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…
The theories about exactly why Derrick Williams has underperformed in the NBA are legion, encompassing everything from unreasonable expectations for a player who shouldn’t have been picked so high to fundamental concerns about his tweener status to even more fundamental concerns about his work ethic and motor. (If you want a good read about his efforts to get better, check out Jon Krawczynski‘s post on Yahoo! Sports.) One particular thread of this discussion, though, is the idea that coach Rick Adelman simply doesn’t like playing young guys—that Williams is being punished unreasonably by being installed in Adelman’s doghouse and could blossom if simply given some more time on the court.
You can hardly blame Adelman for Williams’ inability to stay in the game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night. After picking up 5 fouls in just over 12 minutes of action, Adelman had little choice, but given Williams’ history with Adelman, it seems reasonable to wonder if Adelman’s return will not be a positive for him. As it happens, Adelman’s recent absence from the sidelines has given us a perfect opportunity to look at how Williams fared under Terry Porter during the 11 games he coached versus the 11 previous games under Adelman. Continue Reading…
As observers of the Minnesota Timberwolves, one of our favorite idle activities is wondering about Derrick Williams. There are a lot of reasons for this, but principle among them is a) the fact that, after he devoured everybody during his sophomore year of college, the Wolves made him the second pick in the draft and b) the fact that he is frighteningly athletic and talented but has yet to come anywhere close to living up to either his potential or his draft position.
The combination of those two facts tend to distort our perception of Williams’ performance. To us, Derrick Williams may always be “extremely talented/second pick” rather than simply “young player learning the game.” Incidentally, Rick Adelman, who has been around too long to be unduly impressed by either high draft position or exceptional, but unrealized talent, clearly views Williams through that latter lens. More than once, he has seemed mildly perplexed by the fuss that we all make over Williams. To Adelman, D-Will is just another gifted young guy who may or may not become good enough to stick.
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.
It’s pretty incredible how Ricky sets guys up with the simplest of passes. Derrick Williams has been pretty great about setting his feet over the past 15-20 games and really looks like a good spot-up shooter out there with Rubio. Rubio mentioned after the game that he’s looking to make the extra pass if it’s there, and if not then he’s looking to take the shot himself. Right now, the extra pass is the way to go.
This play got me so excited for a healthy Rubio teaming up with Andrei Kirilenko. Rubio often can beat his man baseline, dribble through the paint and find a cutter. AK is so good at cutting from the weak side that it opens up a lot of possibilities. The great thing about this play is Kirilenko does a slight fake to the baseline before cutting more toward the hoop. I had a great angle of it from the other side and DeShawn Stevenson was looking toward the side, just searching for movement that way from Kirilenko. That slight fake to the baseline moved Stevenson out of the way and opened up an easy lane for Kirilenko to receive the ball. It’s just brilliant basketball.
Ricky and Derrick have tried this spin-off-the-high-post lob play like four or five times this season and Ricky has come up short on every pass, which is odd. This time, he made up for it right away by stealing the pass and finding Barea for a wide-open 3-pointer.
The Wolves were 1-for-2 on lobs to Stiemsma that he tries to bank in with a tap tonight.
I don’t see why you’d ever trap Ricky off the pick-and-roll. It’s not like taking away his jumper is a key to stopping them. You leave someone open and he’ll find it. Or he’ll start the ball movement for a hockey assist.
Derrick Williams is going to get a lot of this pick-and-pop chances with Rubio. His feet are set so he’s going to knock it down.
This last pass wasn’t an assist, but good lord it was fun. He tried it once, threw it off of John Jenkins’ thigh, chased down the ball, and threw basically the same pass again. Pek didn’t finish the play but he got to the free throw line.
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…
The Wolves, as we had sensed all season long and as Zach meticulously charted earlier today, have been a monumentally poor three-point shooting team this season. Poor enough to be mentioned along the worst three point shooting teams of the post-Rockets era; poor enough to evoke the memory of Nikoloz Tskitishvili. But though the phenomenon was all too real, you had to have the feeling that it couldn’t last. Chase Budinger would return; Kevin Love would find his stroke; the market would self-correct (as it always does, right?). It just seemed statistically improbable that the insane specter of competent NBA players bricking open jumper after open jumper could sustain itself over the course of an entire season.
Likewise, though, we should not delude ourselves into believing that Wolves’ transcendent shooting display in Philly will become their new standard. 13-25 from behind the stripe is simply not something you’re going to see every day. Instead, as Rick Adelman has been reminding us all season, in both cases–hot or hopelessly cold–we should be examining the kinds of shots the Wolves are taking and the precision and creativity with which they create those shots.
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.
All of the talk and panic about this team last night seemed to be two-fold:
1) The team is 0-2 since Kevin Love surprised us with an early comeback. Is he hurting their chances of winning?
2) Derrick Williams has had two straight DNP-CDs. HIS CAREER IS OVER.
I feel like this is easily explained, or at least it should be pretty easy. In regards to Love, I really think fantasy basketball and basketball video games have skewed how we judge performance on the court. Numbers and stats mean the world and they exist in a vacuum. Kevin Love had 34 and 14 in his first game back. He had 24 and 13 in the loss to the Blazers last night. Those are good stat lines for any player, so he must have had an enormous impact on the game. And if he didn’t, why can’t he make this team much better when he comes back. Continue Reading…