Updated Minnesota Timberwolves Player Power Rankings
Players like Kevin Love haven’t quite lived up to the expectations, while newly acquired Andrei Kirilenko has raised the bar for the rest of the team.
We are approaching the two month mark and the Timberwolves have earned a 15-14 record.
As players continue to return from injury, that number will increase. In the meantime, however, here are the current player power rankings.
Note: All stats are valid as of 01/03/2013
Brilliant with the ball in his hands, great at finding teammates—at least, that’s what we saw out of Ricky Rubio last season.
In his four games back after returning from his torn ACL, Rubio has been just a shadow of his rookie days.
In his first game back, he put up nine assists in just 18 minutes. Since then, he simply hasn’t played at the same level and even missed the last few games with back spasms.
I have no doubt that he will bounce back to the level that we saw from him as a rookie phenom, it’ll just take some time.
Who saw this coming? Chase Budinger started the season coming off the bench as a low name free agent, and ends up being one of the most dynamic players on roster before injuring his knee within the first two weeks of the season.
In the six games he played in before injuring his knee, Budinger was averaging a very healthy 11.8 PPG coming off the bench.
When he does return in a month or two, the Minnesota Timberwolves are going to greatly benefit from his ability to make plays and put up points.
8. Derrick Williams
Ah, Derrick Williams. We had such high hopes for you.
Drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the No. 2 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Derrick Williams was selected to be a high scoring presence next to Kevin Love.
Over the course of his first two seasons, we haven’t seen that from him. It’s far too early to declare him a bust—he’s actually a solid player, just not at the level that the Wolves expected him to play at.
Despite the somewhat disappointing start to his career, the ceiling is high for D. Will. Coming off the bench for 17 MPG, he has been averaging 8.1 PPG and 4.2 APG.
Especially for a bench player, those aren’t bad numbers. He tends to make bad decisions on the court and struggles with his defense, but his offensive game has been brilliant at times.
With the right coaching and opportunities, Derrick Williams could still prove to be a huge asset for the Wolves. Right now though, he’s still at the bottom of the list.
7. Dante Cunningham
There hasn’t been a player on the Minnesota Timberwolves roster more overlooked than Dante Cunningham.
Averaging 7.1 PPG and 5.0 RPG, Dante Cunningham has solidified his place as a staple of the Minnesota bench behind Kevin Love.
Actually, when Love missed the first 10 games of the season with a broken hand, Dante Cunningham stepped up in his place, surpassing second year forward Derrick Williams in the process.
His defense and hustle is what defines him as a player, and it’s what makes him valuable to the organization.
Cunningham was a huge addition to the team over the offseason, and will likely remain in Minnesota for a long time.
6. Alexey Shved
There’s very little that Alexey Shved can’t do. In the first two months of his NBA career he’s played point guard, shooting guard, and small forward . He’s made his way from the being the third string rookie from Russia to holding a starting position and becoming a legit contender for the ROY award.
He started the season off slowly, but is now scoring 10.9 PPG and leading the team with 4.5 APG. His ability to play defense was in question during the offseason, but he’s established himself as a very capable defender.
With all of the injuries that plagued the team through the first few months of the season, Alexey Shved has stepped up in a big way.
5. Luke Ridnour
Luke Ridnour is an easily overlooked piece of the Minnesota Timberwolves backcourt. He’s been playing starter’s minutes, and is doing a great job of it.
For the season, Ridnour has been putting up 11.2 PPG and 4.3 APG. Not All-Star numbers, but certainly worthy of some recognition.
No, Ridnour’s stats aren’t going to amaze anybody. He’s not a flashy player, and isn’t going to show up on most highlight reels.
For the Wolves though, he has been the most consistent player on the starting lineup. He hasn’t missed a game yet, and even played through back spasms. He puts up the same numbers every game, and he’s been the one player that the Wolves have been able to rely on this season.
With all the injury problems that the Timberwolves incurred earlier in the season, Luke Ridnour has been the one player that the team can rely on.
4. J.J. Barea
Similar to Luke Ridnour, J.J. Barea came into the 2012-13 season with very little attention on him. There was a some controversy over whether or not he would even have a place on the team this season, but he came out firing on all cylinders.
For one, the offensive firepower that Barea brings to the game is ridiculous. He’s not the best passer, but the guy can flat out ball.
He’s been coming off the bench behind Luke Ridnour, but it’d be more fair to just say that he’s been splitting minutes.
On the court, he’s been fantastic. 10.5 PPG and 4.4 assists per game (APG) can’t be easily overlooked, especially from a player coming off the bench.
Barea still could stand to work on his passing and defense, but the energy that he brings to the Wolves has been huge. Like him or not, Barea is a difference maker.
3. Nikola Pekovic
Call him Non, Pektacular, or whatever else you can think of—this guy is pretty much unstoppable.
At 15.9 PPG and 8.2 RPG, He’s elevated his game from last season in all categories except for field goal percentage (don’t worry, he’s ranked No.2 on the team with 50.2 percent shooting).
He's a beast under the rim, but perhaps the best aspect of Pekovic is his upside. Specifically, his offensive upside. Pek doesn’t yet have a jump shot to speak of, but his 78 free-throw percentage speaks to the fact that it wouldn’t take much for him to get one.
His passing has continued to get better over his three seasons in the NBA as well, which is another indication of how good this guy could be.
He could still stand to work on his defense, as that is his one deficiency. Due to his power and size, he makes a good paint protector, just not a rim protector.
Overall, Nikola Pekovic is beginning to make a name for himself in the NBA. Even with all of the talented centers in the West, Pek is making strides towards becoming one of the best.
2. Andrei Kirilenko
Coming into his 11th season in the NBA plus playing a season overseas in Russia, not many people could predict what Andrei Kirilenko would bring to the table for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
There aren’t many skeptics left now. In the 24 games that Kirilenko has played, he's averaging 13.3 PPG and almost 7 RPG. His defense is still at the elite level that it was in Utah, and he’s been a major part in keeping the Wolves at over .500.
With all that Kirilenko brings to game, his most important contribution is his defense. He’s the only shot blocker in the starting lineup and has been a huge part of the Timberwolves drastic defensive turnaround.
Although Kevin Love is at the top of the power poll, it’s not a stretch to say that Kirilenko has been the MVP of the season so far for Minnesota.
1. Kevin Love
First and foremost, Kevin Love easily remains the best player on the Minnesota Timberwolves roster. His 18.7 points per game (PPG) and 13.8 rebounds per game (RPG) dropped a bit from last season, but his dominant post play still makes him the best in the Wolves lineup.
Looking through Love’s stat sheet, one number jumps out at you: he’s shooting just 35.4 percent from the field.
Frankly, that number is atrocious. He’s ranked 11th on the team for field goal percentage, which puts him behind the likes of Lou Amundson and Greg Stiemsma. And yes, you read correctly, Kevin Love is shooting worse than Greg Stiemsma and Lou Amundson.
Last season, Love was shooting at just around 45 percent from the field. That means that his percentage has decreased a good 10 percent, which is terrible.
Whether it’s the recovering hand or just a bad year, Kevin Love’s shooting percentages are going to have to rise if he wants the Wolves to make the playoffs. He can complain about the rest of the team all he wants, but his inefficiency has been one of the largest factors in the T-Wolves slow start to the season.
Despite his troubles, Love is still one of the elite rebounders in the league—and even if he isn’t hitting all of his shots, he’s still one of the best big men in the NBA.
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