ESPN’s #NBARank (to which, full disclosure, I was a contributor) is approaching its zenith; we’re in Steph Curry/Tyson Chandler territory at the moment which, for me, is probably the most interesting and edifying swath of the NBA (sure hope I get to see them play sometime soon). If you ask me, the whole enterprise is pretty fascinating, not least for the pure chutzpah of assigning a comprehensive rating, down to the hundredth of a point, to 500 NBA players. (I mean, we all know that Pooh Jeter is precisely .01 better than Alonzo Gee–and just exactly as good as Eduardo Najera–but, like many true things, it does take some courage to come out and say it, you know?) It also draws heavily on the deep reservoir of compulsive list-making, stat-memorizing, Simpsons-quoting, no-girlfriend-having 16-year-old boy that lies just under the surface of almost all sportswriters.
We’ve already made note of Nikola Pekovic’s and Lazar Hayward’s presence in the top 500 (and should also point out that Malcolm Lee sneaks in at number 429, just ahead of Jeremy Evans). The next Wolves up the ladder are Wayne Ellington at 364 and Sebastian Telfair at 322. For the dynamic bounce he injected into the Wolves blood whenever he was on the floor (particularly during that dark time after Al Jefferson’s knee injury) Bassy is pretty close to my heart. But I think we all know by now that he is one of those phenomenally gifted but fatally flawed players that are such staples of the NBA’s lower echelons. What’s more, there’s very little chance that he’ll be re-signed by the Wolves for what remains of the ’11/’12 season.
But the jury is still out on Wayne Ellington. If you consider only the fact that Ellington is a two-guard who hits nearly 40% of his threes it can be hard to imagine why his future in the league is in doubt. After all, every team needs a spot-up shooter. But while 40% from three is pretty good, it’s not quite good enough to make up for everything else. Ellington is a touch un-athletic and a touch undersized for a two and so has a tough time both guarding the NBA’s many dynamic scoring guards and finishing inside of 20 feet (last year he hit only 40.9% of his twos–not so great). And these lacks seem to cause him to play a touch too fast, exacerbating his already below average ballhandling and causing him to make hurried decisions. So we’ve got an undersized, turnover-prone two-guard with a career true shooting percentage of .509. Wayne’s got some work to do.
There are days when it’s really difficult to be a Timberwolves’ fan. The season is grows long. The weather changes in strange ways. The accumulated disappointments and tiny humiliations, the constant losses begin to take their toll. Did you know that Rudy Gay was drafted just after Randy Foye? Did you know that Deandre Jordan was drafted in the second round, three spots after Nikola Pekovic and one spot after Mario Chalmers, whom the Wolves traded away for basically nothing?
Did you know that the Wolves’ last three lottery picks are now, in no particular order: playing on another continent; missing 21 out of their last 25 shots (and looking terrible doing it); “resting”? That the Clippers had lost consecutive games to Cleveland, Toronto and Milwaukee, allowing two of the three to shoot over 50%? And that the Wolves managed just a gnarly 35.4% against that same crew of Clips? Well it’s all true.
At the moment that Kevin Love scored his 10th and 11th points of this game, notching his 38th consecutive double-double, breaking records held by folks like Kevin Garnett and John Stockton, I thought to myself: boy a double-double isn’t really much of a stat is it? After all, Love has shown us more than once that it’s possible to get one (more than one) without actually playing that well.
I was thinking this because up to that point Love looked like the physically un-well man that he apparently was. He was pale, haggard and listless. Despite his rebounding numbers, he was not pursuing the ball off of the glass with his customary anticipation and abandon. He was struggling to shoot the ball with any balance and rhythm against the massively strong, thick-legged Chuck Hayes (everybody does). He was passive and slow on defense, getting smoked both by Luis Scola, the beautifully dissolute-seeming Argentine (understandable) and by Hayes himself (not so much). (By the way, I love that these two are on a team together. If Scola and Hayes were buildings, Scola would be some boozy, debauched 4AM tapas bar while Hayes would be the last remaining rock factory in Gary, Indiana.)