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Six Moves the Minnesota Timberwolves Should Make
Posted By Stephen Litel On December 3, 2011 @ 9:00 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
The NBA lockout is over and there will be a fast and furious rush of movement before the regular season tips off on Christmas Day. As is the case each season, there are three categories teams fall into during this time of year: contenders looking for that final piece to the puzzle, pretenders believing only a few small tweaks will make them contenders and the “also-rans.”
The Minnesota Timberwolves have been in the final category for a long time, but for the first time in a while there is a small buzz around the team. Nobody expects this team to contend for a title or, realistically, to contend for a playoff berth in this soon-to-come shortened season, yet there finally is some reason for hope.
The team hired a fine coach in Rick Adelman, who will make them infinitely better by allowing them to play in a system better suited towards the players on the team’s roster than in the past. The long-anticipated arrival of Ricky Rubio has finally come and while it may take him time to adjust to the NBA game, he has a following in the Twin Cities ready to support him during the possible—and probable—early struggles. Derrick Williams was a greatly coveted player out of college and will now make his NBA debut alongside Rubio in a Timberwolves jersey.
Excitement over having some hope for the future is fine, but, of course, does not mean the work is done. The Timberwolves still have a long way to go to become playoff contenders, but the good thing is many of the most important steps they still need to take can be done throughout the 2011-12 season.
#1 – Extend Kevin Love.
When a conversation regarding Kevin Love begins, there are three ways most people come down on his ability as an NBA player. They either believe he is 1.) a good player who puts up big numbers on a bad team, 2.) he is an elite rebounder, only continues to get better in all aspects of the game and was rightfully named an All-Star last season or 3.) is nothing more than a third-best player on a quality team.
Kevin Love rightfully belongs in the second of the three categories while acknowledgment does go out to LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trailblazers deserving an All-Star nod last season as well. It shouldn’t have been either/or, but rather both of these fine players representing the West.
With that said, Love is one of the biggest pieces to the Timberwolves future successes. In interviews, he has expressed a desire to remain in Minnesota as long as he sees the plan for the future and buys in, so the team finally brought in a coach in Rick Adelman who has a record of success. Love has also mentioned on a few occasions a willingness to give Minnesota a bit of a discount to retain his services as long as the money is utilized wisely.
#2 – Start Ricky Rubio from Day One.
He’s finally here and Jonny Flynn is gone. While Luke Ridnour is an adequate point guard, the future of the Minnesota Timberwolves does not rest in his development. That rests, in part, on Rubio overcoming the hype, the less-than-average overseas seasons and adjusting to the NBA game. There may be glimmers of hope for the future from the team, but as mentioned before, they aren’t going to contend this year. Therefore, what better way for Rubio to learn than on the job, going against the best players in the world at his position on a nightly basis? Rather than learning by watching from the bench as Ridnour runs a team, Rubio should learn by going face-to-face with Derrick Rose one night, Rajon Rondo the next, Deron Williams and Steve Nash after that.
Rubio has been working out in California, playing alongside players such as Kevin Garnett. He held his own in a charity game a few weeks ago against NBA players, even delighting the crowd with a few highlight plays. He is obviously talented. He will have a better opportunity to display that talent on a regular basis by adapting as quickly as possible and that comes with playing time.
#3 – Make a decision on Michael Beasley.
Of all the Timberwolves players, Beasley was the one we heard about the most during the lockout. This is not good news. He was pulled over for speeding with the smell of marijuana in the car, he shoved a fan in the face, was quoted as calling the lockout “retarded” in a bad PR moment, filed a lawsuit against his former agent and AAU coach and was dropped quickly by a firm hired to help turnaround his public image. This was not a good extended off-season for Beasley.
Yet, last year with the Timberwolves Beasley had a career year. His offensive usage and efficiency were definitely not what you would want from one of your two most important players, but Beasley did put in more work than he was given credit for throughout the season. He tried to learn, he tried to improve and showed at times what he could be. The question becomes whether or not what Michael Beasley is now and what he may be in the future coincides with what the Timberwolves need from his position and if they have ultimate faith in his ability to mature.
However, don’t read too much into the drafting of Derrick Williams as a sign that Beasley is out the door. The Timberwolves had to take Williams due to his incredible talent level and good character and if they believe in Beasley, they will find a way that he, Williams and Love can all play together. If they don’t believe in Beasley, his name will begin to surface in trade rumors soon. What will the verdict be and will it come this season?
#4 – Give Wes Johnson a full-time look at shooting guard.
Wes Johnson had an adequate rookie season, but as is always the case, one of the most crucial times in a player’s development is the off-season between their rookie and second seasons. Unfortunately for Johnson, that crucial time in his career was during the NBA lockout. There have been many reports throughout the off-season of Johnson working out with other NBA players and, hopefully, he has chosen the weaknesses of his game to focus on and improve. One of the most obvious of those weaknesses is his ability to put the ball on the floor and drive to the hoop. Without question, there will be times of great frustration with Johnson as he truly learns the position, but, as is the case with Rubio, learning on the job is the best way to develop Johnson into the player they hoped he would be when he was drafted.
Throughout his rookie season, Johnson showed an ability to play above average defense when completely engaged against shooting guards, even having a fine showing against sometime-workout partner Kobe Bryant. In a perfect world for the Timberwolves, Johnson would develop into their starting shooting guard for years to come, especially with the log-jam of forwards on the roster. Beasley, Williams, Love and Randolph will all need a decent look at the forward spot by Adelman, so moving Johnson to guard full-time will give him the opportunity to show what he’s capable of, both good and bad.
#5 – Look for veteran help in teaching young players professionalism.
Since the announcement of the handshake deal between the NBA and the players, Timberwolves fans have taken to social media throwing out numerous player names they would like to see the team add. While it is that fun and exciting time of the year where everyone believes this could be the season the team they support wins or makes huge strides in their development, the Timberwolves are in a different situation. Some of the names thrown out there in the past few days are Shane Battier, Samuel Dalembert, Marcus Thornton, Chris Kaman and even two-time MVP Steve Nash. The problem is simple: the Timberwolves have a full roster and, more than likely, none of these players will play in Minnesota as a member of the home team.
David Kahn spoke with the media and essentially stated any changes to the roster would be minor. Of course, the team executives wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they didn’t look for ways to upgrade their young roster, but he is correct. Any changes will be minor. Because that is the case, it makes the final move even more important.
#6 – Make sure the resounding voice in Timberwolves land is Adelman.
The Timberwolves brought Adelman into the mix because of his track record of success. A majority of his teams have been incredibly fun to watch due to their teamwork and his ability to mold their different talents into a winning team has been remarkable at times. He almost always seems to get more out of his players on the court than what the overriding expectations are for them and is a true testament to his skill at his profession.
Because of those facts, the shortened 2011-12 season should focus on head coach Rick Adelman. He will put the players on the roster in the best position to succeed as he sees it and it will be up to them to show him—as well as the fans who support the Timberwolves—where they should fit into the team’s plans for the future. While fans are excited about Rubio and Williams’ additions to the roster and Love returning in great shape, this season is about Rick Adelman’s evaluation.
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