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NBA Minnesota Timberwolves

5 Minnesota Timberwolves Players Who Must Step Up Their Game

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5 Timberwolves Who Must Improve

Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves have played well throughout the first two weeks of the season. Well, most of them have anyway. The Timberwolves have leaned heavily on their starters, all of whom are performing at or above expectations. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the bench. While the Wolves have managed to win most of their regular season games so far on the strength of their starting five, as the season wears on and players wear down, others will need to step up.

Though it’s still early, the Timberwolves look to be a legitimate playoff team this year. As we’ve seen in the past, many playoff teams with amazing starting lineups end up failing due to the weakness of their benches. Luckily for the Wolves, they have some intriguing young pieces on the bench who may eventually develop into good rotation players. The Wolves are looking to win now, however, and they will have a hard time in the playoffs unless their current bench squad seriously improves.

With a bench that includes three rookies, it’s no surprise that many of these young players aren’t contributing right away. Still, the Wolves will need these players to contribute sooner or later. The Wolves’ veteran bench players aren’t helping much either; that may be a bigger issue, and these players may need to either find a way to play better in coach Rick Adelman’s system, or be risk being traded.

These five Minnesota Timberwolves players need to improve their play for the team to put together a postseason run.

Nick Guenther is an NBA Writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him on twitter @nickynicknickk or add him to your network on Google .

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5. Derrick Williams

Noah K. Murray - USA TODAY Sports

Derrick Williams has been at the center of trade talks since he was drafted second overall back in 2011. While he has shown flashes of his great potential and played well while starting for the Wolves, he just hasn’t ever clicked in Adelman’s system.

This year, Williams hasn’t seen the floor much, averaging a career low 17.9 minutes per game. His talent as a scorer seems like it would fit for the Wolves, but he just hasn’t worked out the way they’ve planned so far. Williams is reportedly available for trade this season, and if he doesn’t improve his play, he’ll likely be gone before long.

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4. Shabazz Muhammad

Howard Smith - USA TODAY Sports

Shabazz Muhammad was once considered one of the top prospects in the world. So far, however, he hasn’t lived up to the hype. In fact, he’s barely played; Muhammad has played just 20 minutes over four games and has scored just two points. Whether coach Adelman is trying to send Muhammad a message or he just isn’t ready for NBA play yet remains to be seen, but Muhammad certainly hasn’t played like a lottery pick thus far.

If Muhammad pans out, he will be a welcome addition to the Timberwolves' rotation. They desperately need a scoring punch off the bench at the wing position, which is exactly what he was supposed to do.

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3. Gorgui Dieng

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The Timberwolves’ other first round rookie, Gorgui Dieng, has actually seen some decent playing time this year. Dieng’s profile coming out of Louisville was that he was NBA ready with a low ceiling, but he hasn’t looked all that ready so far.

Dieng has played 41 minutes so far, scoring seven points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and blocking five shots. He will need to up his production, as the Wolves are not deep at center, and their starter, Nikola Pekovic, is known for missing around 15 games per season with nagging injuries.

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2. J.J. Barea

Brace Hemmelgarn - USA TODAY Sports

J.J. Barea’s production is down from last year, and he’s shooting under 40 percent from the field. With the loss of Luke Ridnour this offseason, Barea is the main backup guard behind Ricky Rubio. It would be nice if at least one of the Wolves’ point guards could hit some shots, but it doesn’t look like that will happen this year. If Barea finds his shot, it will be a big help, as the Wolves have basically no shooting off the bench until the Chase Budinger’s return.

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1. Alexey Shved

Marilyn Indahl - USA TODAY Sports

Alexey Shved is playing terribly. It’s just his second year in the NBA, so there are still some growing pains, but Shved has been nearly unplayable this year. He went through a phase where he actually played rather well last year, so he may come around yet.

His biggest problem has always been his shooting, though he was known as a shooter when playing in Russia. So far this season, he’s shooting just 20.8 percent from the field and averaging just 2.6 points per game. Both of these figures will need to improve significantly if he hopes to remain in the rotation.