Triple Double: Wolves have an exciting future ahead
The Minnesota Timberwolves have become one of the most fun teams to watch in the NBA. I never thought I’d say those words.
The transformation came out of nowhere. It seems like just yesterday the team was starting the likes of Ryan Gomes and Sebastian Telfai — not exactly Kevin Garnett and Sam Cassell. Not only was the team terrible, but they had no real future, no players to build around or to usher in a second era of Timberwolves excellence.
Then they traded for Kevin Love.
Once the team acquired Love from Memphis on draft day in 2008, they had a long-term cornerstone. In the future, this will be the move people say transformed the franchise. Love is an absolute monster, averaging 25 points and nearly 14 rebounds a game while adding a three-point shot to his offensive repertoire.
The guy is my favorite player in the league, and it’s not particularly close. His three-point buzzer-beater against the Los Angeles Clippers earlier this season is one of the best moments of the year so far.
As of this writing, the Timberwolves have played 21 games this season. Love has recorded a double-double in 19 of them. He has scored in double figures in every single game. He produces like a true superstar and is beginning to be treated as such. If I was building a team from scratch, I’d take Love over Blake Griffin. That’s how good Love is.
If Love was the only piece the team had, the team wouldn’t have nearly as bright of a future. But they’ve managed to add a flashy, dynamic point guard in Ricky Rubio, whose stellar play this season makes up for the Jonny Flynn pick a few years ago. Wait, no it doesn’t because Rubio was picked directly in front of Flynn by the Timberwolves. That’s a brilliant draft strategy: pick every point guard in the world! Then no one else can have any point guards! Muah ha ha ha!
But it looks like the team may have settled on one point guard and it looks like a pretty good choice. Rubio has excellent court vision, unbelievable passing skills, and has been a better jump-shooter than most everyone thought he would be. He averages almost three assists for every turnover and is still only 21 years old. Imagine what he may be able to do with a few more years of experience and a bit more muscle on his frame.
Michael Beasley has been a dependable scorer since coming over from Miami before last season. He can score from the wing or work from the post. I don’t think Beasley will ever become the elite player that he was predicted to, but he can score 17 to 20 points a game as a second or third option on a good team.
These three players are an excellent core to build around. You can include Derrick Williams in the core as well. Williams, the second overall pick in the 2011 draft, has been a solid bench player this year and is only 20 years old, so there should be real growth in the next few years. If Wesley Johnson’s production starts matching his potential, he’d be another key piece of the team’s promising future.
As a Bucks fan, this is all I really want the Bucks to be: fun to watch. The Timberwolves aren’t serious threats to do any damage in the playoffs. It seems highly unlikely that they’ll even manage to make it to the postseason this year. But they’ve made some smart personnel moves and have gone young.
The Bucks, on the other hand, have tried several quick fixes in recent years, with very few positive results. Richard Jefferson, John Salmons, Corey Maggette, Stephen Jackson and Drew Gooden are a few examples of veterans who have not experienced lasting success in Milwaukee (or in the case of Maggette, no real success at all).
I want the Bradley Center to be a Milwaukee destination again. I remember the 2001 playoffs, when the Bucks made it to the Eastern Conference finals. The Bucks were exciting, interesting, cool. This column may be coming at an odd time, as the Bucks are actually playing quite well in the past few weeks.
But comparing the Timberwolves with the Bucks is a perfect case study in how to build a team without signing or trading for superstars. You have to hit a few home runs in the draft, make a smart acquisition or two, and lock up the guys you view as building blocks.
The Timberwolves model is built to last. At the very least, they’re fun to watch. As Bucks fans will tell you, that’s really all you can ask for.