When I’m flipping around the tube and I come across the Minnesota Timberwolves, I stop. They are primetime television, as exciting as any team in the league. They score at will and they do it in style with a slew of behind the back passes, outlet dunks, and long range bombs.
The team becomes even more impressive when taking a look at their roster. They are one of the few teams with a premier, bonafide superstar in Kevin Love. They have a skilled, Goliath-like center (an endangered species in today’s NBA): Nikola Pekovic. Kevin Martin is a legitimate threat from anywhere inside of 25 feet (one year he averaged 24.6 ppg!). And there are supporting pieces in place that any championship contender would drool over. On top of all that, they have one of the best coaches in the league in Rick Adelman!
But as exciting as the T-Wolves are to watch, they are a terrible team to hang your hopes on, the worst actually. In fact, don’t ever bet your buddy a 20 spot that the Wolves are going to pull a game out down the stretch. So far this season, the T-Wolves are a putrid 0-11 in games decided by 4 points or fewer, which is the main contributor to their 19-21 record. That’s bad enough to make choke artist Tony Romo blush.
If they were in the East, they could coast and hit one hot streak to catapult them into the postseason; a strategy that the Knicks and Nets are exercising to the max. But they are in the juggernaut West where every win counts. And with each game that passes, the T-Wolves are watching the playoff window shut a little bit more. For a young up-and-coming team, that’s a big deal. These guys are fighting for career status, reputation, and most importantly to them: contracts and money.
So, what is going wrong with the T-Wolves, anyway? We have to fix this late game situation problem immediately.
Currently, there is a lot of speculation and talk about what exactly is going wrong with this team. At first glance, it’s damn near impossible to see anything. I mean as I drooled above, they are loaded with talent at every position with guys that are putting up numbers. And when they win, they win big. So far this year, they have beaten Boston by 18, Cleveland by 29, the Lakers by 23, Brooklyn by 30, and Detroit by 27. The Timberwolves have also taken down some of the elite teams, such as: Portland, Oklahoma City, and Dallas just to name a few.
But, how could a team that shows so much confidence and does so well on some nights crumble on others?
There is one simple answer to this problem: They have no legitimate playmakers, and this falls upon two players.
1. The Point Guard
Ricky Rubio, who was originally compared to Pistol Pete, has not developed at the pace that everyone has expected. Back in the day, Pistol Pete could pull off the crazy, mind blowing passes because he kept defenders on their heels. He did this by consistently averaging 25 ppg and sinking jumpers from all over the court.
Ricky Rubio, on the pother hand, plays with no scoring aggression at all. Many people who don’t pay close attention like to say that Rubio can’t shoot. This isn’t exactly correct, though. Rubio has worked extremely hard over the past few years to improve his shot, and it’s paid off. He’s actually shooting around 37 percent from the 3 point line this season: pretty good. But this shooting doesn’t matter because Rubio is terrible in the paint. In fact, out of 152 players in the NBA, Rubio ranks 151st inside of the paint, shooting 39 percent on his interior shots. Because of his soft play down low, nobody really worries about him as a playmaker, which amps up his turnovers and strikes down his shooting percentage. Bottom line is the coaches need to purchase him Sam Cassell’s toughness and send him to the weight room with Pekovic.
2. The Superstar
Kevin Love was deemed a superstar a few years ago when he was grabbing astronomical amounts of rebounds and averaging Larry Bird like scoring numbers but this all seems to be for nothing. In his five years with the team, the Wolves have yet to make the playoffs. Actually, they haven’t even come close to making the post season (Love averages 22 wins per year!). Some may want to excuse this by saying he hasn’t had the talent around him, but that just doesn’t fit with the superstar persona. No excuses.
Much of Love’s problem is that he is not an elite playmaker. Down the stretch, it’s difficult to throw him the ball and expect that a great shot will come out of it. He can’t drive by people, and he’s a little short to post people up. Instead, he’s really good – better yet, legend like- at getting his points from spot up shooting and position rebounding. The bottom line is that Kevin Love needs a playmaker, a guy with a different skill set that is as good if not better than he is. Love needs to be the 2nd option, or at best “option 1a”. He needs a Pistol Pete Maravich, not a Ricky Rubio.