NBA: Five Minnesota Timberwolves To Watch vs. Sacramento
Five Minnesota Timberwolves To Watch vs. Sacramento
The Minnesota Timberwolves will open their 2012-2013 schedule at home against the Sacramento Kings on Friday night, with the promise of a new season and a potential return to playoff contention still present despite injuries to forward Kevin Love (right hand) and guard Ricky Rubio (left knee).
The Timberwolves made some notable offseason moves in an effort to refurbish the roster and add some veteran presence while also getting rid of some underachievers that bogged the team down in recent years. Overall, the talent on the roster is improved and the team’s overall consistency on a game-by-game basis should be bolstered as well.
With Love and Rubio out, the added depth on the roster will be even more vital as coach Rick Adelman attempts to put his best possible lineup on the floor through the early part of the season. Managing the minutes of some the veterans will also be a challenge for Adelman early in the season, so those key players can be at their best when Rubio and Love return.
The Kings have one of the more intriguing young teams in the league, with guards Tyreke Evans and Jimmer Fredette as well as center DeMarcus Cousins leading the way. Top draft pick Thomas Robinson should also step into a significant role immediately for head coach Keith Smart in his first full season at the helm.
Here are the five Timberwolves I feel have to perform well for the team to start the season with a victory on Friday night.
5. Center Nikola Pekovic
Pekovic emerged as a force last season, averaging 13.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game over 47 games (35 starts). He missed time with a right ankle injury that required offseason surgery, but looks ready to go for the start of the season. Pekovic also shed some weight and added muscle over the summer, and the Timberwolves will certainly need his offensive production with Kevin Love (right hand) out. His matchup with DeMarcus Cousins on Friday night will be one to watch, as if either gets into foul trouble his team will be put at a disadvantage.
4. Forward Andrei Kirilenko
Kirilenko did not play in the NBA last season due to the lockout, but was named MVP of the Euroleague while playing for CSKA Moscow in his home country. “AK 47” is not the player he was in his prime with the Utah Jazz since he will turn 32 during the coming season, but his veteran presence and ability to fill the stat sheet will make him a favorite of coach Rick Adelman. Kirilenko may be asked to take a more proactive offensive role while Love is out in particular, and how he gets his touches and points will be worth watching against Sacramento.
3. Point Guard Luke Ridnour
Ridnour has been bothered by a back issue during the preseason, but he seems to be progressing well and looks ready to go for the games that count. With Rubio sidelined, Ridnour looks certain to step into significant minutes right out of the gate, and his production and veteran stability will be needed with little else behind him right now. With his missed time during the preseason creating some concern for his conditioning, Ridnour may not be able to play a ton of minutes on Friday night. His overall effectiveness, as well as his minute count, will be something to keep an eye on.
2. Guard Brandon Roy
Roy was one of the Timberwolves’ most notable offseason additions, despite the fact he spent last season in retirement due to recurring knee issues. No one should expect him to recapture the All-Star form he showed with the Portland Trailblazers, but his veteran presence and what skills he has left will be valuable for the Timberwolves. It would not be surprising to see Roy matched up with Kings’ guard Tyreke Evans on the defensive end during Friday night’s game, so how he holds up in that scenario looks to be a big key to a win for Minnesota.
1. Forward Derrick Williams
Williams had a very up-and-down rookie season last year, which can be chalked up to a lockout shortened campaign and inconsistent playing time. Now he should get an opportunity to play plenty with Love sidelined, despite any trepidation Adelman still has about him, and how he responds for a team that will need his offensive production may set the course for his future with the Timberwolves' franchise. A poor season-opening performance for Williams on Friday night may begin to dim any hope Minnesota has to stay afloat early in the season, even if it is only one game out of 82.