Minnesota Timberwolves Stock Watch: Risers and Fallers Near Halfway Point
We’re almost halfway though the NBA season, meaning it’s time for us to evaluate how everyone on the Wolves roster is doing.
With a record hovering around .500, Minnesota has positioned itself to make the playoffs. Whether the Timberwolves go anywhere depends first and foremost on the play of superstars Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love as well as their supporting cast of Andrei Kirilenko, Nikola Pekovic, Alexey Shved and Co.
There are three options for each player’s stock; either they are rising, falling or neutral. I’ve tried to avoid using the neutral tag, resorting to it only if a player hasn’t moved definitively in either direction.
Lazar Hayward has just joined the team, so his stock is neither rising nor falling. Everyone else has been evaluated by the measures above.
Amundson has played just over 10 games for the Wolves this year and is nearing the 300-game plateau.
He has been called upon a little more than expected due to the poor play of Derrick Williams and has done fine plugging in minutes where he has to, but as expected he hasn’t been a major factor on the team.
A member of the Dallas Mavericks' championship season in 2010-11, Barea has battled injury since moving north up I-35 to the Twin Cities.
While his ailments have kept him off the court, the diminutive guard has put up the same numbers (approximately 25 minutes and 10 points per game) that he did in Dallas.
It’s not really Budinger’s fault that his stock is falling—he’s been injured.
The former Houston Rocket has only played six games for the Timberwolves. While he has been on the court, he’s played well, but it’s hard to really judge that until he returns.
Like Lou Amundson, Cunningham wasn’t brought over in the offseason with the expectation that he’d be a difference-maker in Minnesota.
He is closing in on 30 games played, made one start, averages 22 minutes and scores seven points per game. He’s done what he’s supposed to do: putting up the same numbers he always has in his career and that’s a good thing.
The Timberwolves have brought over an old friend in Hayward.
The team’s first-round pick in 2010 (30th overall), the former Marquette star played seven games for Minnesota that year and was dealt to Oklahoma City the next season.
Hayward played four games for OKC in the last four games and then was moved to Houston in the James Harden deal. He did not play in Houston before being waived.
He was added to replace Josh Howard on the roster.
A 10-year pro from St. Petersburg, Russia, Kirilenko is a familiar player to Timberwolves fans. He spent nine years with Northwest Division foe Utah Jazz before spending 2011-12 CSKA Moscow.
After being named the 2011-12 Euroleague MVP, Kirilenko still has had his defensive touch in 23 starts this season.
Don’t get me wrong: Lee is not going to be a superstar in Minnesota.
He has made 12 starts this season, however, and has been fine—which is exactly what he was expected to do. Unfortunately, a knee injury sustained in December has set him back a bit.
Take a deep breath and think about this.
Yes, Love is a great player. Yes, he deserves a good team around him. And yes, injuries happen in professional sports.
Having acknowledged all that, let’s remember that his year has gone like this: he had some weird non-game-related hand injury, blasts his teammates and then has been in and out of the lineup with minor injuries.
The Wolves need Love, no doubt, and he had a lot of legitimate gripes with the team, but at this point everyone would like him to let his game do the talking.
If you can watch the “Where in the World is Nikola Pekovic?” video and not feel giddy with joy, you’re just a cold, cold person.
So, let’s be honest, it’s hard not to like the guy.
Then you see that the third-year player has played 32 minutes per game and is scoring 16 points per game, both career highs, and you can justify your funny feelings with concrete data.
Even with the return of Ricky Rubio and the rise of Alexey Shved, Ridnour has been an everyday starter for the Wolves.
Remember, this guy is so old that he played for the Seattle SuperSonics (rest in peace) and, more impressively, he did not make any starts for the Milwaukee Bucks (the Milwaukee Bucks!) in '09-10.
That was only four years ago.
Ridnour is a veteran that will never be a superstar, but he’s a valuable member of this team.
This pains me to say. Roy is an absolute professional that the Wolves should never, ever have been traded away from the organization.
After playing only five games, he’s suffered yet another setback and may be as good as gone—a definite blow to the Timberwolves this season.
It’s an absolute bummer that Rubio got injured last season and has only been able to play in five games this season, but the Spanish sensation looks like himself again, though, meaning that he should be starting in the near future.
He’s a player that makes everyone around him better and is an absolute asset on this team.
A rookie from Russia, Shved has caught the eye of basketball fans in the Twin Cities.
He’s only made eight starts, but has played nearly 28 minutes per game in 27 contests this season. He is averaging 10 points per game and given people reason to believe that he could be a great player in this league.
After spending his rookie season in Boston, the former Wisconsin Badger has returned to the Midwest and is playing a couple minutes here and there for the Wolves.
He’s not a difference-maker, but Stiemsma can contribute off the bench if called upon.
The highest draft selection in franchise history, the former Arizona star is beginning to look like yet another bust for David Kahn and Co.
Williams has only started nine games. He averages less than 20 minutes per game and scores less than 10 points on average.
Of all the players on the Timberwolves, his stock is lowest.
All statistics are accurate as of December 31, 2012.
Tom Schreier covers the Timberwolves for Bleacher Report and writes a weekly column for TheFanManifesto.com.