Andrew Bogut looked increasingly frustrated after each 3-pointer. Kevin Love was hitting from downtown like he was shooting layups, and the Milwaukee Bucks' center simply couldn't get close enough to do anything about it.The Minnesota Timberwolves hope it will be a familiar theme.With Love, Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams as their small but versatile frontcourt, the Wolves turned a 42-34 deficit into a 10-point halftime lead en route to a 117-96 preseason victory over the Bucks Saturday night at Target Center.Minnesota's most talented trio could provide plenty more frustration once the regular season begins."It's not going to be fun (for opponents)," Love said. "I wouldn't want to play against that."Love hit four of his seven 3-point attempts Saturday night, mostly while playing center. Williams slotted in at power forward where both he and coach Rick Adelman said Williams was most comfortable at present and Beasley at small forward. Love will give up height and weight to his counterpart at center, as will Williams at power forward. Beasley will have size to his advantage against most small forwards, but lacks the quickness defensively to handle the league's best.But if Adelman can get the Wolves to play sound team defense, he'd love to exploit the matchups on offense."When we went small we were pretty good with Kevin at the center spot," Adelman said. "We can do it, we've just got to guard somebody. That's the key, if we can match up and guard. That's what we have to find out as we move through this process."While Love was in a groove from long range, Williams was busy hitting three of his four 3-point attempts. If he can keep it up, opponents will have to send multiple bigs to defend the perimeter opening up the lane for penetration from Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea.
For Love's part, he's happy playing center despite dropping enough weight this season to go from a 42-inch waist to a 36."I feel comfortable there," Love said. "That's where I played basically my whole life."Williams brings a different dimension in that he can put the ball on the floor if and when power forwards are quick enough to close out on his jump shot. Beasley, on the other hand, can take advantage of his size inside."He can take that post where he wants," Adelman said. "He needs to make cuts at the right times and try to get a little lower."Beasley took (and hit) just one 3-pointer on Saturday, and because he got the ball closer to the basket needed to do less to create his shots compared to last season. Beasley averaged a whopping 2.7 turnovers per game last season trying to do too much with the basketball, but had just one in his first go-round in Adelman's system.Yes, he still forced a few shots Beasley will do that regardless but with the spacing created by Beasley, Love and Williams, he mostly took smart shots in an offense that set him up to succeed.Moving the ball effectively will be critical to exploiting Minnesota's talent on offense, and if Saturday's game was any indication the Wolves will be a far more unselfish team this season."It's been contagious throughout the start of training camp," Love said. "Rick really wants us to make the extra pass, move the ball, see the open guy and change sides of the floor. We got a little stagnant in the first half, looking for first option. Once we started running our stuff we started to look a lot better and get open shots."The Wolves turned the ball over five times in the first quarter "When we started the game I thought we were going to set a record," Adelman deadpanned but finished the game with 14. It's a telling statistic because it was Minnesota's first game in a new system. Last season it finished with fewer than 14 giveaways just 11 times in 82 games. Adelman later declared that if this version of the Wolves can post assist numbers in the mid-20s and keep the turnovers to 15 a game they averaged 16.5 per night last season the team will have success.Minnesota appeared to understand what Adelman was looking for, never looking confused on offense the way it often did under Kurt Rambis the previous two seasons. This alone will limit the turnovers, and sharing the basketball rather than trying to create one-on-one will help as well.In other words, the Wolves have the ability to do what's necessary on offense to make Beasley, Williams and Love an effective threesome. It will all come down to defense."We still have a lot to work on the defensive side and rotating the ball side to side," Beasley said. "We're going to get there."Beasley and company have plenty of motivation to improve. He and Love both led the way Saturday with 21 points despite sitting out the entire fourth quarter. Williams scored 14 points despite not playing in the game's first 16 minutes. The carrot has officially been dangled: Keep working on defense, and Minnesota's talented frontcourt will be given every opportunity to provide opponents with maximum aggravation on the other end.