Ricky Rubio's injury puts Wolves' plans for Kris Dunn in bit of a bind

Steve Aschburner

Steve Aschburner

It’s not exactly a cartoon dog in a hat, sitting at a table engulfed in flames and telling himself “This is fine.” But it’s a long way from ideal, what the Minnesota Timberwolves face now in their home opener against Memphis in Minneapolis Tuesday night.

Having already dropped their first two games of 2016-17, losing both despite leading the Grizzlies and the Kings by 15 points or more, the Wolves now face some unspecified number of games without starting point guard Ricky Rubio. Rubio suffered a sprained right elbow in Sacramento Saturday and is out indefinitely, which means rookie Kris Dunn is likely to be thrown into the deep end of the pool against Mike Conley and the rest of the Grizz.

Dunn, of course, is the four-year guard from Providence who was selected No. 5 overall in June. Several scouts considered him to be the most NBA-ready player in the Draft, an evaluation echoed by a poll of NBA rookies when they tabbed Dunn as the likeliest among them to win Rookie of the Year.

What isn’t so fine is that this is the exact opposite of what the Wolves and their fans were planning.

In their perfect world, Rubio would have stayed healthy, a condition he was unable to maintain in three of his first five NBA seasons. That way, with his at-times-spectacular playmaking skills, he could have created the maximum number of offensive opportunities for young teammates Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine while buying Dunn time to get acclimated to the league. Depending on how it all shook out, the Wolves then could consider trade possibilities for Rubio, assuming Dunn’s progress was stable and constant.

Now, Dunn gets force-fed, LaVine maybe gets called on to backup at the point (not a good look last season) and Rubio languishes on the side, unable to dial up his trade value.

Coach Tom Thibodeau expects hiccups from his rookie but is counting on his intensity and maturity to see him through. If the scouts and his peers are right about Dunn, he might get wet a few times but he’ll keep his head above water as a sudden starter and soon start swimming. Which would only make it harder to find minutes and a market for Rubio, with every possible trade partner aware that Minnesota would be eager to move him.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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