First, two identity-shaping stats:
1) The Wolves rank fourth in the NBA in both three-pointers attempted and three-pointers made. Part of this probably comes from having a very good (and willing) three-point shooter at an unconventional spot in the lineup (power forward Kevin Love). But another part is the way the offense flows. Ricky Rubio isn't a young Stephon Marbury-type who is driving and dishing to big men for dunks all the time. He's a weaver and a kicker -- yes, a little like Steve Nash -- who draws defenses and often finds the open spot-up shooter behind the three-point line, regardless of where that shooter is on the court. The danger, of course, is that it can be a feast-or-famine approach. The Wolves are shooting 33.4 percent from three-point range, 15th in the league -- which while middle-of-the-pack isn't necessarily good news considering all the attempts. In losses, the Wolves are shooting 29 percent from deep and have made at least 10 in just one of the eight games. In victories, they are shooting 40 percent and have made at least 10 in four of the five. More nights like the one Luke Ridnour had Monday (4-for-4 from deep) will help; so, too, would more reliable play from traditional wings like Wes Johnson and (when healthy) Martell Webster.
2) The Wolves are now 10th in the NBA in scoring defense, averaging just 93.1 ppg allowed. In the second half, it's even better -- 44.9 ppg allowed, good for seventh in the league. Considering they gave up an astonishing 107.7 ppg last season to rank dead last, this is an eye-popping upgrade. We've already written about the commitment to defense under Rick Adelman; it's only grown to be more a part of the team's core identity.
And now, the curve ball:
3) Despite often playing two point guards at a time and having Rubio -- a gifted passer, we would all agree -- the Wolves rank just 27th in the league in assists per game with 17.7 on average. And before you go pinning it on Michael Beasley, the Wolves are at 18.3 since his injury -- a number that by itself would be 25th in the league. We would imagine, however, that the number will continue to climb as the year goes on and the team gets more comfortable/efficient in the Adelman offense. The Wolves had 24 assists last night; the more they get rewarded for crisp ball movement, the better those assist numbers will be. At season's end, we would be surprised if they weren't more middle-of-the-pack at least.