Just a quick note about the unfortunate news that Nikola Pekovic has right ankle bursitis and will miss at least 7 to 10 days before he is re-evaluated. (Given the nature of this injury — apparently a gradual onset of symptoms rather than a simple sprain — he’ll probably be out at least a couple of weeks.)
Pek will obviously be missed. His 18.0 points, 9.1 rebounds and 53.2 percent field-goal shooting will be missed. His deep post seals and high-low receptions will be missed, and his league-leading 5.2 second-chance points per game will be missed. His underrated attention to defense will be missed, and, to quote the eloquent Britt Robson, Pek’s “massive, chiseled physique, luridly gothic tattoos and movie-villain visage, juxtaposed with a whimsically playful streak” will be missed.
That much is obvious. What is less obvious is how the Wolves will adjust and, in particular, how the offense will adjust. Much to the chagrin of many Timberwolves fans (the ones with Twitter accounts, anyway) Gorgui Dieng has not played very much this season. But in the time he has been on the floor, the offense has performed dreadfully. The majority of Gorgui’s playing time has come in the fourth quarter and many of those were blowouts. And those are unreliable statistically and I get that. But he has logged 41 second-quarter minutes, and in that time the Wolves have put up a stinky offensive rating of 85.4. (That would be good for dead last in the NBA by team rank, by a big margin.)
The high-low action is on the shelf with Pek. I think that’s obvious. Barely anyone in the league runs that set because… well, barely anyone in the league has a 290-pound center with elite footwork and soft hands. Ronny Turiaf can’t replicate Pek’s post moves. Gorgui Dieng definitely cannot replicate Pek’s post moves.
So the question then becomes whether Rick continues to play things out of the high post. Does it work as well without the threat of those sneaky-slash-abusive duck and seals from The Godfather? Do opposing defenses respect the Wolves shooting enough to run a classic Princeton Offense? (I sort of doubt it.) Might this be a good time to free up Ricky Rubio to improvise off of ball screens at the top of the key?
The second string is already playing more high ball screen than the first team. It just suits the personnel. Alexey Shved is not a high-post offense player. Neither is JJ Barea. So it’s safe to say that Gorgui will not have to worry about the intracacies of the vaunted “corner offense.”
One possibility on the hopeful front is that Dieng will provide a defensive burst that turns good defense into transition offense. He is averaging 3.7 blocks per 36 minutes right now. (And 8.5 defensive rebounds.) The Wolves play well at a high pace and forcing defensive stops can help with that.
I’m throwing out questions without providing answers. Those will come during the next few games, beginning tomorrow night against the Pelicans at Target Center.