Probable Timberwolves Lineups for 2013-14

What are some Wolves lineups we’ll see on the floor this season?  Assuming Nikola Pekovic’s contract is finalized according to plan and players remain healthy, I’ve broken down possible combinations for who would be in the starting five, and have included the positives and negatives for each.

Who will join these two in the Timberwolves starting five?

Who will join these two in the Timberwolves starting five?

I call this the “Five with Fire”, because what is a lineup without a corny nickname:

  1. Ricky Rubio
  2. Kevin Martin
  3. Chase Budinger
  4. Kevin Love
  5. Nikola Pekovic

In this five, Chase Budinger starts at swingman.  Most of the lineups will contain the Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin backcourt and with Budinger’s cutting and spot-up shooting abilities, fits right in.  His length and speed makes him a tough guard for opponents not used to chasing a faster 3 around the floor.  Look for Chase to cut around screens for catch and shoot opportunities as well as backdoor cuts to the basket such as this one:

Upside: Jump Shooters surround Rubio.  Ricky can play the pick-n-roll game with any other player in this line with the exception of Pek, who provides a country-strong roll to the basket.  Every other player can pick-n-pop or catch-n-shoot after penetration created by Rubio.

Downside: Budinger and Martin are both undersized and it’s difficult to hide them from opponents.  Teams will take advantage using isolation obtained by pick-n-rolls, putting the smaller players in position to defend the post against a bigger wing such as the Portland Trailblazers Nicholas Batum.

I will call the second lineup “Five with a Flyer”:

  1. Ricky Rubio
  2. Kevin Martin
  3. Corey Brewer
  4. Kevin Love
  5. Nikola Pekovic

Recently, Alex wrote an article mentioning Corey Brewer’s ability to run the floor.  I’ve also touched upon his ability to leak out in transition but CBS’s Zach Harper does it best here.  This ability theoretically goes hand-in-hand with Kevin Love’s ambitious outlet passes, but also his length and ability to finish will prove most valuable when Rubio looks to run the floor and dishes to a teammate to finish on plays like this one:

Upside: Transition looks: Whether it’s Love hitting Brewer going towards the hoop for an uncontested dunk or Rubio finding the high-flying former Florida Gator on an alley-oop, this squad will need to run for its best chances at outpacing their opponent.  Let’s not forget that finding a tailing Love for a look at a three pointer from the top of the key isn’t a low percentage option either.

Downside:  This combination puts nearly all ball-handling responsibility on Rubio during half-court sets.  Seeing the skilled defender Brewer in the game means the Wolves will look to run up and down the floor and find looks for Martin and Brewer on the perimeter if not they’re not attacking the basket.  If the squad can’t get stops, it’s a tough half-court set the next trip down.

I like to call the next lineup/rotation the “Flexible Five”:

  1. Ricky Rubio
  2. Kevin Martin
  3. Chase Budinger
  4. Corey Brewer
  5. Kevin Love

If the Wolves decide to go small they’ll be able to guard the perimeter with lengthy defenders.  Brewer and Budinger become interchangeable at the 3 and 4 and Adelman could even implement a match-up zone.

Upside: When other teams go small, when I expect to see this line most, benefits of both previous mentioned transition looks and spot-up shots from distance will remain.  With the exception of Brewer, all players are sharp-shooters from behind the arc and even Corey can heat up from time to time.

Downside: Teams like the Miami Heat and the Houston Rockets, now with Dwight Howard, are built to expose defenses such as this one.  Any team with a substantial post threat like Miami’s Bosh, Houston’s Howard, and even Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge, can feed the low-block, wait for a double-team, and kick / swing it around to a shooter who is open because of a double team.

These are obviously just a few ideas that Adelman could tinker around with and I’m sure we’ll see more throughout the season.  I don’t expect many appearances from draft selections Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad in a starting unit until they’ve proven they can play a role or injury calls them into duty.  It also looks as if JJ Barea will remain with the Timberwolves and will be the team’s 6th man, much as he was with Brewer as members of the Dallas Mavericks.  Hopefully, he isn’t asked or called upon to do too much.

Feel free to drop in your ideal starting lineups for the Timberwolves in the comments below.