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LoveRecord

The Minnesota Timberwolves need to hit more shots.

The end.

Okay, that’s not totally the end. That would be an extremely short post of basketball analysis, but at this point in the season I am of the belief that this is the crux of the Wolves’ issue with the 2013-14 season. It’s hard to judge the disappointment of everything going on because the expectations and preseason guessing are what creates the disappointment. If we all went into this season with the expectation the Wolves would miss the playoffs and had no real chance at getting some postseason experience, would we be disappointed at all?  Continue Reading…

Rubio leads the offense

On the surface, the question that is the headline of this post may seem preposterous to fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Ricky Rubio is one of the best facilitators in the NBA and someone that can turn any offensive weapon into an offensive weapon with an ability to score efficiently. Team him up with Kevin Love and you’ll get a deadly pick-and-pop or pick-and-roll game. You’ll get post-entry passes on point that don’t require Love to give up precious post position. Team him up with Nikola Pekovic and you have one of the better pick-and-roll combinations in the NBA, despite Pekovic not exactly being a threat to drop the hammer down with an alley-oop dunk on the play. And again, the post-entry passes are so choice.

Run one of those fancy pick-and-rolls with Rubio as the initiator while having Chase Budinger and Kevin Martin in the corners and the defense respecting Kevin Love’s ability to stretch the floor and the bulldozer rumbling down the lane that is Nikola Pekovic and it seems like the possibilities for points are endless. Even when you throw some of the bench guys in the game with Rubio and we know Derrick Williams scores better at the rim with Rubio on the court, Dante Cunningham is a great pick-and-pop option in the midrange, and the Corey Brewer-Ricky Rubio fast breaks could be quick and deadly. There’s a lot to love with these combinations.

So what’s with the question in the headline? Continue Reading…

This is the guy behind the guy behind the guy. And the model Wolves shooter. (Getty Images)

This is the guy behind the guy behind the guy. And the model Wolves shooter. (Getty Images)

It’s that time again.

There was a certain point in which I realized tracking all of the Wolves’ futile 3-point shooting was simply the “rubberneck effect.” You know the rubberneck effect, right? It’s when you’re driving on a freeway and traffic becomes unbearably slow. There’s a sick part of you that wants to know exactly how bad the carnage is. You want to know if it’s going to be like the Red Asphalt videos you had to watch when you went through driver’s training (or maybe that’s just in California; I’m not sure). Or maybe you’ll see an unharmed family looking at their wrecked car and wonder how everybody got out unscathed.

Regardless of what you’re looking for, it’s pretty much the same idea. You’re slowing down to see what the holdup was. Traffic is a mess because people have the same idea you will have when you come across whatever the issue was. You want to see just how bad the damage is that is causing everybody’s day to be delayed by 10-30 minutes. Frustratingly (but lucky) enough, it’s typically nothing. It ends up being a flat tire or someone pulled over on the side of the road because they crossed the carpool lane double lines in front of a highway officer or maybe it’s just ducks crossing the road. Whatever the cause of the delay is, it rarely satiates that sick part of you that thought the worst.

I realized I was going through the rubberneck effect when I was sitting between Britt Robson and Ben Polk the other night. I had my spreadsheet for February up on my laptop and turned to Ben to inform him of the unbelievably low open 3-point shooting numbers. He responded with something like, “Why? Why must you do this to me?” I don’t even know if you guys want to know how bad the shooting is anymore. Ben certainly doesn’t want to know. I think Britt had a sick fascination with knowing the numbers because of how bad they are.

If anything, I think it’s still a cathartic thing for me. I want to see the carnage. I want to see if we had a four-car pileup or if it’s just someone getting pulled over for expired tags. And maybe you suffering through the numbers with me is something you want to do. Everybody likes to feel crappy together, right? Isn’t that what the internet and message boards and comment sections and Twitter were invented for? So we can all revel in the crap-fest of certain aspects of life?

Well the Timberwolves’ 3-point shooting is still a crap-fest. After the month of February, the Wolves were back over 30% from 3-point range. In fact, they were 30.03% after February’s games. So let’s get into the rubbernecking, shall we?  Continue Reading…

RubioSmile

Over the next few days on A Wolf Among Wolves, I’ll be breaking down the play of Ricky Rubio since he’s returned from his ACL surgery last March. When Rubio came back on December 12th against the Dallas Mavericks, we all wondered how long it would take him to regain his form. In an attempt to figure out the turning point for Rubio and how we can track his change, I’ve decided to chart various parts of his game. In some areas, I’ve found improvement and in some areas, the numbers don’t bear out a lot of change. But what I have found — and something everybody has noticed — is a change in his game recently that reminds us of his incredible play as a rookie. Today, I’ll be breaking down Ricky Rubio as a scorer:

We’re starting to see results.

The box scores of Ricky Rubio the past few games have been nomadic, moving all over the place. His aggressiveness on the basketball court has been something that we didn’t see in his shortened rookie season. It’s a new style of play in which he’s looking for his own shot because he knows he has to get the defense to respect the chance that he might try to score. If this threat isn’t there, even in the back of the defense’s mind, then it’s a lot easier for them to sit in his passing lanes and ruin the effect he has on a basketball court.

His aggression isn’t something we saw right away. The flashy passing was there the night of the return against the Dallas Mavericks back in December; however, he rarely looked for his own shot in an attempt to keep the defense honest. This could have been due to a lack of confidence, a lack of conditioning in his body, or a lack of strength in the leg he worked so hard to bring back to a professional athletic environment. But regardless, there had to be a turning point with Rubio that finally brought about the spark we’ve seen through him.  Continue Reading…

MetrodomeCollapse

Let’s say you were trapped in a cabin somewhere. No, this isn’t some bizarre R. Kelly musical idea; I’m serious.

Sometimes I watch this team shoot 3-pointers and I feel like I’m trapped in a cabin. I typically get this feeling when I review all of the 3-pointers from the past month, chart down the results, and realize progress hasn’t been made. For a while, I thought it might feel like a zombie apocalypse survival journal, but I ultimately determined this wasn’t the feeling. Continue Reading…

Wolves defense

The Wolves are in a bad place right now and have been all month long.

Heading into the month of January, the Minnesota Timberwolves had a lot of hope. The team was 14-13 and one of the top defensive squads in the NBA. Kevin Love was still trying to find his way after coming back early from his hand but he was at least rebounding and providing a threat to the defense (he wasn’t shooting well but they defended him like he might). Ricky Rubio was working his way back from an ACL tear and showing some flashes of the wunderkind point guard that dazzled us in his rookie campaign.

And while the team was struggling offensively, they could rely on defense and grinding out victories to stay in the playoff hunt in the Western Conference. It wasn’t going to be an easy road by any means, but the Wolves were avoiding the eventual fallout of having to deal with so many injuries to so many key players in their rotation.

Once January hit, everything changed for the worse.  Continue Reading…

sad puppy

A few of the readers from the last 3-point shooting audit suggested that this should be an updated post every month. All of the numbers for this post are through the win over the Suns and don’t include last night’s debacle to the Utah Jazz.

At a certain point, the 3-point shooting has become laughable to me. Part of me is frustrated but part of me is Rene Russo in the movie Tin Cup as I watch Kevin Costner egotistically club golf ball after golf ball into the water hazard as he tries to prove through machismo and grit that he doesn’t have to layup on the par-5 18th hole at the U.S. Open. He’s good enough and strong enough to clear the water and get onto the green. Russo (his girlfriend/shrink) in this scene at one point just starts laughing and cheering him to keep at it, even if it means he sinks all of his golf balls into the water and he isn’t allowed to finish his one final shot at glory by being disqualified from the tournament.

The Wolves are such a historically bad 3-point shooting team right now that I’m now finding myself maniacally laughing whenever a long distance shot clangs off the iron. There are two teams in NBA history who have attempted more than 13 3-pointers per game while shooting under 30% from beyond the arc. One of those teams is the Charlotte Bobcats from last season. That’s right; the worst team in NBA history shot 29.5% from downtown while attempting 13.5 3-point shots per game. The other team? You’re currently rooting for them.

The Wolves take 19.5 3-pointers per game right now and are making just 29.3%. At a certain point, you start wondering if actual wolves could make a higher percentage of these shots or if the team could make some by accident when trying to throw alley-oop passes. The fact that they’re historically bad at this just floors me for some reason.

What I feel like is we’re watching one of those “coin pusher” machines you find in casinos.  Continue Reading…

The NBA 3-point line has been around since the 1979-80 NBA season. Even the rule change was supposed to help usher in a new era of basketball from the 1970s to the 1980s, it wasn’t exactly an accepted practice to start chucking 3-pointers like we see teams doing today. Instead, it was a seldom-used arrow in the quiver for most NBA teams.

Because it wasn’t a widely practiced action in the NBA and used more for shooting games after practice than anything else, we saw some hilariously low 3-point production from NBA teams during the first 13 seasons of the 3-point arc. The 1982-83 Los Angeles Lakers have the lowest 3-point percentage in NBA history. They shot just 10.4% from the 3-point line that season. Sounds absurdly low, right? Well, they only took 96 attempts that season and made 10 of them. They also went on to win the Western Conference Finals because they had Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

From the 79-80 season through the 2011-12 season, there have been 171 teams in NBA history who have shot less than 29% from 3-point range in a season. But the problem with this statistic is the 3-pointer wasn’t really a thing until the 1992-93 season. In the first 13 years of the NBA 3-point line, only three teams (88-89 New York Knicks, 90-91 Denver Nuggets, 91-92 Milwaukee Bucks) took more than 1,000 3-point attempts in an NBA season. That total doubled after the Suns, Hawks, and Rockets all attempted over 1,000 3-pointers in the 92-93 season.

In the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, only seven teams DIDN’T attempt at least 1,000 3-pointers.

Why this little bit of 3-point history?  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…

The Wolves’ 3-point shooting last season was pretty atrocious.

Despite being 23rd in the NBA in 3-point percentage, the Wolves just kept chucking up shots from long range. They finished sixth in the NBA in attempts from downtown, even when you adjust for pace. Perhaps one of the reasons the Wolves kept shooting them was because of a confidence built up the previous season.

In the 2010-11 debaclypse season, the Wolves were deadeye shooters as a team. They shot 37.6% from 3-point range, much better than the 33.2% they managed in the lockout season. They had the fifth best percentage off the 10th most attempts. They liked to fire from deep and they were good at it. In fact, it was really the only thing they were good at.  Continue Reading…