What We Learned About Minnesota Timberwolves During First Half of the Season

Ben ScullyContributor IIIJanuary 21, 2013

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 14:  Andrei Kirilenko #47 of the Minnesota Timberwolves dunks the ball against the New Orleans Hornets at New Orleans Arena on December 14, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

There hasn’t been much that we haven’t seen from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

We’ve seen glimpses of how good the Wolves can potentially be. We’ve seen new, unknown faces become heroes in a single night—and on that note, we’ve seen a ton of new, unknown faces. Unfortunately, we’ve also seen injuries. Many, many injuries.

I’m not going to re-hash everything that has gone down this year. Fact is, the Timberwolves have had to deal with far more damaging injuries than any other team in the NBA.

Regardless of all unfortunate circumstances they have faced, the Wolves have managed to retain a 17-20 record—perhaps not the record of an elite team, but definitely an indication of how scrappy this team can be.


Resilience Through Injury:


Every member of the Timberwolves projected starting lineup has missed games this year.

Ricky Rubio has only played in 12 games this season, and hasn’t quite looked like his old self yet. Kevin Love has played in just 18 games before re-fracturing his hand—although it was obvious that he never really recovered from the original injury.

Alexey Shved, Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko haven’t missed a substantial amount of games, but their absences have been noticed tremendously.

What has really stuck out about the Wolves has been their ability to keep their heads above water.

Their 17-20 record isn’t ideal, but it is worth noticing considering all of the damage that the injury bug has created for the team.

It’s hard to have to keep fantasizing about how good a healthy Wolves team can be, but it has become clear that the team has nowhere to go but up.

For now, the team just needs to continue to fight. A healthy Wolves team is a scary Wolves team.


Minnesota Scouting Has Been the One of The Few Things Going Right

The reason that the Wolves have been able to sustain losing so many players is that they had a ton of talented players to begin with.

When Brandon Roy and Malcolm Lee went down, rookie guard Alexey Shved came out of nowhere and made himself relevant in the Rookie of the Year discussion.

Veteran forward Andrei Kirilenko returned to the NBA after spending a full season in Russia and reestablished his dominant defensive reputation and all-around player mentality almost immediately.

Dante Cunningham went from being a nomad in the NBA to being a key member of the Minnesota bench, and second-year center Greg Stiemsma has been a big-time defensive stopper and role player coming off the bench.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, after losing Alexey Shved and Nikola Pekovic for the next week or so to various injuries, the Wolves acquired two obscure players—Chris Johnson, a D-League center, and Mickael Gelabale, a guard from France—two players that absolutely nobody has heard of, and they went on lead the Wolves to victory against the Rockets in their first game with Minnesota.  

Whatever the methods of David Kahn and the rest of the Timberwolves management may be, they have certainly done a fantastic job of leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to find talent.


Andrei Kirilenko Has Established Himself as Team Leader

Not many knew whether or not Andre Kirilenko had anything left in the tank after spending all of last season in Russia.

Coming into his 12th year as a pro, Kirilenko returned to the NBA a rejuvenated player.

His 13.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game don’t tell the entire story, as he has possibly been the biggest reason that the Wolves have won at all this season.

His defense has remained at the same high level that it has been at his entire career. Not only has his leadership drastically improved the overall team defense, but he has contributed on the stat sheet with 1.6 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.

Perhaps his biggest contribution is that he has been able to stay on the floor. He missed four games early on in the season with back problems, but hasn’t failed to show up since.

Especially on a team that desperately needs consistency, Kirilenko has come in and drastically bettered the mindset of the Timberwolves.