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Eric Peterson, Published October 09 2012

Wolves ready to tip off preseason in Fargo

The Minnesota Timberwolves are set to open their NBA preseason schedule at 7 tonight at the Fargodome against the Indiana Pacers.

The Timberwolves made a number of moves in the offseason to make over their roster. They could have at least seven new players on their opening-day roster.

The Forum asked Wolves experts Jon Krawczynski and Jerry Zgoda for their thoughts on the upcoming season. Krawczynski is an Associated Press sports writer who covers the Timberwolves. Zgoda is a Wolves reporter for the Star Tribune.

Ricky, Ricky, Ricky

The health of Ricky Rubio will be paramount for the Wolves if they hope to make it to the playoffs for the first time since 2003-04. The team was challenging for a playoff spot a season ago when Rubio injured his knee last March.

Rubio isn’t expected to be back in action until at least early December.

“A lot of it depends on when Ricky comes back and how quickly it takes him to become the player he was last year,” Zgoda said. “He was so much a catalyst for them last year.”

Roy rebound

Brandon Roy was one of the team’s key offseason signings. The question is whether the All-Star shooting guard’s ailing knees will hold up this season. Roy sat out last year because of a lack of cartilage between the bones in his knees.

“Roy is what they need if he can stay healthy,” said Krawczynski. “He’s the fourth-quarter presence that they need.”

From Russia with love

The Wolves signed two Russian players in the offseason – one an NBA veteran and the other a newcomer.

Rookie Alexey Shved is a flashy shooting guard who is expected to help improve the team’s outside shooting and playmaking.

Andrei Kirilenko is a defensive-minded small forward who was the Euroleague MVP last season after playing the 10 previous seasons with the Utah Jazz.

“Kirilenko is what they need as far as he’s such a versatile defender,” said Krawczynski. “He can guard (three positions).”

Players to watch

Kevin Love

The Wolves could use another MVP-type season from the All-Star forward, who averaged 21.5 points and 15.5 rebounds per game last season. Zgoda thinks Love’s stat line may not need to be as impressive this season with a deeper roster.

“Hopefully, he won’t have to do as much and hopefully he will be OK with it,” Zgoda said. “You would think his numbers would moderate a little more.”

Derrick Williams

The second-year forward is trimmed down and more focused after a rookie season where he averaged 9.0 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. Wolves coach Rick Adelman likes what he’s seen from Williams thus far this season.

“(Adelman) says he looks like a completely different player,” Krawczynski said. “Their team is so much better if he is a factor.”

Nikola Pekovic

The 6-foot-11, 290-pound center had a breakout season last year, averaging 13.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. The Wolves need the production to continue.

“He looks like he’s more mobile,” Zgoda said.