Kevin Love numbers aside, are the Minnesota Timberwolves for real? Depends on what you regard being for real. Championship material? Nope, not really close. But a playoff contender? After nearly a month of NBA action, the Wolves are 7-8, far from their usual position of already thinking about next year. Beating the Red hot Clippers (101-98) in dramatic fashion was another fine example.
Kevin Love isn’t the only story with the Wolves this year, who are, for the first time in years, an interesting team with a bigger appeal to more than just the Twin Cities area. Ricky Rubio’s delayed rookie season is probably beating a lot of expectations, as people forgot this kid has been playing professional basketball for over half a decade.
It took some time, but Rubio’s passing ability and defense has made him a deserves starter, alongside Luke Ridnour. Rubio is averaging 10.6 points and 8.1 assists per game so far and has a shot of being the third rookie from the same draft class to win the ROY award if he keeps improving and adjusting to the NBA game.
Rubio finished with 9 points and six assists against the Clippers, who are still missing Chris Paul. The Clippers have beaten the Miami Heat, LA Lakers and the Mavericks in the last 10 days, but even teams on the rise can’t hid their faults all the time. DeAndre Jordan finishing with only 2 points with no one to pick up the front court slack off the bench hurt the Clips who got 21 from Griffin, 20 from Billups and 25 from Mo Williams.
There’s been talk recently if Love should get a maximum extension from the Wolves, with his defense being a big subject of critique. Tell you what. I’ll take a power forward who averages 24.7 points and 14.5 rebounds per game, with great outside shooting ability (37.3% this season) and manage with his mediocre defense. Love will only get better, and with the right adjustments around him, there’s no reason to risk losing him because of an improvable factor of his game.
Did you need clutch ability as well? Love hit the game winning tre, in a season filled with buzzer beating shots pretty early on. More importantly, the Wolves finally won a close one, previously going 0-5 in game decided by four points or less. Rubio was terrible all night long, but woke up late. He hit a game tying three pointer with 20 second left, and stepped up as the Wolves were coming back late, including some flashy assists to Darko Milicic. Milicic, who fouled out, also had a rare night, at least for him.
A terrible draft pick with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh picked below him, Milicic surprised with 22 points and 7 rebounds before fouling out. This team has more tools than before, with Derrick Williams coming off the bench, scoring 9 points this time.
In time, Williams might develop into the scoring threat he was in College, but for now, this is Kevin Love’s team. Not just a statistical juggernaut and a borderline All-Star because his name isn’t popular enough among the voters who’ll always prefer Blake Griffin. Love is a superstar, playing for a team that’s been making the right moves these past two years, and looks like it’s just going to keep on climbing.