Minnesota Timberwolves: Breaking Down the Most Versatile Starting 5 in the NBA
Versatility can be understood and explained in many different ways, but is most easily discernible from its result. Teams with less dynamic players can take part in highly efficient offenses, but systems that lean on shared ball control and balanced scoring tend to employ multi-skilled ball players rather than useful cogs; they're less a well-oiled machine than a free-flowing co-op, and much more difficult to derail as a result of their shared responsibility.
Rick Adelman's offensive system in Minnesota encourages such versatility, and it's no coincidence that the Timberwolves' roster has been crafted accordingly. For years, Adelman's system has rewarded well-rounded bigs and perimeter players alike with its interior passing and off-ball movement, and the starting five in Minny this season should be a wonderful extension of that precedent.
Rubio may do his best work with the ball in his hands, but his first year in the NBA (as well as his experience with the Spanish national team) showcased his ability to move without the ball. He may not have elite quickness by NBA standards, but Rubio's stunts and cuts are well-timed and well-purposed.
He manges to slip by his defender just when the option to pass might be available, and though Rubio isn't the best finisher around the rim or the most accurate spot-up shooter, his capacity to work both on and off the ball makes him an incredible asset for this particular offense.
Brandon Roy/Alexey Shved
The specifics of the Timberwolves' starting five have yet to be pinned down, but fortunately for us, newcomers Brandon Roy and Alexey Shved have enough similarities in their games to paint the versatility in broad strokes.
The primary value of both players comes in their ability to create shots—a skill so pronounced and consistently accessed that it can occasionally come to the detriment of their respective teams. Neither is shy about handling the ball to redirect the offense or gunning from whatever range seems suitable, and yet neither is exactly an awkward fit with an active ball-handler like Rubio.
It'll take some time for Minnesota to work out all the kinks in their offensive distribution, but the fact that Roy and Shved can both assume active roles as creators is certainly a blessing.
His stateside reputation isn't quite what it used to be, but as Kirilenko demonstrated in London this summer, his defensive versatility is unimpeachable. He's a combo forward who can switch seamlessly onto post threats and dribble-penetrators alike, and though his quickness has diminished ever so slightly over the years, his defensive flexibility should open up some interesting options for a Wolves team poised for further success on that end of the court.
The stat-stuffing is only the tip of the iceberg, but in conversations like this it needs be noted: Kirilenko is every bit the 5x5 threat now that he was in Utah. Only the limits of his role in the Timberwolves' offense could curtail his broad statistical impact.
Pinch post, low post, three-point line—put the ball in Love's hands at any space on the floor and marvel at the offensive efficiency that results. Shooting and passing don't come in much neater packages at Love's position, and the emergence of his three-point game has extended his range and value in pick-and-roll situations.
Love is an exciting hybrid of face-up and back-down play, which is to say nothing of the fact that he's one of the finest rebounders in all the kingdom. He produces and he facilitates, thus rounding out a starting lineup loaded with both shot creators and capable playmakers.
Even the least versatile piece of the Wolves' starting five isn't exactly a specialist. Pekovic had a career year last season on the strength of his roll game, but his strong base and nose for the ball make him a terrific offensive rebounder and, subsequently, an efficient put-back shooter.
He knows what he can do well and rarely strays from those confines. That may not be all that exciting a concept within a discussion on versatility, but it's Pek's safe, stable game that allows the rest of the Timberwolves to test their limits.
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