Kevin Love's Injury Will Increase Pressure on Ricky Rubio to Be a Star
It means a lot for the Timberwolves, but mostly it means they'll see their playoff chances take a huge hit, even though Love was having a rough start to the season.
While Love was averaging over 18 points per game and 14 rebounds, he was doing it all while shooting 35 percent from the field and an embarrassing 21 percent from the three-point line.
At the very least, they were able to keep their record at .500 and not do much to hurt their chances at the playoffs, while they did lose precious time in terms of making up ground.
Minnesota has been impressive in staying afloat as long as they have. Love played in just 18 games this season; Rubio is up to five, but has yet to start one. Otherwise, Chase Budinger, Brandon Roy, Malcolm Lee, Andrei Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic have all missed time with an injury or two.
Yet the team is still 15-15 with a shot to rally together and make the playoffs, as long as they find someone to take the team over.
For most of the season, Kirilenko has been the leader of the Timberwolves. He's been an all-around blessing for the team, doing whatever he can to help on every possession he's a part of.
Defensively he's shown that he can lead this team by blocking shots, stealing passes and just hunkering down and becoming the emotional leader of a defense that allows just 95 points per game.
The biggest problem is that Kirilenko isn't going to be the offensive initiator that the Timberwolves need. He can score efficiently, but he's a cog in the offense, not a creator.
Love and Rubio were expected to come back and expedite the offensive ingenuity, but Love has had a rough return, while Rubio has played in just five games.
As Rubio slowly works his way back into the rotation (he's troubled by back spasms at the moment), he's going to have to be the offensive spark plug that the Timberwolves have lacked over the course of the season.
Shooting-wise, Rubio isn't going to be the long-ball threat the T-Wolves are looking for, but he can provide the ball movement that they desperately need.
They lack a main distributor, as Barea, Ridnour, Alexey Shved and even Kirilenko are best used as secondary movers or backup point guards. That's why Barea, Ridnour and Shved all average fewer than five assists per game.
If Rubio can get back to where he was last season and average 8.2 assists per game, Minnesota will finally have the offensive operator that it's been missing.
He's still got time to get into the game, as they will be able to continue to rely on their defense for the time being, but he has to get a move on before we get too deep into the season.
Minnesota has stayed afloat long enough; it's time for them to either swim or get left behind the pack, and it's going to be up to Rubio to get them swimming.
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