Kings 106, Timberwolves 103: Revisionist history

Zach Harper —  April 15, 2014 — 11 Comments

GorguiAward

Somewhere in the story of this late-season road loss to the Sacramento Kings is the story line to the Minnesota Timberwolves’ season.

The story lines of this Wolves’ season have been fascinating. They’re constantly evolving and being forgotten as something new to focus on comes along. And yet, as the story lines change, they’re largely telling the same tale. This is a weirdly good team that finds ways to not have consistent success. And that in fact makes people think this team is bad, even though they’re really not. They’re neither bad nor good. They excel and fail at the same time. They’re basically a neutral team, which in the Western Conference is considered a bad team.

But mostly it’s just not good enough. The viewpoints on the Wolves are ultimately contradictory because they force the narrative to play this way. One day the team makes sense; the next day it doesn’t. Blame coaching. Blame a lack of leadership amongst the players in the locker room. Blame B. Wright for screaming at fans to kiss and then pretending they’ve gone too far as he’s plugging quarters to keep the screen up.

Regardless of what you want to believe about this team, there are days when you’re vindicated for your opinion and days in which this team will vilify you for thinking such things. The revisionist history with this team is every evolving and always fascinating.

There were three thoughts that occurred to me in this game:

1) Where are the people freaking out about the Derrick Williams-Luc Richard Mbah a Moute trade after this game?

2) I’m not so sure the Gorgui Dieng-Kevin Love combination is as perfect (yet) as people pretend.

3) It’s a game like this one in which you miss Nikola Pekovic the most.

The trade that was a mistake for a night

Remember when Derrick Williams had a pretty cool revenge game here in Minneapolis a short while ago? The story line after that game was all about how the Wolves made a huge mistake because they dealt potential of fitting a different puzzle for the type of role player they needed but hadn’t figured out how to play yet (if they ever do, which I think they will). Williams had shown the Wolves, and then anybody who has paid attention to his career could see the next lull of production hit his game logs, like the tease he’s been since entering the league.

I don’t mean for this to come off so negative about Williams. I still believe he can work in this league but I don’t believe it could have happened for this team. I also think Mbah a Moute is a better player than Williams because he has a definite skill you can utilize — defense. Mbah a Moute outplayed Williams Sunday night in the loss, but I didn’t see anybody tweeting about how the trade was no longer a mistake. I’m curious as to why we didn’t get this revisionist reaction to the revisionist history that followed their previous meeting. Is it because of the players involved or was it because the season is dead or have we just moved on?

The Love-Dieng combination

In theory, Gorgui and Kevin seem like a match made in positional heaven. Love is the otherworldly scoring stretch-4 who badly needs someone to cover his back on defense and Dieng is a center who looks to have the potential to do all of those things. And yet, the numbers aren’t exactly pretty when the two of them are out there together. The Love-Dieng combination The Wolves put up an offensive rating of 104.7 and a defensive rating of 104.1 when these two are on the floor together.

The majority of their time together has come in March and April with the Wolves putting up a net rating of plus-1.3 in 187 minutes in March and a minus-2.9 in 130 minutes in April. The defense actually hasn’t been any better with Love and Dieng together. Of course, there is plenty of context to be had in these numbers. Dieng is still very green as a rookie so to expect him to come out there and be the force now that he’ll be in four years is unfair. But it’s interesting how far he has to go as a player even though he’s assumed (myself included) by many as the perfect complement to Love. In reality, it will be some time before he’s actually the player the Wolves need him to be next to Love (assuming they can get him to stay, of course).

In comparison, Love and Pek had a defensive rating of 102.8 to go with their offensive rating of 111.0 in their time together this season. The Wolves had a net rating of plus-8.2 with these two on the floor in 1,318 minutes together. As we’ve discussed before, Pek should still be the man next to Love with a healthy dose of developing Dieng mixed in.

I miss you, Pek

Gorgui had a solid game but he was dominated by DeMarcus Cousins. This is where you miss Pek the most. Pek has frustrated Cousins on many occasions and handles his strength quite nicely. I miss Pekovic for a lot of reasons but seeing Cousins do whatever he wanted against Dieng was a little tough to watch. However, baptism by fire in the NBA can be a good thing and it seems like Dieng does a great job of adapting to what works and what doesn’t work from one game to the next. Soon, he’ll be able to turn those into quarter-by-quarter and possession-by-possession adjustments.

It just isn’t going to happen yet.

Zach Harper

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11 responses to Kings 106, Timberwolves 103: Revisionist history

  1. I also took note of the lack of trade haters. I don’t understand why some people expect a trade to be perfect right away or else it is a failure.

  2. Williams is not perfect, far from it, but it was the media like your site who were way unfair to him. I never saw in my life a fan base hate a young player as much as your fan base and your media did.

  3. @Zach

    PROOF PROVES NOTHING!

    Williams was doomed to fail, he was never going to be able to play the 3, and never take minutes from Love. The problem with that draft was every pick 1-10 was a PG, PF, or C. The 3 established positions for the wolves. Kawhi or Klay Thompson would have been ideal, but nobody thought they should go top 2. That draft was a no win unless they had traded the pick.

    Even if they had traded it Williams probably would have gone somewhere that was set up for him to succeed and we would always hear about how awful it was to trade that pick.

  4. Fan base hatred for Rick Adelman not “giving Williams a chance!!!!!” >>>>>>> fan base hatred for Williams. Last year, a fan poll would’ve probably resulted in them favoring keeping Williams over Love. What’s their excuse for him now?

    As for any revisionist history, the only thing that concerns me is taking the right player, even if that player isn’t the consensus guy at that spot. Sometimes it works (Westbrook) better than others (Tristan Thompson, Waiters), but that’s what matters. This is all that needs to be known about consensus picks: Michael Beasley was the consensus #2 and O.J. Mayo the consensus #3 in a draft that features at least a dozen players who have had better pro careers than them. Remember when “Love vs. Mayo” was considered a debate, or when they were running crunchtime plays for Beasley instead of Love?

  5. I’ve always had the same mentality for any draft…draft the best player available (according to your board), regardless of position. That is why I didn’t mind the pick of Williams. if the Timberwolves would have drafted 1st that draft, according to my draft “strategy”, they would have drafted Kyrie Irving even with Rubio on roster. Whether they pan out or not isn’t really the question. If you have 2 players that are able to successfully fulfill the same position so be it. Time will tell with any player and if they don’t pan out with you, cut your losses. It’s all you can do. If you draft for a specific position you’re doomed to shoot yourself in the foot and destined to become mediocre.

  6. People really need to turn the page on the whole Derrick Williams thing. Seriously. It didn’t work out for him here. That’s fine. There doesn’t need to be some all-encompassing, underlying reason. He wasn’t getting done what the team needed him to do. There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s nobody’s fault. Let’s move on. Good for him getting a chance somewhere else and good for the Wolves for not trying to make it work any longer when it was painfully obvious it wasn’t working. And I’m sorry but there was never a time when the fan base would have chosen him over Kevin Love. That’s crazy talk. And the comment about never seeing a fan base treat a young player so harshly – really??? Paul Grant. Stojko Vrancovic. Ndudi Ebi. Johnny Flynn. Michael Beasley. Marko Jaric. Really the list is endless of people who were under more scrutiny…and that is only the Timberwolves. Perspective, it does a body good.

  7. @gjk

    You are right! Adeleman single handedly destroyed Williams’s career, the kid(He is only 22) has handled it with class and said nothing bad about that old fart but if it was me I would be pissed with him, remember Williams in college? He was a man among boys, fast forward to his first year in the NBA and Adeleman happened, the kid is a shell of himself with his confidence shot. Shabaz will have the same fate under Adeleman if he stays. And some fans say it is all basketball and nothing personal, bullshit. They traded him for a player that had zero impact on the team, at least with Williams you know he could erupt for a 30 point game and help a team that was few games out of the playoff win few more games. You never know, with Williams the team may have been able to get to the playoffs, especially on nights when the whole bench managed to score few points.

  8. That’s not what I was referring to. Fan hatred toward Adelman’s handling of Williams was far more noticeable than any hatred of Williams. I disagree with every single part of your comment; it was insane of people to think they should keep Williams instead of Love, and Williams’ performance with the Kings is proving Adelman more right with every game.

    Adelman put Williams in a great situation to succeed from the start, playing him off the bench with Rubio, who could make him look better through alleyoops, and he still loafed on defense and floated on offense. Every time Love was out with an injury, Williams became a starter. His numbers when Love was out are identical to or worse than his numbers for the season overall, and he was outplayed by Anthony Randolph and Dante Cunningham. Now, he has a chance in Sacramento, yet there are no signs he’s breaking out. He started 71 games with the Wolves and played with unselfish teammates who were willing to give him the ball as long as he didn’t grind the offense to a halt and played hard. He didn’t do either of those things. That’s his fault, not the coach’s.

  9. Im not sure who wrote that pre ncaa tournament article on here about who to look for in the tournament, but i cant find it and am assuming it was deleted because of how bad the analysis was. I was going to make another comment on it asking his thoughts on shabazz now after the tournament. There was one sentence given on him and basically said ‘i dont like him or his game’. Insane.

    As a diehard wolves and uconn fan (rare breed) i hope we get shabazz in 2nd round (he’ll probly go late first) and he becomes the floor leader of our second unit. Cannot wait to get rid of Barea and Chase. i dont want two shabazz’s on my 2nd unit i NEED two shabazz’s on my second unit.

  10. Shabazz Napier would be an awesome second PG. Barea needs to be traded stat.

    Pek plays well against a very specific type of player (big strong guys who try to out-strong him). He reminds me more than a little bit of Strong Mad.

    But Dieng is a better long term fit because the things that Pek can do and can’t do are all but fixed, whereas Dieng has a lot of tools and is still in his upward trajectory. Plus I’ve never seen Pek swat shots at the rim like Dieng the second coming of Mutombo.

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