Warriors 102, Wolves 86: Missing Pieces

Early in Minnesota’s 102-86 loss to the Golden State Warriors, Andrew Bogut was hobbling up and down the floor. It was unclear what was wrong at the time, but it was clear he needed to be taken out. Swiftly, new Golden State head coach Steve Kerr moved to put in backup Festus Ezeli. Bogut would not return to the game.

Golden State came into to the game already a man down, having lost David Lee to a hamstring injury during the Warriors’ season opener. This was not an ideal situation for the Warriors, who have faced the consequence of injury struggles come playoff time the past couple years.

Tonight, however, the Warriors faced off against a Timberwolves team that, when fully healthy, is probably still a worse team than Golden State was short-manned. But Minnesota isn’t healthy right now.

Andrew Wiggins is *knocks on wood* one of the few opening day starters to remain healthy early on this season. He had one of his better games tonight, converting more of his mid-range jumpers and getting to the line (the absence of Andrew Bogut probably helped in that regard).

After Wiggins, it was tough to find a guy that had played well for 4 quarters. Shabazz Muhammad looked good when he got out there, but was limited in his minutes due to an ankle issue Flip didn’t want to take a chance on.

The Timberwolves clearly long for the return of their missing pieces. Ricky Rubio most of all. Whether you look at the stats: 19 turnovers, including 6 for the team’s lone “point guard” Zach LaVine, or go by the eye test, which was even less pleasing on the eyes, it was clear the team needed a calming force with some passing ability. Mo Williams (who was also out tonight) has been able to do that to a certain extent, but as Flip Saunders said after the game, the Wolves “miss their creator”.

“When you look at a team, and take away their creative player, they’re going to struggle,” Saunders said. “We’ve lost our creative player, but also our big and our scorer.”

Obviously, the big he was referring to was Nikola Pekovic, but they’ve also been without Ronny Turiaf for even longer, making life extra difficult for Gorgui Dieng to start his sophomore season. It’s made life tough on young guys like Gorgui, Wiggins and LaVine, but it’s also put added responsibility on vets like Brewer and Thad Young. This is responsibility players of their caliber should not have to carry, but are forced to due to the circumstances.

Obviously, the hope is all this will help the team in the long run. There’s nothing fun about guys getting hurt, but that’s the hope.

With a full, healthy lineup, the Wolves were predicted to be a best-case 30-ish win team. Without Rubio, Pekovic, and Martin, where does that leave them? For now, it leaves them at 4-16. Portland on Wednesday.

A couple final notes:

  • Flip also said Pek is still about 10 days away from coming back. Ricky Rubio is looking like he won’t be back until around January.
  • Flip was noticeably frustrated with Zach LaVine’s play on the offensive and defensive end tonight. Obviously, he will continue to give the rookie a break, as he’s playing way more than he was supposed to this early on, but any coach is going to get frustrated with some of the plays LaVine was making tonight. In fact, Flip mentioned specifically LaVine’s tendency to stop, jump mid-air and not know whether to shoot or pass. Sound familiar?
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10 Responsesso far.

  1. gjk says:

    I’m trying to remember who you’re referring to…Shved? LaVine and Shved are more similar than different, though that may end up not being all bad.

    The Warriors provide the latest model of rebuilding without top-5 picks (besides getting Bogut in a trade). They scooped up Curry with the 7th pick, got Thompson at 11 a few years later, traded Ellis for Bogut (Ellis and Curry were super fun to watch though), got Green in the 2nd round, and got creative with the cap in order to make an offer to Iguodala. They’ve done this despite tanking to keep their pick in 2012 and then taking Harrison Barnes, drafting Ekpe Udoh over Greg Monroe/Gordon Hayward/Paul George, and wasting all that money on David Lee. Franchises don’t have to go the OKC/Houston route to become elite, as Dallas, the Warriors, and Memphis are proving now. There’s also room for a few mistakes if the team develops their talent well, searches for the right additions in trades and free agency, and hires a good coach.

  2. farnorth says:

    Well I would say as far as “does not know whether to shot it or pass it”. I am going with D Will.

    I am not sure in what ways LaVine and Shved are similar other than the third letter in both of their names is a V. Shved has no athleticism, couldn’t dunk a doughnut and probably couldn’t guard a mannequin.

  3. brady skog says:

    The third missing piece is being consistent on offense and defensive side of the ball.

    What passes or shots should you take, will be different during the first and fourth quarters. That will show maturity by letting others guys know, HEY, I’m FO REAL! I can play with or better than these other guys. GIVE ME THE BALL, THE ROCK, move over this my house, my lane…..HHOoOwWLl…Gotta love it…

  4. gjk says:

    http://tinyurl.com/l6ftcns

    Shved has 24 dunks in his NBA career (I know they don’t have the same athleticism, but I’m just disproving the idea that he can’t “dunk a donut”). Their similarities: guys with good shooting form but below-average results, guys who can dribble well but not run an offense, guys who make good-looking passes but turn the ball over a lot, guys who can get into the lane but aren’t always sure what to do when they’re there. Again, this isn’t necessarily a dig; Shved’s main problem is that he’s soft and lazy, which LaVine isn’t. Plus, Shved was 24 as a rookie, which puts him in a different development category.

  5. Brandon says:

    “guys who can dribble well but not run an offense”

    gjk, LaVine is a 19 year old rookie. If you think he is going to come into the NBA and magically run a young, injury riddled NBA team then your expectations are unreasonable and you need to be patient. As for his shooting stroke, we know he can shoot it. His shots just haven’t been falling in the small sample size that we have seen so far, but in no way does that mean he will have poor shooting results in his career.

    LaVine has already made reasonable progress in terms of overall development and taking care of the ball since the season started, and at this point that is all you can expect. Shved never really improved as a player, and it could be argued that he regressed in his time here.

    On a separate note, I think once Ricky is healthy it would be a good idea to play Zach at the 2 along side of him. I’ve always thought that Zach was more of a 2 than a 1, and it would be interesting to see how he plays in that kind of a role.

  6. gjk says:

    Never a missed opportunity to stick up for LaVine. I’m just evaluating what he is currently doing and comparing it to what Shved has done in his career. Right now, at his current age, in this NBA season, his playing style looks a lot like Shved’s. Right now, no matter what he might do in the future, he can’t run an NBA offense, something he showed even when everyone but Rubio was healthy. Even if/when he improves, his shot form and his offensive strengths/weaknesses will probably be similar to Shved’s; the difference will just be the level of production. Many have compared LaVine’s playing style to Jamal Crawford; Shved has a similar playing style and is just much worse at playing it.

  7. rdb says:

    I am a Boston Celtics and Wolves fan, so it has been a rough few years. At least, there is some level of optimism however as guys like Wiggins, Bennett, Rubio could be a core in the future. I think the Wolves have a pretty solid 1, 3 and 4 man with those 3 guys. (possibly even a Center if Dieng continues improvement) — fairly decent core of players overall (providing defense, offense , pretty good shooting, etc.) Shooting guards are actually not as hard to find; so that will be great if all players continue to get better and continue to bring a good attitude about playing the game the right way. They can find a fairly solid SG somewhere.

    However guys like Lavine and Muhammed…they will be out of MN in 2-3 years. They may continue to get better and better and in that regard they will be too good to play here in this market (Lavine already is too cool for school at nineteen).

    Muhammed has been pretty good and showed big improvement in his game and his body over the last year and a half, but he too will want to leave. I would be shocked to see him or Lavine in a Wolves uniform in 3 years.

    Hopefully Pekovic actually makes it to the court at some point… is able to put in a month’s worth of good basketball (ha! –funny stuff huh? Like he could actually play basketball for a month in a row)…and then the Wolves find a buyer that is looking to get swindled (as they desperately need a Center). I can only dream someone would take on Pekovic and his awful contract.

    They do need to make sure they get rid of a chunk of their roster though…(Brewer, Budinger, Martin)…trade them so you can play guys like Glenn Robinson, Muhammed and continue to tank so you can (ONCE AGAIN) for the 10th straight year, hope you can hit on a top level pick.

    To pick up on other comments: the only way a team would actually play Shved is if they were looking to tank the season. The Sixers (obviously) are looking to do that and that could be the only reason they want him playing major minutes. Shved is AWFUL.

  8. Brandon says:

    rdb, I think at least one or both of LaVine and Shabazz will stay. If Wiggins develops into a star in the league, which many think he will, then they will want to stay and play with him. The NBA is a players league. When the wolves had KG, they had no problem finding players who wanted to play along side him. The vibes I’m getting from LaVine and Shabazz is that they want to win. If the wolves win with Wiggins, Rubio, Dieng and the rest of their core, then they will want to stay. Also, as I’m sure you know, they will both be restricted free agents at the end of their contracts (assuming they don’t get extended before they end) so if the wolves want them to stay, then they will stay.

  9. Pyrrol says:

    Confused by this Shved LaVine talk. As far as I could tell, Shved was acquired as a traditional shooting guard. It quickly became clear his shot would never allow him to be a pure shooting guard. The silver lining is we had troubles at point, and he ended up having some level of natural passing ability. Couldn’t run an offense, and that’s fine, he’s not a point guard.

    LaVine is a mystery guard. As far as I can tell he was drafted on potential, not because his role is clear. To me he looks like a slightly small but very athletic shooting guard, but Flip was interested in teaching him point even before our injuries. His shot looks better than Shved’s already, he has a natural ‘scorer’s feel’ (thus the Crawford thing) and is much faster and better at jumping than Shved. LaVine projects to be at least competent at either guard position someday, whereas Shved will never be competent at either. LaVine is young and cocky, but a hard worker, whereas Shved looked clueless and listless, never seemed to learn or adjust. Shved came in with lots of Euro experience and older than LaVine is currently. LaVine played in a limited role one season at UCLA. Yet, LaVine looks better prepared for the NBA than Shved did.

    I think the main difference here is LaVine is has some talent and Shved has very little. I’m not trying to pick on Shved, but he just wasn’t graced with the level of NBA talent LaVine was. Lets hope LaVine can make use of it.

  10. farnorth says:

    I am sure this will be addressed in a future AWAW blog but I wanted to get the ball going here among the faithful.

    Flip’s plan to throw the towel in on the season and wholesale trade as many vets as he can for future assets. I hate this plan, yeah if somehow some way we could get out from under the horrible Pek contract (because he is so unreliable health wise) I would be all for it. But with Dieng already the main center Pek is just going to have to be an expensive back up. Since Gorgui is still on his rookie deal that’s not going to hurt the money we have into that position as if we had to also go out and try to find a starter via free agency.

    But just because this year has been a bust due to injuries is not a reason to empty the roster and go the 76’s route. Brewer showed us all last night why you need veterans on your team. Look at the Mav’s the Spurs, the Cavs, even the Wiz a lot of much older that most of our vets making contributions to winning teams. We will need vets next year if we are going to be competitive. Why not the ones we have now?

    Sure if we can move a piece here or there, a Budinger for a real backup PG, but who ever we end up trading it has to be because it fits a system. Churning the roster over and over again as we have done these past 10 years has neted nothing so far. It has been 10 years of spinning our wheels never establishing anything because we never stick with anything long enough to build anything.

    Flip said we need to be patient. I am not sure who he is talking to. It can’t be Wolves fans since we’ve already been that for a decade. How about we the fans turn that around on the current leadership and say to them “be patient” build with what you have move players only because of fit. Wait for the injured to come back, refine your offensive scheme get as many players on the same page as you can and grow from within.

    I am tired of being sold hope in the same “potential” package.

    The only way we are going to take the next step as a team is if we quit taking the same steps backwards.

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