NBA: Why the Hungry Timberwolves Are on the Verge of a Playoff Spot

Avi Jerushalmy@@DFGURUSContributor IIFebruary 29, 2012

Ricky Rubio, the new face of the Timberwolves.
Ricky Rubio, the new face of the Timberwolves.

It's about time.

Since the shipping of the beloved Kevin Garnett to BostonMinnesota Timberwolves fans have been devastated.  They have suffered through four miserable seasons in which the team has combined to go a dreadful 78-250 while also enduring GM David Kahn's questionable moves.  

The fanbase has not had much to look forward to as of late, with their team's chances vanishing seemingly as quickly as the season begins.  The pathetic effort led to dismal records and a diminishing fan base.  As recently as last year, Minnesota had the worst record in the league, and it was the worst of times for this franchise.

But that has all changed.

A new chapter has commenced in Minnesota, and the Ricky Rubio Era has begun.  Not only has the 21-year-old Spanish import been able to successfully transfer his flashy game to the NBA, but he has become a league-wide phenomenon while slowly elevating his game up the NBA point guard ladder. In just his first year, Rubio has single handedly sold many tickets, but even more importantly, transformed this T-Wolves team.  

The Timberwolves are now sitting pretty at 17-17, a mere one game out of the Western Conference playoffs. 

But it's not just Rubio.

With the emergence of Kevin Love as arguably the best power forward and rebounder in basketball, the Timberwolves have a lethal inside-outside combo. Not to mention, Love can drain it from outside the arc as well—he just won the three-point shootout during All-Star weekend.  The elite play-making of Rubio and the inside presence of Love have resulted in a very talented core for Minnesota as they climb up the standings in the West.

Love slimmed down his physique, but his rebounding numbers have remained massive.
Love slimmed down his physique, but his rebounding numbers have remained massive.

The Timberwolves have plenty of additional talent.  Forward Michael Beasley seems erratic at times, but at others he is very difficult to halt.  If he is able to grow in maturity, Beasley can be a deadly weapon as a dynamic scorer.  He is notorious around the league as a headache for coaches, but when he is on the top of his game, he is as dangerous as they come.  

Wes Johnson, the fourth pick in the 2011 draft, has not proven to be as NBA-ready as expected, but can be a useful contributor if he can find the correct role.  The talented swing-man has been on and off the bench this year and has yet to fulfill his potential.  He has fought for playing time with talented ball handler Luke Ridnour, and both have contributed in differing ways.  The contrasting styles have created mismatches for other teams trying to defend the shooting guard position. 

The Timberwolves have yet another young talent that can contribute greatly, especially come playoff time, in Derrick Williams.  The rookie out of Arizona has tremendous potential, but has not had much of a chance to display his ability this year as he has only played 18 minutes per game.  When Minnesota decides to expand his role, look for the rookie to take advantage and create even more problems for the opposition.  His emphatic dunks should keep the fans happy, especially with the exceptional passes he'll receive from Rubio.  

Nikola Pekovic has become a double-double machine as of late and has solidified a suspect center position in the past.  With J.J. Barea, Wayne Ellington and Anthony Tolliver contributing greatly with solid minutes off the bench, this T-Wolves team is surprisingly deep.  The Timberwolves also have many assets if Kahn decides to test the trade market.  Perhaps the team would like to pursue a big man like Pau Gasol or a scorer like Kevin Martin, who have each been involved in numerous trade rumors.  

Michael Beasley has also been mentioned in rumors, so it will be interesting to see which direction Kahn decides to take, with his team finally on the verge of the playoffs.

Whichever direction Kahn decides to go, it will be a different second half of the season than T-Wolves fans have grown accustomed to.  The team will finally be in the thick of the playoff race and will have to mesh together under coach Rick Adelman to win the crucial games down the stretch needed in order to make a run at the Finals.  They have a fantastic core and a fanbase buzzing about Ricky Rubio and the young talent accumulated.

There is finally hope in Minnesota, and perhaps a reason to watch basketball in May.