Rick Adelman, Wolves still sorting through options at small forward
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MINNEAPOLIS -- From the start of training camp, four starting spots in the Minnesota Timberwolves' lineup have been foregone conclusions.
Ricky Rubio (PG), Kevin Love (PF), Nikola Pekovic (C) and Kevin Martin (SG) are set as the foundation of a refreshed Wolves squad that is facing ever-increasing expectations of its upstart potential in the Western Conference this season.
On the other hand, the outlook at small forward is still a work in progress.
Two days from the Wolves' season opener against the Orlando Magic, coach Rick Adelman isn't ready to announce who his starter will be or how the rotation on the wing will play out.
That is largely because Adelman truly doesn't have an answer yet.
Chase Budinger's need for another round of arthroscopic knee surgery in late September left the Wolves with one less option at small forward likely until January. In the interim, Adelman has been continually tinkering with his rotation, trying to find figure out the right combinations for the right times.
Defensive-minded wing Corey Brewer started in the three-spot in the Wolves' first four games of the preseason. From there, Adelman rotated in Derrick Williams, Dante Cunningham and rookie Robbie Hummel as starters in the final three games,
Is Brewer best served in the starting lineup or in a key bench role, like the one he excelled in last season with Denver? Is Derrick Williams better utilized at small forward or power? Could Dante Cunningham work with the starting-five?
For now, the answers aren't straightforward and can only be answered once the Wolves face the ups and downs of the season.
"It's going to be a gradual process," Adelman said after practice Monday. "We're going to find that out when we get to crunch time, who are the best players to be on the court. Sometimes that is going to depend on the best defensive team you have out there, what's the score, the best offensive team, a combination of the two. I don't know that right now."
Brewer is one of the best defensive options the Wolves have, a major reason director of basketball operations Flip Saunders pursued him in the offseason. A seven-year NBA veteran, Brewer has the flexibility to blend in well in either the starting lineup or with the second unit without much concern.
"He just brings you a lot of energy off the bench, but he brings you that starting too," Adelman said. "It's really what's best for the team. We're really not sure what the best thing is right now."
To Brewer's credit, he is forthcoming in admitting he is open to fitting into either role, showing no obvious signs of preference.
"It doesn't really matter to me, either way. I know my role," Brewer said. "I've got to play defense and bring energy, so if it's with the first team or the second team it doesn't really matter."
Williams or Cunningham would be the probable options to enter the starting lineup if Brewer does move to the front of the bench. Hummel, who earned a roster spot after a long preseason position battle, is capable of playing at both the three and four, but he is likely better suited to fill the backend of the Wolves' forward rotation.
Whatever lineup Adelman decides to go with Wednesday, it is obvious the first several weeks of the season will be very much a period of tweaking and adjusting.