Not entirely sure if you can dethrone a prince, but go with it for the title’s sake. Sounds cooler.
The Wolves are now 2-2. The Wolves lost a nasty one to the Miami Heat. Fans everywhere are screaming what is in the world is wrong with the rotation? The major problems were that the starters combined for 29 points and Ricky Rubio, arguably the best player on the team, played half the game. The Wolves may not have the talent the Heat have, but Sam mitchell has completely mismanaged the Wolves thus far.
The Wolves have two veterans in the starting lineup, Tayshaun Prince and Kevin Garnett. At this point, Garnett will likely remain in the starting lineup for defensive and mentorship purposes. Prince is placed in the lineup for his experience and defensive ability. There is also the experiment of running Wiggins at the 2, which is viable. In general NBA terms, if a player can defend a position, they can play it. But there are more viable options that could be starting instead of Prince. Kevin Martin was a starter last season and is the team’s leading scorer. Zach LaVine was promised the starting spot at the beginning of the preseason and after his poor performance, he was taken out. Then there is Shabazz Muhammad, who had a breakout season last year and mainly was used as energy off the bench.
A lot of times teams want to present matchup problems in the starting lineup, which is likely why Wiggins is in the starting lineup. For matchup problems to occur though, the other wing player needs to require attention on the defensive end. Unfortunately, Tayshaun Prince requires as much attention as a middle child in a family of 10. Thus, its time to take him out. Its early and the sample size is small, but the experiment has failed. The starting lineup is unable to compete with other teams offensively unless Karl-Anthony Towns or Ricky Rubio are scoring over 20 points. It doesn’t help that Andrew Wiggins has struggled to get going offensively either. The Wolves need a scorer in the starting lineup and there are three waiting on the bench.
Shabazz allows the Wolves to still offer matchup problems. The Wolves want opposing 2-guards to defend Andrew Wiggins so he can shoot over them or beat them in the post. Shabazz poses the same threats if an opposing shooting guard tries to guard him. If an opposing 2-guard were to defend Tayshaun Prince, the Wolves probably still wouldn’t run the offense through him. Zach LaVine would be a wash against a shooting guard and just isn’t at the level of consistency to start. Kevin Martin would be able to score but his scoring punch off the bench is really valuable at this time and he is a ball stopper when he is in the game.
The Shabazz and Wiggins pairing was one that was fairly successful for parts of last season. Comparing the Martin/ Wiggins combo vs Shabazz/ Wiggins, Shabazz/ Wiggins had 5 more field goal attempts and 1 more 3-point attempt per 48 mintutes, meaning the pace was faster and more shots were going up. The combos were equally as effective in getting to the line and in scoring. In what was seen last season, Martin was doing most of the scoring early on in the season while Wiggins took a back seat vs a more combined effort offensively for the Wiggins and Shabazz duo.
To be frank, they are all equally a defensive drop off compared to Prince. All three lack the Defensive IQ to be a stopper. But I do believe that Shabazz will provide the most effort of the three possible replacements on the defensive end. Also, any of the three will ultimately force Wiggins to be the main defensive wing stopper, which is much needed for his improvement. Unfortunately team defense would take a hit but the rest of the guys in the starting lineup (Rubio, Wiggins, KG, KAT) are all adequate defenders.
All in all though, the starting lineup needs scoring. Shabazz can score. They need someone to get to the line. Shabazz gets to the line. They need someone to sink the open 3. Shabazz can do that too. They need Wiggins to play the 2. Shabazz can play the 3. While I don’t see anything wrong with experiment through Martin, LaVine, and Shabazz, I just feel the Prince experiment is over. Shabazz is the logical choice (to me) at this point. Martin is just not capable of guarding starter-level guards in the NBA on a game-in-game-out basis. LaVine is far too inconsistent.
My ultimate hope is this reaches Sam Mitchell and Shabazz is starting when the Wolves take on the Bulls on Saturday. Again, predicting another loss. Only because I am a huge Fred Hoiberg fan.