Archives For Player Analysis

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.

When is the last time this organization had toughness?

Perhaps Kevin Garnett wasn’t the epitome of a bar fight — despite what he may have blurted out at Craig Sager — but he at least feigned an attitude of some mental toughness, whether he was actually ready to risk a suspension or not. But pure brute strength and toughness is not something we’re used to seeing on our end of the floor at the Target Center. We’re not used to seeing everybody trying to figure out how to deal with the big guy on our team. We’re not used to seeing a little scrap break out and an opponent from the other team immediately go joke with our big guy to make sure he doesn’t get involved.

In the course of about eight months, Pek went from being an overmatched backup big man to the Chuck Norris of the NBA.  Continue Reading…

Danny Chau has been driving the Alexey Shved bandwagon for as long as I’ve known Danny. He writes for Hardwood Paroxysm and has a fantastic knowledge of everything that is Alexey Shved on a basketball court. I asked him to give a brief scouting report on Shved so Wolves fans can get more familiar with his game. You can follow Danny on Twitter here

I just got through finishing a couple victory laps around my house. Russian guard Alexey Shved has agreed to a deal with the Wolves. Get excited.

Shved has become a more familiar name this summer thanks to the interest from several NBA teams, but scouts have been gawking at Shved’s potential for more than half a decade. It wasn’t that long ago that he was dominating Europe’s youth circuit and thought of as a potential lottery pick in the NBA draft. The Wolves are looking at a legit 6’6” combo guard with dynamite athleticism and creating ability. Something of a revelation last season was Shved’s fantastic 3-point percentage in the Euroleague (50 percent). This probably won’t translate directly (especially considering the difference in distance between the NBA/FIBA 3-point lines), something Shved himself admitted to in an interview with Euroleague.net:

“I don’t think that the shot is my strongest asset! I like best to be in pick-and-roll situations; I like to pass the ball. It just happened that I have good shooting percentages in the Euroleague. If you look at my stats in other tournaments, I am not shooting as well. I can just say that it’s great that I am making 50% of my shots.”  Continue Reading…

How do you solve a problem like Barea?

Okay, J.J. Barea wasn’t really a problem last year, but he also wasn’t a solution in the way we hoped he might be.

Let’s get the negative out of the way first. In his first season with the Wolves, Barea was riddled with injuries throughout a good chunk of the season and he dribbled the life out of the basketball when he was on the court. The injuries didn’t seem like anything major that should mar his future seasons with the Timberwolves. He was banged up and pulling muscles you don’t want to pull, but he wasn’t suffering knee injuries or having chronic back problems. It’s possible they just happened. It’s possible they were related to the lockout and not being prepared for the regular season. Whatever the injuries were related to, it’s nothing that alarms me as him being an injury prone player.

It seemed pretty obvious — and Barea would be the first to admit this — that he had a problem adjusting to the new team/system/teammates in his initial moments of the season. He didn’t quite seem to know how to find the balance of what he should do on offense. Instead of moving the ball when he was faced with this unfamiliarity, he dribbled. And dribbled. And dribbled. AND DRIBBLED SOME MORE. It got to the point that you wanted him to shoot or get off the pot. Continue Reading…

Regardless of whether or not Nicolas Batum ends up on the Wolves or stays in Portland, he’s going to get paid $45 million over four years (with the possibility of bonuses). Let’s just pretend the contract is going to be four years and $50 million because of the bonuses. That puts Batum’s annual salary at an average of $12.5 million per year.

Is Nicolas Batum worth $12.5 million per season?  Continue Reading…