The Minnesota Timberwolves have been expecting to make the playoffs for the last couple of years, but it seems that injuries seem to keep getting in the way. Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love are starting a third season side by side, which might be the last if once again something goes wrong on the way to the postseason.
The Timberwolves have the strongest lineup they’ve had in years with the addition of Kevin Martin and the returning Corey Brewer, although Martin spent only six minutes on the floor, as the Timberwolves beat the Toronto Raptors 101-89 in their second preseason game.
Love played 26 minutes and had a very strong performance, finishing with 20 points and 9 rebounds, looking very hungry to make up for last season, in which he played only 18 games. Ricky Rubio missed the early months of the season last year, but once he got into his groove the Timberwovles were too far behind the playoff race, while Love was already out of commission. The Spanish point guard finished with 9 points and 7 assists, even hitting the only three pointer he attempted during the game.
Rubio’s ability to add some outside shooting to his repertoire is going to be a bit issue for the Timberwolves, who need their point guard to become a lot more aggressive and possibly slightly more selfish, at least to keep teams off balance and unaware of what he’s going to do next. Martin obviously takes some pressure off as a ball handler while Alexey Shved and J.J. Barea are a fine duo of backups to the point guard position, but it’s time for Rubio to become more than a passing highlight reel.
Another key component of the Timberwolves next season will be Nikola Pekovic, who took his time with the contract negotiations. Pekovic signed a five-year, $60 million deal this summer after lengthy negotiations, and the Timberwolves are hoping they haven’t placed their bet on someone who has missed quite a few games over the last few years.
Pekovic finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds, outplaying Jonas Valanciunas of the Raptors, finishing with 9 points and 5 rebounds. DeMar DeRozan led the scoring for Toronto with 17 points.
The Derrick Williams question remains up in the air, as he remains with the team but still looking to get more love and playing time from Rick Adelman. Williams looked like he was going to be a big part of a bright future for the Timberwolves before his rookie year began, but aside from some flashes of brilliance here and there, consistency has been avoiding him, and so has a regular place as a sixth man or in the lineup.
Shabazz Muhammad didn’t play, as the Timberwolves have yet to introduce their highest pick of the 2013 NBA Draft. Gorgui Dieng did get some time, finishing with 2 points in his 12 minutes on the floor, and he’ll be battling with Ronny Turiaf for the backup center spot in the lineup, but it won’t be surprising to see him demoted to the D-League if his development takes as much time as some expect it to.