Nice choice, BallinEurope readers. The Minnesota Timberwolves, selected as BiE’s NBA home team for the 2012-13 season, are early darlings in the big league, managing to get off to a respectable 4-2 start (“Their best start in 11 years!” went the hype after the Wolves’ win over the Indiana Pacers) while Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and at present J.J. Barea are down to injury.
BallinEurope checks in this morning with those fantastic Eurowolves, bullet-style with video and an Official Fearless Prediction™ or two below.
• The best bit about watching the Timberwolves from the BiE perspective: This is the most Euroesque of all NBA teams this season. Aside the maddening “inability” to run the floor (more on this below), the pick-and-roll plays, the ball movement, the distribution of minutes (well, relatively, given how shorthanded the ‘Wolves are right now), the lack of a “Big 3” – these all resemble our beloved version of the game. And can’t you just see Luke Ridnour suiting up for Maccabi Tel Aviv someday?
• As good as Ridnour has been in managing the offense (and performing well above expectations in place of Rubio), BiE likes to give disproportionate credit to NBA rookie Alexey Shved. Waking up against the Brooklyn Nets in game three, Shved suddenly attacks the basket and/or gets things moving outside the perimeter in a half-court set like an old hand – nice offseason addition here.
• Timberwolves Plays of the Week? Easy: Check out Ridnour with the inbounds to Andrei Kirilenko who demonstrates that miraculous wingspan of his on a dish to the cutting Chase Budinger for the game-winner on Friday night against Indiana.
Ridnour-to-Budinger connected again for a nice three in the third quarter against the Bulls the next night, giving the ‘Wolves a 52-49 lead, but Budinger gets props here for his fearlessness in the first quarter of that game.
• Depending on this team’s record in January, Rick Adelman may deserve a few words in this year’s Coach of the Year discussion – though he’ll ultimately lose out if Phil Jackson indeed returns and pulls off the miracle in Los Angeles.
On one hand, the Wolves have only seen two playoff-caliber teams (Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers) thus far, there is of course the subsequent reintegration of Love and Rubio to come. If the former performs again on his post-summer 2010 levels and Rubio is as ready to play as when he got his first NBA start, well, where would you put the ‘Wolves? No. 6 in the Western Conference? No. 5, maybe?
• Benjamin Polk of ESPN TrueHoop Network site A Wolf Among Wolves, forecasting in his pre-Bulls game column, reckoned in part that the Wolves’ “best offensive moments have come either when the team is fluidly executing Rick Adelman’s sets or when a guard, be it Brandon Roy, J.J. Barea or Alexey Shved, has taken it upon himself to break down the opposing defense…
“Adding to the problem is that the Bulls have real matchup advantages in the frontcourt … Joakim Noah is the kind of long, active center that gives Pekovic fits (observe the way that Hibbert disrupted Pek’s offensive game [against the Pacers])…”
Polk’s assessment proved about 50/50. Four PFs aside, game high-scorer Pekovic still went for 35 minutes and the Pek/AK-47 combination held its own on the offensive side with seven ORs combined. Distressingly, however, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson controlled things for Chicago with eight offensive boards of their own plus another four from Nazr Mohammad who distressingly handled Minnesota’s second string in his eight minutes on the court.
As for Adelman’s sets and the Bulls’ neutralization of any opposing five, the latter won out over the former by slowing things to a crawl. BiE’d like to see the advanced scoring stats, but here’s to thinking that the Wolves’ success rate declines as the 24-second clock does.
• Is BiE crazy or does this team look ready to run? And yet, the Wolves have been good for just 10.5 fast break points per game over the last four. Presence of Pekovic aside, the loss in Chicago indicates early on that this Minnesota team could lose the grittier matches this year –
so why not open the floor? Again, BiE supposes, we’re just waiting for Ricky…
• Token Official Fearless Predictions™: Since Love and Rubio won’t be back until 2013 and the Wolves’ complexion will change dramatically when these two return, BiE’ll take a stab at the record through December – yeesh, look at that run around Christmas: at Miami, vs Oklahoma City, at New York, vs Houston – and say the Wolves will be 12-9 on January 1.
• Next up: Timberwolves at Dallas on Monday night.