Running to fail: Wolves on the break
The possibility of the Wolves indulging in Nellie-ball has the internets a-buzzing. First, at Truehoop today, Zach shows himself to be somewhat ambivalent on the Wolves’ plans to push the pace. Here’s an interesting tidbit:
To say Wolves fans just want to see up-tempo basketball seems to be extremely shortsighted. I think Wolves fans are willing to settle for up-tempo basketball if the wins aren’t going to be pouring in any time soon. If up-tempo basketball is going to make the Wolves more competitive than they were last season, I think it’s something we’d all settle for…If anything, this concept of the fans wanting to see faster paced basketball with Ricky Rubio running the show seems more like a marketing tool than a strategy for turning the Wolves around right now. It’s rebranding the image of a poor product.
That it may be. Over at NBA Playbook, the indefatigable Sebastian Pruiti goes to his usual lengths to examine whether the Wolves really are built to run. Some of his conclusions make easy sense: Ricky Rubio is an elite open floor passer; Kevin Love’s great rebounding, outlet passing and trailing threes make him an ideal forward for a fast break team. Some are a bit more intriguing. For instance: although Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph are blessed with size and athletic ability, their poor decision making makes them below average transition players (although I’m thinking now about AR’s high-dribbling, no-passing end-to-end forays and I’m less surprised).
Finally, at The Point Forward, Zach Lowe discusses why, despite their fast pace, last year’s Wolves were such a bad transition team (though the Wolves led the league in pace of play, transition trips accounted for only 10.8% of their possessions, eighth worst in the league). First, he points to turnovers, which we’ve discussed. But then he drops this:
The Wolves are taking a lot of really terrible shots really quickly in their half-court offense. This is another way to “play fast,” and the Wolves were awful at it…A team’s shooting percentage tends to go down as the clock ticks from 24 to zero, so shooting early is good in theory. But it appears the Wolves are doing it in the worst way possible — by taking irresponsible, quick shots out of their half-court system and failing to work the clock for better ones.
Anyone who watched the Wolves play last year knows that this is indisputably true.
And then there’s one more fascinating fact. Many of the teams who played at the slowest pace actually ran more and did it more efficiently than the Wolves. Asks Lowe, “What in the world is happening here? Perhaps the simplest explanation is best: Better teams have better and smarter players who understand when to run and how to run effectively.”
Right on. I’d also point this out. Four of the teams that Lowe mentions as being among the best at playing in transition despite their slow pace (the Heat, Bulls, Grizzlies and Celtics) are in the top ten in the league in defensive efficiency. It turns out that if you want to score on the break, it helps to make the other team miss.