Created: 11/01/2012 8:47 PM KSTP.com By: Ben Musel
Even with rookie sensation and passing phenom Ricky Rubio last year, the Wolves ranked 24th in the league in assists. They assisted on 1290 offensive plays while their opponents assisted on 1422 plays. That number for the opposition would've been good for 21st in the league. Basically the Wolves' opponents did a better job of sharing the ball to the tune of about two more assists per game.
While these figures are not entirely indicative of what an offense is capable of -- guard Luke Ridnour loves to run down the court and pop off a three-pointer while there are still about 20 seconds left on the shot clock and both Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic make a living off on the offensive glass and subsequent putbacks -- it does mean that any basket made after those 1290 assisted plays was most likely far more difficult to score than the plays involving ball movement.
If the Wolves are to tread water while Rubio and Love heal, they'll need to move the ball and find the open man. They'll need to play like the 2004 Detroit Pistons, or more recently last year’s Indiana, Denver or Philadelphia teams. Teams without conventional superstars.
All three of those 2011-2012 teams made the playoffs and both Indiana and Philly advanced to the second round while Denver took the L.A. Lakers to 7 games. The danger in a team like this is that you can't game plan when everybody is involved and the hot hand or the open man is the one doing the damage.
If the Wolves are to succeed without their two best players until December, they’ll need to take a different approach. My hope is that they don’t try to force feed Pekovic or dump the ball off to guard Brandon Roy and hope that the Roy statistical 2008-2009 genius version magically appears. The Wolves need to surprise their opponent and leave them quessing where the next bucket is coming from. Thankfully, this team finally has the right supporting cast to pull this off and continue with the gameplan once a very effective and efficient Love and a passing maestro in Rubio hit the court.