Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Luke Ridnour

In this compacted, 66-game season every contest is vital for Minnesota’s hopes of qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in eight long seasons. Under coach Rick Adelman, the Timberwolves have compiled a 19-19 record up to this point in the ultra-competitive Western Conference and sit 1.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets for the eighth seed.

With J.J. Barea’s first year as a member of the Wolves marred by nagging injuries and 21-year-old Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio slowing down a bit in both points and dimes in the past 5 weeks, there exists a strong possibility that coach Adelman and staff will rely more heavily on playoff-tested Luke Ridnour in the second half of this night-in-night-out grind of a season.

Lucas ‘Luke’ Ridnour, a 9th-year PG out of the University of Oregon, has started in 36 of the Wolves 38 games so far. Last season was Ridnour’s first as a Twin Cities baller. The 14th overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft averaged career-highs in 2010-2011 with 11.8 ppg and .44 3P%.

This season the former Duck has upped his minutes to 31.5 per game, even with 2009 pick PG Rubio entering the league this year and the signing of veteran lead guard Barea in the offseason. Although Ridnour’s production this campaign versus last is down a tad, in recent weeks he has stepped up his game and stat totals. Ridnour played 43 minutes and had 15 points, 8 dimes and 3 steals in the Wolves’ loss at Phoenix on March 1.

As teams continue to key on superstar PF Kevin Love to stop the Wolves, the perimeter shooters like Ridnour, with a record of success from 23’9” and beyond, will be open more often for the impactful long-ball. As the Wolves fight and claw to gain entry to the 2012 postseason, a player such as Luke Ridnour, with a history of a good assist-to-turnover ratio, will be a solid, valuable presence on the floor for Minnesota.