Basketball is a team game just like any other team sport. It requires all competing players to put forth the energy necessary to get the job done. But basketball, unlike other team sports, is dominated by star players. Stars can make the single biggest difference in a team having success. Yes, their margin of error is a lot slimmer, but their advantages are greater.
However, when a team is missing its two best players; one of them being one of the best players in the league, it could be tough for that team to overcome those losses. That’s not the case for the Minnesota Timberwolves this season. Here is why the T’wolves have been successful in the early stage of the NBA season.
Coaching: If you watched any Minnesota games last season, you could see that Rick Adelman made a huge difference. He put an emphasis on defense, and the T’wolves improved, but he just didn’t have the right personnel to do what he wanted. He didn’t run the triangle offense, like Kurt Rambis tried to after spending years around Phil Jackson. Instead, Adelman implemented his “corner offense” that turned Kevin Love into the NBA’s fourth-leading scorer last season. Unlike Rambis, Adelman has held people accountable, makes halftime adjustments, plays the players that are “hot”, and has been through the trials and tribulations of the NBA. If you don’t think Adelman’s experience and knowledge hasn’t made a difference, then you don’t know basketball.
Personnel: I stated, in the paragraph above, that Adelman didn’t have the personnel he wanted last season. Some of that can be attributed to the lockout and the rest can be put on GM David Kahn. Adelman knew he couldn’t win with players like Darko Milicic, Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, Anthony Randolph or Martell Webster. Still, Adelman did his best. This offseason, Adelman stressed the point of having players that can fit his system. So what did management do? For once, a Minnesota sports franchise listened to the coach. They traded their first-round draft pick to the Houston Rockets for Chase Budinger; an athletic swingman who can shoot three’s and defend. They traded Wayne Ellington to the Memphis Grizzlies for Dante Cunningham, another athletic player who can defend and rebound. They signed a plethora of players to help them defensively and/or offensively. Among those players are Andrei Kirilenko, Brandon Roy, Greg Stiemsma, and Alexey Shved. So far, all of those players have made contributions for this team. Roy hasn’t found his offensive game yet, but he has racked up assists and facilitating for his teammates. Kirilenko has done everything so far: score, rebound, pass, block shots, jump passing lanes and more. He has been the best player on the T’wolves so far.
Depth: If Adelman has 10, 11, or even 12 players that can be in the rotation, what does that mean? It means that Adelman’s job just got tougher. When you have 12 players who are contributing, it’s hard to find minutes for everyone. The depth that this team has is something that has been overlooked by a lot of “expert” analysts. Just because the players the T’wolves chose to pursue in the offseason aren’t big names doesn’t mean they aren’t great contributors. This team is 3-1, and I know the teams they have played aren’t the greatest, but the defense has been solid. When Love and Ricky Rubio return, it only adds more depth and offensive fire-power to this team.
It’s early, but the T’wolves have been impressive in my eyes. They have one of the deepest rosters in the NBA and, I think, one of the best benches in the league. This team can compete with team in the NBA and I expect them to compete for one of the top four seeds in the Western Conference.