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INBOX: One Thing I Hate About You

The title of this post is based on this movie. Have you seen it? You should. Don’t sleep on ’90s rom-coms or ’90s Julia Stiles. CELEBRATE YOUR HISTORY!

What follows is a quick deep-breath look at our 2017-18 Timberwolves roster. Specifically, instead of “10 Things I Hate About You,” we dish back-and-forth on the one thing about each member of the roster that can grate on a fan. Hence, we give you “One Thing I Hate About You: Notes from the 2017-18 Season’s First Half, the Timberwolves Edition.”

Without further ado.

Cole Aldrich: That he cannot even help the team when faced against huge centers.

Cole Aldrich

It seemed like a potential bargain when Thibs-Layden, LLC signed Cole Aldrich to a three-year contract worth about $22 Million. As it turned out, that was actually a “Kahntract,” and Cole has provided almost no useful minutes during his Timberwolves tenure. This is most disappointing because of the way the league’s biggest centers — DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard, Hassan Whiteside — give the undersized Karl-Anthony Towns fits. If, in those games, Aldrich could play even 10 or 12 minutes at the five, it might help a lot. But alas, Aldrich is unplayable. On game nights he can be found joking around and giving precisely zero fux on the end of the Wolves bench. Dude has a pretty good gig, all things considered. (-AG)

Aaron Brooks: That he’s unplayable and the Wolves have needed him to play.

Aaron Brooks

 

You’re as likely to see Aaron Brooks make an impact on NBA2K as you are in a real-life game. Jeff Teague has been injured twice this season, missing a total of 11 games. This has thrust Aaron Brooks into the lineup, and the results have been terrible. Owing to backcourt turnovers and catastrophic defense, Brooks has a net rating of (-15.6) in 153 minutes of action. Some lowlights include the home loss to Miami around Thanksgiving, when Brooks (a starter in that game, per Thibs’s initial idea to keep Tyus in the same rotational spot) was (-15) in 13:26 of action. The Wolves lost by 12; the home loss — by three points to the Wizards a few nights later when Brooks was (-6) against the Wizards’ shaky bench; the road loss to the Bucks — the one where a 20-point lead was blown — when Brooks was (-4) in just 3:34 against an abysmal Bucks bench; the 1-point road loss to the Nets, when Brooks was (-4) in 4:29 of action. In Teague’s absence the starting lineup (the “Tyus + the starters” group) has absolutely crushed the opposition. But the Wolves have only gone 6-5 in those games, in large part because of the cliff that they fall off of whenever Jones goes to the bench and Brooks comes in for a little bit of backup point guard duty.  There must be less incapable point guards in the D-League. (-AG)

Marcus Georges-Hunt: That he isn’t a primary backup wing player.

 

 

Unlike most teams in Timberwolves history, this one has more than enough playmakers on it. Like, it probably has too many, actually. In the starting lineup, Teague, Wiggins, Butler, and Towns each can, and wants to, make plays of their own, with the basketball. Off the bench, Tyus, Jamal Crawford, and Bjelica do things of their own off the dribble. Factor in the staggering that occurs — yes, even Thibs staggers a little bit — and most lineups throughout the game have at least 3 playmakers on the floor at once.  Whether the overabundance of creators is bad for the offense is arguable; they perform well offensively, after all. But what is not arguable is that they could use more defensive-minded players, especially off the bench. MGH’s defensive chops are more evident from the eye test than the NUMB#RS so far, but he does seem like a pretty good defensive player. He went toe-to-toe with Paul George and came out looking good. I’m confident that he’s substantially better than Crawford on D. I wish he could play more so that we could find out if what he brings to the table is more helpful than what his playing-time rivals do. (-AG)

Shabazz Muhammad: That he was never able to diversify his skillset.

 

“Bazz” was a player liked by most Wolves fans because he got buckets. In fact, he led the entire NBA in “points per touch” for three consecutive seasons, heading into this one. His motor always ran hot and nobody quite knew what a stint of Bazzketball would look like, except that it would involve Bazz hunting buckets like his life depended on it.  When Crawford arrived and took unofficial ownership of the team’s second unit, Bazz needed to adapt. He couldn’t. Without a very-involved offensive role and teammates focused on getting back on defense (instead of getting their own buckets, as the case is for Jamal) Shabazz seems to be unplayable. His net rating is (-20.1). If I had to bet, it would be that he’ll never sign another NBA contract. (-AG)

Nemanja Bjelica: Pure talent, fatal flaw.

(Eds. Note: The dude was allegedly Euroleague MVP, or so I’ve seen on the interwebz.)

Or, as has been adapted at A Wolf Among Wolves (trademark symbol), “Good Belly, Bad Belly.” In this case, New Belly > Old Belly. Don’t sleep. (-PJ)

Justin Patton: “Justin Patton” is the name of a player just born to kill in the G-League.

 

There isn’t much to like (or not to like) about Justin Patton until he plays an NBA game. Next! (-PJ)

Taj Gibson: Not continuing to develop into a three-and-D guy…this season.

Much love for Taj, but it was kind of uncool to tease fans with corner-3 potential in the preseason and then put it behind closed doors during the regular season. Just sayin’. (-PJ)

Gorgui Dieng: That he insists on telegraphing obvious traveling violations on catch-and-shoot opportunities. Gross.

Otherwise, Dieng is a pretty likable kind of backup player. GAME ON! (-PJ)

Jamal Crawford: His on-court performance.

It can be painful to report this, because this:

 

Nonetheless, I’m going to start with an excerpt from Britt Robson’s interview with Jim Petersen, published a few days ago at The Athletic:

Jamal is a 41.6-percent field-goal shooter and his effective field goal percentage is 48.5. Sure you would like those numbers to be a little higher. But I am just saying that his leadership, his communication and his professionalism is such a net-positive from a chemistry and locker-room standpoint.

That’s one of the things you have to think about — who is going to come in and be a positive presence in the locker room? Because chemistry is so important. You are seeing in Cleveland how a lack of chemistry can make your team kind of fall apart. Well, a Jamal Crawford can completely help the chemistry. You can see the way he connects with Jimmy Butler. During timeout situations, Jamal may not even be in the game, but he and Jimmy are talking and it isn’t about nothing, it is about the game. And you are seeing Jamal get into Wigs and Tyus and Jeff Teague. And I think from a chemistry standpoint this is one of the best locker rooms that this team has had in a long time. And that’s what Jamal brings to the table for me.

I’m open to arguments outside of the numbers on things like this. Crawford seems like the coolest person playing in the NBA today. (If you don’t believe me, just read Chris Ballard’s longform feature on J-Crossover for SI, from last October.) The positivity in the Wolves locker room should not be taken for granted and it’s possible that Crawford’s contributions in there now will pay huge dividends in the future.

But as great of a person and teammate as Crawford seems to be, he’s an on-court cancer to everything that they are explicitly trying to improve on (defense) and everything viewers know that they need to improve on (ball movement on offense). For every night that he’s hot, there’s one where he isn’t. As Jim Pete noted, he shoots a low percentage. And even when he’s shooting well, the team usually performs poorly with him on the floor. He’s an outlier in the plus/minus stats on this team. I went into this in a recent post. I can’t really say anything good about Crawford’s play this season except that his crossover dribbles are still wicked as can be and he’s a fun guy to watch when he gets cooking. I just wish it was for a different team, because now — at nearly 38 years of age — Crawford is not a winning player.  (-AG)

Patrick J, interjecting: Back to Jamal Crawford for a second: Can @POTUS name J-Crossover Ambassador-at-Large-to-a-place-we-have-shaky-relations-with-or-maybe-just-the-entire-world? Because that is the kind of diplomacy and goodwill that Jamal brings. You might not not like Crawford’s +/- rating, but please don’t hate J-Crossover’s handlez. That’s still off-limits. 

(Eds. Note: Okay, getting back on task now.)

Jimmy Butler: The original frame for this was that for each player we’d do “one thing I hate about you.” And up next is Jimmy Butler. We’re officially in dicey territory for Timberwolves fans.

What is one thing I hate about Jimmy Butler? How about that he isn’t a superman? (Extreme outstate fan’s voice: Q: “Wait, he isn’t?” A:  No, unfortunately, he is not.)

Butler gets hurt like any normal athlete, even inconveniently so–like what happened almost immediately after an extremely complimentary profile article was written whose central thesis was “Jimmy is our rock and our rock is solid because Jimmy plays through injuries.” It was solid reporting, but Jimmy just missed four games with a “bum knee.” It wasn’t his first rodeo. 

Here’s hoping we’ve seen the only issue Jimmy has with a bum of any sort this season – he’s needed all the time! (-PJ)

Jeff Teague: What he does after receiving a kick-out pass.

After catching a kick-out pass against a scrambling defense, a player has two options: Option A is to catch-and-shoot; Option B is to drive against the closing out defender, to keep it moving. “Jeff” all too often chooses Option C: stand there and start dribbling the air out of the ball. He’s a really clever player in one-on-one situations, which is why he’s made it this far in the league and just inked a three-year Kahntract worth almost $60 Million. But his style of play hinders the team’s offensive approach, which is centered around the matchup problems created by Wiggins, Butler, and especially Towns. Those kick-out passes are supposed to be Step 1 toward finding a REALLY good shot; not an invitation for Jeff to press rewind on the offensive set and start thinking about what he might do with the ball in 5 or 6 seconds. The starters’ with Tyus score 119.7 points per 100 possessions. With Jeff, they score 111.1. While some of the difference can be chalked up to sample size error (the Jones sample is only for 254 minutes) it’s painfully obvious that it’s also because Tyus makes quicker decisions and stays out of his enormously talented teammates’ way. (-AG)

Patrick J, interjecting one more time: For what it’s worth, Teague moved in with the ‘rents in Indy after signing a free-agent contract with the Pacers prior to the 2016-17 season. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s kind of consistent with Grown-Assed Man Jeff taking a liberty we’d more likely expect from college-aged Jeff.

http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/17063437/jeff-teague-living-parents-basement-season-trade-hometown-pacers

Tyus Jones: We probably won’t know what we have until it’s too late.

This feeling can sway from possession-to-possession.

 

Look, Thibs is committed in more ways than one to Jeff Teague. And, while the rotten didacticism of saying “Look!” multiple times in one player’s write-up isn’t lost on me, it’s also a possible indicator that we have a problem here. Ty Jones is sort of like the new K-Love–the advanced stats love him, but coaches and fans are divided about how to use him. Unlike previous Wolves coaches with Love, Jones serves at the pleasure of Thibs. The pecking order is clear. And Thibs has all but called (some) analytics that make Jones look superb all but “fake news.” Truth be told, my personal opinion is that Tyus Jones is currently what he looks like–an excellent backup point guard who provides some healthy competition not only to opposing teams but also to his own team’s incumbent starter, the aforementioned “Jeff Teague.” So for “One Thing We Hate About Tyus,” it’s more about hating the game than the player. One of Jones’ greatest strengths right now is how little is known about what his actual ceiling is. Despite it being a current strength, it would be a negative if that’s what continues to hold appeal in future seasons. Jones deserves a chance to continue to prove himself and play bigger minutes in the Wolves’ rotations. (-PJ)

Andrew Wiggins: Free-throw shooting.

Seriously, wtf? We’re 52 games in, and Wig is still under 64 percent from the free-throw line. His first three seasons were almost identical at 76 percent each. I’m legitimately worried that this might not get better. (-AG)

Karl-Anthony Towns: That he consistently passes up good looks from three.

 

 

Okay, you got us–the video doesn’t portray the “gripe” above perfectly. But it is “Karl” coming of age as “KAT” in an awkwardly choreographed YouTube video from when he was 13. (Eds. Note: Don’t say that we at AWAW never give the people what they need.)

There isn’t much to hate with KAT these days. A couple months ago, this answer would’ve been “DEFENSE” in all caps. Miraculously, he’s gone from terrible to “pretty good” in a short period of time. Hopefully he continues to progress on that front, but even now he’s quite good on both ends. Sometimes he finds himself at the top of the key and open for three. He thinks about taking the shot, but doesn’t. He should. He’s hitting a clean 40 percent from downtown and I get a sense his accuracy would only increase (however negligibly) with more frequent attempts. He could shoot (at least) 5 per game instead of the 3.7 he’s averaging now. This is a minor quibble – KAT’s been fantastic and is a deserving All-Star. (-AG)

Tom Thibodeau: Indiscriminate screaming.

Thibs is an equal-opportunity screamer. “ICE!” “DO YOUR JOB!” “ICE!” “DO YOUR JOB!”

Of all the things we hate, Thibs’ frequent penchant for rough talk, in-game, at high decibel levels, is right up there. But to some degree, you’ve gotta let Thibs be Thibs.

 

Thibs has the Wolves doing their jobs this season at an unprecedented rate, and so far it has been effective, if unusual. (-PJ)

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7 thoughts on “INBOX: One Thing I Hate About You

  1. Haha, this is a fun idea, the thing you hate most about each Wolf…

    Cole: There isn’t a reason to play him. We have a lot of bigs, but the one thing that we need in that dept is a big body to stick of the Steven Adamses of the world for some minutes. Cole isn’t husky enough to fill that need. And he’s not skilled enough to steal a moment from Gorgui or KAT. I look at him like this: Before he came here he had a good season in an ideal situation for him, so he looked better than he is. At the same time, he’s not as unplayable as Thibs makes him seem. If Thibs could play only 5 guys he would. He’s not very open to finding ways for flawed guys to contribute. On some other teams Cole would get useful minutes.

    Brooks: That he’s on our roster. Simply stated, we should have a better 3rd PG. It’s a pretty important bench position.

    Hunt: That he’s not more talented. I like his mentality, and think if he gets more playing time he’ll get better. But he’s not a real gifted guy. He works hard, plays right, but isn’t a natural scorer, great athlete, or even a naturally instinctual defender (though that’s his focus). He’s getting minutes on a Thibs team sometimes–that’s likely overachieving for him.

    Shabazz: He can’t learn. He is what he is. He’s totally instinct. He doesn’t add anything, get any better. In some ways, for this reason (and the fact that D is one of the things he can’t learn) he doesn’t deserve playing time. On the other hand, he is a warm body and a shot of O energy, so calling him unplayable might be harsh. In the tiny, junk minutes he’s played it’s pretty unfair to look too deep into his -20 net rating. I think he should get more minutes for the heck of it.

    Bjelly: The lingering fear his confidence will crash. I guess that’s good Bjelly bad Bjelly put another way. He’s junk when he’s not confident and is hesitant. He’s a real nice bench piece when he’s beaming with confidence. I’m always sweating about it because it seems so easy to throw his confidence totally off the rails.

    Gibson: Nothing. He’s played great for us, better than I dared hope. I think the closest thing is that his tough guy style down low gives Thibs an excuse to have Towns on the perimeter for whole possessions at a time. Sort of saying ‘Taj got it’ in regard to our entire paint/post game. We should not use Taj as an excuse to not have KAT on the block and we could have Taj wander around a bit more. But he’s a big reason we are as good as we are.

    Deing: That he doesn’t excel as a bench player. He just doesn’t play that well in the 2nd unit. Part of that is that it’s flawed, but at very least you have Tyus feeding you and running the O well. He’s paid like someone who should kill benches, who should have an advantage on a 2nd team, but he doesn’t play that way. Big overpay and doesn’t look like that’s going to change.

    Crawford: His career-long insistence that D isn’t for him. He basically treats any form of basketball like a for his own fun pick up game, with mostly one-on-one focus and little effort or organization on D. I hate that. He’s too talented to play like that. He’s a freak, talent-wise, in that he can basically play improper, pickup game style basketball in the NBA and have a really nice career. If he were less talented as a pure scorer this would never fly. If Jamal was one tick less talented as a scorer he may have developed a more disciplined game and have been a starter or even an frequent All Star in his career. Thanks for the SI link, I was just wondering why people fawn over him as a person. The way he treats fans is really amazing and I admire that.

    Butler: That he’s a giant alpha dog band-aid. Jimmy can’t turn it off. He gets the last second shots, he runs everything through him, he barks the orders, he takes the heat… Everything that was wrong with KAT and esp Wiggins is now trust on Jimmy’s shoulders, shielding them from criticism, growth and responsibility they should be carrying. Otherwise, beyond a surprisingly slow start, Jimmy has been wonderful. I guess my close second thing I hate about him is his fairly ugly game that relies heavily on forcing refs to blow the whistle. I dislike players that are too reliant on that, makes the game worse, and Jimmy pushes it at times.

    Teague: That he doesn’t run the offense right. I don’t even mean our specific offense. He just doesn’t run team offense well at all, and as a PG I consider that his #1 job. I also hate his D. It is like boot licker D. He does just enough (esp w steals) to look like he’s doing something on that end. He’s not. He’s a giant reason we give up massive fg%s. He’s a huge reason teams rain 3’s on us with such success. I also dislike his attitude. I dislike that he basically replaced Rubio because he’s a better scorer, but he’s super mediocre in this respect. He might be my most hated Wolf. But the # 1 thing that drives me nuts is how awful he runs the offense compared to Tyus. However, his D may be even more damaging to the team. Not sure. Come playoff time, neither is going to look good.

    Jones: His uneven scoring, particularly missing good three looks. This will get better, already is. But as of now, I think his scoring inconsistency, and his lack of 1 on 1 scoring skills hold back ThibsTrust (R) from him. But he’s more than a solid bench PG. He’s already as good (in my mind) of an overall player as Teague, maybe better. That’s impressive.

    Wiggins: His lack of intensity and focus. He’s never going to be an intense, hyper competitive, alpha, resourceful type player. His focus will always be wavering, rare. He will never be a leader. He won’t think to plant and dunk often enough. He’ll shrug off what he could have done better. He’ll never be a perfectionist. Given his talent, this is a very frustrating truth to have to come to terms with. The free throw thing is weird (I think related to the focus thing) but should work itself out to a degree.

    KAT: That he doesn’t insist in the post with extreme aggression. I’m not sure how much Thibs draws up when to be where for him. Maybe he is behind Karl floating on the perimeter so much (too much). So maybe it’s not fair to demand he go down there way more. But with his natural ability to dominate down there, I think if he brought more aggression on the block, we would find himself down there more and be a bigger star. Related, yes, if he didn’t hesitate on 3’s he would get his looks there faster and be able to spend more time scoring in the post and sucking up O rebounds and tip ins. And he would score more. But I’m really happy with KAT and he’s shown impressive progress on D, unlike many on the roster.

    Thibs: There isn’t one word for it, but his lack of flexibility and creativity. He has the most closed minded and boring outlook you could imagine from a head coach. He’s so stubborn. Being right or riding your wrong decision anyway is a way of life for the guy. I don’t like people like that, in any field. He wouldn’t like players to be like that (if they were they’d be like Shabazz and add nothing as players, evolve in no way). Why is it OK for him? Yeah, the swearing is also so silly. It’s unprofessional. It’s pointless. It’s embarrassing. I also hate his inflated rep around the league that allows him to get away with so much, to go so unquestioned by many (not fans, though). It allowed him to get a giant coach/pobo contract here. Even if you think he’s a wonderful coach, giving one guy a giant contract for both roles is too much power. I also dislike his total mediocrity and even incompetence in X and O, drawn up play kind of coaching. This aspect of him really surprised me. You expect someone as obsessive as he is to be good at that aspect of the game. He isn’t. Overall, one of my most hated things about the team. Oh, almost forgot, he does everything he can to make us boring to watch.

    Wolves: That I don’t like cheering for this team more even though they are doing well. I added an overall team category. It’s so weird. I’ve been a pretty intense fan for a pretty long time. I’ve been through tough times (RAMBISSSS). I’ve been waiting to be good for so long! And here we are, coming up towards the All Star break as the 4th seed in the West, one game out of the 3rd seed. And I’m like, meh. I’m having about the same amount of fun as I would following the team last year or the year before. Some nights I think less fun… It’s weird. I try to explain it. I have some good theories, but it still feels so surreal. It’s hard to imagine a team winning this much and being this not fun to follow. Not that they aren’t somewhat fun to follow… But there is a discrepancy with how much they win and how enjoyable they are and it’s not going away. Maybe the playoffs will cure it!

  2. OK, I’ll give it a go. Cole its his contract. If he was getting the minimum, he would be OK as a local caravan guy. Brooks that we couldn’t afford a legit backup. Patton isn’t Kuzma. Hunt is the face of Thibs bench for years to come due to max contracts coming. Baz will never be Giannis. Belly has little fire in his. Gibson isn’t KG (but who is?) Dieng isn’t Gobert. Crawford isn’t a better PG Butler isn’t clone-able. Teague $19 million reasons. Tyus: He isn’t going to be Chris Paul Jr. Wiggins doesn’t play Toronto or Cleveland every night. KAT A Talent, C student. Thibs Overrated and Wolves draft history. For years, we complained that the lottery screwed us and then let great players get taken after we pick. We have two #1 draft picks and neither elevated the team to playoff contention without adding late round pick and hardest working man in NBA Butler and other veterans. Maybe if Glen spent more money on evaluating talent, he wouldn’t have to spend so much on coaches, Free Agents, POBO, etc, etc, etc.

    1. Cole’s contract is terrible, but next year so little is guaranteed that it actually has trade value. I am hoping they can turn that into something useful.

      I also would have taken Og Anunoby over Patton. Even when Patton is on the team he won’t have minutes, Center is where the wolves are deepest. Og would be Playing critical minutes right now and providing rest for Wiggins/Butler.

  3. I agree a lot with what’s been said already, but here’s my take. Thanks for allowing

    Alridch: What’s he played? 10 minutes this year? He’s about 7.2999 million dollars overpaid

    Baz: Trys to score 100 points every possession

    Patton: Still in D/G league, whatever it is.

    Dieng: Gets his dunks and layup attempts blocked by guards a lot.

    Belly: How he can look like a 6th man and then flip the tables and look like Aldrich

    Crawford: Playing street ball

    Jones: Work on that 3 ball

    Teague: He’s not Rubio.

    Wiggins: No player/skills development over the last 3.5 years. Still has that same spin movie that works 25% of the time. Still not a very good dribbler. Free throws are down. Defense is marginally better. Those all fit under the umbrella of lack of player development.

    Gibson: Dimwiddie hit a gamewinner over him.

    Butler: Falls too much when driving to the hoop, sometimes unnecessarily. He practically throws his whole body into defenders, flails and hits the court hard. I’m afraid he’s going to really get hurt one of these times.

    KAT: Mentally weak

    Thibs (Coach): Hard to keep it to just one. But the biggest one for me is getting this team to play defense. For a guy who has a track record of great defenses, this is unacceptable. Some of it falls on the players, but we’re still allowing the highest field goal percentage of any team in the NBA and WNBA (jk). Our transition D is non existent. Is it the system that’s being implemented? Is he a bad motivator? Where is the disconnect and why is this team still allowing so many open shots and getting burned so often?

    Thibs (POBO): Jeff Teague for 19/million a year and trading Rubio. Ugh.

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