Ricky Rubio

Now, in just a few seasons, David Kahn and international scouting coordinator Pete Philo have given meat-and-potatoes Minnesota an international flavor as they’ve turned the Twin Cities into a destination location for top players from basketball hotbeds throughout Europe.

Ricky Rubio, Andrei Kirilenko, Alexey Shved, Nikola Pekovic, JJ Barea. Minnesota has five international players on the roster, tied with Cleveland for second-most in the NBA. San Antonio has eight international players, a league record.

“I think it’s pretty evident to me that there’s a lot of not just good players, but some of the very best players in our game who have come from overseas,” Kahn said. “To me, it’s just a natural extension of scouting. Just as you can’t afford to be negligent about the domestic side, you can’t afford to not be on top of matters internationally.”

The renewed focus is one of the biggest reasons the Timberwolves are competitive again in the powerful Western Conference. The Wolves drafted Rubio in 2009 - even though some mistakenly speculated he wanted to play in a bigger market - and the Spanish point guard turned into one of the most exciting young players in the NBA.

They signed Russian teammates Kirilenko and Shved this offseason, and the two have helped them weather a rough string of injuries early in the season.

– Reported by the Associated Press