PROJECTEDSTARTING FIVE with 2006-07 statistics
PG RANDY FOYE
KEY BENCHPLAYERS: C Mark Blount, F Craig Smith, G Sebastian Telfair*, F Gerald Green*,G-F Corey Brewer (R) *New acquisition (R) Rookie
Record: 32-50(13th in West) Points scored: 96.1 (20th in NBA) Points allowed: 99.7 (19th)Coach: Randy Wittman (second season with Timberwolves)
When Al Jeffersonlooked up at the scoreboard during an Oct.¬†10 preseason game in London andsaw that the Celtics were trailing the Timberwolves, one thought quickly ranthrough his mind: We need to come back. One problem: Jefferson had been tradedfrom Boston to Minnesota 10 weeks earlier as part of the package for KevinGarnett. "It was weird," recalls Jefferson. "I came back to realityreal quick."
The reality forthe T-Wolves is this: For the first time in 12 seasons they will be withoutGarnett, the franchise's alltime leader in points, rebounds, assists, blocksand steals. While team officials don't expect a 22-year-old to fill Garnett'sshoes, they do believe that Jefferson can replace much of KG's production."We needed to have somebody who could score down low and couldrebound," says coach Randy Wittman. "Al brought those twothings."
Interestingly,the turning point in Jefferson's breakout season came last December, when hisname began to come up in trade rumors. "That got me going and playingbetter," he says. Jefferson more than doubled his previous career highs inscoring and rebounding, and his 11.0 boards per game ranked seventh in theleague. By delivering on some of his vast potential, Jefferson became adesirable enough commodity to be traded for a 10-time All-Star. "To knowthat Minnesota wanted me so bad that they would give up KG means a lot,"says Jefferson. "At the same time, I'm not here to be the next KevinGarnett. I'm here to be Al Jefferson."
Jefferson alonecannot turn around the T-Wolves' fortunes. They hope that Gerald Green, anotherformer Celtic; Randy Foye, last year's top pick; and Corey Brewer, this year'sNo.¬†1 from Florida, will form a foundation for the future. "We'restarting with a group of young players who are talented but not yetproven," says Wittman. "We have to be patient."
An opposingteam's scout sizes up the T-Wolves
Is Al Jefferson anice piece? Definitely. But if they're looking to build around him, they won'tgo far. He'll never be an MVP candidate, and he may never be the best player onhis team--except for right now. . . . Gerald Green gives them hope; he could bea 20-point guy in two years. Not only does he have the athletic ability, but hecan also shoot and he has skill. He's going to be boom or bust, which makes himthe X factor in the trade. . . . Randy Foye's not a classic shooting guard, buthe does enough things well as a passer and off the dribble, and he has the sizeand strength to be a defender. . . . Corey Brewer may be another TayshaunPrince, a long, lanky wing player who is always going to guard the other team'sbest perimeter scorer, and who can shoot it pretty well himself. . . . I fullyexpect Ricky Davis to be in get-mine mode. He's going to feign leadership anddo things to win when it's easy for him, but when things aren't going well,that's when he'll stray.
The Timberwolveslost their final eight games at Target Center in 2006-07 to finish 20-21 athome. It was the club's first losing record in Minneapolis since 1995-96, whenit went 17-24.
STARTING LINEUP: GREG NELSON; DAVID SHERMAN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (4)
JOHN GICHIGI/GETTY IMAGES
Jefferson was one of 11 players to average a double double lastyear.