For Minnesota as it stands right now, the point guard core is basically Ricky Rubio and those trying to nab minutes behind him. I wrote about it for Sporting News over the summer, others have echoed it on several occasions. That’s not to insult the high basketball IQs of Tyus Jones, Andre Miller, or Lorenzo Brown, but this is still Ricky Rubio’s team, positions not considered (unless you argue it’s Kevin Garnett’s team, which to some extent is also true). The players and coaches know it, and everyone is seemingly good with it.
As time has passed as these previews have come out, it looks like once-starting shooting guard Zach LaVine may actually belong on this list this season. Sam Mitchell has come out and said he now likes LaVine next to Kevin Martin off the bench, so it’s possible we may see more Point LaVine, for better or (likely) for worse. But, again, that’s a story for another day.
For now, we’ll focus on the true point guards, one of whom is fighting to keep his Timberwolves uniform past Friday’s final preseason game. These are the floor generals.
Last season: 22 gp, 10.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 8.8 apg, .356 FG%, .255 3PT%
Okay, we all know what Ricky Rubio needs to get better at to take the next step as a starting NBA point guard. He needs to work on shooting from mid-range and finishing (despite his numbers last year, he’s a fairly competent 3-point shooter historically). We don’t need to rehash what has become public knowledge to a degree.
What worries me more than his on-court production is his health. He has missed time every year but one, and that is problematic. It’s not fair to tell a guy he needs to be more healthy, because that’s not really something you can work on, but having 82 games of Ricky Rubio this season is paramount if the Wolves want to improve their win total from a year ago. He’s their guy. He needs to be out there.
Last season (w/ Wizards-Kings): 81 gp, 4.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 3.5 apg, 15.5 mpg
Andre Miller is one of the highest IQ NBA players on a roster this year, but he’s fallen off quite a bit over the past 3 years. To be fair, Miller is 39. And it should also be noted that, once he left Washington, where he struggled to find a groove, he did re-discover his game (and playing time) a bit with the Sacramento Kings.
Miller can pass, run an offense, and is a legendary point guard post scorer. He struggles to stay in front of his man defensively and isn’t the greatest in terms of speed for his position. His highlight of last season actually came against the Wolves. Watch here.
Last season (Duke): 39 gp, 11.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.6 apg, 33.8 mpg
There was some overreaction to the Tyus Jones pick on both ends. On one hand, you had your Minnesota sports diehards that saw Jones win Duke a national title (and dominate at Apple Valley), as the point guard of the Wolves future. On the other hand, there are/were those that saw his limitations as a prospect and know that’s not the case.
All bias or non-bias aside, Jones is a decent pick in the late first round. He knows how to play point guard better than just about anyone at his age, and his some offensive game to work with. He knows how to pass, how to run an offense, and even has some scoring game. He has obvious limitations (size, shooting stroke, defensive potential), but for a late first, the Wolves could have done much worse.
Last season: 29 gp, 4.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.1 apg, 18.9 mpg
It could be argued that Lorenzo Brown is the second best point guard RIGHT NOW on this list, but he probably still won’t make this team. His fate with the Wolves was in question when they drafted Jones, and it may have been cemented when they went out and signed Andre Miller. The front office isn’t letting Andre Miller or Tyus Jones go this quickly.
But don’t get it twisted: Lorenzo Brown is an NBA-quality point guard. Whether he makes this team or not, some team should, and probably will, have him on their roster at some point in the regular season. He plays high-quality defense, runs the offense well, and finishes pretty well around the rim. He saved the Wolves when their point guard core all went down with injury, and may have solidified himself as a steady backup NBA point guard. I’m a fan of his, for sure.