Looking at the Wolves Offense, Part I: Three-Point Shooting

Last year’s Timberwolves had a problematic pairing of statistics describing its three-point shooting prowess.  The first statistic is 21.6.  That’s the average number of three-point shots attempted by the Wolves in a game.  That’s kind of a lot; good for 6th most in the entire league.  It’s nearly double the number of treys attempted by playoff teams like the Jazz and Grizzlies.  Only one team (Orlando) shot considerably more treys per game than this.  The second statistic is 33.2.  That’s the Wolves’ three-point shooting percentage.  It isn’t very impressive; tied for 23rd in the league.  There are many reasons why three-point shooting is a necessary weapon for the Timberwolves.  One, Ricky Rubio excels at delivering awesome passes to open perimeter shooters.  Two, Pekovic is a load in the paint and should attract defenders down low, welcoming jump shots for his teammates.  And three, the Wolves are not a team with jaw-dropping athleticism that will consistently win games by slashing to the bucket.  In order to be an efficient offense, they’ll need to be somewhat prolific from downtown.  In Part I of a series on the Wolves Offense, I investigate the three-pointing shooting issue to see if things might look better in 2012-13.


Let’s take stock of what we have returning from last season’s roster.

Kevin Love: 38 percent while shooting the three at a higher volume. Won the Three Point Competition during All-Star weekend. Stud.

Luke Ridnour: 32 percent. Yawn. Luke seems better than this and probably will be this season. Can make them off the dribble, that’s a bonus.

JJ Barea: 37 percent last season. Seems worse than this. Probably will be this season. Bad chemistry with Kevin and Colin Love.

Ricky Rubio: 34 percent. UNSUSTAINABLE!

Derrick Williams: Shot a putrid 26 percent from the arc, well below his potential, even if his 57 percent clip (!!!) as a college soph at Arizona was unsustainably high. I’ll go on a limb and predict Williams shoots 34 or 35 percent in 2012-13.

Subtractions

The only key loss is Michael Beasley, and maybe Martell Webster depending on what you think of him. I don’t consider Martell’s departure a loss, and he always disappointed me as a three-point shooter compared to his reputation as the next Glen Rice coming out of high school.

Martell Webster: shot 34 percent. See above. Never liked his game, and his shot was probably his biggest strength. He’s gonna love playing for Randy Wittman. Ugh.

Wes Johnson: shot 31 percent. ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION!

Wayne Ellington: shot a disappointing 32 percent. Seems like he was better than that. Should be a solid reserve for lots more years, just not here. No real loss.

Anthony Tolliver: AT’s 25 percent clip won’t be missed, but his defense and leadership will. Clearly had a psychological block last season that hurt his shooting. (Tolliver shot 40 percent from deep in 2010-11, and is a career 32 percent marksman.

Michael Beasley: I think the Wolves will end up regretting selling low on Mike Beas. Last season, Mike shot just under 38 percent–a shade better than Love–while being criticized relentlessly for his shooting (unfair) and shot selection. (Completely fair–most of the criticisms of his penchant for long twos were warranted.)

Additions

Andrei Kirilenko: Career 31 percent clip from the arc. Never known as much of a three-point. AK won’t have much to offer from the arc, but the slashing and cutting abilities he so ably demonstrated during the Summer Olympics when receiving nifty passes from Team Putin and current Wolves teammates Alexey Shved will add a dimension to the Wolves offense from the wing that was wholly absent last season with Wes Johnson and Martell Webster playing most of the minutes there. Apparently Jim Boeheim didn’t exactly *emphasize* “moving without the ball” at Syracuse, and the “Preparatory” in “Seattle Preparatory School” (where Martell went) is a misnomer.

Chase Budinger: What Kirilenko’s lack of range means is that Adelman is going to have to be savvy in making situational substitutions for him, bringing Budinger in for key situations for his outside shooting from the SF, such as when K-Love slides over to play the five. Bud has shot 36 percent from distance for his career, shooting over 40 percent last season after shooting a disappointing 32 percent in 2010-11.

Alexey Shved: Shved should add a ton of versatility to the Wolves offense, to include a nice stroke and a three point threat. He shot almost 50 percent last season in Euro League play. (WARNING: SAMPLE SIZE!) Shved’s three-point shooting percentage has fluctuated quite a bit during his career with CSKA, but has generally improved over time and after having seen his stroke during the Olympics, I’m confident that he adds another viable weapon to the Wolves’ arsenal. The nice thing about Shved that his competition–Ridnour and Barea–lack is height. Given his ability to handle the ball, create space, rise, and shoot over defenders, Shved will be able to create and make shots when the offense breaks down–something only the much-maligned Mike Beasley could really do last season.

Brandon Roy: The elephant in the room when talking about wing play, including three point shooting, is obviously Brandon Roy. No one knows quite what Roy can offer the Wolves because of question marks about his health, but Roy is unlikely to be much of an improvement over Johnson or Webster from deep. Roy’s career three-point shooting percentage is 35.2 percent. (Eds. Note: Of course, Roy would still be a better ball handler & slasher than Wes and Martell even if he were confined to a wheel chair, so it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.)

It’s easy to imagine Roy, Shved, and Budinger playing together on a second unit in which Roy would be the lead guard initiating the offense and run screen/rolls with Derrick Williams, penetrate off the pick, and then kick to Bud or Shved for the trey.

Overall, the Wolves should have much better movement with and without the ball on offense, wings who will be able to handle and pass the ball to shooters, and shooters who can hit, Rubio aside. I anticipate Pekovic drawing a lot of attention in the post, and if Adelman can ensure proper floor spacing and teach him how to pass out of double teams, Wolves shooters should have a lot of easy opportunities this year.

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4 responses to “Looking at the Wolves Offense, Part I: Three-Point Shooting

  1. Jeremy Merrow

    Yup, we have entered the year of the Wing in Minnesota. I really feel like our offense is going to be centered on wing scoring this year with a bulk of our points coming from variable combinations of Roy, AK, Shved, Luke, JJ, and Bud. None of these guys will likely average more than 13 or so ppg, but our wing rotation has the depth now to continuously bring in guys off the bench that can keep an offense going. In my opinion, that was one of the biggest problems with our squad, where it seemed like every game there would be at least one or two major scoring droughts. It’s just too hard to win games when you have guys on the floor that cumulatively play big minutes without ever scoring. With Pek digging a graveyard for his enemies in the paint and Love making the big defenders roam, we should have a decided advantage on most defenses with inside-out ball movement and cutting lanes. Our new lineup of wings is a significant upgrade from last season and should be able to take advantage of mismatches and give us some scoring boost.

    • Agree — it’ll probably be “wing by committee” more than one guy taking all the minutes and all the shots. Should be a better group this year. Webster, Johnson and Tolliver had fluky-bad shooting seasons (by their own standards) which made things even worse.

      • I hope you’re right about their seasons being “fluky bad.” What I mean by that isn’t that I hope they have strong comebacks on other teams – though I certainly wish a good guy like Tolliver the best regardless of the uniform he puts on each night, and would never root against a talented guy like Wes Johnson realizing even a fraction of his god-given ability. On the contrary, what I mean is that I hope their bad seasons didn’t have something to do with the fit of Adelman’s offense to the personnel who were featured in it – specifically, their ability to make others around them better. Clearly Rubio was making others around him better, but as great as they looked individually, it was less clear with Pek and Love. If I were a betting man I’d put a lot of dough on the null hypothesis – i.e., that Wes, Martell, and AT just aren’t very good, and that their sub-par seasons had nothing to do with the new regime or their star-level teammates – but if we see the wing by committee really struggling out of the gates this year, doubts could linger and identifying the best course of action could be hard. I’m overthinking this, sure, but hey, that’s what the offseason is for.

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