With training camp just around the corner, there are a bunch of top-level questions that remain unanswered as October 2nd approaches. There’s been a ton turnover on the roster, and many players’ roles are anything but clear. Long story short, the team’s success this season will likely hinge on the answers.
In a two-part series, I look at the ten questions I think are most important heading into the 2012-13 season. More below the fold.
10. Can Nikola Pekovic continue to dominate the interior like he did last season?
In a word, YES. Pek is a beast. Barring injury, he could easily average 18 ppg. This is the easiest question on this list. Moving on….
9. What is David Kahn’s next move?
We’ve been hearing a few interesting names bandied about: Hassan Whiteside, Anthony Tolliver, Sean Williams, etc. Tolliver’s the best of the three, but is unlikely to sign for the league minimum. Assuming AT doesn’t work out, I hope they take a flier on Whiteside. As we’ve said before, he’s the kind of project this team should be taking on as a 12th man being paid the league minimum: lots of talent, raw, young, and a rim protector. If he doesn’t work out, you can cut bait easily enough. C’mon, Kahn, just sign him already.
8. Who will be the odd man out of Adelman’s rotation?
It seems like there are two sets of candidates: Alexey Shved or J.J. Barea (with Luke Ridnour as a less likely possibility) and Derrick Williams or Dante Cunningham. Andy G. covered many of the aspects of the guard competition in his positional battles post, and I think Shved and Barea split the limited minutes that are left at the two after Roy and Ridnour get theirs. Williams/Cunningham is the more intriguing death match because it’s obvious who you want to win that spot (Williams), but it’s unclear whether he will. Early reports out of training camp could be very telling about what Adelman thinks of each guy’s chances.
8. Will Andrei Kirilenko and Chase Budinger be able to fill the gaps they were brought in to fill?
I’d argue the performance of Kirilenko and Budinger will make or break the season as much as the health of Rubio and Roy and is just as uncertain. That sounds somewhat trite, but, to channel my inner Kahn, the Wolves really, really Kirilenko’s length and athleticism, particularly on the defensive end, and they really, really need Budinger to be able to stretch defenses and hit threes consistently to give them the wing threat they lacked last year (apart from Love’s ability to hit from the arc). Andy G has gushed before about AK47’s ability to make smart cuts on offense, a skill that should enhance Adelman’s offense a lot. Both the AK47 and Budinger acquisitions look great on paper, but if last season showed us anything, it’s that until you see guys play in Adelman’s system, you can’t really know how they’ll fit in. I thought Mike Beasley would thrive under an up-tempo, offensive-minded coach like Adelman, for example, and instead he regressed significantly. Kirilenko’s wide-ranging experience and Budinger’s experience playing for Adelman should help both integrate themselves fairly seamlessly to play the roles they’ll be asked to play.
7. Can Alexey Shved backup both guard positions?
Yes. Shved showed in the Olympics that he’s got a lot of juice at either spot, and at 6’5”, he’s got the size to spend quite a bit of time at the two, which the Wolves will need when/if B-Roy’s knees go out. We’ve said a lot about Shved elsewhere on this site. In short, Shved’s stroke is sweet. But his ability to run the pick ‘n roll is perhaps even sweeter. I think he’ll be the rare guy who really defies position and whom you just want in the game because of all the things he does. (Hopefully he can add “play defense” to that list…)
6. What new tool will Kevin Love show up with?
Love has developed a new wrinkle each season that has helped him evolve his game and adapt to the larger roles the Wolves have asked him to play. Check out his NUMB#RS. First he was an elite rebounder. Then he showed he could draw fouls, drain threes, and score 20 ppg. Last season, after he lost a ton of weight, he began moving without the ball and came into his own even more as a three-point threat. Two skills he could still stand to improve are his passing and ball-handling. While Love rightly gets props for his outlet passing, his ability–or perhaps it’s his willingness–to deliver nifty passes from the high post and the wing is overrated. Love also has a tendency to dribble high when he puts the ball on the floor, leaving him vulnerable to getting his pocket picked, though, to his credit, he often draws a foul on these plays. Little things. Anyway, last season, Love showed that he can be a go-to offensive option and score from anywhere on the court. Now that he will finally have some better offensive players around him, it’s time for Love to show that he can be an elite passer from the PF position and correct the little things he still doesn’t excel at.