2013 Offseason

Roster Review: Luke Ridnour

82. That’s the number I want you to keep in mind.

Because it’s true that Luke Ridnour is not a starting-caliber point guard. Because he’s 31 and battling chronic back problems. Because his best season likely came three years ago for the Bucks when his PER crept up to 17.7. Because he’s never averaged more than 7.5 assists per game and did that all the way back in 2005–06. Because of his good-but-not-amazing career 43/35/87 shooting percentages.

Because Ridnour should by rights be one of the better backup point guards in the league right now but instead started every one of the Timberwolves 82 games, many of them at shooting guard.

Those 82 starts were more than Pekovic and Love combined for. That’s 59 more games than Chase Budinger played, 77 more than Brandon Roy played. He played nearly half again as many minutes as Ricky Rubio. He led the team in free throw percentage among players with at least 50 attempts. He averaged 30.2 minutes per game, good for third (among players who played at least a quarter of the season) behind Kirilenko and Pekovic—who played 18 and 20 games fewer than him, respectively. In a season marked by lineup inconsistency as the Wolves struggled to throw healthy bodies on the floor, Ridnour was an ironman, and that’s not nothing.

Anyone who complains about his shot selection or defense or basically any other aspect of his game this past season certainly has a point, but it has to be balanced with the fact that he was asked to do a job to which he is ill-suited. He’s the John Tyler, the Millard Fillmore, the Chester Arthur, the Gerald Ford of NBA guards—a second banana pressed uncomplainingly into being the top banana by circumstances beyond his control. In fact, he went out of his way to put a brave face on the Wolves’ injury woes, perhaps to a fault.

In January, when he was asked about how the injuries have hurt the team, Ridnour snapped, “You know what, I’m tired of hearing that. Guys are out, so what? Everybody’s got guys out. We’ve got to find a way to win games. Whether guys are in or out, we still have to play 48 minutes. We’re all professionals. We have to find a way to get a win.” Over at MinnPost, Britt Robson saw this as another installment of sports cliché kabuki theater, and I can see that aspect of it as well.

But coded into that burst of nose-to-the-grindstone tough talk I also see someone who’s talked himself into something trying to frame that decision using the only kind of language he’s got. In my experience with Ridnour, he’s not very forthcoming or outwardly vocal, and maybe that above quote shows why. His persistence, his floaters in the lane, his baseline fadeaways off of penetration, his midrange jumpers on baseline out-of-bounds plays, even his PUJITs: these things say more about him than he says about himself.

There’s at least a decent chance he gets moved this offseason. The Wolves have four (maybe three and a half if you think Shved can be a SG) point guards right now and desperately need a genuine wing. If he’s played his last game as a Timberwolf, there will be those who won’t miss him, who might not even notice he’s gone next season. A key part of a successful offseason for the team will mean getting a player who can do the job Ridnour’s been asked to do far better than he ever could. If he does get moved, justice would mean he lands on a contender and contributes meaningful minutes at point guard off the bench, doing what he’s always done but in a structure that makes those things sparkle and shine, rather than suffer slings and arrows.

I hope he wears #82.

Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that Ridnour started all 82 games at shooting guard. He started all 82 games and many, but not all, of them at shooting guard.

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0 thoughts on “Roster Review: Luke Ridnour

  1. I don’t think it negates your argument (namely that he toughed out starting all 82 games), but LR did not start all 82 games at shooting guard. At the start of the season he started with Brandon Roy at SG or after he went down Malcom Lee.

  2. Luke has, and will always be under-appreciated for what he does for teams. He is nowhere near all star level, but the fact that he continues to play with the same intensity no matter what is what has made Ridnour one of my favorite players since he played in Seattle.

  3. Luke Ridnour is a guy to be applauded, never derided. Few professional basketball players are able to maintain a singular focus on teamwork, sacrificing the self for the good of the team. I have no idea if it has to do with his religious bent, but I wish more athlete’s would take notice of his acceptance of being part of something more that just the self.

  4. Love the article. I have always had a soft spot for Luke. He is a grinder. Does more than what he is paid for and doesnt make excuses. I know he will probably not be in a Wolves uni next year so I will be pulling for him where ever he lands. Hopefully a contender in the East. Miami wouldnt be a bad spot. Chalmers is not all that.

  5. I love Ridnour. He probably my favorite of our bench guys. I hope if they move someone it’s Barea. He seems more of a luxury to me. Barea is good if you are an established team who knows exactly who you are. If you are an up and coming team he is just too inconsistent to be useful.

    The Timberwolves don’t have the maturity, or the capacity to use the tornado yet. Right now they need the solid (i.e. not flashy) back up point guard.

  6. I agree that Luke has always done what is asked of him. I have watched him since he was in 6th grade, he has always givin the game 100%.

  7. I have always felt Luke was an underrated back up. I mean you already have your back up/ placeholder PG in Ridnour you have your young gun coming in Rubio, and the GM goes and brings in JJ? Not the SG we needed but a third PG? I really want a do over for this organization these past three years.

  8. Ridnour is a consistent shooter, and will have servicability for this team throughout the duration of his contract. he’s still clutch. and he’s a good mentor at this point in his career. Last minute runners, i’d say swinging the ball for him is a problem and also getting around guys. But that doesn’t make him a bad point guard. that makes him luke ridnour, who is gonna eat minutes on a backcourt when other weaker guys get injured. and he hits 3’s.

  9. Your article’s logic is flawed in a number of ways. It doesn’t make sense to argue that “justice would mean [Ridnour] lands on a contender and contributes meaningful minutes at point guard off the bench” after highlighting his advanced age, back issues, meager PER. In this instance, the very evidence you provide argues against your thesis.
    Also, you reference his 05-06 APG total in a misguided attempt to belittle him as a player, saying “he’s never averaged more than 7.5 assists per game.” The attempt is misguided because those 7.5 APG were good for ninth in the league that year. A top ten APG season belongs in a list of accomplishments, not a list of detriments.
    Finally, 82 players in the league missed three games or fewer this season. Playing a full season is not really a great accomplishment; it simply appears that way because of the horrible injury luck the Wolves had this year. Ridnour is no ironman.

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