The Minnesota Timberwolves just earned their third win of the 2013 season with a 100-109 victory over the New York Knicks, and now with the team standing at 3-0 and still healthy, things look bright for the Timberwolves. Many rebuilding teams around the league are still missing a key piece or two, but the Wolves have done a good job with player movement in recent years, and are now ready to begin a long playoff tenure.
It all starts with the coaching, and barring any illness’ Rick Adelman should be the Timberwolves’ head coach for years to come. He currently ranks eighth on the all-time regular season wins list among coaches with 1,005 victories to date, and Adelman is a successful and smart coach, who although surprises me with his substitution decisions at times, is the right man to take the Wolves to the next level.
After the head coach comes the superstar, which is obviously the role Kevin Love is filling. Love contributes every night in the points and rebounds department, and through three games this year is shooting 46 percent from 3-point range. Love is quickly turning into one of the most well rounded players in the league, and if he decides to continue his career with the Wolves, he would be the centerpiece and an NBA All-Star for years to come.
Love isn’t a scoring machine by any means, and the only shot he can really create on his own is on the perimeter when other power forwards don’t want to guard him. This leaves an apparent hole at who the team’s main scorer will be, but through his short stint with the Wolves, Kevin Martin appears ready to take charge. Martin is second on the team averaging 16 points per game, but against the Knicks on Sunday night he exploded for 30 points on 75-percent shooting.
Martin is a deep threat who also finds a way to get to the free-throw line. Although he doesn’t have the typical style of a go-to scorer, he will succeed alongside Ricky Rubio, who is one of the most underrated points guards in the league. Many knocked Rubio’s defense coming into the NBA, and many thought he would simple be a distributor from the point guard position. While the 23-year-old is still finding his jump shot, Rubio has become a lockdown defender at the point, and shows the determination to stick with anyone, a mentality that will win the Wolves plenty of games.
With Rubio, Love, and Martin rounding out the core of this team, there are still plenty of other talented players that will not only help this team win now, but in the future as well. First off is center Nikola Pekovic, who just signed a five-year contract with the Wolves, and appears to be a favorite of Love. It appears to me, but not many others, that with Pekovic locked-in for another five years, Love will stick with the small market Wolves instead of testing free agency when eligible.
Derrick Williams is another player who could, and should, have a future with the Wolves as he posses the ability to be a go-to scorer if he can just become more consistent. Williams, however, has gotten the cold-shoulder from Adelman at times and sat out whole games, but the second-year player out of Arizona is leading the team with two blocks per game, and scored 1o points and grabbed seven rebounds in his first action of the year against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The wild card going forward is rookie Shabazz Muhammed as he started his career at UCLA as a highly touted prospect. But after some character and consistency issues, he was seen as more of a risk by the time the draft rolled around. Muhammed clearly must prove to Adelman he can be a team player before earning playing time as the rookie has logged just six minutes through three games, and is just one of three Wolves players to have zero points.
If Muhammed can develop into the high-volume scorer he was seen as coming out of high school, he could conceivably play a huge role in the Wolves’ offense going forward. While much about the future in uncertain, the Wolves are showing they are a team to watch out for early in the 2013 season, and if they stay together going forward, could become one of the next dominant teams of the NBA.