Minnesota Timberwolves – No Hope Without Kevin Love

The Minnesota Timberwolves are built around Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, aiming for a first playoff appearance since 2004. After missing out on the postseason last year due to Rubio’s torn ACL, Kevin Love’s broken hand means both of them won’t be available for the early part of the NBA Season.

How long? Rubio is back in training, but he won’t be playing until late November, maybe even December. Love broke the third and fourth metacarpals on his shooting hand in a workout before practice, and will be out for 6-8 weeks. It’s likely both will be back around the same time.

What does this mean for the Timberwolves? About 20 first games of the season without their two best players. Just when Love was talking about his desire to finally makes the postseason (or else…) after spending a summer with the Dream Team in London, being the only memebr, aside from rookie Anthony Davis, without any playoff experience.

There was talk of Love for MVP, or at least not being too far from one. He averaged 26 points and 13.3 rebounds last season, making the All-Star game for a second consecutive time. The front-court, with Pekovic at center and Kirilenko at a ‘3’, will now have to undergo some changes once the season begins. Maybe moving Kirilenko to the PF position, where he actually prefers playing, at least in European basketball, and Derrick Williams or Chase Budinger will move into the starting lineup. Williams is the more likely option, with the Wolves hoping his Sophomore season will be a bit more explosive, averaging 8.8 points in 21.5 minutes last season.

Covering for Rubio isn’t easy as well. Same guys as last year – Luke Ridnour (12.1 points, 4.8 assists) and JJ Barea (11.3 points, 5.7 assists). Not bad numbers, but both of them aren’t the passers and play makers Rubio is, not even beginning to mention his ability on defense when compared with them both.

A big X-factor is Brandon Roy, not playing basketball for an entire year. How good will he be? Can he be a shooting guard that actually plays the point and takes over the ball handling while Rubio is gone, or has his game changed drastically due to his knee situation? The Timberwolves’ roster looks pretty good and even deeper than most teams, but only with Love and Rubio, obviously, on it.

Without them, the hopes for a playoff take a serious hit. This is a better, upgraded team compared with what Minnesota had last year. They were 21-20 when Rubio went down, ending the season with his knee injury. They finished with a 26-40 record, going 5-20 during his injury. That kind of stretch to start the season will be too much ground to make up for Love and Rubio when they return. Future, at least from a quick glance and early look, doesn’t look too bright.