To call the Minnesota Timberwolves’ season a disappointment would be an understatement.
This was supposed to be the year they broke free from the dregs of the Western Conference and finally made the playoffs. There was even some talk of the Wolves winning a series and establishing themselves as a top team in the West.
As we all know, that has not been the case. Injuries to Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love have submarined would could have been a breakout season and left the Wolves with little to no chance of reaching the playoffs. It’s a crying shame.
Now, however, the question is what they can do in the future.
It’s generally been accepted that Love and Rubio are the two best players Minnesota has and their two biggest building blocks for the future. Certainly, they are two immensely talented players.
Love is a rebounding machine and his ability to stretch the floor by shooting 3s is a talent that coaches drool over, while Rubio is one of the best passers in the game, rivaled only by Chris Paul, Steve Nash, and Rajon Rondo. Having players with talent like this on your team is certainly a huge plus.
But the Love-Rubio situation isn’t as sunny as it sounds. For one thing, injuries have continued to be a problem. Both players have gotten hurt in each of the past two seasons. If the story of the Wolves being out of the playoff hunt because of injuries to Love and Rubio sounds familiar, it should. It’s exactly what happened last year.
When healthy, both are capable of great things, but it’s hard to build a team around to players who are so unreliable from a health standpoint. It’s the kind of problem that really puts this team’s future in jeopardy.
But hey, let’s view this from an optimistic approach; suppose that next year, Rubio and Love are both 100 percent healthy for the vast majority of the season. Surely, that team would be quite the juggernaut, right?
Maybe, but Rubio and Love both have more flaws in their game than most of us are willing to admit. For one thing, Rubio simply cannot shoot the basketball. At all. He shot 35.7 percent from the field as a rookie, and this year, he’s at a ghastly 30.9 percent. You could chalk up this year’s especially low number to him still recovering from injuries, but that doesn’t explain the low number from last year, or his notably low percentages in Europe.
This problem is not going to get better. Or rather, it might get a little better, but Rubio is never going to be a good shooter, or even an adequate one. This is an an enormous flaw in his game that can’t be ignored. With Rubio on the court, the Wolves are essentially playing 4-on-5 offensively. His passes are brilliant, but he can only do so much atone for his woeful shooting. It’s the one thing that may prevent him from ever being a top-flight point guard.
As for Love, his shooting wasn’t so hot this year either, as he was a woeful 35.2 from the field before his latest injury. Even worse, his 3-point dynamic was washed away, as he was an ungodly 21.7 percent from beyond the arc. You read that correctly.
In fairness, he came back from a broken shooting hand that he initially hurt in the preseason and that could be the major contributor to his woeful shooting. But remember, it happened over 18 games. In that time, Love took 298 shots and made only 105 of them. He took 92 threes and made 20 of them. This is a small sample size, but it’s not that small, and the problem never seemed to get better the further removed Love was from the initial injury.
The odds of Love being this bad from the field next season are admittedly miniscule, but he might not totally get his old form back either. The biggest hope the Wolves going into the next season is that Love’s weak shooting was a mere aberration and he’s still the offensive juggernaut we’ve grown accustomed to. That may well be the case, but for now, it’s up in the air.
The Wolves probably will go ahead with Love and Rubio as their biggest stars, but there’s a lot of uncertainty here. Both are injury prone, one is a horrible shooter, and neither has shot the ball well this year. If they stay healthy, and Love gets his old form back, and Rubio can get his shooting to around 40 percent, that might be enough to turn the Wolves into title contenders. But that’s far more ifs than any fan base would like to have.
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