Corey Brewer, an appreciation

Benjamin Polk —  February 23, 2011 — 2 Comments

It’s not every day that an opportunity arises to write about the Timberwolves on the main Truehoop page. But today, by virtue of the Wolves’ glancing involvement with Carmelo Anthony, is one of those days. As such, our boy Zach got his pretty face in the lights. Suffice it to say, he was underwhelmed with the Brewer-for-Randolph deal:

Kahn has put together a collection of low risk, high reward players. It’s a smart plan in terms of job security. These guys could pan out and become franchise building blocks. If they don’t, they were damaged goods to begin with. It allows Kahn to show he’s gambling for team success without actually putting any money on the table.

The man’s got a fair point, right there. (By the way, you should really check out Kent Youngblood’s post at the STrib about what could be the very worst part of being a professional athlete). This trade, despite its uncommon simplicity, is actually not terribly easy to get one’s mind around. On one hand, Anthony Randolph was a player the Wolves have long coveted. And the team seemed to be fairly set on allowing Brewer to flail on to greener pastures after the season regardless.  So moving Brewer for Randolph without surrendering the first-round pick that was the original part of the deal is a nice little move.

And let’s be clear here: Anthony Randolph is a magnificent talent. He’s both younger and more skilled than Brewer; he has the potential to grow into an elite scorer; he is the kind of mind-melting athlete that makes the NBA so compelling to watch. On the other hand, one wonders at the wisdom of the Wolves–an extraordinarily bad defensive team, remember–trading one of their only verifiable NBA defenders for a guy who has payed only fleeting attention to the discipline and had played the entirety of his young career for literally the two least-interested defensive coaches in the league (especially when he is likely to cut into the playing time of Anthony Tolliver, the Wolves other genuine defender).

What’s more, despite all that talent, Randolph has been unable so far to carve himself a niche in the league. John Kenney of Knickerblogger nicely describes “the enigma that is Anthony Randolph”:

[He is] a player whom two franchises don’t seem eager to hold on to, with fan bases of those franchises both wanting to give him playing time. The reasons why he is benched are not completely off base : he’s shown a propensity for horrific turnovers, and his shooting percentage is quite poor from mid-range[...] The more resigned I become to to the fact he would probably be included in a trade for Melo, the more I just wish that Knicks fans could be the ones to see what he’ll become.

But the riddle of this trade ultimately boils down to the riddle that is Corey Brewer. Save for a brief three months last winter, he’s never been able to shoot. He is a terrifying ball-handler. His layups are thrilling in the way that suddenly losing altitude in an airplane (and you already hate flying anyway, because of the strange air and the lonely, plastic, post-cultural way that airports feel) is thrilling. He thrives on creating chaos but often becomes so lost in that same chaos. And speaking of “horrific turnovers,” we’ve surely seen our fair share.

But, as I mentioned yesterday, Corey was also my favorite player on the Wolves, and had been for a while. No other Wolf since KG has played with such righteous fire–not to mention had anywhere near the success guarding the League’s really dynamic perimeter scorers. Even while enduring the endless losses, the unwarranted benchings, the stretches of dreary, fractured play, Corey held on to traces of that same proud desire that won him and his Florida teammates two straight national titles. His awkward recklessness sure did make scoring an adventure, but was also beautifully goofy and wild and joyful. These things will not be easily replaced.

Benjamin Polk

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2 responses to Corey Brewer, an appreciation

  1. “On the other hand, one wonders at the wisdom of the Wolves–an extraordinarily bad defensive team, remember–trading one of their only verifiable NBA defenders for a guy who has payed only fleeting attention to the discipline and had played the entirety of his young career for literally the two least-interested defensive coaches in the league (especially when he is likely to cut into the playing time of Anthony Tolliver, the Wolves other genuine defender).”

    One of the biggest reasons Randolph struggled to get minutes for Nellie is that defense was the only thing he excelled at. Nellie would randomly start him and he’d get 6 blocks in 22 minutes and then be right back under 10 minutes a game. The reason for his benching invariably was his poor perimeter shooting. It was the same situation with D’Antoni– if you’re a big man who can’t shoot from the perimeter, D’Antoni is not a fan.

    Randolph pays much more than “fleeting attention” to defense, and to suggest otherwise makes me think you haven’t watched him that much.

  2. However, Randolph is indeed a huge project: a turnover waiting to happen who’s entire offensive game is based around perimeter Js that he can’t hit consistently. He did show a lot of promise as a free throw shooter last year, which bodes well for him eventually being a good shooter.

    Considering his age and tools, he’s still a much more interesting prospect than Darko. AR is a prototypically good player for Rubio to play alongside– he’ll create turnovers, run the floor, finish lobs. If we actually want to build a run and gun, exciting team, we need more guys like AR and less like Pekovic and Darko.

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