It’s been a banner week for the Timberwolves’ young ballers. 42 point outbursts, 30/30 games, thrilling buzzer-beaters, interviews on NBATV–it’s like another dimension. But here are some sobering numbers to keep things in perspective.
The first concerns Michael Beasley. Right now, Beasley’s prolific scoring is largely based on hot shooting from from deep two-point territory, generally the lowest-percentage shot in the game. Since the Sacramento game, Beasley his hit 63% of those shots, which is 23 points higher than the league average. Suffice it to say, Kevin Pelton (writing at ESPN Insider) hears the clock ticking on B-Easy’s prolific scoring:
That kind of accurate shooting on long 2s will be difficult for Beasley to sustain. Before [last] Wednesday, he was shooting 42.9 percent from 16 to 23 feet. The league average from that distance is even worse (39.9 percent). While players like Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki show that it is possible to make a living with long 2s as a staple, Beasley has not yet proved to be at their level.
Despite his hot shooting, opponents have been mostly conceding Beasley these long looks. The question is: will defenses at some point begin to challenge these shots, or will they simply sit back and wait for him to cool off? Will Beasley respond–to new defensive tactics and his own inevitable cooling–by taking the ball to the basket? Friday’s game against the Lakers would seem to be a good test of all of these questions.
The next little dose of rain on our picnic is by Brett Hainline of Queen City Hoops and it concerns the defense of one Mr. Kevin Love. Recall that Love’s defensive shortcomings were Rambis’ explanation for his low-ish minutes earlier this year. Ignited quite the commotion, you may remember. Well Hainline explains, confirming what we here at A Wolf Among Wolves have suspected (on more than one occasion), that Rambis’ criticisms were not too far off base. Not too far at all (props to Zach, helming Truehoop today, for the link):
Knowing that the Wolves are a fast team, focus on the pace independent stats – PER, per 100 possessions, and rates. Notice a trend? They’re largely negative and in this case, that’s a bad thing. Opponents are putting up a PER of 18.56 against Love while scoring 25.9 points per 100 team possessions on a TS% of 58.5 – based on their averages the rest of the season, we would expect 16.71, 21.7, and 56.0%…Love’s surrendering of an extra +4.2 points per 100 team possessions to his man is 96th out of 107 big men who have played over 100 minutes this season.
What’s interesting though, is that Love’s defensive numbers are (and this is admittedly a small sample size) currently much better when he plays center (opposing centers have only a 40.6 eFG% and a PER of 12.2). This suggests to me that 1) as they did on Wednesday when they deployed their small lineup against Jarron Collins and the Clips, the Wolves are only playing Love at center when he has a chance at success (although I would not have predicted that he would have played so well against Amar’e Stoudemire last week). And that 2) it really helps one’s defense to be playing alongside Anthony Tolliver rather than Darko. And finally: 3) Power forward is a hugely diverse position in today’s NBA. Players as far afield as Dejuan Blair and Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Bosh and Paul Millsap all claim the four spot as their own. And, unfortunately, as we saw against Blake Griffin and the Clippers on Wednesday, there are some NBA power forwards that Kevin Love really just can’t guard right now.