This season in many ways has been a disappointment. Thirty win predictions have not come true. However, players are showing improvement. Kevin Love has proven he is a monster on the glass, and is showing he is a very effective offensive player. Beasley, when healthy, can score in bunches. Recently, Johnny Flynn has looked more like the player we drafter (more, key word) and Wayne Ellington is looking better and better. Darko is having his best year ever and we have acquired Anthony Randolph who has loads of skill and potential. Luke Ridnour is who we thought he would be (A solid point guard who can score when he needs too).
Unfortunately the wolves organizations have a lot of holes and a lot of question marks.
There have been moments where it looks like the wolves are playing very solid defense. But Questions arise whether these specific players on the roster can be a lock down defensive squad. Can Beasley and Love really play on the floor together? Can they become solid defenders at their current positions? Defense is where positions matter. In basketball position is kind of ambiguous. Really, it's all about match up. Can Beasley stay slow down a Kevin Durant or even Rudy Fernandez? Can Kevin Love slow down Pau Gasol or Lamarcus Aldridge or Luis Scola? How about Johnny Flynn and Luke Ridnour, are they good defenders at their position? can they become good defenders?
Some Potential answers -
Waiting- Can Darko continue to improve defensively add other names
Drafting/acquiring an athletic perimeter defender- you guys got any ideas? (Brewers gone, we better not be actually missing him
Splitting the Kevin Love, Beasley model- I never really thought I would be suggesting this, but in reality I don't know if it works. Beasley is athletic, but he's a tweener defensively. Kevin Love is not uber athletic and is a kind of anomaly on defense. His rebound first hustle mentality is great, but I've seen instances where he is boxing someone out when the opponent is going up for a dunk. It's not the best situation to have this kind of defense coming from our two top players. Rough, I know. Unfortunately I don't think that Beasley can be convinced to come off the bench.
Who Takes Over the Game?
Kevin Love is a spot up, off pick shooter with reasonable post game. Can he hold up if the defense focuses on him? (ie David Lee and the Warriors). Is he going to beat a defense in the final minutes with any consistency? How about Beasley? He showed he could do this on occasion, but as a high volume jump shooter at 6'9", with mediocre handles, can he beat defenses in the final minutes with any consistency? Who else is an option? Webster and Johnson are shooters with spotty handles. Players with handles (Flynn, Ridnour, Ellington (moderate handles)), are not game changers.
Some potential Answers
Waiting- Maybe Wesley can become a Kevin Durant type ball handler? Maybe Webster is better when his back heals up? Wayne Ellington? Can Beasley or love really be that effective in crunch time? (I know answers draw more questions)
Drafting/acquiring an athletic offensive player who can create his own shot- you guys got any ideas?
Ricky Rubio- I know, I know, he has not been incredibly productive. But if he can come in and distribute like he is billed to be able to. With our shooters, maybe the clutch role can be spilt up between them by relying on Ricky to distribute in crunch time. But, that isn't happening in europe. So is it reasonable to rely on it here?
(About this ... I think the phoenix suns last season were a good example of how this kind of team would work. Nash (Played by Rubio) dishes to Amare in the middle (Darko, psh I wish, maybe Randolph), and shooters similar to what the wolves have. Of course we have no Amare, but I would like to say our shooters are as good. (Jared Dudley, Channing Frye, J. Richardson, Grant Hill, are only not equal to Beasley, Love, Webster, Ellington, Ridnour, Toliver, Johnson and even Randolph from midrange, because of lack of experience. No matter what the wolves have a huge amount of shooting talent).
What is the next move?
The wolves have seen individuals get better but haven't got much better as a team. I recall Rambis saying that it is unfair to say that this team was in year two this year, because of how many changes were made. I agree, this year was year one (albeit, after string of a couple of year ones, and regroupings). I think the two biggest holes on this team are defense and consistency. With time comes maturity and with maturity comes the mentality to make the best play every time. (I have been encouraged by Beasley's attitude of wanting to take it to the hoop, and to look to pass. He just needs to know when is the right time to do which, and I don't think he understands that he need to let the defense show him which is the best. Offense is reacting to the defense as much as defense is reacting to the offense). Push push push, is only going to result in turn overs. React, React, React is going to result in wins, but it takes time to trust that I think.
I feel that right now it is in the wolves best interest to play a bit of the waiting game. If something comes up were one of the, top of the line perimeter defenders or shot creators shows up via FA, draft, Trade I think we should take that chance. But I don't know why we shouldn't be excited about the wolves as wolves fans. We have a third year player who is doing things that NBA players just don't do very often, and a lot of talent around him. But there's been undeniable growing pains that hopefully will get ironed out soon.
What say you?