Basketball nerds always knew.
While everyone else was idiotically fixated on the color (or lack thereof) of the team’s roster, the legions of League Pass subscribers were salivating at the prospect of what the Minnesota Timberwolves could accomplish on the court. After all, the team blew-up much of the roster that lead them to a disappointing 26-40 record the year before. Ditching dead weight like Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph and Darko Milicic, the T’wolves managed to add two discount All Stars in Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko. Add this to the acquisitions of Chase Budinger, Dante Cunningham, and Olympic standout (and Kirilenko’s teammate) Alexey Shved, and Minnesota seemed well on their way to making the playoffs.
But not everything was rosy in the Twin Cities. On top of Ricky Rubio’s ACL injury, and Brandon Roy’s perpetually exploding knees, the Timberwolves were thrown a curveball when Kevin Love broke his hand right before the start of the season. Add this to all of the turnover on the roster, and some critics feared that by the time the Timberwolves gelled, it would be too late.
Perhaps this is what makes the Wolves early 4-2 start so impressive. One only needs to look at the struggling Lakers, Mavericks or Nets to see how a team that has undergone tremendous turnaround may get off to a slow start. Minnesota seems to have foregone this transition period, posting a respectable 94 points per game while fielding one of the league’s best defenses, allowing their opponents the fourth fewest points per game. Beyond statistics, one can just see that the chemistry is there from some of their recent performances. Last week, the Wolves came back from being down 22, on the road, in the third quarter to defeat the new-look Nets 107-96. We saw the inverse of this in their game against Indiana, where they blew an early lead, but managed to hold on and score the game winning shot on a beautifully run play as time expired. Both of these games would have tested any team, and could have easily resulted in their record being 2-4.
This is where the rest of the West should be afraid. The Timberwolves not only overcame these early season tests, but did so with a 10-man rotation that consists of six new players. Add to this the fact that Brandon Roy is out-of-shape, Alexey Shved is still learning the NBA game and the team’s two best players are wearing suits on the sidelines, and the Timberwolves appear to be here to stay. Love and Rubio’s reintroduction to the first-team in December will be equivalent to adding two high-power free agents, and should be the spark needed to push the team into the All Star break and beyond.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, they still play in the stacked Northwest division. But if they can continue to produce until Love and Rubio reemerge, it is not out of the question for them to hang on to their current 5 seed in the West. Regardless, the T’wolves are a very entertaining team that certainly warrants your attention this season. But then again, if you’re nerdy enough to be reading this, then you probably already knew that.
(Photo Credit: HoopsHabit.com)