Dec 29, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrei Kirilenko (47) , guard Luke Ridnour (13) , center Nikola Pekovic (14) , forward Kevin Love (42) , guard Alexey Shved (1) and head coach Rick Adelman during a timeout during against the Phoenix Suns at the Target Center. The Timberwolves defeated the Suns 111-107. (Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Can the Timberwolves Make the Playoffs Without Kevin Love?

With the NBA almost at its midway point into the season, it’s fair to say that the Minnesota Timberwolves are in dire need of a break.

Players such as Andrei Kirilenko, Jose Barea, Luke Ridnour and Dante Cunningham have been keeping this team afloat but the wolves have still had an unfortunate fair share of struggles. Nikola Pekovic has been suffering from badly bruised quadriceps, Alexey Shved with a twisted ankle, Brandon Roy has knee issues again, Malcolm Lee just had hip surgery, Ricky Rubio is still a bit rusty (since he just came back after ACL/MCL surgery) and both Chase Budinger and Josh Howard just had knee surgery. Then there’s All-Star and Olympian Kevin Love who is out for two months with a broken hand, again.

Nonetheless, can this struggling Timberwolves team make the playoffs this year and without an injured Kevin Love?

The Timberwolves are currently five games under the .500 mark, sitting at 17 wins, 22 losses.

If the playoffs started today, the Wolves wouldn’t have a chance. However with playoffs months away, I still believe this Minnesota team can make it.

The western conference, unlike the east, has always been competitive over the years. With teams such as the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers, it would be hard for this Timberwolves team to nab a fifth or even sixth seed in the conference at this point in time.

Nevertheless, the T-Wolves can manage to obtain the eighth and last seed to make the conference playoffs.

The only teams in their way are the Houston Rockets (sitting at the .500 mark, 22 wins, 22 losses) and the Portland Trailblazers (21 wins, 21 losses).

Still, even if they make the playoffs, they’ll most likely be without Kevin Love. Love, although constantly injured throughout the season, has been averaging 19 points per game in the mere 18 games he played. His absence will be especially hard to fill but the Wolves can manage with Derrick Williams in place.

Although Williams has struggled in the past, trying to cover for Love in the first half of the season, you have to give him credit as he has been trying, averaging roughly around 10 points per game. Even though it’s not up to par to Kevin Love standards, I say it’s relatively good. But who can blame Williams? It’s hard to cover your top scorer.

The one category that Williams is better than Love at right now is from beyond three-point land. It’s odd considering the fact that Love has always been a dominant three-point shooter, but Love’s three-point shooting has hit a major slump as he was at 41 percent last season, to 21 percent this season.  As for Williams, he has been shooting a better 34% three-pointers.

In short, this Timberwolves team can make the playoffs under three conditions. All their players have to try to remain healthy, Houston and Portland will have to face bad luck, struggling and lastly, Derrick Williams will have to step up his game and cover for an absent Kevin Love, a daunting task.

After all, once playoffs begin, every team that made it kicks it up a notch.

Tags: NBA Playoffs

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