4 Their bench is improved
The bottom half of their 18-man roster regularly ruled scrimmages during training camp, and Adelman cites his second unit’s play as one of preseason’s most pleasant developments, even if he still hasn’t decided who’s starting at small forward or coming off the bench there.
Barea pushed a second unit during preseason that features Dante Cunningham, Ronny Turiaf and either Brewer or Williams up front and guard Alexey Shved, who despite his still inconsistent shot made 50 percent of his three-pointers (10-for-20) in the preseason.
“I really do,” Adelman said when asked if he thinks his bench is much improved. “It has been one of our strong points all through camp. They’ve played well the whole time. Hopefully, that will give us a lift.”
5 Barea will thrive
Sidetracked by a variety of injuries his first two seasons here, Barea is fit and healthy after an August spent playing with the Puerto Rican national team. He also looks ready to benefit most from last summer’s personnel moves now that, with Luke Ridnour traded to Milwaukee, he knows he’s the second-unit point guard entrusted with changing the game’s pace.
“He’s in great shape, and he’s playing much better than he did last year,” Adelman said. “He’s a difference-maker when he comes in off the bench.”
Five Questions That Remain
1 Can they defend well enough?
The jury’s out after a preseason in which Adelman saw improvement but not enough. The Wolves have assembled a roster of offensive-minded players for an offensive-minded coach but must defend at least well enough so their scoring can win games.
In preseason, they were susceptible to their same old issues: They allowed opposing point guards to penetrate the defense with dribble drives and gave up too many baskets in transition.
“We’re just not as consistent and have a sustained effort there as we need to have,” Adelman said. “That was a concern from the start and still is.”
2 Do they need a real starting small forward?
Adelman experimented plenty in the preseason’s final games looking for the right “fit” at that position. The Wolves surely will scour the waiver wire looking for a veteran cut loose elsewhere who might help them and, less likely, could strike a trade to find a starter that would allow them to bring Brewer (and later Budinger) off the bench.
Adelman said his experimentation doesn’t necessarily mean he has ruled out Brewer as his starter.
“It could go either way, but I have not ruled it out at all,” Adelman said about Brewer, who came off the bench for the 57-victory Nuggets last season. “I really liked him last year with Denver doing that, and he does give you a lot of energy off the bench. It’s something we’ll talk about and figure out what’s best for the team.”
3 What do they do with Derrick Williams?
Pay him, for starters. The Wolves picked up his $6.7 million option for 2014-15 rather than let a former No. 2 overall pick walk away as an unrestricted free agent next summer. But his transition to small forward is incomplete at best, and there’s not much playing time behind Love as a “stretch” power forward, both players’ most natural position. A trade — preferably for a veteran starting small forward — probably is inevitable, whether sooner or later.