51Q: The NBA’s most improved team will be...
PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:
What team will be the most improved in NBA this season?
Kurt Helin: Miami Heat
There are a few good candidates which could end up being the answer to this question. Below, Dan and Sean take an excellent one up in Minnesota. Oklahoma City getting healthy (hopefully) puts them in contention. Heck, even Sacramento if everything comes together for them could make the list (not going to bet on that one, though).
However, I will take the Miami Heat, a team that won just 37 games last season and will make a leap forward this season. Or to put that another way, I’m betting on the Miami Heat staying healthy. Which may not be wise — Dwyane Wade’s knees are a chronic issue, Chris Bosh is coming off a life-threatening illness, Josh McRoberts basically missed last season — but I’ll take the risk. Miami’s starting five of Goran Dragic, Wade, Luol Deng, Bosh, and Hassan Whiteside is the second best starting five East (for my money). Then they can bring McRoberts, Justise Winslow, Gerald Green, Amare Stoudemire and Mario Chalmers off the bench as a second unit. That’s a deep roster, which I think helps mitigate the health issues, and they get around 15 wins better this season.
Dan Feldman: Minnesota Timberwolves
They have the most room for improvement after going a league-worst 16-66 last year. They’re loaded with young talent. Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Ricky Rubio, Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad could all help a team win right now or very soon. I’m betting on now. Flip Saunders’ leave of absence could set back the team in the short term, but Sam Mitchell is a capable coach. If I had a little more faith in Dwyane Wade’s health, I’d pick the Heat. But they won 37 games last year, 21 more than Minnesota. Even if Miami gets healthy, the Timberwolves can close that gap.
Sean Highkin: Minnesota Timberwolves
The Wolves are still a year or two away from being a playoff contender, but they’ll definitely win more than 15 games — maybe as many as 25 or 30 if everyone can stay healthy. With Ricky Rubio getting closer to returning, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine have an actual playmaker to throw them lobs, one who only played 22 games last season. Last year’s team was a talented one ravaged by injuries; their luck can only improve this year. In addition to year two of Wiggins, the rest of their young core (LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Giorgui Dieng) should all take steps forward. Add in rookies Karl-Anthony Towns and Nemanja Bjelica and what could be the final year of Kevin Garnett’s career, and this is a team that should be a League Pass favorite while finishing with at least something better than last year’s worst record in the league.