In September of 2010, David Kahn, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ GM, took the slightly unexpected step of advertising to the fans that the Timberwolves were not going to win a championship. That much was obvious; he could have stated the Pope was a Catholic and that Justin Bieber sings like a girl in the same sentence. But he also said:
"The reality is, we are still lacking a dominant player—our version of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade or Kevin Durant—and that will remain an item at the top of the To-Do list. It's possible this player could emerge from within the roster."
Too right, it’s possible. What’s taken Wolves fans by surprise is just how possible it is, and how they are certainly not lacking in contenders to be the dominant player. As I see it, there are two men jostling for the role: Michael Beasley and Kevin Love.
Michael Beasley arrived from the Miami Heat, and in what was otherwise a great summer for the South Beach folks, letting Michael Beasley go for so little was a real mistake, however you look at it. Yes, it meant that LeBron James could sign, but it was still a bad move.
But it was great for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Beasley had had issues in Miami, playing second-fiddle to Dwyane Wade being one of them, and some doubted he would ever recognise the potential he showed in college. Despite being made to adjust to the SF position instead of his usual PF position—something he did with a lot of grace, it should be added—he has started the season in sparkling form. He also has one of the most attention grabbing haircuts in the whole of Minnesota. Fact. It had me playing old Busta Rhymes videos all day.
He’s not the finished article, he can’t be—he’s 21. But dropping 42 points on the Sacramento Kings was huge for this young man. Furthermore, in the game against the Knicks, although Kevin Love deservedly stole the headlines, Beasley knocked down 35. If he can keep this up, he will absolutely realise his potential and more.
Kevin Love was the fifth pick of the 2008 draft, selected by the Memphis Grizzlies. A later trade involving O.J. Mayo and six others, and he became part of the Minnesota Timberwolves. In the two seasons prior to this one, Love had a problem. His name was Al Jefferson and he was the franchise player. As a result, Love didn’t get the minutes his play rewarded but still built up his reputation as a fantastic rebounder and double-double machine.
This summer was an excellent one for him. With the departure of Al Jefferson in the summer to the Utah Jazz, a move I feel the Timberwolves could have gotten more from, the Timberwolves essentially said to Love, the PF is yours. He won a Gold medal with the USA, again not playing as many minutes as he merited, but his rebounding figures were outrageous and the smaller perimeter meant he was able to take more three-pointers, something he is surprisingly good at it considering his size and position.
So far this season, Love has played as expected, the undoubted highlight being the game against the New York Knicks, where he scored 31, and had a monster 31 rebounds, something not done in 28 years. He outrebounded $20 million Knicks franchise player Amar’e Stoudamire by 22, and out rebounded the rest of his team by six.
For me, Love will probably emerge as the dominant player this season, although Beasley’s presence on the court shows he definitely wants to be the Timberwolves’ dominant player. Everything could change next season when the team should include Ricky Rubio, and an improved Wesley Johnson and Michael Beasley, but for 2010-2011 this is probably Love’s team.