With the Clippers coming to town at full strength and with hopes of contending for the Western Conference title, a Wolves victory was not realistic. As they remain without Love and Rubio (and Ridnour and Wayne and Darko) tonight’s game was watched not with expectations of a good competition, but with an interest in the performance of specific players. In my case, that player was Anthony Randolph who had just burst out of his (usual) spot on the bench for 28 points and 5 blocks in last night’s near-win over the Denver Nuggets.
AR15 would continue riding the wave of positive momentum in this game versus the Clips. In his first stint at the end of the 1st Quarter, Randolph quickly swatted a Chris Paul shot attempt, and made a jumper on the other end for two points. Still on the floor in the middle of the 2nd, he hit a pair of 20-footers to help the Wolves carry a one-point lead into the half. By the end of the game, Randolph had played 27 minutes of productive basketball, posting 16 points (7-12 FG, 2-3 FT) 9 rebounds (3 offensive) 2 assists, and 3 blocks. Randolph was one of two Wolves in the positive side of +/- with a team-best (+5). As always, he made a couple of ugly turnovers, but so what? J.J. Barea had 7 of them, and I’m not convinced that his turnovers come from more-productive action than Randolph’s.
For the season, Randolph is third from the bottom of the team in minutes per game. If you remove Malcolm Lee and Brad Miller, who missed much of the season recovering from surgeries, he is DEAD LAST in minutes per game. With that in mind, let’s take a look at his ranks on the team in per-minute and other advanced stat categories:
Points: 3rd* – 17.8 points per 36 minutes
Rebounds: 3rd – 8.1/36
Blocks: 1st** – 1.9/36
Steals: 2nd – 1.3/36
Turnovers: 5th – 2.9/36
Field Goal Percentage: 2nd – 50.8%
PER: 3rd – 18.0
WS/48: 3rd – .112
* Tied with Michael Beasley
** Tied with Darko Milicic
So if Randolph is in the top three of most important categories, why does he ride the pine more than any other player? Why was he basically deactivated in the middle of the season, when he wasn’t even injured?
Well, part of it (obviously) has to do with the players who are 1st and 2nd in some of those categories that AR comes up 3rd in: namely, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic. Randolph is certainly inferior to those two. Also, when fighting for backup minutes he finds himself up against the 2nd Overall Pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, Derrick Williams. Adelman and the front office brass alike would rather see a recent high pick out there mixing production with head-scratching blunders than they would a guy who is on his third team in four seasons. But even setting aside Love, Pekovic, AND Williams, that still leaves Darko and Tolliver logging more tick than Randolph, despite grossly inferior production. What gives? I don’t think it’s laziness; last May, when most Wolves had left the state, AR could be seen working out hard with coaches right up to the day that the lockout prohibited such practices. Is it attitude? While he generally has that frowny look on his face, he doesn’t lose his cool or play with anything less than full energy during games. I really don’t know why this productive player gets banished to the end of the bench everywhere he goes. Can I remind everyone, also, that he is ONLY 22 YEARS OLD! Why can’t Anthony Randolph have a successful NBA career? Did 6’10” young men with graceful athleticism and high energy levels start growing on trees?
Okay, enough with the questions. The fact of the matter is that Randolph is up for restricted free agency and the Wolves will have to tender a qualifying offer in excess of $4 Million in order to retain the right to match his offers around the league. That isn’t going to happen, so Randolph will become an unrestricted free agent and he’ll be somebody else’s “problem.”
But without Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour, Kevin Love, and winning basketball to discuss, I thought it worthwhile to take a step back and appreciate what Anthony Randolph has done with his in-game opportunities this year.