and we have moved up from 30 to 29 in Hollinger's automated rankings. The push has begun.
Ok, so technically we are not at the 1/8th point, but posting this during the game Sunday would be difficult. While not a very large sample, there is at least some food for thought and a lot of stuff that is positive: more wins than this time last year, Love leading the league in rebounds and Beasley averaging over 20ppg. Some thoughts below the jump.
1- Injuries hurt (literally and figuratively)
Watching Pek writhe on the floor in pain last night made me think: "Of course. Who's next?" We are scouring the D-League to find someone other than Bassy who can bring the ball up the floor without bouncing it off of his own foot. We were 7 quarters worth of gator chow in Florida without Beas to put up some points and we haven't had a minute of play in the regular season from our second biggest off-season acquisition.
The good news here is that the words "season ending" haven't been used in a sentence yet. If those words apply to either Love or Beasley, it will be a sub 20 win year. The better news is that this team will get better when back at full strength.
2- Love-Beasley might work
There certainly has been concern that getting Beasley just continued the logjam at the 4 rather than giving us something to work with. It is early, but there seem to be signs that Beasley and Love can exist on the floor at the same time as the 3 and 4 in a way that Jefferson and Love could not at the 4 and 5. Both are showing big gains in points per game (about 6 each) with only about 3 more minutes per game vs career and of course there is the whole rebounding thing for Love. Love is also tied for the league lead in double-doubles.
They really seem to compliment much better than Love-Jefferson. Beasley operates well with the mid-range jumper and occasional drives to the basket and Love cleans up the garbage and can operate on the perimeter. They also seem to be building a decent chemistry. I can see Love somewhat taking over as the leader and Beasley showing Alpha dog signs. The best part of this is that they are both in their 3rd year after only 1 year in college. Can this be something to build on long term?
3- Darko days ahead?
On the offensive end Darko is a mess. The baby hook and soft layins are not falling. If he stays at 30% from the floor and a PER of 6.9 for the year it will be a disaster. The biggest thing from last night's game was that Darko did actually take it to the hole once (or was I drunk and just imagined it?). His assist total hasn't shown him to be the facilitator in the triangle that everyone had hoped for either.
However, on the defensive end he does seem to be making a difference. Besides the 23 blocks so far, he looks to be creating a less inviting environment for opposing players in the paint. BD (before Darko) it was easy for the opponent to get up any shot they wanted in the paint. Now it seems to be a different story.
The long term question has to be if his offense deficiencies are overcome by the defense he adds. Should our lottery pick next year be for a prospect at the 5?
4- Wes Johnson
Of course we won't know for a few more years if Johnson over DMC was the right choice. In the meantime he is showing himself to be a good compliment on offense with his ability to shoot from the outside and drive to the basket when the spacing allows. He is at 10 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists per game.So not a bad start. He also hasn't been too bad on defense.
DMC on the other hand has been demoted to the bench and has apparently had flare ups with the coaching staff.
Wes may just turn out to be a good third option on this team in the long run.
5- The schedule makers must be crazy
So far the Wolves have played 6 of 10 games on the road and they are back on the road for the next 2. One third of your first 12 games at home! Really? They also had us playing not just playoff caliber teams early, but real contenders in the Lakers, Heat and Magic. In a way this may not be the worst thing. With all of the injuries and chemistry building that is happening, the schedule will balance itself out and three tough games that would be losses either way are done with. It may be possible to notch another win in the next 3 games since both LAC and the Bobcats are on the horizon (might even win both). This brings us to 4 well before Thanksgiving. Last year it was getting closer to Christmas.
Will all of this get us to more wins than last year? Right now we are on pace for 24 wins. So that is already better than last year. Geting healthy and back in balance on the schedule won't hurt either. The final thing that will push this forward is continued development of chemistry between the players and hopefully improved D with more time playing together.
Most important there seem to be some young players that this team can build on for the future.