After a relatively successful opening of the season for the Minnesota Timberwolves (3-5), it's time to get the most-talented players into the starting lineup.
To start the season, coach Rick Adelman decided to go with last year's lineup as they were familiar with each other, allowing the new faces to get used to playing in the NBA. Rookies Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams were relegated to the bench.
"We're still evaluating the team, and [Rubio] is going to have his minutes, he's going to get a chance to play," said Adelman to Star Tribune reporter Jerry Zgoda. "Those types of things will happen over time. You'll know when it's the right time to do it. Right now, we're just trying to get a win."
That quote was from after the fourth game of the season. Four games later, I believe that Rubio would give the Timberwolves a much better chance of winning.
In the game Sunday against the struggling Washington Wizards, the Timberwolves started off slowly, going down 17-13 10 minutes into the first quarter. Rubio and Williams came in and the Wolves went on a 34-17 run for the rest of the half.
For the game, the duo combined for a plus-58 plus/minus rating. Rubio managed 14 assists in just 29 minutes.
Rubio's PER rating is a solid 17.0 through the first seven games, and Williams is at 15.8. These put them at second and fourth respectively on the Timberwolves. The players in front of them, Luke Ridnour and Michael Beasley, come in at 13.6 and 7.5.
Rubio and Williams certainly have room to improve—Rubio's defense can improve and Williams needs to develop more consistency in his jump shots, but the only way they can get better is by playing more.
In most of the games this season, Rubio and Williams have played in most if not all of the fourth-quarter minutes, showing that Adelman knows that they are capable of being relied on. At this point, I can only venture to guess that Adelman is starting some players to use as trade bait later this season.
Ridnour, Wes Johnson and Beasley all look like players that could be moved later this season. Ridnour is the odd man out in Adelman's dual-quick point-guard system and Johnson has been a disappointment so far in his career. Beasley is a very talented forward, but with Kevin Love and Williams looking to be in the team's long-term plans, Beasley looks to be more valuable as trade bait than as a third power forward.
Rubio and Williams are two of the most talented players on the team and deserve to get more minutes. In a season where the Wolves are building for the future, they need to get as many minutes as possible.