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…
Defense is the NBA’s dark art. At this year’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston this past weekend, Kirk Goldsberry and Eric Weiss presented a paper on what they termed The Dwight Effect. Using data from STATS, LLC’s SportVU camera system, they sought to account for more than stats like blocks and opponent field goal percentage in measuring interior defense. Although they admitted their approach was still mostly one-dimensional, their work began to incorporate the idea of a player like Dwight Howard changing shots without even doing anything—in essence, him being on the floor warps the space around him defensively because players don’t even want to come into the paint.
This distorting effect that good defense can have on another team’s offense was on full display last night as the Heat brutalized the Timberwolves in Minnesota. As you can see just from the final score, the Heat didn’t look great offensively. Spoelstra said as much in the tunnel after the game, conceding that the offense was ragged, but maintaining that their identity came from their defense. Continue Reading…
The Timberwolves were playing without three of their four essential players and therefore faced an insurmountable talent disadvantage. They missed many free-throws and even more threes. They labored to salvage tiny scraps of offensive production. They lacked the personnel to seriously impede their opponent’s offensive execution. Stop me if you’ve heard any of this before. Once revealed, the patterns are relentless. Nevertheless, some observations on this loss in Portland:
It’s kind of the same old story this season, right?
The Wolves are talented enough to stay competitive with just about any team in the NBA, but they’re not healthy enough to overcome the wave of talent, execution, and production that a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder can throw at you. The Wolves need a special set of circumstances to overcome a team like the Thunder. They beat them earlier in the season, but had the luxury of a home environment at their disposal. They also had a balanced attack from a lot of the players, including J.J. Barea going nuts in the fourth quarter of that game.
This time, the bench carried the Wolves when the starters were largely ineffective. The Wolves got 59 points from four bench players, thanks to Barea, Alexey Shved, Dante Cunningham, and Greg Stiemsma stepping up to the challenge. And this was kind of a long time coming from a few of these bench guys. For Alexey, it was the first real good game he’s had since the loss to Memphis. For Stiemer, he hadn’t really produced much since the win over New Orleans. For Dante, it was the first real good game since the loss to Portland.
On a night in which Nikola Pekovic was completely neutralized by the duo of Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka, the Wolves badly needed the bench to step up and keep things close until the starters could find a rhythm. The problem is the Wolves’ starters never found a rhythm. This often leads to the knee-jerk reaction of shuffling deck chairs on a sinking ship, but I like the balance of the Wolves’ rotation based on what is available to Rick Adelman. Continue Reading…
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…
For the final play of the Wolves-Blazers game, Rick Adelman drew up a play that gave Ricky Rubio a fairly basic pick-and-roll set with the floor spread and plenty of options off of that play. And the Wolves actually ran it really well. They ended up with Dante Cunningham pump-faking, nearly traveling, and then having to rush a jumper just a bit against his defender.
After the game, Adelman described the play they ran:
“The last play was a bang-bang play. I thought it was the best play we had. Pek might have been open rolling down the middle. At least he was going right to the basket and forcing the action. Dante made a nice pump fake, missed the shot but he’s not used to having the ball in his hands like that.”
Cunningham had made eight of his 10 shot attempts in the fourth quarter and was 20 for his last 25 heading into that final play. The Wolves options on the play were essentially spot-up shooting from Barea and Shved on the two sides, Rubio driving to the basket, Pek rolling to the basket or DC pupping near the top of the key.
“When Rick draws up a play, it’s not only one option,” Rubio said in the locker room after the game. “You never know what’s going to happen. It was like a different option and I felt that was the best option because he was shooting pretty good. But they defended it pretty good too.”
How good was the play and could it have been better? Let’s take a look. Continue Reading…
The idea of wanting it more than the other team is a confusing concept to me. Wanting it more doesn’t really mean anything positive, necessarily. Do the Wolves lose games because they don’t want to win enough? Or do they lose games because they don’t want to win it correctly? Or do they lose games because they are simply too banged up?
After playing an abominable 38 minutes to start out against the Portland Trail Blazers Monday night, the Wolves found some pride and decided to fight back by executing basketball plays. It sounds simple because… well, it is simple. When the Wolves play basketball like they’re designed to play, good things can happen. It doesn’t mean they’d always win if they played the way they’re supposed to. Certain match-ups will always be problematic for what they have for personnel.
However, watching them run pick-and-rolls, pick-and-pops, and get controlled dribble penetration in the fourth quarter against a team like Portland showed they have potential to compete even with the current injuries.
After Saturday night’s blowout victory over the Pelicans, I said it was really hard to learn anything from a blowout win or loss because you don’t see your team tested or responding. Have enough blowout losses in a short amount of time and you’ll learn that your team just isn’t very good, but having them sporadically really just means they’re random occurrences rather than tell-tale signs. But when your team keeps consistently getting down big early in games and then has to fight its way back, what does that teach you?
We have kind of been talking about tempering expectations over the last week or so. The Timberwolves are extremely banged up and I think it’s becoming apparent that without a shooter (Chase Budinger) to space the floor and without an All-NBA focus of the offense (Kevin Love) for the defense to key in on, we’re headed into a very dark and murky area of not knowing which team is going to show up most nights.
The natural inclination is to find someone to blame. The blaming of Love seems to have passed through our area for now. Since he’s not around and won’t be for a couple of months, there’s no point in belaboring the point and hammering down a guy that can’t prove anybody right or wrong. His hand just won’t allow it. And thankfully, fans seem to acknowledge that for now and I haven’t really seen any blame placed on his beard. However, you still have someone to blame. Eventually, it will be Rick Adelman because the coach always takes the fall at some point. But for now, his situation doesn’t allow him to be with the team and our thoughts go out to him and his wife right now.
So who else is blame-worthy? A lot of the sentiment peppering the Twitter waves last night went toward the guy pictured above. No, they weren’t blaming Tony Parker. I mean… Parker was a big part of why the Wolves got destroyed. He had 20 points on 10-of-15 shooting in just 29 minutes of action. He did whatever he wanted out there.
No, people started freaking out about Ricky Rubio, saying he shouldn’t be playing if he can’t produce like we need him to produce. I’m not going to lie; this enraged me. It enraged me because it seemed so short-sighted and desperate. Is Ricky Rubio 100%? Not even close. Is Ricky Rubio 80%? I’m not even so sure of that. I know Rubio definitely isn’t healthy enough to do what he did last year consistently. That much is obvious. But to pretend that Rubio has been bad this season because he’s not scoring the ball or even looking to score the ball seems odd.
Each game for Rubio is a building block. It’s not a building block for improving his game, necessarily. That will have to come during the summer months and into next season. That’s when we’ll see if he can improve his impressive but flawed set of skills. It’s a building block with his body and more specifically his leg. If you notice on every single shot Rubio took last night, they were all short — every single one of them. Rubio’s feel for the game is still impressive. He knows where to deliver the ball most of the time.
However, his feel for when and how to score is back to square one. There is a certain snap of the wrist you can have in passing the ball that doesn’t need much leg strength at all. That’s not the case with shooting a basketball. You want your legs on that wall; you need your legs on that wall. Shooting a jumper without legs is like throwing a football off your back leg. There are times you’re going to complete the pass to the intended receiver but most of the time you’re looking at it going the other way.
Sitting Rubio, even when he’s struggling, is not the answer. He needs to continue to build strength in his legs and confidence in his game. It will waver from time to time but ultimately, it’s a lot better than the alternative. The alternative brings about more questions about his game. Not letting him play his allotted minutes leads to a lack of trust in his game and in his body, and it also leads to atrophy.
And you know how the old saying goes: atrophy never leads to a trophy.
Okay, that’s not a saying. I just made it up. But it kind of makes sense.
If you want to blame something, then blame injuries. They happen and they suck but they’re a part of the NBA. There seems to be a team every season that gets blitzed by them and never quite recovers. Apparently, it’s the Wolves’ turn to suffer through this for whatever reason.
The Wolves got done in by the bench of the Spurs last night. Their bench was A LOT better than our bench and it showed. They had more skill and more energy. I don’t think that would necessarily be the case if these two teams faced each other completely healthy, but “what if” scenarios don’t do anything but make you daydream about a healthier time. The Spurs kicked the Wolves’ butts fair and square. A lot of that could be you’re asking the Wolves’ reserves to be starters and their reserves to be part of the second unit.
Greg Stiemsma, Dante Cunningham, and Lazar Hayward are being asked to do way too much because of injuries. Alexey Shved is being asked to create way too much and you can see how inconsistent his production has been lately because of it. There isn’t any real blame that has to go around right now. Guys are hurt, units are depleted, and our one “savior” is trying to get his body right. He probably won’t accomplish that until next season. Maybe he can get consistent play when March rolls around, but most likely, we probably won’t see him being consistently back to himself until October of this season.
For now, we’re just hoping to see some highlights here and there.
It would be nice to see consistently competitive games but that’s going to be hard against the elite of the NBA. This is what the Spurs do; they destroy those that are beneath them. And the Wolves are definitely beneath them for the time being.
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…
Complain about officiating or the effort or the energy or whatever. Doesn’t really matter. The Wolves played like absolute crap in this game. It happens every once in a while in this league. You hit a road game, you don’t have anything to offer that night, and the home team blows you out. The Wolves have been on the winning side of this equation before and they’ve been on the losing side of this equation before.
Tonight was the losing side and the Jazz just absolutely outplayed them in nearly every way. There isn’t much analysis that can go into it. The team still can’t make 3-pointers. They shot 2-of-17 from the field. It was the eighth time in team history they’ve shot worse than 12% from 3-point range while taking at least 17 3-point attempts. They’re 1-7 in those games with the only win coming on opening night against the Kings this season. It’s not a recipe for success and at a certain point, you have to wonder if they should even take more than a few 3-pointers in a game anymore.
But we’ll get into the 3-point debacle of the season more in the next post.
I don’t really want to talk about the game directly because it was just a bad game. We can eviscerate the people involved with it, but I’ve never been one for overreacting to a small sample size of “evidence.” What I really want to talk about is the lack of athleticism within this team right now. Continue Reading…