5 Immediate Lineup Changes for the Timberwolves:

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Last week I wrote 5 bold predictions for the 2010-11 Minnesota Timberwolves. After a pitiful 1-4 start, those bold predictions make less sense than trading for a diva wide receiver, then dumping him four weeks later.

Truth be told I honestly didn’t foresee such a bad start out of this team.

The trouble in paradise that ensued between head coach Kurt Rambis and star play Kevin Love following the opening night loss to a Tyreke Evens less Sacramento Kings team. To the 74 point combined back-to-back losses at the hands of the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic. Bright spots have been few and far between.

The positives are that it’s only five games into the season, so there is plenty of time to right the ship. Or at least move this ship into a calmer part of the storm.

With that, these are 5 immediate lineup changes the Wolves must make or else the season will ravel out of control.

5) Get Johnny Flynn and Martel Webster healthy

We’ll start positive. This move is essentially out of the hands of Rambis and General Manager David Kahn. Luke Ridnour has played well in Flynn’s absence (10.4 ppg, 3.4 apg), but Flynn is a cornerstone to this team’s rebuilding process.

The Wolves have lacked the ability to run an efficient pick-and-roll due to the limited athletic ability of Ridnour. Flynn excelled last year when he came off high screens. When Flynn comes back, look for the pick-and-roll to open up shots for the Wolves’ outside shooters.

Webster is a guy that the Wolves are very high on. He played very well in the preseason (12.3 ppg in 26.7 minutes per night). His added offensive firepower coming off the bench should add a significant spark to a Wolves second unit, which has struggled mightily so far this season.

4) Trade Corey Brewer

Last year Brewer started all 82 games for the Wolves. A season in which he made significant progress with the offensive aspect of his game. He became a legitimate 3-point threat, while playing over 30 minutes a night and scoring 13 points per contest.

So far Brewer came off the bench for the first four games, then started in lieu of Wayne Ellington Tuesday night against the Magic. His minutes have fallen to just over 21 a night, and has been phased out of the Wolves offensive game plan.

With Webster due to come back in a couple weeks, Brewer’s minutes should continue to diminish.

He’s 24 and still has a future in this league. Sitting him on the bench isn’t productive for anyone. Rambis and Kahn need to move him before his value drops too low.

3) Start Wes Johnson

He was your number one pick. He’s 23. He’s the best athlete on the team. Start him.

The theory of instant offense off the bench for him hasn’t worked. His talents shouldn’t be on the floor with the likes of Sebastian Telfair, Nikola Pekovic, and Kosta Koufos for more than a few minutes in a game; it’s only lowering his abilities. Granted he was 3-13 in his first start on Tuesday night, but better nights will come.

2) Play Kevin Love 35 minutes per night

ESPN’s Bill Simmons has been begging for Kevin Love to be freed from Minnesota. No one wants to see a potential star rotting away on a 20-win team, and only playing 25 minutes a night.

In just over 26 minutes a night Love is averaging 16.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per contest. I boldly predicted that Love could average an 18-13; so far his play has proven that prediction to be very attainable.

In those 35 minutes a night, Love should be playing at least 28 of those at the center position. The claim can be made that Love’s isn’t big enough to battle other centers in this league on a night-to-night basis, but watching him guard other power forwards makes me believe he’s far less detrimental to a defense playing center.

The Timberwolves want to get out and run this season, but playing Love at the power forward inhibits that from happening. Why not use his flawless outlet passing ability to lead breaks following rebounds he gets due to him being closer to the basket.

If Love was to move to the center position, that would mean…

1) Bench Darko Milicic

Arguably the worst contract given to any player this off-season (4 years 20 million); Darko has proven the skeptics to be correct.

2.8 ppg is not acceptable from a starting center in this league. He is playing over 20 minutes a night, which makes his point per game total even more depressing.

Through five games he is 4 for 28 from the field (.143%). 4 for 28!! Inexcusable. No center in the NBA should shoot that poorly over the course of five games.

It’s safe to say that Darko’s contract is the worst move that David Kahn has made as General Manager of the Wolves. (Let that one sink in for a minute).

Benching Darko allows Love to play the 5. Michael Beasley moves to the 4 (when he gets back in the lineup), which is his natural position. Darko’s defensive abilities would then serve nicely coming off of the bench (2.6 blocks per game).

In order for the Timberwovles to turn this season around they will need to make significant adjustments to their lineup. If not, I see the Wolves struggling to another 15 win season.

-Brett Cloutier

You can follow Brett at www.twitter.com/brettcloutier follow his podcast at thebackdoorcut.mypodcast.com or email him at cloutier@augsburg.edu

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Comments

  1. I agree completely agree with you. Another thing i would like to point out is that their defense is horrible. Every aspect from one on one to transition defense. It seems no one wants to play defense but everyone wants to play offense and that is why the last 3 games they have lost by a margin of 20, 30 and 40 points. Not to mention the opposing teams shot 50% from the field or better and i don’t think that it’s coincidence that almost every team that plays against us shoots well just on that particular day….. I really hope coach rambis is stressing the importance of playing good defense because offense can win you games but it is defense that wins championships.(boston for example) With the way they’ve been playing, it looks like they won’t make it past the 15 win mark. The wolves can only seem to compete with the lower teams such as SAC, NJ, maybe NY, GSW, MIL, etc. And it’s either a close loss or a close win to those teams. The only team i think that is worse is LAC. I think that if the season continues on, LAC will probably b the worst team and minnesota will b second worst in the league…

  2. brett cloutier says

    Thanks for the comment. I think I’ll touch on the defensive struggles in a later post. Just wanted to look at lineup changes that need to be made… On your defensive note; I think a lot of the struggles is correlated to some of the lineup choices that have been made. Love can’t guard athletic 4’s (i.e. Ryan Anderson) and Beasley can’t keep up with talented 3’s (i.e. Rudy Gay)

  3. priority #1 should OBVIOUSLY be start Lazar Hayward…

  4. brett cloutier says

    I am sensing some Marquette bias…

  5. Dude Love at a 5 is a mistake. You think our defense is bad now? Wait until we have an undersized frontcourt that has been knocked at bad defence for smaller positions. As for the point, Johnny has to come off the bench. Luke is a better PG, and will fit better with Ricky. I do agree that love should get his 35 minutes a night, and i do agree that wes should start, but only for now. As soon as Martel is back, he should be with beas, Luke, Love, and yes DARKO, in the starting lineup.

  6. brett cloutier says

    Tim, I appreciate the response. Ideally you don’t want Love playing the 5, I agree with that. The was this team is currently shaped, I feel that it makes the best sense. Yes you are taking a step back defensively at the 5, but I think they’d be taking two steps forward by playing Beasley at the 4 and Johnson at the 3. Neither Love nor Beasley can guard at their current positions. Plus playing both Love and Darko together for significant minutes inhibits what we want to do offensively, which is getting out and run.

    I think there are adequate arguments each way with who should start at the point once Flynn comes back. Personally, I like him starting because he is only going to get better by facing top tier PGs and not their backups.

    I appreciate the feedback thank you, Tim.

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