With Ricky Rubio sidelined indefinitely with a left ankle sprain Zach LaVine has stepped into the starting point guard role. LaVine was a standout during summer league with his impressive dunks. How has he looked since being inserted into the starting lineup and is he ready to facilitate the offense rather than looking to get to the rim?
LaVine is not really ready, no. He has played better in his two starts than I expected, limiting his turnovers and piling up 9 assists against the Rockets, but the team just doesn't function well without Rubio. LaVine, for all his quickness and jumping ability, does not get to the rim in the half court. He isn't nearly the pick and roll player Rubio is, and can get lost on defense. He's also a rookie who didn't start his one year in college. Expectations are fairly low right now, and in truth, he's been OK. The Wolves are keeping things pretty simple for him.
The Wolves made headlines when traded Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins over the summer. Wiggins has so far put up good shooting percentages but the rest of his numbers, especially his assist/turnover ratio, resemble those of a rookie trying to find his place in the NBA. He will clearly get better with time but what has impressed you the most about his game and is he deserving of a starting spot over a veteran like Corey Brewer?
Wiggins has had several moments when he looks like the future superstar we all hope he is. He has also been very good on defense for a rookie--he really gave James Harden a tough time last game out. On the other hand, he lacks aggression right now on offense and on the boards, and tends to disappear. Hopefully he grows out of that passiveness; right now there are just moments.
Nikola Pekovic is signed through the 2017-18 season and is the highest paid player on the T-Wolves. While the numbers he is putting up (14.4 points and 9.1 rebounds) shows that he is deserving of his contract, Gorgui Dieng is currently leading the team in rebounding percentage and shooting percentage of all players that have played at least 100 minutes. Which player is has more long-term value to Minnesota?
Tough to say. We like them both, and with Dieng on a rookie contract, there is no urgency. Pekovic remains the better player right now. He has a refined post arsenal, and is the best roll man on the team by far--something temporarily less useful without Rubio available. Dieng has shown an expanded offensive game this season, and blocks some shots, but lacks the strength to be a quality man defender in the post. Dieng is the more likely to still be on the roster four years from now.
Corey Brewer is my favorite player in the NBA. His style of play fascinates me. How has he adjusted to the youth movement and a new bench role?
Not well. Brewer had something of a breakout game against the Rockets, but before that he had been playing terrible basketball. As much as I'm a believer in playing your best guys and trying to win every night, there is no reason why he should be playing more. Losing Kevin Love probably cost Brewer more than any other player. He got so many easy baskets on leak outs and Love outlets last season that he won't get this year, and his poor rebounding is exacerbated in Love's absence.
If Pekovic was a character in Mortal Kombat, what would be his finishing move?
I don't play video games, but I assume Pek would simply smack you with his fist like an angry grizzly bear, and then you would become just one more skull for his tattoo.
Thanks, Eric! Head over to Canis Hoopus for more on the TImberwolves.