Updated: 09/04/2013 8:16 AM KSTP.com By: Ben Musel
It’s obvious to fans in Minnesota and across the league that the Timberwolves have two very special talents in forward Kevin Love and guard Ricky Rubio. Love is a perennial All-Star. His impact also comes in a fashion that can easily be worked around by the opposition. Chase Love to the perimeter and don’t give him an open look in the paint and you’ve disabled the best player on the team. His first five years in the league have shown that.
Rubio, on the other hand, is much harder to account for. Yes, his shooting is in need of a lot of work, but his passing skills are on another level. He has Steve Nash’s court-vision and Jason Williams' creativity. His defense rivals that of Chris Paul. If basketball were a game of chess, he would be Bobby Fisher before the crazy set in.
On the offensive end their three point accuracy will jump-- forward Chase Budinger, guard Kevin Martin and Love have been known to make their long-range shots. On top of that guard/forward Corey Brewer and Love have a history of hooking up for easy scores on inbounds plays and the team now employs two players who have mastered coach Rick Adelman's offensive sets and a slew of players with a year in the system. Brewer and Budinger will make the transition game easier on Rubio. Budinger and Martin will make the cuts and be in position for an easy pass from Rubio. Any offense that the team gets from rookie Shabazz Muhammad will be icing on the cake and will probably happen with guards JJ Barea or Alexey Shved passing to him.
By all accounts last year should have been Minnesota’s year to join the playoff ranks. Fortune and health decided otherwise. The team lost quality players in guard Luke Ridnour and forward Andrei Kirilenko, but overall seemed to upgrade both from within and in free agency.
Kirilenko’s prowess on defense and ability to do anything asked of him will surely be missed and Ridnour was definitely the preferred back-up to Rubio, but the additions of Martin, Brewer and forward Ronny Turiaf along with rookie Gorgui Dieng, and Muhammad on the wing certainly seem like an upgrade overall.
A lot of people claim that this team will be worse defensively that in was last year. Rubio might be the best defensive player now that Kirilenko is gone, but Brewer, Turiaf and Dieng were brought in specifically because of their aptitude as defenders. I don’t really see that happening -- at least not compared to the team that actually hit the court representing the great state of Minnesota last year. Size-wise, the trio of Martin, Brewer and Budinger will definitely match-up better with their counterparts. The team was extremely undersized at the guard position and the majority of their players at the small forward position were better suited to play power forward.
As long as Adelman spends a large chunk of training camp working on team defense, the Wolves won't need to score 100+ points a game. They'll just do it for fun.