (OTP): I think Towns will start off the season as a starter for sure. He will get a lot of minutes and will be able to play through mistakes. Numbers wise, I would assume somewhere around 8pts/6rbs/1ast/1blk. I believe in the second half of the year his numbers will look considerably better than his first half, as he learns the NBA game.
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Towns should make an immediate impact on the defensive end for the Wolves. As we've seen already in the preseason, his tremendous shot blocking ability has carried over from the college level to the NBA. Offensively, I think it'll take a little longer for him to make a big impact but he should be able to make solid contributions right away.
Will we see a major improvement in Zach Lavine this season?
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): After news broke that Sam Mitchell prefers Zach Lavine as the starter over Kevin Martin, I have all the confidence that Lavine will breakout or die trying. He's an all-or-nothing kind of guy, but he just has too much talent to fall completely flat. I've always said that Lavine has more star potential than Wiggins but a much lower floor, and as the starting 2-guard and the only player who can truly score points in waves on the entire team, I think Lavine has the chance to bloom.
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): That is such a hard question to answer because of my original expectations for him and how poorly he's played this preseason. If I had to guess, I would say he does improve, but very slowly. I don't believe he will entirely hit the sophomore slump, or breakout to score 15+ points per game. I'm projecting somewhere around 10 points, 2 assists per game if he gets 22-28 minutes per game.
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): I hope so? It's hard to know what to expect from Lavine. His athleticism suggests an upside that is difficult to put a ceiling over. He's a 6'5" guard with a nice shooting stroke, decent handle, and the most impressive jumping ability in the league today. But he was completely overwhelmed last year as a 19-year old who may not have been a good college player, had he stayed there for his sophomore season. In April - the heart of Timberwolves tanking season - he was averaging per-game stats (21.1 points, 6.6 assists, 5.8 rebounds) that looked more like Brandon Roy in his prime than anything we ever could have expected from Lavine, so soon. But again, that was in a terrible, losing context. I'll be happy if Lavine improves his defense and shot selection this year. Baby steps. He could be great in 3 or 4 years. Or not very good at all. Hard to say.
Zach More (OTP): Yes, but it will be slow. Judging by the preseason so far, very slow. I think the more minutes he gets the better he will get. Zach really needs to stop settling for long 2's and contested 3's. With his athletic ability he should be looking to attack the rim, which will open up his jumper.
Drew Mahowald (DWW): I have no idea what to expect from Zach Lavine this season. In the month of April last season, he played like a future start putting up 21 PPG, 5 RPG and 6 APG in eight games. However, he has struggled mightily this preseason as he's shooting 23% from the field through 5 games. Whether Lavine ends up as the starting SG or not, I really don't know what to expect from him at this point.
What kind of things are you looking for out of Sam Mitchell?
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Stout defense and 3 point shooting. I mean, that's the recipe to success in the league right now, and the Timberwolves are starting to construct a roster that's capable of doing just that. Now it'll be up to Mitchell to put those pieces in play and formulate a winning structure for this season and beyond.
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): More threes - around 20 per game, and improved defense. It's no secret that the recipe for success in today's NBA is elite three point shooting and defense. I'm not asking for a top 15 defense - just somewhere in the 18-24 range. Also, I don't want him getting too fancy and start tinkering with lineups too much, like he has done in the preseason. Yes, I understand it's the preseason, but some of the decisions he has made have baffled my mind. To sum it up - don't get too fancy.
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Mostly whether he can rebuild the Wolves offense of Ricky Rubio's passing, and whether he can teach defense in a way that provides hope for this team's future. A team built primarily around Rubio, Wiggins, and Towns should be able to get stops, at least in a couple years. There should be some evidence of progress on that front, starting very soon.
Zach More (OTP): I'm looking for Sam to coach a lot like Flip, but we will see more emotion from him on the sideline. With Sam knowing the NBA game is changing, I think we will see more 3 point attempts. Sam will preach defense and I look for the Wolves to be improved in that area.
Drew Mahowald (DWW): So far, Mitchell has shown a willingness to play his young guys a bunch of minutes. Moving Lavine into the starting lineup before preseason is a sign of this. I'm interested to see ow he distributes the minutes between the veterans (KG, Prince, Miller, Martin) and all the young guys.
How realistic is it that the Wolves have a fighting spot for an 8 seed this year? Possible at all?
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Definitely possible. The key to me is a huge season from Ricky Rubio and everyone staying healthy, two huge what-ifs. But if the cards fall into place, then it's absolutely possible.
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): I'll say there's a slim chance, just because I don't want to completely shut the door on the idea. In order to make the playoffs, Ricky would need to stay healthy the entire season and improve his jumpshot, Wiggins would have to take a huge leap (scoring 20+ points per game), Towns would need to be ROY material, and much more. Bottom line: A LOT of things would have to go right.
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): I don't think so; not unless they redesign their offensive sets to allow Rubio to create everything, and then Rubio steps up into an All-Star level of play. I don't necessarily expect either of those two things to happen, so I think playoffs are out of the question, this year.
Zach More (OTP): Not possible. Just not enough experience from the players that will see a majority of the minutes. Sam made it clear the developing the young guys is the main objective for the season.
Drew Mahowald (DWW): I mean, in the words of Kevin Garnett, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! But, yeah, the Wolves won't be in the playoffs this season. There's just too much youth and inexperience.
How much help can Nemanja Bjelica bring to the table?
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): I'm not sure how to describe it..."TONS!" "LOADS" "EVERYTHING!". One of those has to work. After watching Bjelica this summer, I'm officially a believer. Some might make fun of me because I flip-flopped on him as much as Donald Trump, but I'm a firm believer (Until he sucks or something). Bjelica is the perfect player to play 20-25 minutes behind Garnett at the 4 and brings completely different toolsets, especially on offense. He's definitely going to be a player to watch this season.
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): A ton. After watching him in the preseason, it's clear the transition from Europe to the NBA will be smooth. Minnesota's offensive flow is much, much better with him on the floor with his elite passing skills. The spacing he provides offensively opens up opportunities for Wiggins and Bazz to attack the basket. He also might be our best 3 point shooter. Add it all up - and you've got something special.
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): It's still early, but he seems to be one of the team's best players. His unusual combination of skills for a tall player - ball handling, shooting, and setting ball screens himself - seem to open up the floor for his teammates and encourage a modern style of play. He might be good.
Zach More (OTP): Bejlica can bring a lot to the table for the Wolves in a lot of different areas. He has the ability to be a top 4 scorer on the team. Could lead the team in 3 point percentage and will create a lot for this offense.
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Nemanja Bjelica has been impressive so far in the preseason, and there's no reason to believe he won't make a big positive impact on the Wolves. He's a sharpshooter form deep and has the court vision of a point guard. When he's in the game, it should help spread the floor and allow guys like Wiggins and Towns to operate.
We know that this is a make or break season for Ricky Rubio, what can he do to justify he is worthy of a starting point guard position in the NBA?
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): I think he's already justified himself as a starting point guard in the NBA. The question now is how good can he be. I still believe he can be really good' he's already a great defender and distributor and still just 24 years old. All he really needs is an average shooting percentage and, oh yeah, to stay healthy! That's the biggest key for Rubio, he must stay healthy for a full season.
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Stay healthy. It's that simple. If he can play 75-82 games this season, things will take care of themselves. He is only 24 years old, and is already an elite passer and defender. He's always struggled finishing at the rim, which is something he needs to work on. If his shooting improves , I'd expect him to average around 12 points per game. All in all, he is literally the most important player on this team right now and the team's competitiveness will be determined by his health.
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): We know that this is a make or break season for Ricky Rubio, what he can do to justify he is worthy of a starting point guard position in the NBA? --> People say that type of thing about a lot players and teams, every year. I read that this is a "make or break" year for the Clippers, even though they should remain a title contender for at least a few years after this one, assuming Chris Paul stays healthy. I think Rubio is already a starting-caliber point guard in the NBA, based on his impact (easily measured over the course of his career) on both ends of the floor. Whether he takes another leap into All-Star consideration is the question I have. In order to do that, he just needs to shoot a little better, and develop better scoring instincts when he drives into the lane. He's already an elite passer and a very good defensive player. His strengths might be more highlighted by an athletic roster, like this one figures to become, that what he used to be surrounded by with Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic.
Zach More (OTP): Number one thing Ricky has to do is stay healthy. I think if he is healthy for a full season, his game will prove he is a starting point guard. He will never lead a team in scoring for a season but he can contribute so much to the outcome of the game with his defense and passing. If Ricky can make his open shots and finish around the hoop (develop a floater, please!!), he will be the starting point guard of now and the future.
Drew Mahowald (DWW): I don't think Rubio has to do very much to justify his starting position. The Wolves' net rating statistics with him on the court vs. with him off the court tell a pretty convincing story of the kind of impact he he has. He literally makes the Wolves a competitive team just by playing. However, I will acknowledge that he can improve his shot and make himself more of a threat to sore. That definitely wouldn't hurt.
Lets switch the flip to the predictions section of this roundtable.
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Shabazz Muhammad averages more points per game than Andrew Wiggins.
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Nemanja Bjelica will finish in the top 5 for NBA Rookie of the Year voting.
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): One of Rubio/Lavine/Muhammad ends the season on a different team's roster.
Zach More (OTP): Andre Miller and Kevin Martin don't end the season on the team.
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Nemanja Bjelica finishes the season Top 5 in the NBA in three-point percentage.
Most Improved Player
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Ricky Rubio (barring he stays healthy)
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Gorgui Dieng
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Adreian Payne (he's coming from the lowest starting point)
Zach More (OTP): Gorgui Dieng
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Adreian Payne
Who leads the team in scoring this season?
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Kevin Martin
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Andrew Wiggins
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Andrew Wiggins (per game; Shabazz per minute)
Zach More (OTP): Andrew Wiggins
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Andrew Wiggins
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Nemanja Bjelica
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Nemanja Bjelica
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Andrew Wiggins
Zach More (OTP): Nemanja Bjelica
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Karl-Anthony Towns
Most Valuable Player
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Ricky Rubio
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Ricky Rubio
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Ricky Rubio
Zach More (OTP): Ricky Rubio
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Ricky Rubio
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Nah
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): No. However, it's in Toronto - so there's a small chance the fans could vote Wiggins in as a starter.
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): no.
Zach More (OTP): No. (Tyus, Lavine, Wiggins, Bjelica will all play in rookie/sophomore game)
Drew Mahowald (DWW): No
Final spot in Western Conference standings (15 teams)
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): 12
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): 13
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): 13
Zach More (OTP): 14
Drew Mahowald (DWW): 12
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): 29-53
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): 28-54
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): 26-56
Zach More (OTP): 24-58
Drew Mahowald (DWW): 32-50
Rookie of the Year
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Emmanuel Mudiay
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Jahlil Okafor
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Jahlil Okafor
Zach More (OTP): Jahlil Okafor
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Jahlil Okafor
Defensive Player of the Year
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Rudy Gobert
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Hassan Whiteside
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Rudy Gobert
Zach More (OTP): Rudy Gobert
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Tony Allen, only because of FIRST-TEAM ALL DEFENSE
Surprise Team of the Year
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Milwaukee Bucks
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Miami Heat
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): New York Knicks
Zach More (OTP): Miami Heat
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Milwaukee Bucks
Most Improved Player
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Otto Porter Jr.
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Hassan Whiteside
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Ben McLemore
Zach More (OTP): Otto Porter Jr.
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Just for fun, Jimmer Fredette (Hey, he's on the Spurs now. You never know.)
Coach of the Year
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Greg Popovich
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Erik Spoelstra
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Alvin Gentry
Zach More (OTP): Jason Kidd
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Jason Kidd
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): James Harden
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Lebron James
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Anthony Davis
Zach More (OTP): Russell Westbrook
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Lebron, sorry
Eastern Conference Finals Matchup
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Cavs-Bucks
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Cavs-Heat
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Cavs-Bulls
Zach More (OTP): Cavs-Wizards
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Cavs-Bucks
Western Conference Finals Matchup
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Clippers-Spurs
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Warriors-Spurs
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Warriors-Spurs
Zach More (OTP): Warriors-Thunder
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Warriors-Spurs
NBA Finals Matchup
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Cavs-Spurs
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Cavs-Warriors
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Cavs-Warriors
Zach More (OTP): Cavs-Thunder
Drew Mahowald (DWW): Cavs-Spurs
Jonah Steinmayer (HTW): Cleveland Cavaliers
Dan Slaubaugh (OTP): Cleveland Cavaliers
Andy Grimsrud (PDW): Golden State Warriors
Zach More (OTP): Cleveland Cavaliers
Drew Mahowald (DWW): San Antonio Spurs