The Minnesota Timberwolves are in trouble because of their standing in the West. But they might be able to become better in the next few months.
Despite being last in the Midwest Division, they could still find themselves contending for a playoff spot. Hard to conceive with the absence of Kevin Love, who is still recovering from his fractured right hand. He isn’t expected back until mid-March. It will take a strong effort on their part but it’s possible.
In order for the Timberwolves to salvage their season, they need to bring their best with what they have. Here are the players that need to step up in Love’s absence.
1. Ricky Rubio
Ricky Rubio hasn’t been the same since returning from surgery to repair two torn ligaments in his left knee. The Timberwolves need Rubio to return to form and perform.
He needs to bring his totals up. The point guard has shown signs of improvement.
Despite losing to the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday, Rubio scored a season-high 14 points, with eight assists and five steals. The offense is running through the second-year guard. He needs to improve in order to win games.
Rubio only averages 4.8 points a game with 5.3 assists in 23.1 minutes. His minutes and production need to go up, particularly his assists.
2. Andrei Kirilenko
Veteran forward Andrei Kirilenko is well past his best days. However, he can still contribute to a young Timberwolves team.
In 35 minutes a game, Kirilenko averages 13.6 points per game and shoots 51.5 percent from the floor. Stats don’t necessarily need to go up, but leadership does.
As one of the few veterans on the team with some playoff experience, Kirilenko can be a locker-room leader. Guiding and mentoring this crew should be Kirilenko’s goal.
If he can bring this group together for a playoff push, the Timberwolves could be a threat in the next few months.
3. Derrick Williams
Derrick Williams, the second-year player from the University of Arizona, has been placed in quite a spot. He’s taken over for Love in the starting lineup in a feast-or-famine situation.
Williams is floundering with only 9.4 PPG and 4.5 RPG. In order for the former lottery pick to survive, he needs to become better in both categories. Now, he shouldn’t try to become Love. Instead, he should hold the line.
Williams needs to perform at a level the Timberwolves believe he can achieve. They chose him as the second pick in the 2011 draft for a reason. The writing is on the wall, it’s time for Williams to prove it.
4. J.J. Barea
Remember when J.J. Barea was the spark on that championship Dallas Mavericks team?
Barea still holds his own as one of the team’s leading scorers, averaging 11.4 points a night. This guard has filled in during Rubio’s injury. He also has to fill twice the load since Brandon Roy was lost to injury.
Barea can keep up the pace athletically. It’s time for Barea to become a leader for his team.
He has the experience of making a run at the playoffs. He helped the Mavericks win their NBA title two years ago. If Barea can once again assume the role of leader and sparkplug, the Timberwolves are in good shape.
*stats are from NBA.com
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