The Minnesota Timberwolves have struggled so far this season (19-31), but there have been many bright spots on this young team, most notably Zach LaVine. LaVine is known for his athleticism and winning the All-Star Slam Dunk contest in each of his first 2 years in the NBA. He improved his game overall over the past two-and-a-half years, and this season is his best statistically. However, it has come to an end early as LaVine was initially diagnosed with a bruised left knee after exiting Friday’s game against the Pistons.
LaVine drove to the basket in the 3rd quarter. When extending for a layup, there was contact with Andre Drummond, and when he hit the floor, he began to reach for his knee.
LaVine finished the game with 20 points (9-13 FG), 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 32 minutes before leaving with the injury. He was later re-evaluated the next day, when the MRI revealed LaVine tore the ACL in his left knee and will require season-ending surgery.
LaVine will conclude the season with averages of 18.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 37 minutes per game. LaVine has no timetable for his return and will have season-ending surgery sometime next week.
BREAKING: Zach LaVine has a torn ACL in his left knee and will miss the remainder of the season. pic.twitter.com/62R46QxDR5
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 4, 2017
The team has had success without LaVine in the lineup, going 3-0 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, and the Los Angeles Lakers. Brandon Rush will start in LaVine’s place for the rest of the season. Rush has played in 2 out of the 3 games without LaVine and is averaging 11.5, 2.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. Alongside Rush, look for Shabazz Muhammad to also see some time at shooting guard (9.0 points per game), while rookie point guard Kris Dunn, who has dealt with a hand injury for part of the season, could also pick up minutes.
Dunn is averaging 3.8 points and 2.6 assists a game, but in five starts this season, the rookie has averaged 4.4 points, 4.6 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 2.0 steals in 24.0 minutes. In the game vs the Lakers without LaVine, Andrew Wiggins took over the scoring dropping 47 points, shooting above 50 percent from the field (14-21), 3 assist, and 4 rebounds in 41 minutes.
Zach LaVine’s knee injury occurred on this play pic.twitter.com/8xkgr7YI7A
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) February 4, 2017
Although the Timberwolves are only 4.5 games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race, it seems unlikely that even if Lavine was still in the lineup that Minnesota could complete a push for that 8th seed. The Timberwolves should be able to replace LaVine with Veteran Brandon Rush, while also increasing the minutes of backup Shabazz Muhammad, who has scored double figures in six of his past seven games.