Timberwolves beat Nuggets, improve to 3-0 in preseason
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves picked up Tuesday night where they left off in Europe, beating the Denver Nuggets 122-108 to improve to 3-0 in the preseason.
On paper, a 3-0 start to the preaseason with wins over Western Conference powers the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers looks impressive, but attempting to make grand prognostications through three preseason games is a dangerous and foolish chore.
However, it is clear Timberwolves have something they have been lacking the last four-plus seasons: Depth.
After another hectic summer that included multiple trades, draft picks and signings, David Kahn has put together a roster that has a second unit that could almost rival its first.
"I think we are incredibly deep. We've added especially at the 2 and 3 position, even at the 5 position," coach Kurt Rambis said.
Now this isn't saying much for a team that only won 15 games last season but it is certainly a step in the right direction.
Point guard Luke Ridnour, a seventh-year pro acquired via free agency from Milwaukee, was brought in to be both a mentor to second-year point guard Jonny Flynn and serve as a veteran presence on a team whose average age is 24.
Ridnour has filled in admirably for Flynn, who is still a few weeks away from returning from hip surgery, averaging 9.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists.
Some may argue that Ridnour's poise and consistency should give him the starting nod over Flynn who had a very up-and-down rookie season.
Either way, even with Ricky Rubio at least a year away from appearing at Target Center, the Timberwolves are stronger at the point than they have in years.
Rambis has made it clear throughout the preseason that every starting position is up for grabs and nowhere is that clearer than at shooting guard. Rookie guard Wesley Johnson">Wesley Johnson, guard Corey Brewer and guard Martell Webster have all gotten extended playing time.
Timberwolves fans will want to see Johnson start and prove he was worth the number four overall pick in the 2010 draft and, more importantly, worth passing on the freakishly talented-but-potential-headcase center Demarcus Cousins, whom Kahn passed on.
Webster, a versatile five-year veteran acquired via trade from Portland for forward Ryan Gomes and the draft rights to Luke Babitt (16th overall), might be asked to provide the scoring spark off the bench -- a role Kevin Love served last season.
David Kahn took a risk extending center Darko Milicic for four years at $20 million, especially considering the Timberwolves appeared to be the only team bidding for the 7-footer's services.
Milicic will certainly be the starter when the season opens Oct. 27 against the Kings, and he will be backed up by the 6-11 center Nikola Pekovic.
Pekovic, drafted 31st overall out of Serbia, has been effective off the bench, averaging 9.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists, and he appears to be handling the Europe to NBA transition well.
Second-year forward Anthony Tolliver -- known by most fans for his YouTube video "The Decision: Part Deux," which parodies LeBron James -- will provide a boost to the front court off the bench. Tolliver averaged 12.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in 32.3 minutes last season with Golden State.
There is no question that Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, and Milicic will provide the foundation for the season. However, the team will benefit from a much improved second unit that will provide competition throughout the season for starting spots--something a young team still searching for its identity desperately needs.
"That ability to have that competition in practice all the time and also to have someone to turn to on the bench is a huge asset to any coach. Its going to help us out and help us win games," Rambis said.