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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for December: 15. Minnesota Timberwolves

Overall Win/Loss Record (as of December 31st):  14-13,  third place Northwest Division

This Month:

Team Statistics and League Rank (as of December 31st):
  • Points Scored: 95.6 (19th)
  • Points Allowed: 94.6 (6th)
  • Team FG%: .433 (25th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .444 (14th)
  • Rebounds per game: 46.0 (2nd)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 40.3 (4th)
  • Turnovers per game: 15.6 (26th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 14.4 (19th)
Individual Statistical Leaders (as of December 31st):
  • Scoring (ppg): Kevin Love (19.1)
  • Rebounds per game:  Kevin Love (14.1)
  • Minutes per game: Kevin Love (35.3)
  • Assists per game: Alexy Shved (4.6)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Andrei Kirilenko (.516)
  • Steals per game: Andrei Kirilenko (1.7)
  • Blocked Shots per game: Andrei Kirilenko (1.4)

Worst Player of the Month:  Kevin Love 

Many fans consider this man, as the alternative rock band the Offspring said in their song, "Pretty Fly  (for a White Guy)" while the media has portrayed him as the second coming of Larry Bird. The sad fact, however, is that none of these viewpoints are both far from the truth as Kevin Love is an overrated stats whore with and equally over-inflated numbers.  His increased scoring from primarily to to the coach over feeding him the ball as can be seen by his poor shooting percentages, and despite being this great rebounder, he is completely unable to contain his man down low on the defensive end.  Love can be also considered as rather lazy as he would rather lurk on the outside and jack up three pointer instead to doing what a power forward with his size and abilities should be doing--taking the ball to the paint and scoring in the post.  His production thus far this season is indicative of what a poor example that the media and David have vainly tried to portray as the next "great white hope"of the NBA.  
First Player of the MonthAndrei Kirilenko

He does not get nearly any of the attention or acclaim that he deserves, but Andrei Kirilenko has been the primary reason why the Timberwolves have remained respectable despite being decimated by injuries.  He has been the Wolves'most consistent and efficient offensive presence averaging close to 13 points per game while leading the team in field goal percentage.  Also, despite his rather slight frame, has been quite a factor on the boards as the teams second leading rebounder with Kevin Love indefinitely sidelined due to injury.  AK's greatest contribution, however, has to be on the defensive as he has made himself a factor  in the paint leading his team in blocked shots per game and on the perimeter leading his team in steals per game as well.  With all his effort and leadership, he is certainly more worthy of praise than the guy pictured right next to him who by all account is an over-inflated windbag whose contribution are far overrated.    

Through the course of the season, one has to take a look at the Minnesota Timberwolves and wonder "what if?"  What if Kevin Love did not get injured during the preseason forcing him to miss the first few weeks of the season?  What if Ricky Rubio had been ready to play at the opening tip off instead of being sidelined for all of November and much of December still rehabbing his injury from last season?  What if Brandon Roy was able to play instead of being forced to return to retirement because his poor creaky knees could not take the stress?  And finally, along with Roy, Rubio and Love, what if the Wolves did not lose Chase Buddinger to injury as together combined, the could have the one of the deepest, most talented, and dangerous teams together?

Nonetheless, despite playing the season severely undermanned with a depleted roster while competing in the rather stacked Western Conference, the Wolves have remained rather respectable as they finished the month of December and entered 2013 with a winning record.  Although being one game over .500 does not sound THAT impressive, it certainly shows how much the Timberwolves have overachieved this season despite not have their two star players along with a third of the team's roster.  After finishing November with a understandably disappointing 7-8 record, the Wolves started December going on a tear winning five of their first six games while finishing 2012 with a bang going 7-5 to end the month.  What was even more impressive was the fact that Minnesota could have finished 9-3 if it were not for the heartbreaking defeats from the New York Knicks (12/23/2012) and the Houston Rockets (12/26/2012) by a total of six points.  In addition, among those seven wins, the Wolves also managed to pull of the surprising upset beating the Northwest Division leader and last season's NBA Finalist Oklahoma City Thunder (12/20/2012).

One can go as far to say that even despite their currently rather thin roster, that Minnesota has shown rather marked improvement as the Wolves have already won seventy percent of last season's win total.  If they manage to continue winning at their current pace, the Timberwolves could possibly finish the regular season with a 43-39 record--the team's first winning record since 2005.  However, much of this will have to depend on whether or not they can manage to hold on as the injuries have certainly taken their toll.  If Kevin Love remains healthy for the duration of the season and if Ricky Rubio returns from his rehab to what he was before he suffered that season ending injury last year, it will certainly be a distinct possibility that the Wolves can accomplish such a feat.  Unfortunately for the Wolves, 43 wins is far from enough for the Wolves to return to the postseason after a nine year absence as the average win total for a team to attain the last berth of the Western Conference playoff has been around 45 to 50 wins.

Again much of this potential finish boils down to whether or not Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio can remain on the court this season.  If either one of them were to return to the injured list and are lost for the remainder of the season, then the Wolves will certainly sink to the bottom as there would be nothing much left in the team's arsenal.  Save for the inspired play of free agent signee Andrei Kirilenko, who has probably been playing his best basketball since his years in Utah and the surprising emergence of the teams' starting center, Nikola Pekovic, there is little if anything to speak of for the Wolves.  Last season's second overall pick in the NBA Draft, Derrick Williams, continues to remain an enigma as he currently teeters between potential game changer and draft day bust.  Rookie Alexy Shved has shown glimpses of star potential as well as he has stepped up numerous times for the Wolves, but his shooting, which remains rather sketchy at best, keep him from being a consistent option for the T-Wolves to turn to.

If the team were at full strength, none of this would matter as Williams and Shved, along with veterans such as JJ Barea and Luke Ridnour to name a few would add so much depth to the team given the Wolves a roster capable enough to contend for the Western Conference crown.  It is such a shame that injuries have hampered any chance for Minnesota to return to the post season because it would have been quite a site to see that Timberwolf team at full strength.  Imagine a front court three some that boasting the post scoring of Pekovic, Love's abilty to not only crash the boards but also spread the floor thanks to his perimeter shooting, and finally, the defensive prowess of Andrei Kirilenko.  A front like such as that would certainly cause such Western conference powerhouses such as the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Los Angeles Clippers a reason to start looking over their shoulders.  Unfortunately, that is all wishful thinking as the Minnesota Timberwolves look to salvage what they can from this season as they continue to battle through their limitations and finish the season with a better, if not slightly improved finish from those previous.