If I asked for a show of hands of how many people are more excited about this year's team than anyother in the post-"Big Three" era (Not the Celtics or Heat version but our own KG-Cassell-Sprewell show) I would see every hand in the state of Minnesota skying towards the ceiling. There wouldn't even be any of those bent elbow, not-sure-if-I'm-feeling-this hands either. Without a doubt, this team is Minnesota basketball's Messiah. The best part? We are not even close to being healthy yet.
This team is a couple pieces away from being a legitimate contender in this league and those pieces are either already on the floor in a lesser, more lost version, or on the bench in freshly-pressed suits. Look at this team and tell me what is holding it back. No, wait, I'll just tell you. We're missing a center that can consistanly hold his own on the offensive end of the floor and not pick up four fouls within the game's first ten minutes. Not only that but we're missing a shooter. Someone that can step into a tre and be counted on to knock it down. And most importantly, we're missing that dagger that you can give the ball to on any given night and say "win us this game".
Now I believe that we do have the pieces, or the potential pieces, to fill each one of these roles already on the roster. Now as for the center situation, believe it or not, Darko has shown flashes of, dare I say it, brilliance on the offensive side of the ball. Scoring 22 points and grabbing 7 boards against the stout Clippers front-line was one of the most shocking revelations possibly ever made by a human being in a basketball uniform. Darko is also only 26 years old so if he can get some consistent run under Adelman he still might figure it out. I'm not even going to mention Pek here because as much of a bulldozer as he is on offense, he is equal parts bulldozer on defense. Brad Miller could be a wild card for us later in the year as well.
As for our own personal Bob Lee Swagger beyond the arc, Martell Webster is due back in a couple weeks fresh off back surgery. It seems like a lot of fans out there kind of consider Webster to be a washed-up veteran and I have no idea why. The guy is only 25 years old (yes, that's one year older than Wes) despite being in the league for 6 years. Not only does he have the old-soul-in-a-young-body thing going for him, but he also shot at career high clips from the field and beyond the arc. The SG job will be his for the taking upon his return if Wesley doesn't step up and take it first which could be a serious possibility. The coaches seem to have finally gotten through to him about attacking the basket and the results are there with eight FTA in his past two games after only two attempts in his first thirteen. This stretch of getting to the line also seems to have his mojo back on track going 4-7 on deep balls following a brutal 1-24 stretch from three in the middle of the month.
Theres only one question mark that remains and that is, whose our knight in shining armour in crunch time? Is it Kevin Love? That jumper that sank the Clips looked pretty sweet. Will Beasley mature enough to realize his Carmelo-lite potential? Rubio's jumper is hit or miss for three quarters but seems to magically fall in the fourth. Is that for real or just a fluke? Will Derrick WIlliams grow up before our eyes this year and become good enough off the dribble to create his own shot in the final seconds? Its these last five questions that will decide just how far this hype-boat will float.