The fate of the Timberwolves this season hinges on the success of Kevin Love ... the progression of Ricky Rubio ... the shooting of Kevin Martin ... and so many more things.
But when it comes down to it, the year might come down to this: how fast Gorgui Dieng can be a meaningful contributor.
And yes, we're dead serious.
We say that because the Wolves are dead last in the NBA in blocked shots, and it's not even close. They are averaging 3 per game. Sacramento is next-worst at 3.7. The best teams are up over 6 per game.
Nobody in the Wolves' current primary rotation is a shot-blocker. None are rim protectors. The team leader in blocks is bench player Dante Cunningham, with 17.
No. 2? Well, sad as it sounds, it's Dieng with 12. He has blocked those 12 shots in just 89 minutes of playing time spanning 14 games.
Starting center Nikola Pekovic has 10 blocks in 830 minutes. It's just not Pek's game. It's not Love's game. They both do other things well, but the lack of a rim protector kills the Wolves against quick guards and in late game situations.
Enter Dieng. Rick Adelman has concerns about his offense. And Dieng is at this point very foul-prone.
So what. The Wolves need those six fouls every game. Even if he is raw offensively, they need someone for 15-20 minutes who can alter shots and end the parade of layups. He got meaningful minutes against Boston, and though he had no blocks in that game his presence was felt.
A healthy Ronny Turiaf would help, too, but Dieng is the real hope. If the Wolves can't protect the rim, they can't protect a lead.