With the Minnesota Timberwolves season opener against the Sacramento Kings, slated for November 2nd, just over a month away, it is time to meet and start getting excited about your 2012-13 Timberwolves squad. After just one season as head coach of the Wolves, Rick Adelman helped David Kahn majorly overhaul of the roster. Gone from a year ago are Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph, Martell Webster, Wayne Ellington, Darko Milicic, Anthony Tolliver, Wesley Johnson, and Brad Miller. Replacing the departed is a group of much more promising talent; Andrei Kirilenko, Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Dante Cunningham, Alexey Shved, Greg Stiemsma, and recently acquired Louis Amundson. By now we should all know the mainstays; Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, Derrick Williams, Luke Ridnour, and J.J. Barea, as well as Malcolm Lee, who appeared in game action only after the March 9th Rubio injury. But who are all of these new faces and where did they come from? Let’s get to know your new Minnesota Timberwolves.
SF – Andrei Kirilenko: 6’9” 235lbs
In the 1999 draft, Kirilenko was the 24th overall selection by the Utah Jazz. The Russian played ten seasons with the Jazz before deciding to take his game back home during last season’s NBA lockout. In his time with Utah, AK47 as he’s referred to, averaged 12.4ppg, 5.6rpg, 2.8apg, 2.0bpg, and 1.4spg. Known for doing a little bit of everything, one look at his stats will definitely back that up. A career 47% shooter, Kirilenko thrives getting to the basket and in the mid-range game. This summer, in London, he led team Russia to the Bronze medal.
SG – Brandon Roy: 6’6” 211lbs
A star at the University of Washington, Roy was actually drafted by the Timberwolves, 6th overall, in 2006, but traded for Randy Foye on draft night. A three-time NBA All-Star for the Portland Trailblazers,knee problems derailed Roy’s career and his return to the NBA seemed doubtful, not too long ago. During his five seasons with the Blazers, Roy averaged 19ppg, 4.3rpg, and 4.7apg. However, his knees have not been the only injury concern of his career. Roy missed 89 total games while in Portland. After undergoing “the Kobe” surgery, Roy declared that his knees were once again healthy enough to pursue an NBA comeback. If the Wolves limit his minutes, he could be a great addition.
SF – Chase Budinger: 6’7” 218lbs
MVP of the 2006 U.S. Junior Olympic Volleyball Tournament and 2006 National HS Volleyball Player of the Year, don’t be fooled by Budinger’s looks. He is an amazing athlete. A 2009 second round pick of theDetroit Pistons, Chase spent his first three NBA seasons with the Houston Rockets and was sought out by former coach, Rick Adelman, mainly for his ability to knock down the corner three, something the Timberwolves were dreadful in doing last season. In 2011-12, Budinger shot 40.2% from beyond the arc, but 48% on corner threes. The Wolves would love that trend to continue.
G – Alexey Shved: 6’6” 182lbs
Kirilenko’s countryman, Shved too earned an Olympic bronze medal, in London. In the Bronze medal game victory over Manu Ginobili and Argentina, Shved poured in 25 points, to lead the Russians. A professional since 2006, Shved made his Euroleague debut in 2007. At 23 years of age, he is a work in progress. Though he has a tendency to make mistakes, Shved has sneaky athleticism, is a great ball-handler, and passes the ball well. His defense needs plenty of work.
F – Dante Cunningham: 6’8” 230lbs
A journeyman in his young career, the Wolves are Cunningham’s fourth team in four years. A very solid role player, Cunningham will not force shots, as he is fine doing the dirty work. He plays hard on the defensive end, can block shots and does not make many mistakes on the offensive end of the floor. He may remind you a little bit of Anthony Tolliver, only without the 24% three-point percentage, as Cunningham attempted just 2 three’s all of last year, while Tolliver heaved up 101.
C – Greg Stiemsma: 6’11” 260lbs
The 27-year-old from Randolph, Wisconsin made a name for himself in last year’s Eastern Conference Playoffs, spelling Kevin Garnett for the Boston Celtics. Stiemsma, known for his defense and shot-blocking ability, played some big minutes in the Atlanta and Philadelphia series’ before mostly riding the pine against the Miami Heat. Something the Wolves have lacked for a while now, Stiemsma had twelve games last season with three or more blocked shots. He did all of this while averaging less than 14 minutes per game. Truly earning his way to the NBA, Stiemsma’s route to the league? Turkey in 2008, South Korea in 2009, Sioux Falls Skyforce in 2009-10, he was briefly with the Timberwolves in 2010, though did not appear in a game, he then signed a 10 day contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was then off to Turkey in 2010-11 before returning back to the NBA D-League, again playing for the Sioux Falls Skyforce in 2011. And on December 19, 2011, Stiemsma finally signed a rookie contract with the Boston Celtics.
PF – Louis Amundson: 6’9” 225lbs
Another journeyman and NBA D-Leaguer, Amundson was the 2007 D-League Rookie of the Year, with the Colorado 14ers, before making his rounds in the NBA. Philadelphia, Utah, back to Philadelphia, Phoenix, Golden State, Indiana, and now Minnesota has been Lou’s journey thus far. Much like Cunningham and Stiemsma, Amundson is a guy who won’t kill you when he’s in there, because he understands his role. Unlike Stiemsma, he won’t block a lot of shots, but also unlike Darko, when he’s around the basket, Lou will actually finish with a powerful dunk instead of a Darko-esque missed finger role.