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Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves (20-33) at Phoenix Suns (18-39)

Phoenix Suns 84, Minnesota Timberwolves 83 (OT)

Timberwolves

Timberwolves

Suns

Suns

The Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t been relevant in quite some time. A testament to how difficult the road has been since Kevin Garnett left, the Phoenix Suns could view the T-Wolves’ franchise as being a few years ahead in the developmental stage with the departure of Steve Nash marking a similar turn in fortune.

That might be a frightening thing.

Despite working out a draft-day deal to acquire All-Star Kevin Love a few years back, Minnesota has yet to have luck swing in its favor. Four games in front of the Western Conference’s worst team, the T-Wolves visit the Suns in U.S. Airways Center Tuesday with an injury-plagued roster seeing the benefits in the development of youth.

Love is benched with his second hand break of the season, Chase Budinger has been out with a knee injury for some time and Brandon Roy’s chronic knee troubles have him sidelined as well. Other injuries have hurt the Timberwolves, but if there were a bright side to things, the meantime has seen growth from the young players getting minutes by default.

Nikola Pekovic, while not young in years is growing into an NBA force. The center is averaging 16 points and nearly 10 rebounds in his last 10 games. Second-year supposed bust Derrick Williams – often on the trading block – is averaging 17.2 points and 9.2 rebounds over his last five outings. And most of all point guard Ricky Rubio, working his way back from an ACL injury, is averaging 13.9 points, 9.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds over his last 10 games.

Phoenix only wishes that it had such young talent to work with.

As The Arizona Republic’s Bob Young writes, coach Lindsey Hunter is stuck between giving his young players minutes or allowing his veterans’ to work toward building culture that is still in Stage 1.

Where the Morris twins, Kendall Marshall and Diante Garrett certainly fit the description of players who could blossom with time and opportunity a la former Suns first-round draft pick Earl Clark, it’s players like Wes Johnson and Michael Beasley who are on the borderline of where having the NBA game click could soon be out of reach.

The path to simply becoming a playoff team appears daunting when looking at Minnesota from a perspective of the Suns. They have a star in Love, dynamic young talent in Rubio and a well-respected role player in Andrei Kirilenko. And yet, the Timberwolves have little to show for it.

Hunter, who has been running exceedingly intense practices, isn’t so worried about his players’ fresh legs at this point. The way he handled rotations against the Spurs on Sunday will probably arise against the T-Wolves. So too will the use of a fairly aggressive fullcourt press, especially if Phoenix finds itself trailing at home.

The Suns’ loss to San Antonio gave a glimpse that Hunter isn’t blowing smoke about his guarantees to hold players accountable. If the same Phoenix team shows up on Tuesday, how a refinement of effort translates against a team toward the bottom of the conference standings will be most interesting of all.

Suns fans hope Derrick Williams is tired from his business endeavors

Derrick Williams, the former Arizona Wildcats hero, made a trip to Tucson on Monday with Rubio, Greg Stiemsma and J.J. Barea to promote Williams’ clothing store VII Grand Premium Sneakers and Streetwear, according to the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

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