If there is any playoff hope left for the Minnesota Timberwolves, then players are going to have to step up for the team.
Different guys have shown that they can do it; it’s just a matter of now seeing them do it on a consistent basis.
In all actuality, we’ve seen Timberwolves step up all year long. Andrei Kirilenko came in and became team leader in less than half a season. Alexey Shved went from an undrafted rookie to a Rookie of the Year candidate—heck, we even saw Mickael Gelabale and Chris Johnson come out of nowhere (actually, the Euro-League and D-League, respectively) and lead the Wolves to a much needed win over the Houston Rockets.
It has been an uphill battle, but the Wolves haven’t lost control of the season.
With Kevin Love out for the next 6-8 weeks, it’s time to see more players stepping up to take control of the team.
Note: All stats are valid as of 01/22/13
As it stands right now, Derrick Williams is the best offensive option for the Wolves.
He has the ability and talent to play like a boss, but he tends not to play aggressive enough. Fact is, the team is going to need him to step up if they want to win games.
In 19.8 minutes per game, Williams has put up an average of over nine points per game. He can hurt a defense from any area of the court, and that is exactly what the Wolves need out of him.
At this point of the season—with all of the injuries that the Wolves have incurred—it doesn’t matter that D-Will hasn’t quite lived up to his draft hype. It’s time to see him step up and play like the beast that he's capable of being.
Alexey Shved has looked incredibly promising since coming to the Wolves as an undrafted free agent this offseason.
Initially, it didn’t appear that he was going to see any time coming off the bench behind Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger and Malcolm Lee. Of course, that all changed when all but three guards were injured almost right off the bat.
We knew Shved could shoot—he shot an incredible 49 percent from beyond the arc last year in Russia. Carrying an offense is a different kind of monster, however.
As it turns out, Shved quickly asserted himself as a dynamic playmaker. Along with his deadly shot, he also has the ability to be an outstanding passer—and a highly underrated defender.
Before his ankle sprain last week, Shved was going through a bit of a dry spell. In a three game span, Shved went 3-21 from the field—definitely a regression from the dangerous side that we saw from him earlier in the year.
When Shved returns sometime in the next week, it is absolutely vital that he brings his shot back with him. Now more than ever, the Wolves need the threat that he brings to the team.
It’s high time that we start seeing the old Ricky Rubio.
The passing game that he brought in his rookie campaign is still yet to be seen, but his energy and defense is what has truly been missed since his return.
He’s still easing his way back from a major knee surgery, so any perceived weakness is entirely expected. Still, the Timberwolves are definitely lacking the energy that he brought last year.
Without Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love on the floor for now, Rubio certainly has a tougher job finding teammates, but it isn’t like the Wolves are without weapons.
If the Wolves are going to win games, they’re going to do it with the Spanish sensation. Rubio absolutely has the manpower to put the bruised and beaten Wolves team on his shoulders, he just has to assume the role of team leader.
Nobody on the roster is more counted on than Nikola Pekovic.
Even when Kevin Love is healthy, Pekovic is the player that makes the Wolves so dominant in the paint.
That’s why he’s so heavily relied upon in Minnesota.
Pekovic doesn’t necessarily need to step up any more than he has stepped up already, but the Timberwolves lean on him to be the primary scorer when Love is out—and for good reason.
With Pekovic averaging 16 points and almost nine rebounds per game, there aren’t many centers in the league that can dominate the post quite like he can. Perhaps more importantly, there aren’t many centers that can stop Pekovic from dominating the post.
When Pek returns in the next week or so, he’s going to bring some much-needed energy to the team. If he can continue to be the absolute beast that he’s been all season, the Wolves can only keep getting better.
Andrei Kirilenko has already been stepping up all season.
He’s a defensive beast, a stat-stuffer, and an unquestioned leader of the team—there really hasn’t been much that Kirilenko hasn’t done in his first season back in the NBA.
At this point, the Wolves can only ask that he doesn’t let up on the gas pedal.
We know he can lead the team. With 13.6 points and almost seven rebounds per game, he has already made the case that he’s a vital part of the organization.
It would be borderline impossible for Kirilenko to step up any more than he has been doing all season, but the fact remains that any hope for the playoffs that the Wolves still have is largely due to AK47.