Updated: 12/14/2012 5:26 PM KSTP.com By: Ben Musel
For a lot of Timberwolves fans Christmas is arriving early. For others, the seventh present they open during Hanukkah will be their favorite. They’ll all gather around the warming glow of their television screens to see the gift that keeps on giving: point guard Ricky Rubio. In anticipation of Rubio’s return to the court, I thought it would be a good time to look into my crystal ball and foretell how the team will change with Rubio’s presence in the line-up.
Rubio is a Nostradamus-like basketball prophet who sees the play develop before it actually happens. The best and probably most important thing is that he does so on both ends of the court. The second year point guard may not be in game shape or cutting quite as hard as he used to right off the bat, but court vision has nothing to do knee injuries. Court vision is not a skill that needs to be practiced or can even really be refined.
Rubio’s knee injury isn’t as scary as Derrick Rose’s because unlike Rose, the Wolves point guard doesn’t break his opponent’s ankles with a crossover and an extra gear to speed to the hoop. Rubio doesn’t need to break ankles… he breaks souls with passes on a string that thread the needle and defy physics. We’re about to reacquaint ourselves with WIDE-open players hitting WIDE-open shots as the Spanish sensation conducts his court orchestra. I won’t be surprised when Rubio bounces the ball through the legs of two defenders to hit his man for a layup or a three-pointer this season. I won’t even be surprised when that same pass magically hops over the head of a third defender before finding its target.
Rubio’s passing will not be adversely affected by his time on the sidelines, but his teammates will be positively impacted by his addition. I expect guard Luke Ridnour’s shot to start falling more often when he teams up with Rubio. I also expect to be blown away by the hockey passes that flow between Rubio and guard Alexey Shved and a third teammate. I expect the interchangeable parts that are forwards Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham to throw down some spectacular dunks. Finally, I expect center Nikola Pekovic to convert a lot more bunnies around the rim.
On the defensive side, the team is now equipped with two lockdown defenders that can cover positions 1 through 4.5 in Rubio and forward Andrei Kirilenko. As long as those two players can stay in front they can guard pretty much any one-two punch in the league with the exception of a Lakers team that actually isn’t that scary a quarter of the way into the season. Even when Kirilenko can’t outright guard the beefy centers of this league all he and Rubio need to do is be aware of the situation and pick the pockets of the big who is busy banging down low with Pekovic or power forward Kevin Love.
It sounds like I’m expecting the world from one player, but if one quarter of what I’ve outlined above happens, we’ll see a team that is not only much more efficient on the offensive side of the court, but one that is capable of becoming a top three overall defensive team. All of this, as always, is predicated on a healthy team and even though forward Chase Budinger won’t be back for a while, guard Brandon Roy will only be a shadow of his former self when he finally returns, and guard Malcolm Lee just hyperextended his knee, this team will not only survive, but also thrive.
Heimie’s Haberdashery should really look into getting a pop-up shop set up next to the Timberwolves trainer’s table now that I think about it.
Mark my words: this team will be dangerous and will hang with any team as long as Rubio wills it and as long as Kevin Love deems his teammates and his contract worthy of an All-Star level of play (Had to).