2014 Offseason, Summer of Love

Wolves Bring Back Hummel, and Assorted Roster Analysis


Several random thoughts, in bullet form, on the Wolves’ re-signing of forward Robbie Hummel and what it means for the roster moving forward:

– First things first: on a personal level, I’m really happy Hummel is coming back, with a fully guaranteed contract to boot. After blowing out both knees in college and toiling in the Spanish ACB for a season, it’s nice to see him rewarded with a little bit of security. He’s affable, smart, seems like a good teammate and is great to the media (which fans may not care much about, but those of us at AWAW all appreciate it).

– As far as on-court contributions go, the general feeling is that Hummel outperformed what his offensive statistics showed during his rookie season in the NBA. He shot 38% from the field and 36% from three, averaging 10 points, 7 rebounds and 1 assist per 36 minutes. The 25-year-old Indiana native cycled in and out of the rotation somewhat, recording 5 starts but also 11 healthy DNPs. His most consistent stretch of playing time came in the final 7 games of the year, during which time he logged 26.5 minutes, scoring 8 points and pulling down 5 boards per game on 41/38/100 shooting splits.

His shot chart is pretty interesting – he had a relatively even distribution all around the court:


Hummel’s value is found in his versatility (he started a game in place of Kevin Martin, for instance, and can also play both forward spots) and his potential as a spot-up shooter. Notice I said “potential” – well over half (97 of 177) of Hummel’s shot attempts in 2013-14 were spot-up jumpers and only 36% of them found the bottom of the net. He was solid above the break (making 44% of those attempts) but struggled hitting the coveted corner shot (26%). Despite the mixed results, the coaching staff and fellow players voiced the opinion that Hummel should keep firing away when he got looks, a testament to what he must have shown in practice.

Defensively, Hummel wasn’t great. His limited foot speed left him susceptible to being beat off the dribble by faster small forwards, and his less than ideal size left him vulnerable against opposing power forwards. He offers neither rebounding (11.0% TRB%), shot blocking (2, total, in 655 minutes) or steals (less than 1 per 36 minutes). Hummel’s a so-so team defender, but if the plan is to have him replace Dante Cunningham as the backup power forward, the second unit’s defense could suffer as a whole. Speaking of roster questions…

– Here’s what the Timberwolves’ depth chart looks like, today:

Position Starter Backup Backup Backup
PG Rubio Barea LaVine
SG Martin Budinger Shved
SF Brewer Mbah a Moute Muhammad Robinson III
PF Love (for now) Hummel ?
C Pekovic Dieng Turiaf

Contracts for the above players – including an estimated (and hypothetical) $800,000 salary for Glenn Robinson III, brings the Wolves’ total to approximately $68 million, with the full Mid-Level Exception ($5.3 million) still at their disposal. The Wolves are a little thin on the front line, and figure to get even thinner when (not if) the Kevin Love deal finally goes down. Even if that trade nets them Anthony Bennett, a Hummel/Bennett mix at power forward isn’t going to cut it. Even if you hold out hope that each will improve during their sophomore campaigns, that might be one of the worst platoons at any position in the league. And while the team experimented with Dieng at power forward during summer league, it hardly seems like a viable season-long solution given his skill set.

– So, how can Minnesota address their impending frontcourt shortage? One player who is familiar with the organization and probably could be a quasi-serviceable starter, Dante Cunningham, is facing legal action and his future is uncertain.They could try to use all or part of the MLE on any number of veterans who are probably washed up (Charlie Villanueva, Antawn Jamison, Elton Brand, Al Harrington), younger players who probably deserve to get a look somewhere (Ekpe Udoh, Earl Clark) or a guy who’s a locker room cancer (I beseech ye, basketball gods, keep Andray Blatche the hell away from the Timberwolves). But none of those guys should be the team’s starting power forward. So, what then?

If Flip, Milt and the rest of the front office crew isn’t interested in any of the above names, they might be pushing for a starting-quality power forward as part of any Kevin Love deal, a sticking point that may be complicating matters with Cleveland (who wants to get rid of Bennett, not Tristan Thompson, who’d better fit the above criteria). Of course, this is all speculative. The point is, it makes sense that trading one of the best power forwards in the league would leave the team with a gaping hole at that position, but the team doesn’t currently have a 30-minute-per-game PF in its employment (other than Love), and options for finding one are beginning to look limited.

– Many wondered at the timing of the Hummel signing, which essentially filled the Wolves’ roster, even though the team will likely take back more players than the one (or possibly two) they send away in the looming Kevin Love trade. One thing to keep in mind: as a second rounder, Glenn Robinson III has no guarantees. The second thing to keep in mind: the Wolves sold two of their second round picks (numbers 44 and 53 overall) for approximately $2 million in cash, which can’t exactly be used to “sign free agents or whatever“, but CAN be used to help buy out the $3.3 million left on Alexey Shved’s contract.

Buying out Shved would help thin out the crowd in the Wolves’ backcourt, which would figure to get even more crowded if/when Andrew Wiggins arrives. It would also free a roster spot for a new arrival or a free agent to help in the frontcourt.

-Finally, the picture at the top of this piece is Robbie Hummel in the NBA2K video game, which reminds me of one of my favorite stories from the past season. Somehow, the game came up in a postgame locker room session, and Hummel commented that he had played as himself. “I was pretty disappointed, though,” he said. “I wanted to edit myself and it wouldn’t let me. I wanted to give myself Pek’s tattoos.”

We all do, Robbie. We all do.

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4 thoughts on “Wolves Bring Back Hummel, and Assorted Roster Analysis

  1. great post. I like the NBA2K anecdote. If I tried to put Pek’s dragon tat on my arm, it would look like a kitty cat. Thanks, William

  2. Mbah a Moute can play power forward as well. You could have possibly players Bennett, Mbah a Moute, Dieng and Hummel. I am not saying that this would be an optimum rotation by any means, but there are different players for different matchups.

  3. I think they could get by with what they have sans Love, but they’d probably have to stick Pek on the post-up-oriented 4s. PF is the least-meaningful position in the NBA because teams usually get such an advantage with going small there and the best players in the league are SFs who become more dangerous as stretch 4s.

    One stat that ignores context is your citing of Hummel’s rebounding %, which is basically a result of a low offensive rebounding % (5.7%) and a respectable defensive rebounding % (16.6%, which is slightly lower than Pek’s and higher than centers like Hibbert and the Lopez twins). It’d be nice if he was a better offensive rebounder, but they had a worse defensive rebounder in Cunningham at the 4 last season, and Hummel will spend most offensive possessions behind the arc and then getting back on defense when the shot goes up.

    As for the rest of the roster, I’m not assuming that it looks similar at the start of camp to what it is now. Other roster moves are contingent on a Love trade, and if that’s made, I could see at least 25% roster turnover where they end up having enough room for Robinson as well. Maybe that means a buyout, but my guess is they’ll make other trades, particularly since they have their MLE still to spend and could outbid a lot of teams for the remaining free agents if they’d take a 1-year deal (though they’ll probably only use part of it since no one worthy of the full thing is still available). They only need to get down to 15 to start the season, so if they sign Robinson, that likely indicates he’s making the roster.

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