What Minnesota Timberwolves Have Missed from Each Injured Player This Year
This list is borderline comical. It's not in a sadistic way; good fans do not wish ill upon the players they root for but in a “Wow, the Wolves may really be cursed” sort of way.
Part of this problem is that the Timberwolves have not retained a lot of the younger players they have drafted or traded for, meaning key roles have had to be filled by the injury-prone (Brandon Roy) or aging (Andrei Kirilenko, who has ironically been healthy).
Still, younger players have had their fair share of injuries, too.
Chase Budinger is only 24 and has missed most of the season. Malcolm Lee, 22, is even younger and sees less minutes, and he, too, has been sidelined due to injury.
And nobody is going to forget what ailments have done to the team’s two franchise players: Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. Even emerging stars in Nikola Pekovic and Alexey Shved can’t stay out of the trainer’s room.
If there is anything positive to be taken away from this, it is that, with extended playing time, Derrick Williams has had his fair shake at making the team long-term, Dante Cunningham has come out of nowhere to be a star. The 10-day contract guys Chris Johnson and Mikael Gelabale suddenly look like impact players.
There may be a silver lining in every shade of grey on Crunch’s back, but if the Wolves' mascot starts howling, do not ignore it…he probably needs an ambulance. After all, it seems like everyone at the Target Center is getting the injury bug these days.
All injury data is courtesy of Rotoworld.
Brandon Roy: 41 Games Missed with Knee Injuries
Everyone knew that Brandon Roy was an experiment. He had officially retired at age 27 from the Portland Trail Blazers, a city that embraced the Garfield High product as a native son—especially after the Seattle Sonics left town, and Rip City became the closest metropolis to his hometown.
The Wolves brought Roy back from retirement in order to fill a large void on the team: a shooter who can hit from both downtown and inside the arc.
Sadly, his time in Minnesota seems all but complete after five games with the Timberwolves. Roy remains a sad story of a player whose career was cut short due to injury.
Ricky Rubio: 25 Games Missed with Knee Injury and Back Spasms
With incredible speed and sublime passes, Ricky Rubio makes everyone around him better. The way he can find the open man while driving through the lane makes you think that he has eyes on the back of his head. He’ll toss passes behind his back, over his head and through the legs of defenders.
When Rubio is on the bench, there are more open shooters and well-positioned big men who do not get the ball. His selfless play is the difference between a playoff club and an also-ran in Minnesota.
Well, that and the health of the stars around him…
Kevin Love: 27 Games Missed with Broken Hand (Re-Injured During Season)
Games missed: 27
Speaking of talent around Rubio…Kevin Love.
Along with Rubio, Love is Minnesota’s franchise player, but he is growing tired of playing on poor teams. His complaints to Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski probably would have settled better with Wolves fans if the team had not gone out and got guys like Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved to supplement the team, and well, if Love was on the court more often.
There was that freak injury where he broke his hand doing knuckle push-ups which left people wondering: Why is this guy doing knuckle push-ups?
Then, he showed up, bashed the team, did not play well and broke his hand again.
Without Love, this team loses a rebounder, a three-point scoring threat and a serious inside presence. Put more succinctly, it’s hard for this team to win without Love, regardless of who else is healthy.
Nikola Pekovic: 7 Games Missed with Bruised Right Quadriceps
Nikola Pekovic is to Timberwolves fans what Ted is to Mark Walberg: He is a source of comfort, but is also an absolute menace.
Pek may look cute and cuddly on the bench, but put this man on the court and he overpowers defenders with the ball in his hands and is a brick wall in the lane while playing defense.
He is capable also of snagging offensive rebounds, although he does need to do better grabbing boards on the defensive ends, and he usually finishes around the basket.
In short, he’s a safety valve. Miss a shot? He’ll grab it. Have your ankles broken on defense? He’ll clog the lane? Get lost on your European vacation? He’ll come find you.
His presence on the court was dearly missed while he was injured.
Alexey Shved: 5 Games Missed with Ankle Injury
Maybe I’m overreacting, but Alexey Shved looks like a franchise player to me.
First of all, he’s erased the memory of the last notable guard to wear No. 1, Rashad McCants. Secondly, he can create his own offense and find an open man on the court. Thirdly, he may be listed as a point guard, but when used in tandem with Rubio, he looks like a capable shooting guard who provides size in the backcourt.
Most importantly: Shved is becoming a great long-range shooter. If this guy keeps dropping bombs, MI6 is going to send James Bond after him.
If you’re not willing to allow him as a franchise player, at least acknowledge that he has been a pleasant surprise this season.
Chase Budinger: 40 Games Missed with Knee Injury
Wolves fans may never know if Chase Budinger was that missing shooter the team has been seeking all year long.
The former Houston Rocket can shoot off screens and is capable of finishing at the basket as well. In fact, he would have been a great complement to Rubio…who does not do either of those things very well.
Budinger also passes the ball well and can get off the ground and use his 6’7”, 218-pound frame to snag rebounds.
His presence was dearly missed this season.
Malcolm Lee: 30 Games Missed with Hip Injury
That number may be a little skewed just because Malcolm Lee did not play in every game he suited up for. He has played only 16 games, however, and the team has played 46 games total.
What we do know is that Lee stepped up in Rubio’s absence and turned out to be an asset. He did not try to take over games, hoisting up shots in order to either pad his stats or “showcase” himself around the league. Rather, he proved to be an elite defensive player who also was capable of finding the open man when the ball was in his hands.
A poor outside shooter who's also a little turnover-prone, he is likely a backup on this team. That is not meant to be an insult but rather a compliment in the sense that having a capable player like Lee to back up Ricky Rubio is absolutely welcome and dearly missed when he is injured.
JJ Barea: 7 Games Missed with Foot Sprain and Mild Concussion
A champion in Dallas, JJ Barea has proven that he can score when called upon and is not afraid of pressure situation.
Pigeonholed as a pick-and-roll specialist with a good motor and other attributes typically found in smaller players—good runner, poor defender, explosive—Barea has also found a bit of a shooter’s touch this season and is not afraid to drive to the lane either off a pick or in transition.
This guy also flops so much that every time I attend a game, I get this sudden impulse to yell “Free Willy!” To his credit, he’s got the practice down to a science and draws phantom foul calls with relative frequency.
All beached whale jokes aside, Barea provides more than comical diving. He can hit a shot in the clutch and excels at the pick-and-roll, which is nice on a team that needs late-game shooters and has plenty of quality big men.
Tom Schreier covers the Timberwolves for Bleacher Report and writes a weekly column for TheFanManifesto.com.