Archives For Gorgui Dieng

JohnWallIsTheOneWhoKnocks

This game wasn’t as close as the score would imply. However, it was pretty close at various times throughout the night, which makes it a bit confusing as a whole. About six or so minutes into the game, it seemed like I was going to have to find a blowout recap topic for tonight’s game and I even crowd-sourced for a few ideas. John Wall was picking apart the Wolves and we had several instances of big men not getting back on defense.

There were multiple plays in the first couple of minutes in which Thaddeus Young and Gorgui Dieng were slow to either get back in transition, only to get beaten down the floor by Marcin Gortat and Kris Humphries, or to locate their defensive assignment once they did get back. You don’t give space to John Wall’s passing targets and win to talk about it. He’s too good at this stage in his career and as the Wolves found out a few times, you can’t just play 10 feet off of him and expect him to Kemba Walker that jump shot. His game doesn’t break like that anymore.

Since this was a blowout that wasn’t a blowout, let’s actually recap instead of me just rambling for 1,400 words about Pauly D from Jersey Shore or something along those lines.  Continue Reading…

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

This was a weird game. It was a fun game. It was a game that showed just exactly where the Minnesota Timberwolves need to be this season while seeing just how dire things are for the Los Angeles Lakers. In a 120-119 win over the Lakers, we saw just how horrendous the Lakers can be and how energizing and cathartic their defense can be for struggling opponents. And that’s what the Wolves have been since Ricky Rubio went down with his ankle injury — they’ve been struggling.

It’s probably why the Lakers felt like they’d get an easy victory at home against the Wolves. This is a Wolves team missing three starters and three important starters at that. We all know how important Rubio is and have seen that night in and night out since his injury. Nikola Pekovic is the type of post scorer that can make a frontcourt like the Lakers’ feel like quitting basketball with his punishing post play. And Kevin Martin can torch Kobe Bryant at this stage in their respective careers just as easily as Kobe can torch Martin. It’s all about putting pressure on an embarrassing defensive effort that looks to be historically poor.

You mostly hurt the Lakers’ offense in two ways: Continue Reading…

pek
With media day and training camp just two days away, and the first preseason game less than two weeks away, we finally have a (mostly) set roster. Now that the Timberwolves have announced the names off their official training camp roster, the first attempt at a post-Kevin Love era has more or less taken shape.

We start with the group big men that Kevin Love used to lead. Even with a haul as good as the one the Wolves got, replacing a frontcourt presence like Love can’t be done right away.

In short: Minnesota’s frontcourt won’t be as strong as it was a year ago. While the center position may actually be the deepest it has ever been, there are some big question marks, especially at power forward.

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AngryAnt

The Minnesota Timberwolves announced on Monday they will be affiliated with the last remaining hub D-League team for the 2014-15 season. There are currently 17 teams in the NBA with single affiliation situations with the D-League. That leaves 13 teams sharing the Fort Wayne Mad Ants next season and the Wolves will be one of those teams. The Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors will all share the Fort Wayne affiliate.

The NBA has implemented a flexible assignment system that will allow single affiliate teams to accept assignment of a player from a different team if the Mad Ants don’t have room for that player when he’s assigned. Here’s the press release from the Wolves announcing the affiliation with Fort Wayne: Continue Reading…

Timberwolfing at the World Cup

Tim Faklis —  September 12, 2014 — 3 Comments

rubio_layup_photo_0

We still have some World Cup to go, but with Spain’s elimination on Wednesday, the presence of the Minnesota Timberwolves ended entirely. For the most part, it was a successful campaign for the Wolves-represented participants, with a good share of highlights to go around.

Let’s go down the list:

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3wolves

When a team trades its star, it isn’t uncommon for that team’s starting lineup  to look completely different the following year. When Kevin Garnett was traded in 2007 to the Boston Celtics, the only starter that remained somewhat consistent  in the same role the following season was Marko Jaric. Besides Al Jefferson, there was uncertainty surrounding who would be opening day starters in 2007-08. Craig Smith? Sebastian Telfair? Rashad McCants? Theo Ratliff? Ryan Gomes? Greg Buckner? Randy Foye?

Even Kirk Snyder started 18 games that year. Yeesh.

After Kevin Love was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, however, there was little doubt in what most of the starting lineup would look like. Once the trade went down, it was assumed that Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, Thaddeus Young and Kevin Martin would be starters from day one. Most teams who rid themselves of their star see a completely new starting 5. This team’s isn’t going to be all that big of a mystery. It’s the rest of the rotation that is so fascinating. And it starts with the final starting spot.

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As Steve discussed earlier, the precise relationship between the Summer League and competition is a little foggy. We know the wins and losses mean almost nothing; we know that two thirds of the Wolves’ Summer League roster won’t be around in September. And yet it was still a little disheartening to see the stagnant mess that was the Wolves’ offense for much of the tournament. And it was still pretty cool to see that offense turn itself on and really flow as it did in the team’s final game, against the Pelicans. What do we take away from this? Well, for one, I think we discover what happens when Shabazz Muhammad takes half of your team’s shots.

I think we also discovered that most of the players the Wolves invited to Summer League really lacked the dynamism to get a real look in the NBA. Sorry to fans of Matt Janning, Dennis Horner, D.J. Kennedy and Markel Starks, who all showed flashes of skill but all struggled, for various reasons, to really hang.  Jordan Morgan some charges and worked the glass, but his lack of size, skill and explosiveness really showed. Brady Heslip is, without a doubt, one of the purest shooters I have ever seen. Heslip is so pure, in fact, that it’s a damn shame he looked so overmatched in every other phase of the game. Depending on what happens with Kevin Love, the Wolves will probably have an open roster spot or two. Unfortunately, I don’t think any of these guys have a real shot. So: on to some players who we might be seeing in the fall.

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In no particular order.

  • Zach LaVine was largely as advertised. Fast and athletic, there’s a kind of wide-eyed innocence about the way he moves with so much more purpose with the ball than without, about how he sort of habitually performs a little inside-out sizeup dribble when he’s squared up to his defender. Nerves were evident early on when he lost his grip on the ball on a drive, but he settled in, particularly once the game was called a tie and the dunking exhibition started. More on that in a moment.
  • Shabazz Muhammad showed a lot of the same gusto that was his calling card late in the season last year, going up hard for dunks and muscling his way into the lane for rebounds. He still loves the left block and that little jump hook, but that’s fine. Obviously, this pre-pre-pre-season is a time when players have to balance a desire to try new things or show their progression with the need to prove they can do what they’re good at consistently. It can be a tricky balancing act.

Continue Reading…

If standing next to Zach Galifianakis is the Michael Jordan of this picture, the Mickey Mouse shirt is the Scottie Pippen

If standing next to Zach Galifianakis is the Michael Jordan of this picture, the Mickey Mouse shirt is the Scottie Pippen

We’re kicking off our offseason coverage here at A Wolf Among Wolves with a comprehensive roster review of the team from this past season, looking at how each player’s 2013-14 went and what we see for them going forward. One player a day for the next couple weeks, starting with the bench and rolling up to the starters.

Here’s something I didn’t expect to see when I pulled up Nikola Pekovic’s page on Basketball Reference: in 2013-14, he improved his points-per-36-minutes, his PER, his true shooting percentage and his field goal percentage, and held just about every other category steady. Somehow I thought he had been a little worse this year than last. Maybe it only seems weird because of the price tag that comes along with those numbers. In 2012-13 he did it all for $4.8 million; in 2013-14 he made $12.1 million. Continue Reading…

TwoDragons

The emergence of Gorgui Dieng has been a fascinating development to a weird season that never fails to drop my jaw.

Through the first 41 games of the season (he got hurt in Game 42), Nikola Pekovic was a godsend. He was worth the five years, $60 million the Minnesota Timberwolves, Flip Saunders, and Glen Taylor committed to him this past offseason. They navigated his restricted free agency beautifully, remaining patient and never succumbing to the pressure of rumors about the market or other suitors. The Wolves got him for exactly what their initial offer was to him, which is pretty stunning for a mid-market team like this one.

Pek earned that contract for much of this season, exuding his brute strength and deft touch around the basket and at the free throw line. His defense was better than reported but not as good or effective as last season. He seemed to be often lamented for not being a rim protector, even though he wasn’t one last season when he was a really solid pick-and-roll defender. Perhaps it was the absence of Bill Bayno on the Wolves’ coaching staff, which kept Pek from keeping that form on the defensive end. Or maybe last season’s effort and production on defense was an outlier to what he is supposed to be.

Regardless, Pek was still giving the Wolves something very few centers have given their teams this season, and for $12 million per season, that’s pretty good value. Then the forgotten first round pick of the Wolves stepped in during a recent string of missed games for Pek. Continue Reading…