Archives For Player Analysis

Love Now

The man in the picture above is Corey Brewer. The man to his left and your right is Kevin Love.

Kevin Love is someone that people have opinions about and those opinions have been well discussed ever since Adrian Wojnarowski wrote a thing. With every poor game, the criticism ramps up and becomes suffocating within the conversation of what this team is, what they need to do, and what they do best. The weird thing to me in this entire ordeal about Kevin Love is I feel like I’ve been painted into a corner as a Kevin Love apologist. Well, actually I have become a Kevin Love apologist.

The main reason for this is I feel like I understand why he’s struggling so much. People want to claim it’s unhappiness with the team or a lack of effort or he doesn’t care or he’s pouting or he’s actually a spy sent from the Los Angeles Lakers to sabotage any chance of the team’s old city building themselves up into a contender (RUMOR: Troy Hudson was previous Lakers spy). But really, I think there are very reasonable explanations for why Love has struggled so much.  Continue Reading…

big-beautiful-buckOn Friday night, I made passing reference both to the Wolves’ anemic third quarter and to J.J. Barea’s tendency toward overdribbling and playing too fast. Barea tends to play a more even-keeled game when the offense is functioning well, as it was in the first half on Friday; he played within the context of the offense, scored 11 points on seven shots and dropped five dimes. But when the Wolves bog down offensively, Barea tends toward those bad habits. A perfect case in point is that third quarter, in which the Wolves scored 11 points on 19% shooting, committed five turnovers and had four of their shots blocked. It was pretty ugly and Barea was at the center of the ugliness. Two plays illustrate my point.

Continue Reading…

Derrick Williams driving to the basket… imagine that.

Is Derrick Williams a bad player who doesn’t belong on the Timberwolves?

The growing sentiment with an impatient fan base seems to be yes, he is. And that’s what we are right now; it’s an impatient fan base because the biological clock of Kevin Love’s potential early termination option is ticking like a time bomb. There is a presumed small window to get this team into the elite ranks of the Western Conference or we’ll be back at the first step again in a few years. Through impatience comes great desperation and understandably so.  Continue Reading…

A funny thing happened on the way to Nikola Pekovic’s contract year: Kevin Love broke his hand and gave Pek the chance to show just how much he’s worth.

The timing of this injury — in line with Pek’s last season before restricted free agency — couldn’t have been more perfect for the third-year center. In fact, it’s a complete win-win for him. If he plays well and helps carry the team for the first month or more, he probably guarantees himself a max offer in restricted free agency, just to put pressure on the organization to match (I see you, Paul Allen). If he doesn’t play well and help carry the team, nobody would fault him at all for not being up for the task.

Pekovic came into this season with the preseason buzz phrase “best shape of his life.” He looked like a lean pitbull, ready to patrol the dog run without a glimmer of fear. With eight-ish pounds shed off his immense frame, Pek has not only taken the pressure off his surgically repaired ankle, but he’s allowed himself to move a lot freer than before. And somehow he even got stronger.  Continue Reading…

It wasn’t a pretty preseason opener in many ways, but the Wolves got to debut some new faces and beat up on an incomplete Pacers team for the victory.

Between the poor 3-point shooting, the grainy Fargo television feed coming through NBA League Pass, lots of turnovers, and a lot of missed free throws, it would have been pretty easy to want to look away from our first glimpse at what the Wolves have to offer this year. Plus, D.J. Augustin was the main point guard for Indiana due to George Hill sitting out and nobody wants to watch him play starter’s minutes. However, we got to watch Wolves basketball once again and it was pretty fun to see the new direction the team is going.

I’m not going to try to find an overarching storyline with a preseason game and look for how it affects the team moving forward. It’s preseason after all. So let’s just try to look at what each individual player did and file it away for later use.  Continue Reading…

There is a lot of coach speak out there in which fans are forced to read between the lines. And it makes a lot of sense. You’re not going to give away strategies and team philosophies at will on most nights, especially during the regular season.

You can’t let the opponent for that night or for future nights know exactly what you’re thinking and how you view your strengths and weaknesses. It’s stuff they can probably figure out on their own, but you don’t want to do the legwork for them. But with Rick Adelman, there is an overwhelming sense of honesty that seems to come from his talks with the media.  Continue Reading…

Sliding Doors

Zach Harper —  September 26, 2012 — 3 Comments

Have you ever seen the movie Sliding Doors?

It’s a Gwyneth Paltrow movie that shows the parallel life tracks of a woman whose life is up in the air. On the day she gets fired from her PR job, she is catching a subway to get home.

In one parallel, Gwyneth’s character makes her train. She meets a man that she hits it off with right away. Because she caught her train, she gets home early and catches her boyfriend cheating on her. Since she’s found out what a jerk he is, she returns to the new man she’s met on the train and begins a new life.

In the other parallel, she misses the train and doesn’t meet the new man. She gets home well after her boyfriend’s affair is over and is never the wiser to his deceitful ways. She ends up overworking herself to support him while he takes time writing a novel.

In one life, she gets to restart everything. Her life gets turned upside down and she hits rock bottom, but she finds a new way to begin the next phase of her life. In the other life, the bad hits just keep on coming and she’s stuck in the same rut she can’t seem to crawl out of.

Every time I think about Brandon Roy’s upcoming campaign with the Minnesota Timberwolves, I can’t help but think of this movie. There really are two parallels of the next chapter in Brandon Roy’s life. As we move forward, we’ll find out over the next two weeks/one month/three months/full season the answers to the questions we have about Brandon Roy.  Continue Reading…

OKAY!

A lot has happened over the couple days and now we’re getting a better idea of the way this roster could look heading into next season. After missing out on Nicolas Batum (when evil Paul Allen wouldn’t let him go despite Neil Olshey wanting to let him go or at least work out a sign-and-trade), the Wolves were left with a plan B. Only nobody really seemed to know what the plan B was. The team missed out on Courtney Lee because… well… let’s just say negotiating issues, and it left the team without many options.

So here are the four transactions that have gone/will go down:

1. Greg Stiemsma signs with the team.
2. Wayne Ellington is dealt to the Grizzlies for Dante Cunningham.
3. Wes Johnson and a 1st round pick are part of a 3-team deal that brings back Brad Miller’s contract (CJZero corrected me that he’s going to Phoenix), Jerome Dyson, and a couple of picks.
4. The Wolves sign Andrei Kirilenko for two years and roughly $20 million.

Let’s look at these in order of importance:  Continue Reading…

I never got to watch the first game of the Wolves’ Summer League campaign when they beat the Clippers, but I was in the building for the loss to the Bobcats Monday night. After talking to a few media members and people around the league, I thought I’d share some thoughts about what’s been going on:

  • First, let me do some plugging in a shameless manner. I was asked to write about Derrick Williams for the Daily Dime on ESPN.com Tuesday night. Here is the link for that. To extrapolate on those thoughts a bit, I think it’s somewhat concerning that Derrick isn’t dominating this competition, and yet at the same time I don’t really think it’s that big of a deal. With lesser competition and talent on the floor, it seems like Derrick should be able to do whatever he wants, but it’s still not that simple. Something I noticed during the possessions in which Williams was attacking off the dribble from the perimeter, Charlotte was in position to get in his way if he beat Biyombo or Mullens off the dribble.
  • This doesn’t excuse Williams from not “dominating.” He clearly has things he still has to work on with how he attacks from the outside-in. His dribble is quick right now but his first step with that dribble is still slow. He also was having problems protecting the ball, but considering Charlotte’s plan was to swarm the ball at all times, it seems like he did a pretty decent job attack and trying to find the contact that he’s previously avoided. There are signs of concern but you can tell he’s working on those things when he’s on the court.
  • Where has this Wes Johnson been? I don’t think I’m going to allow myself to get too excited with his performance against the Bobcats Tuesday, but it’s a revelation — even against SL talent — to see him moving toward the basket to get shots. He wasn’t just spotting up on the wings and waiting to hesitate on jumpers. He dribbled into shots, he posted up, and he attacked the basket a bit. Toward the end of the game, he went and got some really good and key buckets. I don’t necessarily expect him to make this a regular thing. And I’m not holding out hope that he’ll finally get it. It’s just nice to see him remember how to be effective on offense for once.
  • Robbie Hummel can mix it up on the offensive boards a bit and his jumper is confident. After last season’s shooting debacle that was our perimeter, it’s weird seeing a guy raise up for a jumper, look completely calm and balanced, and then have a wave of confidence rush over you as he releases the shot. When Hummel takes a shot, it seems like a good shot. He doesn’t force anything and he doesn’t leave you wondering what he’s doing with the ball. If anything, he should probably be a bit more aggressive. I like his presence, even if he’s deep in the depth chart, because you can always use a confident shooter.
  • Paulo Prestes does not look like a big man that belongs in the NBA right now. He can mix it up inside a bit and get offensive rebounds. He can keep possessions alive decently. But when he gets the ball or has to rotate, it’s like watching an unathletic version of Ryan Hollins.
  • I have no idea how he fits into the roster, but I wouldn’t be mad if Zabian Dowdell stuck around the team. He’s a solid backup PG off the bench and you can do a lot worse than having him fighting for minutes in the rotation. If Luke or JJ end up getting moved as part of a bigger acquisition, I think Zabian has a real chance at a camp invite and staying around this organization.

Ricky Rubio has magical vision. He sees things–spaces, angles, movements–before they are able to be seen. This vision, and the savant’s ball skills that he’s honed since he was a child, make him that exceptional kind of point guard, the kind that can create new, unexpected shapes and situations on the basketball court. There were times this year when coverage of the Timberwolves became little more than a catalog of the mystical things Rubio could do with the basketball. We know all of this already; and we know the galvanizing effect, the deep inspiration, that Rubio bestowed both on his fans and his teammates, not to mention the extreme demoralization that took place after his season-ending ACL injury.

Strange, then, to realize some cold realities. Despite his massive assist ratio (36.3) Rubio’s PER of 14.64 was only 36th best in the league among point guards.  The Wolves’ offense performed no better with him on the floor than off. Indeed, Rubio’s humble backup Luke Ridnour had a much more significant positive effect on the Wolves’ offense than did Ricky himself. These numbers are not a fluke, nor are they difficult to explain. Ricky Rubio is a terrible shooter. His effective field goal percentage (.398) and true shooting rate (.476) are both morbidly bad. He was noticeably terrible at the rim (47.1%) and in the midrange game (31.4% between 10 and 23 feet) despite being begged by opponents to shoot from that distance. (Incidentally, at 34% he was no worse than average from three and shot well from the line too.)

Much of Rubio’s early, highlight machine success stemmed both from the rest of the league’s unfamiliarity with his game and from his uncharacteristically good shooting start. But once Rubio’s shooting regressed back to the mean (which is to say: became terrible again) and teams discovered the olde “give Ricky ten feet of space” defense, Rubio’s life became significantly more difficult. Defenses sagged into the lane, clogging those interior passing lanes that had enable so many successful pick-and-rolls early on. (It’s worth mentioning here that the rest of the team’s poor outside shooting didn’t help matters. Once it became clear that Wes Johnson and Martell Webster were not going to consistently hit spot-up threes, it became that much easier for opposing defenses to gum up the interior pick-and-roll.)

By now most of us know that Rubio’s most significant tangible contribution to his team’s success came on the defensive end. It’s long been said that great defense begins on the perimeter. If your team’s guards and wings can slow or prevent penetration, the matrix of help and rotation that makes up the substance of NBA defense becomes infinitely easier. Rubio was an object lesson in this truism. His length, energy and persistence on the ball allowed his teammates to maintain an aggressive, rather than simply reactive, defensive posture. And after Rubio left the stage and opposing guards began to romp into the teeth of the Wolves’ D, everything fell apart. The Wolves were a remarkable 7.3 points per 100 possessions better defensively when Rubio was on the floor. That’s no joke.

So Rubio’s future, while certainly inspiring optimism, has always been a little uncertain. Would he be able to cut down on his turnovers and improve his shooting? Would he mature from a good defender into an elite, Rondo-esque ball swarmer? All of these questions are, of course, now cast in starker relief by his knee injury. We don’t know how long it will take him to play again and how long after that he will recover his former rangy quickness. Rubio will miss out on that summer of hoisting a thousand jumpers a day. He’ll again miss out on a Rick Adelman training camp. Despite everything, and despite his resplendent good nature, we’re all still waiting on Ricky Rubio.