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NBA Preseason: Minnesota Timberwolves Player Power Rankings

Lindsey YoungCorrespondent IIOctober 16, 2012

NBA Preseason: Minnesota Timberwolves Player Power Rankings

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    The Minnesota Timberwolves are 2-1 for the 2012 preseason, and we've been able to get a quick look at the lineup—both returning players and new faces.
    From rookie Alexey Shved to seasoned guard Luke Ridnour to Brandon Roy coming out of retirement, this squad has a large spectrum of athletes. 
    Certain players, such as Dante Cunningham and Lou Amundson, have spent a few years in the NBA and are looking for a second chance with the Timberwolves. Only time will tell if these players will make an impact with the team or if they will last.
    Veterans Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko are making their comeback to the NBA by joining the Wolves this season. Although they may be risks, both players look to have strong seasons and will also provide some additional veteran leadership.
    Minnesota's top players, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic are returning for the 2012-13 season, and fans can expect huge performances out of these three again.
    Let's take a look at the player power rankings as they stand at this point in the season.

No. 14: Greg Steimsma

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    Position: Center

    Experience: 1 year

    2011-12 Stats: 2.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.5 BPG 


    Analysis:

    Greg Stiemsma is one of those players who holds great potential but needs way more experience to solidify his presence in the league. While a rookie in Boston, Stiemsma was most effective defending the basket. Hopefully, he'll provide the same presence in Minnesota.

    Don't expect him to get many minutes to start with, though. The 27-year-old averaged only 13.9 minutes per game with the Celtics, and Minnesota possesses more reliable big men at the center position. If Stiemsma increases self confidence and an aggressiveness on the floor, he could develop into an asset for the Wolves. Until then, he'll be a mildly reliable third-stringer.

No. 13: Dante Cunningham

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    Position: Forward

    Experience: 3 years

    2011-12 Stats: 5.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 0.6 APG

     

    Analysis:

    The thing that scares me about Dante Cunningham is that you can't chalk his low numbers up to inexperience or rookie mistakes. Cunningham is been in the league for three years, and he has yet to make any significant impact.

    Don't expect Cunningham to get a ton of playing time, as Adelman will most likely go with other options. However, his 6'8", 230-lb. frame will be a positive addition to the Wolves' lineup and may be called upon when facing larger opponents.

No. 12: Lou Amundson

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    Position: Forward

    Experience: 6 years

    2011-12 Stats: 3.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 0.2 APG

     

    Analysis:

    Lou Amundson doesn't arrive to Minnesota with an extremely impressive stat sheet. Still, he will be a welcome addition as another bit man on the team.

    Prior to Amundson's signing, the Wolves only had Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Greg Stiemsma on the roster. The veteran out of Indiana will bring more experience and basketball IQ than Stiemsma, and the franchise is positive about what he could bring to the table.

    "Lou is an active defender and rebounder who will give us plenty of hustle and energy when he is on the floor," said David Kahn, the Timberwolves' president of basketball operations. "We feel Lou is a good complement to our existing roster."

No. 11: Malcolm Lee

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    Position: Guard

    Experience: 1 year

    2011-12 Stats: 3.3 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 1.6 APG

     

    Analysis:

    Malcolm Lee definitely has a long way to go, but he does show potential for growth over the next several years. He barely got any playing time under his belt during the 2011-12 season, and he actually spent some time with the Timberwolves' D-League in South Dakota.

    When Minnesota found itself attacked by the injury bug, though, Lee stepped up. When Rubio, Ridnour and Barea were all sidelined, the Wolves called on Lee to fill in as a fourth-string point guard. Lee stepped onto the court with enthusiasm. Although he didn't put up huge numbers, his positive attitude and impression on the Timberwolves staff will certainly keep him on their radar this season.

No. 10: Chase Budinger

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    Position: Forward

    Experience: 3 years

    2011-12 Stats: 9.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.3 APG

     

    Analysis:

    Chase Budinger is entering his first year in Minnesota, but he's no stranger to the offense schemes and play style. The Arizona alum played under Coach Adelman during his time in Houston, and Adelman liked Budinger enough to want him on the squad in Minny.

    I don't expect Budinger to pick up huge minutes right away, but he may work his way into the starting lineup if he delivers the consistency he did for the Rockets. The 6'7" forward is known for his three-point shooting, and his presence will immediately improve the Wolves' perimeter shooting.

No. 9: Alexey Shved

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    Position: Guard

    Experience: Rookie

    2011-12 Stats: 11.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.3 APG

     

    Analysis:

    Russian guard Alexey Shved shows potential to be a great addition to the Timberwolves' roster. Shved impressed fans while playing for his National team during the London Olympics, and he's shining in the NBA preseason.

    In Saturday's game against Chicago, Shved scored 15 points, 12 of which were made during the fourth quarter. For a team that's been known to struggle in the final period, having a guy like Shved who can step up when it counts will be crucial. He's quick on his feet and can fit in at either the shooting guard or point guard position. His versatility will most likely gain him the playing time he's looking for.

No. 8: Brandon Roy

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    Position: Guard

    Experience: 5 years

    2010-11 Stats: 12.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.7 APG

     

    Analysis:

    It may be a risk to put Brandon Roy this high on the power rankings, but here it goes. Roy was a phenom when he was healthy, and he says he's feeling great after undergoing offseason treatments. In Saturday's preseason game, Roy tallied an impressive 13 points over 26 minutes.

    If Roy's knees hold up, there's really no reason he won't be a huge asset to the Wolves lineup. He holds a strong shooting percentage and is a good-sized guard to have on the floor in certain situations. Minnesota took a chance on the veteran, but if it pays off, it will be more than worth the price paid.

No. 7: Jose Juan (JJ) Barea

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    Position: Guard

    Experience: 6 years

    2011-12 Stats: 11.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 5.7 APG

     

    Analysis:

    "Big things come in small packages."

    This saying rings true with J.J. Barea, who sneaks in at 6'0" (I'm not sure anyone believes the accuracy there). Barea spent his first year with Minnesota in 2011-12, following a championship with the Dallas Mavericks.

    Barea found himself sidelined due to injury for a large portion of last season, which definitely hindered Minnesota's offense—especially with the loss of Ricky Rubio, as well. The Puerto Rican native is incredibly quick on the floor, and he has an incredible ability to create plays and maneuver through defenders. The only thing that may hurt Barea this season is the new anti-flopping rule.

No. 6: Derrick Williams

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    Position: Forward

    Experience: 1 year

    2011-12 Stats: 8.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 0.6 APG

     

    Analysis:

    Granted, Derrick Williams failed to live up to No.2-draft-pick expectations during his rookie season. I'm hoping that this year changes that, as he will hopefully get moved around on the floor.

    In 2011-12, Williams was often called upon to play the small forward position, and he really doesn't fit there. With this season's revised lineup and his rookie year behind him, Williams will hopefully develop into the type of player he proved to be in college. If he doesn't, though, one wonders how much patience Adelman will have with him.

No. 5: Andrei Kirilenko

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    Position: Forward

    Experience: 10 years

    2010-11 Stats: 11.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 3.0 APG

     

    Analysis:

    Although Andrei Kirilenko took an NBA hiatus during the lockout, he appears more than ready to transition back into the league. Kirilenko put up huge numbers for Russia in the 2012 London Olympics, and he is excited to play in Minnesota.

    The main concern right now is Kirilenko's physical health. The forward sat out two preseason games with a strained left hamstring, and the Timberwolves hope it doesn't become a nagging injury. The 10-year veteran will deliver not only the scoring and defense but also the veteran presence that Minnesota has craved for the past several seasons.

No. 4: Luke Ridnour

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    Position: Guard

    Experience: 9 years

    2011-12 Stats: 12.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 4.8 APG

     

    Analysis:

    Luke Ridnour has never been a superstar athlete, and he never will be. However, he's the type of quiet player teams can count on, and he's a major asset to the Timberwolves.

    Prior to suffering his own ankle injury during the 2011-12 season, Ridnour stepped up in Rubio's absence and ran the point guard position extremely well. He's light on his feet and delivers creative plays and beautiful jump shots. His low-emotion playing style makes him hard for defenses to read, and he also provides a veteran leadership presence for the younger guards.

    Ridnour is happy to be in Minnesota, and he's content playing as a backup guard. That type of attitude makes him the perfect fit alongside Rubio, and fans can expect him to play a major role in the upcoming season.

No. 3: Nikola Pekovic

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    Position: Center

    Experience: 2 years

    2011-12 Stats: 13.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 0.7 BPG

     

    Analysis:

    No one was sure what to think of Nikola Pekovic when he first entered the league, but he's developed into a solid big man in Minnesota. "Pek" plays with an oddly silent aggression, and he's successful both offensively and defensively.

    Pekovic also dealt with injury issues last year, suffering from bone spurs on his foot, but he looks to be ready for the upcoming season. The 26-year-old ended up the leading scorer in Saturday's preseason game against the Bulls, coming up with 16 points and an impressive 17 rebounds. There's no telling the potential this guy still holds.

No. 2: Ricky Rubio

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    Position: Guard

    Experience: 1 year

    2011-12 Stats: 10.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 8.2 APG

     

    Analysis:

    There's no doubt about it: if Ricky Rubio can come back healthy, he's absolutely the No. 2 best guy on this team.

    Prior to tearing his ACL last spring, Rubio had already made a huge impression on the league as a rookie. He averaged more assists per game than Steve Nash did in his first couple NBA seasons, and his scoring totals were above what people expected.

    Rubio is the type of player that automatically makes a team better. If he returns soon from the ACL injury and plays like he started out last season, he'll help lead the Wolves to the 2013 postseason.

No. 1: Kevin Love

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    Position: Forward

    Experience: 4 years

    2011-12 Stats:  26 PPG, 13.3 RPG, 2.0 APG


    Analysis:

    While some of the less-experienced players may have been difficult to accurately place, no one will dispute that Kevin Love is the No. 1 player on Minnesota's roster.  

    Love boasts the best numbers in both scoring and rebounding, and he snags a double-double more often than not. Love entered the 2011-12 season in the best shape of his NBA career, and it paid off. He's impressively athletic for a big man, and his four years of experience reflect in his leadership on the court.  

    Fans can expect the UCLA alum to have another breakout year for the Wolves. Hopefully his teammates will too, so that Love decides to hang around a few more years.

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