For this edition of The Questionable Blogger we're once again chatting with Tim Allen from the SBNation Timberwolves blog Canis Hoopus. Check out his answers to my questions after the jump, and as always head over there to read my answers to his questions as well.
Steve Perrin: The Timberwolves were 21-19 entering the Lakers game where Ricky Rubio was injured, and leading the Lakers at the time of the injury. They're 4-14 since. I love Ricky, but looking at the stats, it's hard to figure how losing him makes that big a difference. So what's the deal? My theory, as a veteran of many ill-fated seasons, is that the psychological toll of losing Rubio is probably having a bigger impact than the loss of the player on the court (the Clippers were 17-18 through 35 games without Blake Griffin in 09-10, and then finished the season 12-34 after they got the news that he was out for the season).
Tim Allen: On the court, Rubio's impact on defense has been a huge loss. He was one of the league leaders in steals before he got injured and he was a guy who knew how to direct his teammates where to be on the defensive end. Right now, there's no defense being played by anyone on the Timberwolves. Kevin Love has all but given up on that end of the floor and most of the other Wolves couldn't play much defense to begin with. Rubio was a guy who had so much basketball IQ, he made his teammates smarter and everything seemed to flow more smoothly as a result. He knew how to feed Nikola Pekovic in the post (something J.J. Barea at times seems incapable of doing), and he ran the high pick and roll/pick and pop with Love very well. Perhaps we were giving too much credit to Rick Adelman, when it was Ricky's coaching on the floor that was the real difference maker.
You are right, however, that the psychological component cannot be overlooked. Not only was Ricky a great teammate, he was a symbol for the future of Wolves' basketball. He also brought the fans out at Target Center. Losing him was a huge blow to this team's mental stability.
SP: Speaking of the Lakers, the Wolves are 3-0 against the Clippers, 0-4 against the Lakers this season. Ignoring games against Minnesota, the Clippers would have a 2 game lead over the Lakers right now. So yeah, I'm a little pissed off at your team. My question is, why does your team love the Lakers so much that they would throw their games against them and gift yet another Pacific Division title to them? If Minnesota beats the Clippers again tonight, I'm definitely going to petition the league to open a collusion investigation.
TA: As far as losing tonight goes, the Wolves have now lost 23 in a row in the month of April and will not have Kevin Love, who stayed in Denver following his concussion last night. So, I wouldn't be too worried about tonight's outcome.
But the fact is that we'd all love to beat the Lakers, but there are so many matchup problems when we face them. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol get whatever they want against our interior defense (or lack thereof), and while Wesley Johnson has had a couple of good plays against Kobe, ultimately he stands no chance in that matchup. Although, we were pretty close to beating the Lakers before Ricky Rubio's ACL tear, which came thanks to a Kobe Bryant charge (it was called a block, but you know how that goes). Then we gave up the lead with Rubio out, and proceeded to collapse.
For some reason, the Wolves match up a lot better against the Clippers. Although, like I said, probably not tonight. If the Wolves keep it within 20, I'll be somewhat impressed.
SP: Last season's All-NBA forwards were LeBron James / Kevin Durant (first team), Pau Gasol / Dirk Nowitzki (second team) and LaMarcus Aldridge / Zach Randolph (third team). No Kevin Love, no Blake Griffin. Who are your All-NBA forwards this season in order (you can start with second team since James and Durant are a given)?
TA: First of all, I can't believe you bumped Wesley Johnson from the first team All-NBA. But I guess I'll give you LeBron and Durant. They're okay.
For the other team teams, I'd have to say Kevin Love/Blake Griffin (second team) and LaMarcus Aldridge/Paul Millsap (third team). If Kenneth Faried had played more minutes, I'd probably be putting him up here, but I can't do that quite yet.
I think most of those picks are fairly obvious. I think Kevin Love has to be All-NBA Second Team. He's been carrying the Wolves for a while now, especially with Ricky Rubio gone, and his two best supporting players are 2nd year Nikola Pekovic and Luke Ridnour. I think Aldridge/Griffin could go either way, since statistically, they are fairly even. I gave Griffin the nod because his play has resulted in more team success.
SP: Although mathematical elimination is still a few games away, the Wolves have reached that point in the season when it's all about next year. What are the top off-season priorities for Minnesota, the moves that will allow them to continue their move up the standings?
TA: Since the Wolves will not have a lottery pick and may not have a 1st round pick at all (if Utah makes the playoffs, we get their 1st), the team has to concentrate its efforts in free agency. There are three positions that need to be addressed: the two wing positions and a defensive big who can protect the rim. Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph and Brad Miller are as good as gone; I think Martell Webster and Anthony Tolliver could be brought back; and I really hope David Kahn is smart enough to amnesty Darko Milicic.
If all those things happen, the Wolves will have about $8-14 million in cap space (depending on Webster and Darko). I think they need to avoid the guys like Eric Gordon and O.J. Mayo, who will almost certainly be overpaid, and go after some mid-level guys. Targets that I'd like to see are Alonzo Gee, Jodie Meeks and Danny Green at the wings, and either Chris Andersen or Ian Mahinmi to play the 5 spot.
Additionally, I think the Wolves should sell high on Derrick Williams while he still has some value and target a guy like Andre Iguodala, Kevin Martin or a veteran wing of that ilk to bring in for next season. I'd find any way possible to ship out Wesley Johnson, although I don't think any team is dumb enough to go for that one.
SP: Be honest -- you hated JJ Barea when he played against you, but now that he's on the Wolves, you love the guy. Am I right?
TA: J.J. Barea is great when he's in the right role. Back when Rubio and Ridnour were healthy, the team had a nice three-guard rotation going. Barea could come in and provide a nice spark of energy for the team. Now? With both Ricky and Luke hurt, Barea's flaws are showing. He's having to do too much that he isn't capable of doing. Occasionally, he'll pull out the nice game (triple double against OKC, 15 assists against DEN, although both in losses), but he is very frustrating to watch. He's a great guy in the locker room, but I can't wait until the team gets healthy again and he can go back to his ordinary role.