Kevin Garnett is the Timberwolves’ most-accomplished player.
Andre Miller is their oldest player.
Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns are their most-important players.
But on any team, leadership naturally falls to the starting point guard and highest-paid player. Ricky Rubio, who fills both titles in Minnesota, is embracing that role.
“We know we’re young and we’re building,” Rubio told SI.com in a phone interview. “At the same time, I think we’re ready to win games. Last season we only won 16 games but it didn’t feel like we were a losing team at all. We were just lacking some things. Me personally, I have to go pull this team in the playoffs. I know it’s a big challenge, but I think we have the right assets, the right weapons to get it. I know we’re in the West side, it’s really tough, but I think we can make it happen. I have big expectations for next season.”
I don’t think it’s completely outlandish to suggest the Timberwolves could make the playoffs. They’re loaded with talent at every position:
- Point guard: Rubio, Miller, Tyus Jones
- Shooting guard: Kevin Martin, Zach LaVine
- Small forward: Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad, Nemanja Bjelica
- Power forward: Kevin Garnett, Gorgui Dieng, Adreian Payne, Anthony Bennett
- Center: Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Pekovic
That is one heck of the depth chart.
But there are three major reasons Minnesota won’t make the playoffs:
1. Youth. As talented as those players are, many of them are still very young. They’ll probably need more time to develop and learn how to do the little things necessary to win.
2. Fit. Too many Timberwolves prefer to operate in the same areas of the court. They just don’t have enough floor spacers.
3. Western Conference. It’s darn good.
Rubio could help, though. He’s reaching the age where he should take the next step. And a nifty passer, he could mitigate Minnesota’s spacing issues. He’ll have no shortage of talented players to throw passes. He’s the crux.
The Timberwolves probably won’t reach the postseason, but if they do, it very well could be because Rubio pulled them there.