Wolves season preview: Playoff-bound or another year down?

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The 82-game NBA season begins for the Minnesota Timberwolves when the Orlando Magic come to Target Center Wednesday night. Will this finally be the season the Wolves snap their playoff drought?

It's been nine years since Kevin Garnett, Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassel led Minnesota to the playoffs. Times have gotten really bad of late with four consecutive last place finishes in the Northwest Division.

The NBA TV crew believes the expectation in Minnesota should be to make the playoffs.

ProBasketballTalk called the Wolves the "sleeper pick" in the West the last two seasons, but injuries and other reasons have derailed each season.

CSN Chicago has the Wolves finishing seventh in the Western Conference.

If it’s now, it’s never for Minnesota, which has been bitten by the injury bug in the past, but with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio finally healthy at the same time (for now, at least) and plenty of offensive firepower around them, Rick Adelman should be able to guide them back into the postseason for the first time since the Kevin Garnett era.

ESPN's Mark Stein has the Wolves at No. 12 in his NBA power rankings.

The training camp edition of the rankings were out for maybe an hour when the Wolves lost key reserve Chase Budinger to another knee surgery. So the "When will it ever end?" talk has already begun for the injury-ravaged team sporting the league's longest playoff drought (nine seasons).

The injuries in 2012-13 were unusually bad. According to the Timberwolves' team website, they lost 341 man games to injury. (Brandon Roy-76, Kevin Love, 64, Malcolm Lee-63, Chase Budinger-59, Ricky Rubio-24, Nikola Pekovic-19, Andrei Kirilenko-18, J.J. Barea-7, Alexey Shved-5, Josh Howard-4, Dante Cunningham-1, Lazar Hayward-1).

Defense was a problem last season, and it might still have been an issue even with a healthy team. Minnesota's defensive struggles continued during the preseason, but coach Rick Adelman sees hope on the horizon.

"There's no reason we can't be a good team defensively," Adelman said, via the Pioneer Press. "We have guys who have talent, and they're smart, and they just have to get out of their comfort zone and understand that that's part of the game that we have to be better at."

ROSTER BREAKDOWN

  • Guard: Ricky Rubio, Alexey Shved, Kevin Martin, J.J. Barea, A.J. Price
  • Forward: Kevin Love, Dante Cunningham, Corey Brewer, Derrick Williams, Shabazz Muhammad, Chase Budinger, Robbie Hummel
  • Center: Nikola Pekovic, Ronny Turiaf, Gorgui Dieng

STARTING LINEUP

  • Point guard: Ricky Rubio
  • Shooting guard: Kevin Martin
  • Small forward: Corey Brewer or Derrick Williams
  • Power forward: Kevin Love
  • Center: Nikola Pekovic

FOX Sports North has more on the battle between Brewer and Williams for the starting small forward job.

Click here for the entire 2013-14 Wolves schedule.

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