How Should Minnesota Timberwolves Manage Minutes in the Season's Final Weeks?

Tom SchreierCorrespondent IApril 5, 2013

How Should Minnesota Timberwolves Manage Minutes in the Season's Final Weeks?

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    The Minnesota Timberwolves have a balancing act on their hands when it comes to player minutes each night.

    They are in a position where they can win games because they haven’t lost enough where success would mean missing out on the No. 1 overall pick. In fact, a decent record down the stretch would give a beleaguered fanbase reason to believe that things will be different next year.

    Not only that, but this is a great time for players on the fringe who do not have a job with the team next year to showcase their talents.

    At the same time, they do not want to push an injury-prone roster to the breaking point and risk losing valuable players next season. It would be a different story if Minnesota were in position to nab a late playoff seed, and by sitting key players they would potentially rob them of valuable postseason experience.  

    But for now, any playoff aspirations are long gone.

    How much should Rick Adelman and his staff play their guys? In order to answer that, you need to take a look at each individual player’s case.

Kevin Love

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    Season Average: 34.3 Minutes Played

    When Kevin Love was healthy, he played more minutes than anyone else on the team. The power forward averaged 34.3 minutes per night during the 18 games he played with the Timberwolves this year.

    If Love returns, and that’s a big if, they should limit his minutes as much as possible.

     

    Conclusion: Limit His Minutes

Andrei Kirilenko

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    Season Average: 32.1 Minutes Played

    The Wolves pretty much know what they are going to get from Kirilenko. The 32-year-old Russian is a temporary solution at the three who will provide 10-plus points per night and solid defense.

    There is no reason to risk injury with him. He should play sparingly down the stretch.

     

    Conclusion: Limit His Minutes

Nikola Pekovic

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    Season Average: 31.6 Minutes Played

    As long as they re-sign him, Pekovic has a spot in the starting lineup. The team knows what he provides night in and night out—namely, brute force down low—and they don’t need him to “audition” for a role on next year’s team.

     

    Conclusion: Limit His Minutes

Luke Ridnour

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    Season Average: 31.6 Minutes Played

    Ridnour has provided a veteran presence on a young team and has had nights where he became an overlooked scoring threat.

    The problem is that the team really does not need another point guard, and he’s not really a good fit at shooting guard.

    If he is lights out at the end of the season he could make J.J. Barea expendable and find himself with a job on the team next year.

     

    Conclusion: Increase His Minutes

Ricky Rubio

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    Season Average: 29.8 Minutes Played

    Rubio’s average would be higher, but remember he came off the bench at the beginning of the year when he was recovering from injury.

    The Spanish point guard has never looked healthier than now and is suddenly—wait for it—become a scoring threat. That’s right, Mr. I-Was-Hitting-Only-a-Quarter-of-My-Shot-Earlier-in-the-Season has suddenly become a scoring threat (.667 from the field at Detroit, 5-6 from three at Milwaukee).

    The team should let Rubio, who is suddenly becoming the heart and soul of this team, play his little heart out down the stretch—just to see if he can keep this up.

     

    Conclusion: Increase His Minutes

Dante Cunningham

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    Season Average: 24.9 Minutes Played

    The Wolves shouldn’t sign Cunningham to a long-term contract anytime soon, but don’t count that possibility out just yet. The forward is only 25 years old and could be a great energy player off the bench.

    Adelman should give him ample time to prove his value to the team as the season winds down.

     

    Conclusion: Increase His Minutes

Alexey Shved

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    Season average: 24.8 minutes played

    The Wolves know what they are going to get from Shved: a solid two-guard that needs to bulk up in the offseason.

    It isn’t worth the risk of injuring a part of their future just to see if the 24-year-old Russian can knock down a few more threes or lock down on defense with more playing time.

     

    Conclusion: Limit His Minutes

Derrick Williams

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    Season Average: 24.3 Minutes Played

    Left for dead by many of the Wolves faithful at the beginning of the season, Williams has really started to play well at the end of the year. As long as he keeps this up, the former No. 2 overall pick should continue to see playing time.

     

    Conclusion: Increase His Minutes

J.J. Barea

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    Season Average: 23.3 Minutes Played

    Barea is in competition with Ridnour for the backup point guard position. At 28, the former NBA Champion with the Dallas Mavericks should have the upper hand, but poor play could hamper his chances of locking down that role next season.

    A solid finish would leave a great impression on team management and fans alike.

     

    Conclusion: Increase His Minutes

Chase Budinger

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    Season Average: 20.8 Minutes Played

    Injured for most of the season, Budinger is a dark horse to nab the small forward position next season. He shoots well from three and is a decent defender that is only 24 years of age.

    The Wolves should definitely keep him around next year if he lights it up in the final few games.

     

    Conclusion: Increase His Minutes

Mickael Gelabale

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    Season Average: 19.6 Minutes Played

    Although Chris Johnson won the hearts of the fans, Adelman took a shining to Gelabale, who got significantly more playing time with the team this year.

    At 29 years of age, however, he’s in his prime and has to show that he can be a productive member of the team if he gets a full-fledged contract next year.

     

    Conclusion: Increase His Minutes

Greg Stiemsma

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    Season average: 15.0 minutes played

    Steamer has warmed the hearts of many fans this year with his high-motor play and some clutch shots at the end of a couple contests.

    He appears to have a pretty limited ceiling, however, and isn’t part of the team’s long-term plans just yet.

    Right now, he should see some playing time and make a case for himself as the season comes to a close.

     

    Conclusion: Increase His Minutes

Chris Johnson

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    Season average: 10.3 Minutes Played

    Johnson won over the fans in his first game with the Wolves back in January when he dropped 15 points on the Rockets.

    Since then he hasn’t seen much playing time and is unlikely to be back in Minnesota next season.

    Adelman should at least give him a chance to change the team’s mind, however, and play him down the stretch.

     

    Conclusion: Increase His Minutes

     

    Tom Schreier covers the Timberwolves for Bleacher Report and writes for TheFanManifesto.com. Visit his Kinja blog to see his previous work.