Minnesota Timberwolves: Midseason Grade and Second Half Predictions

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Minnesota Timberwolves: Midseason Grade and Second Half Predictions
Kevin Love is pushing Minnesota towards the Playoffs

By all rights, the 2011-2012 NBA season is already a big step forward for the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise.

Already eclipsing last year's win total of 17 games, the Wolves are finally moving in the right direction. If we have learned anything about Minnesota's young power forward All-Star Kevin Love, none of that is good enough.

K-Love is set on taking the Wolves back to the promised land, or at least closer to it than they have ever been before.

Averaging 24 points and 13.8 rebounds, Love is taking over games when he feels the team is letting a game get out of hand.

There are some similarities between ex-Wolves star Kevin Garnett, and Love, but the big difference is this: Kevin Love wants the ball in his hands when it matters most. He knows when a game is starting to slip away, and that is when he kicks it into gear.

The chronicles of Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio are well documented, but warranted. If Rubio is not running the show in Minnesota, they are not anywhere near playoff contention.

Plain and simple—Love is the engine, but Rubio holds the keys.

One thing that has been overlooked this season is the superb coaching of Rick Adelman.

He knows his squad so well, the team has won close games against big-time opponents with bench players. Coach Adelman knows who is going well, and who is having an off night—a staple of a competent coach.

He does not hesitate to pull his stars out of the game late if they are not playing defense. Rubio has spent entire fourth quarters on the bench in some of their wins.

If they keep up their momentum, Adelman should be at least considered for NBA Coach of the Year.

Speaking of note-worthy accolades, Nikola Pekovic is having a breakout year at center.

Averaging a double-double in February, he is cleaning up the trash under the boards for Minnesota. He might be the strongest player in the whole league. The Wolves will need him to continue to play well if they are going to be legitimate playoff contenders.

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Michael Beasley has been his usual self: 30 points one night, two the next.

With Lakers trade rumors swirling over him, we will see what happens in the next couple of weeks. If he stays, he needs to be more consistent. If he leaves, look for rookie forward Derrick Williams to see increased minutes.

Williams has really been stepping up the last few games for the Wolves, hitting big shots in critical moments down the stretch. He is starting to play like the No.2 overall pick he was. If he works hard, he can be a stud in this league.

One thing Minnesota needs to fix is backup point guard J.J. Barea's shot selection.

He is a solid player, and hits more shots than I would have ever guessed, but, at times, he tries to take over the game and he is simply not that good. I wonder how much coming from a veteran NBA Championship-winning team to a young team where he is the veteran has affected his play.

Actually, I am flat out saying that it is what is going on.

Adelman has done a good job lately in reeling Barea in, and the crazy shots have slowly subsided. If Barea knows his role, things will be fine.

This has been a dream season for Timberwolves fans so far, considering what they have been suffering through since Garnett's departure.

To this point this season, I give the Timberwolves a solid B performance. I predict they will finish the season at 37-29, and make the playoffs as a seven seed.

In fact, I'll go as far as saying they'll win their first-round series before being bounced in the conference semi-finals.

2012 is a huge step forward for this franchise. The fans are back, the highlights are back, and most importantly, the winning is coming back in Minnesota.

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