Minnesota Timberwolves: J.J. Barea and Ricky Rubio Should Start

Mike NelsonCorrespondent IDecember 30, 2011

Ricky Rubio averages 5.0 assists per game and is Minnesota's best pure point guard.
Ricky Rubio averages 5.0 assists per game and is Minnesota's best pure point guard.David Ramos/Getty Images

Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea need more time on the floor.

Neither player starts, but the two combine to form Minnesota’s most effective guard duo. When Rubio and Barea are on the floor together, things happen.

Look at the Timberwolves’ opening game loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Wolves lost 104-100, but it was Barea and Rubio who led the charge that made it a close contest.

Down 10 with 5:50 left in the third quarter, Barea entered for Johnson. Down seven with 2:51 left in the third quarter, Rubio entered for Ridnour.

The Wolves went on a 34-31 run the rest of the way against a team many consider the favorite to win the Western Conference.

At 5.0 assists per game, Rubio is the team leader in that category. His court vision and selflessness make him Minnesota’s top point guard.

Barea’s 11.5 point per game average makes him Minnesota’s No. 3 scorer behind forwards Michael Beasley and Kevin Love. His ball handling abilities, quick first step, toughness, championship experience and ability to knock down clutch three-pointers make him a player Minnesota needs to find more playing time for.

When those two are on the floor together, they can create for themselves and others. They make things happen and give the Wolves the best playmaking guard duo since Sam Cassel and Latrell Sprewell helped Minnesota to the 2004 Western Conference Finals—although neither Rubio or Barea are true shooting guards.

As it stands, Luke Ridnour and Wesley Johnson get the start at the point and shooting guard positions, respectively. Ridnour averages 26 minutes per game. Johnson averages 28.

Ridnour is a good floor general with a good grasp of the offense. But he doesn’t set up teammates for good looks nor does he create much for himself—although he is Minnesota’s fourth leading scorer (9.5 points per game).

Johnson can knock down the occasional jumper but does very little to create for teammates or himself. In his 84 games as a professional, Johnson has disappointed Minnesota and its fanbase. He was supposed to be a playmaking "2" or "3," but so far very few plays have been made.

Barea and Rubio do not provide the most intimidating backcourt, as neither player stands taller than 6’4” (Rubio) with Barea extending himself to 6’0,” a very generous 6’0” from the media relations people of the Timberwolves. But what they lack in size, they make up for with toughness and an ability to create for themselves and others.

I understand that coach Rick Adelman may feel the need to stick with Johnson and Ridnour in the early stages of the season as everyone is a step behind given the shortened  preseason—especially rookies, like Rubio, and players who changed teams in the offseason, like Barea—but eventually, he must face the fact that Rubio and Barea in the backcourt give Minnesota a better shot than Johnson and Ridnour.