Limbo, thy name is the first game after the All-Star break with one more to go before the greatest player in franchise history returns as a kind of éminence grise for a rawly talented but still rebuilding team. It wouldn’t have been surprising if the team had mailed it in, but pleasingly they didn’t and ended up holding on for a squeaker over the Suns. We’ll get to the Wolves in a moment, but let’s start with the Suns. Continue Reading…
Archives For Kevin Martin
The Philadelphia 76ers haven’t been putting a great roster on the floor over the last two seasons. It’s been by design and it’s a risky proposition. It’s an idea that I’ve had, along with plenty of Wolves’ fans, when it comes to the rebuilding style of this Minnesota franchise. Strip down the roster, rid it of almost all of the veterans available, and just let the young guys get their reps, as many as possible.
It’s something I’ve gone back and forth with as the season progresses. We’ve seen components of such an idea when Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, and Ricky Rubio missed time as Mo Williams was dealing with some nagging injuries as well. We’ve seen the Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad, Thaddeus Young, and Gorgui Dieng lineup out there and full of failure on a possession by possession basis. You can talk yourself into this being a valuable learning experience for all of the young guys involved, but you can also see how the process and the results can be stilted.
Over the last two games, we’ve seen the Wolves get the pairing of Pekovic and Martin back into the rotation. The result has been a more organized brand of basketball that doesn’t lack a sense of hope while possessing a tunnel vision on the spectacularly calm moments of Wiggins doing cool stuff out there. You see the value of veterans mixed in with young players, removing many of the frustrations we’ve experienced watching that overmatched basketball team from November 19th or so to earlier this week. That’s where I start appreciating the plan of the Wolves because I’m not sure they have the infrastructure to pull off what the 76ers are doing. Continue Reading…
It’s safe to say the Minnesota Timberwolves won’t be making the playoffs for the 11th straight season.
With a record of 5-29, the Wolves sit just 2.5 games ahead of the New York Knicks and are tied with the Philadelphia 76ers for the second worst record in the NBA. The Knicks have played four more games than the Wolves and have one-upped the Wolves for the longest current losing streak at 14 games (Wolves are at 13 losses in a row).
The injuries have taken their toll on the Wolves this season, which is the main reason for their record being as abysmal as it appears. Ricky Rubio’s high ankle injury, Nikola Pekovic’s sprained wrist and ankle, and Kevin Martin’s broken wrist have decimated the veteran leadership on the court and the organization needed to remain competitive most nights. NBA.com has the Wolves with the worst defense in the NBA at a rating of 110.2 points per 100 possessions allowed. The Los Angeles Lakers are the second worst at 109.8 per 100. They have the fifth worst offense at 99.2 points per 100 possessions scored. Only the Sixers have a worse net rating (minus-12.9 points per 100) than the Wolves (minus-11.0).
I never thought the Wolves would be good this season and hopes of them approaching what they did last season with a deeper team seemed foolish and too Disney story for my liking. But expecting them to be this bad would also have been crazy, if you assumed this team was going to be healthy. Since they are currently this bad and looking like they’re officially focused more on the future than the present (we’ll see how it goes when the veterans get healthy), I thought we could take a look as we approach the mid point of the season and look at the long-term, rebuilding prospects of each player on this team. Continue Reading…
“Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
I don’t often begin posts about basketball with quotes from scripture. But when thinking of the term “double-edged sword,” my mind inevitably wanders back to my Catholic education and the place I first heard it, the New Testament Epistle to the Hebrews. The quote above is in reference to God’s word, and is often misinterpreted due to the presence of the term “two-edged” or “double-edged” sword. In this instance, it’s merely a noun; it could just as easily read “sharper than any axe” or “sharper than any dagger.”
“Double-edged sword” usually signifies something appearing to be a benefit that can also be a curse. The reason this interpretation applies to the 2014-15 Minnesota Timberwolves is that they have a ton of depth (good), but not nearly enough minutes to make all of the players on the roster happy (not so good). Continue Reading…
Remember the year the Timberwolves drafted 4 point guards in one year? Even though (#welltechnically) two of them were used as picks for another team in a trade that was already agreed to, while another stayed in Spain for two more years. Remember how, despite the insistence from anyone who looked at the roster, the “Wolves have a lot of point guards” narrative stuck around like a bad habit?
It’s funny, because you could argue that this year is the year the Wolves are stacked up on guards. In fact, not counting Kevin Martin, the starting shooting guard, you could say that every other backcourt player on this year’s team is a point guard.
That’s okay, though. As Flip Saunders said at media day, nobody on the roster, at this point, is all that redundant. Ricky Rubio is a passer. Mo Williams a shooter. Zach LaVine is an athletic combo guard. We still have training camp to figure out what the final roster will look like, but as of right now, the power of the point guard is strong in Minnesota.
The first true superstar to play for the Wolves was Kevin Garnett, a power forward. Eventually, he was traded for Al Jefferson, a power forward/center, who was eventually (and, arguably, unnecessarily) replaced by Kevin Love, a power forward. Heck, even Tom Gugliotta and Christian Laettner put up big numbers for the Wolves in the early-to-mid 90s.
Power forwards have led the Timberwolves for nearly the entire existence of the franchsie. Thaddeus Young has a chance to lead the team in scoring this year, but for the first time in nearly two decades, the current shape of the franchise does not revolve around the development of a promising young power forward.
Kevin Garnett got traded.
Not like, recently, but he got traded back in 2007 when the dream of the Minnesota Timberwolves putting something significant around one of the greatest all around players ever to lace up the kicks had been taken off of life support. Because of the soul-sucking numbness that trade caused 25-year old Zach Harper (YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT! THIRD PERSON TALK, SON!), the eventual trade of Kevin Love hasn’t left me devastated or annoyed or angry. It’s just been something that we all knew was a possibility when David Kahn put the Wolves in the situation of three years with an opt out.
I won’t pretend I was outraged at the time. I wrote that it put pressure on the organization and it was something that would force them to become good or risk losing him. I’m a big fan of forcing the cream to rise to the top because it weeds out who belongs and who doesn’t belong. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for the Wolves. Their two best chances at making the playoffs came the last two seasons. In 2012-13, they were decimated by injuries and couldn’t field decent teams. In 2013-14, the Wolves simply weren’t good enough and the clock was ticking on Kevin Love’s free agency.
Love will be traded. He’s not going to stay. And it’s on the Wolves’ management/owner/coach to bring back the best return in a deal that will almost always be a losing cause. Therein lies the problem of the entire situation. Continue Reading…
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 2012-13 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.
Kevin Martin came to the Timberwolves via a July 11th sign-and-trade deal, inking a 4 year, $27.75 million contract, and immediately became the best shooting guard in Minnesota history. For a team that ranked dead last in the NBA in perimeter shooting in 2013-14 and in the bottom half of the league in free throw percentage, K-Mart was a sight for sore eyes. Employing unconventional (though effective) shot mechanics, the tenth-year man from Western Carolina brought a 38.5% career mark from outside the arc to Minneapolis. Between Martin, a healthy Kevin Love and a healthy Chase Budinger, the Timberwolves had every reason to hope their offensive woes would be solved, at least partially, by the sheer force of success from three-point land. Observers also wondered if his ability to get to the foul line (where he converts 86.9% of the time, 24th-best in NBA history) would return after a year of being utilized primarily as a spot-up shooter in Oklahoma City.
The results were somewhat mixed. Statistically, Martin turned in a season on par with his per-36 minute career averages. He scored 21.5 points, grabbed 3.4 rebounds and dished out 2.0 assists on 43/39/89 shooting splits. Over his decade in the league, those numbers are 20.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists on 44/39/87 splits. On the surface, he seemed like the same guy he’s always been, but once you look a little closer, you begin to see that wasn’t exactly the case.
If you have ESPN Insider and a stout constitution, you should go read Tom Haberstroh‘s post on the Timberwolves in general and Kevin Martin in particular in the superclutch (defined as one possession games in the final minute) right here.
But if you don’t, let me share the highlights (read: lowlights).
I present to you the single craziest stat of the 2013-14 season: In one-possession games (score within three) in the final minute — also known as “superclutch” situations — the Timberwolves have been outscored by 49 points in 22 minutes of action this season. I repeat: 49 points.
Minnesota’s opponents have scored 96 points to the Timberwolves’ 47. The Timberwolves have been more than doubled up in these tight situations. The result is that, when it should be a coin flip in these situations, Minnesota has lost 18 of those 25 games. Continue Reading…
The Minnesota Timberwolves need to hit more shots.
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…