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Minnesota Timberwolves roster 2013: Team commits to Ricky Rubio-Kevin Love-Nikola Pekovic core

The Timberwolves boast as strong a roster as they've had in years. Will it be enough to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004?

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

The Minnesota Timberwolves avoided wholesale roster changes this summer, instead opting to add to their wing rotation while maintaining the core of Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio. It's an understandable plan, particularly for a franchise hoping to end its recent postseason drought with a big season.

Injuries helped contribute to Minnesota's disappointing 31-51 record last season, but the Wolves will need to make improvements despite the loss of veteran forward Andrei Kirilenko. New president of basketball operations Flip Saunders brought in a number of players to help address his departure, but we'll see just how important the Russian do-it-all wing really was.

Projected starters

Nikola Pekovic -- After waiting practically the entire offseason, the Timberwolves and Pekovic finally agreed to a five-year, $60 million deal after every other impact free agent had signed. That ended the uncertainty concerning the center's future in Minnesota, but questions remain about whether the big man can anchor a strong enough defense to make the team relevant.

Kevin Love --  Love can be arguably the best power forward in the league when healthy. However, health issues derailed his 2012-13 season, and a historically shaky relationship with management leaves a cloudy future for the pair. Saunders has gone out of his way to reach out to Love and the Timberwolves' star seems happy for now, but we'll see what happens if the Timberwolves struggle. Assuming he gets back to full health, there's little reason to believe Love won't be one of the game's best players, but he looked like a shell of himself in the 18 games he played last season.

Chase Budinger -- Injuries limited Budinger to just 23 games after being traded to Minnesota last season, but that didn't stop the team from re-signing him to a three-year, $16 million deal this summer. Whether that proves a smart decision remains to be seen, but considering the investment, he seemed the most reasonable bet to start at small forward. Unfortunately, he is undergoing another surgery on the knee he injured last season and could miss significant time.

Kevin Martin -- After rotating through underwhelming options at shooting guard last season, the Timberwolves signed Martin to a four-year, $28 million deal to provide some stability. He's a miserable defender who won't remotely alleviate the team's issues on the perimeter, which should only be exacerbated by the departure of Kirilenko, but he's a superb offensive player who should thrive next to his new point guard.

Ricky Rubio -- No, he still hasn't developed a jump shot, but Rubio's defense and extraordinary court vision make him an impact player regardless. Should even a few more of those perimeter shots start falling with consistency, he'll quickly become one of the most unique players of our generation and a devastating two-way force. The worst-case scenario couldn't be that bad, either, considering Rajon Rondo's done all right for himself without a jumper. If Love is currently the No. 1 star in Minnesota, Rubio is 1A, and that could change come next summer.

Key Reserves

Derrick Williams -- The second overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft was supposed to be starting next to Love by now, but Williams has proven unable to handle small forward consistently. Some varied improvement in Year 2 leaves reason for optimism going forward, but it's likely Williams' role will be off the bench until he finds an opportunity elsewhere.

Corey Brewer -- Signed away from Denver, Brewer fancies himself as a 3-and-D wing, but cannot shoot the ball. He's still a useful player, but he'd be that much better without the 3.7 three-pointers attempted a night.

Jose Barea -- The 29-year-old never quite turned his apparent breakout performance in the 2011 NBA Finals into a consistent starring role, but he's still a nice change-of-pace guard off the bench. Last season, he averaged 11.3 points and four assists per game.

Dante Cunningham -- The Timberwolves need some depth in the post, and Cunningham should help provide that. He played a career-high 25.1 minutes per game last season.

Deep on the bench

Shabazz Muhammad -- One of the best players in the country coming out of high school, Muhammad will now compete for playing time in a crowded Timberwolves rotation. Whether he breaks through likely depends on his ability to be more than a one-dimensional scorer.

Chris Johnson -- Signed out of the D-League in January after a rash of injuries, Johnson impressed management enough to earn a guaranteed contract for the 2013-14 season. We'll see if he can earn another one.

Alexey Shved -- The young Russian guard got pressed into a significant role last season and mostly struggled. There's still hope, but after shooting 37 percent from the field as a rookie, he'll have to earn playing time.

Gorgui Dieng -- If the former Louisville star proves ready for the pace of the NBA, he could see an expanded role quickly given his defensive ability. Dieng could end up being a really nice fit off the bench behind the offensive-minded duo of Love and Pekovic.

Lorenzo Brown -- The Timberwolves' second-round pick out of NC State, Brown brings nice physical traits to the table and could develop into a strong backup guard in time.

Ronny Turiaf -- Signed from the Clippers to provide some depth, Turiaf is a rugged defender who can help eat garbage minutes for the team.

Head coach

Rick Adelman -- One of the great basketball minds of our time, Adelman continues to work towards building a winner in Minnesota despite middling results thus far. He hasn't led a team to the postseason since the 2008-09 Rockets, but that comes after reaching the playoffs 16 times in his first 18 coaching seasons. At age 67, he probably won't be around too much longer, which also helps to explain the team's win-now philosophy.

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