Five Friday Questions

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1. Is Gorgui Dieng an exaggerated plus on defense, and exaggerated minus on offense?

After learning the nature and extent of the Pekovic injury, I wrote a little bit about Gorgui Dieng. Specifically, I wrote about the question marks surrounding the Timberwolves offense when Gorgui takes the floor, and also the fact that he blocks a lot of shots and crashes the boards.

Well, in 6.4 meaningful minutes against the New Orleans Pelicans, he continued his reputation. With Gorgui on the floor, the defense was really good and the offense was really bad. In a game like tomorrow’s versus Memphis, maybe he will fit right in?

I wonder how Adelman feels about muddying the game up in the paint and trying to win in the low 90s. Gorgui seems like a one-way player in the extreme sense.

2. Now that he’s finally playing well, why is Alexey Shved removed from the rotation?

In the month of January, which ends tomorrow night, Alexey Shved posted the following per-36 minutes stats:

* 18.1 points
* 40.9 FG%
* 45.5 3Pt%
* 3.5 assists
* 1.6 turnovers
* 4.5 rebounds
* 2.6 steals
* 1.0 blocks (!)

For the very first time in his NBA career, Shved looked like a pretty good combo guard, instead of a rattled point guard who was moved off the ball.

Which made it seem a little bit strange that he was — all of a sudden — removed from the regular rotation last night against the Pelicans. Instead, Chase Budinger, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Dante Cunningham filled the reserve minutes. The team performance was pretty bad, despite the winning result. (The Jrueless, Andersonless, Browless Pellies are an atrocious group.) They might need Shved’s talent tomorrow night against a hot Grizzlies team that played in last year’s conference finals.

3. Who is better: Ricky Rubio or Mike Conley Jr?

I think most Timberwolves fans would be inclined to say the former and I think most other people would say the latter. Both play feisty defense. Ricky has more size and is a more creative passer. Conley is a more willing and able scorer.

This will be — as always — a fun matchup to watch in Friday’s game.

4. How will you remember David Stern?

Friday is David Stern’s final day as NBA commissioner. Some — many — consider him the greatest commissioner in American sports history.

What will you remember him most by?

(Mine will be his response to the Ron Artest/Palace of Auburn Hills brawl, and the dress code. Stern was very heavy handed in his control of the NBA’s corporate friendly image.)

5. How many Western Conference playoff spots are currently up for grabs?

The Suns won at Indiana tonight. If the Timberwolves did that, I’d write 10,000 words, most of which would just be me repeating how awesome the Timberwolves are.

I have the following teams sharpied into the West playoffs:

1. Thunder
2. Spurs
3. Clippers
4. Blazers
5. Warriors
6. Rockets
7. Suns

Okay, fine. I’ll hold off on Phoenix.

But they are now 10 games over .500 and really have the look of a legitimate playoff team on the rise.

With less than 40 games to go, the Wolves are in a battle with the Suns, Mavs, and Grizzlies (probably not the Nuggets, given their injuries) for 2 playoff spots. Games like Friday’s at home versus Memphis are huge.

What do you think?

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Five Friday Questions

  1. Brett A

    Good stuff here.
    As for playoff teams, I think what you’ve “sharpied” in makes sense, but mostly because it’s an established heirarchy. I honestly think that everyone after OKC, SAS, POR, and LAC is vulnerable. Strange things happen, and an extended injury to DH, Harden, Curry, or some other setback/implosion could change the landscape immensely. That’s not some Timberwolvian over-optimism – same shit could happen to us (or we could just keep treading water in this same impossibly frustrating manner). I just think that a lot of the West remains fluid.

    Bonus! http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=pxzb4sm

    • Trading Kyrie Irving to the Timberwolves is becoming one of my favorite hobbies.

      Good point about the potential for injuries to stars like Harden or Curry. That could change things. I suppose the Sharpie thing is basically me conceding that the Suns are not a fluke. I was more hesitant than some to reach that conclusion…

  2. Jeremy

    I will go ahead and do my own responses because these are really great, fun questions.

    1. I think Gorgui is probably a net negative at this point, but will be an extremely important rotation piece during this stretch with Pek out. He is a good interior defender, but he is also a well oiled fouling machine, and if a game is tight I don’t want to see him racking up 3 fouls in 90 seconds and putting the other team in the penalty 4 minutes into the 4th quarter. He is also comically bad on offense (oven mitt hands?). Ronny is the better two way player and should split most of the minutes at the 5 with small ball Love group. But Gorgui is going to have to play some key minutes and I think he can play enough defense to be a contributor. We shall see.

    2. Shved should see his minutes increased in these upcoming games. We are going to have to replace Pek’s scoring from somewhere, and it isn’t going to be Brewer or Mbah. Shved is putting up legit 6th man numbers, and he should start to take some minutes away from JJ, who is a train wreck most of the time.

    3. I don’t even think there is a discussion to be had about Rubio vs. Conley. Conley is the superior player and it is not close. Every advanced metric (PER, WS, WS/48, RAPM) favors Conley by a significant margin in each of the three seasons Ricky has played. He is every bit as good of a defender, is close to as good of a facilitator, and he CAN SCORE. Rubio is cute, but they don’t spot you any points for that in basketball games.

    4. I will always think of David Stern like an old school military dad that was probably way too hard on his kids. You see him yell and punish his kids and you’re like damn, that was really harsh. Then you see that those kids grow up to be twice as responsible and successful as kids with the cool parents that let you drink beer in the basement. Stern always came across as an arrogant, dickish dictator, but pretty much everything he ever did was for the overall well-being of the league. I’ll pour a little bit out for him tonight (maybe some Pabst, nothing from my Fultons growler).

    5. The only playoff spot left up for grabs is the 8 seed unless there is a major injury. I am now of the mindset that Phoenix is the real deal, and they are winning despite half of their badass DragonBlade backcourt out. Bledsoe could be back in as little as a month. I am considering them a lock for now. Memphis is playing great basketball right now, and it is no coincidence that they started to play better once Marc Gasol (reigning DPOY) got back on the court. Dallas is probably about equal with the Wolves as far as roster potential. I don’t believe Denver is in play. The 8 seed will belong to one of Memphis, Dallas, MN. I have a hard time believing we will outplay both of those teams for the remainder of the season, especially considering that we are already behind in the standings. The last stretch of games in late March and April will be really fun, and it will be super interesting to see how the tanking teams affect the playoff landscape (keeping in mind that we play Orlando, Sacramento, Chicago, and Utah in the last 2 weeks).

    • @Jeremy: Here are my takes.

      1. Agree on Gorgui. He seems to have some obvious upside that isn’t being used – possibly more so than with Shabazz. But right now, Turiaf is better on both ends. I don’t know how much Dieng improves by getting piecemeal work, so if you’re Adelman (not that he cares about this, but still…), you might as well play Ronny for everything he’s worth and keep Gorgui on the bench unless he’s pressed into action by foul problems, ejections, etc.

      2. I’m mystified by Shved. I have to think Rick views the rotations as situational, and that while most situations has favored Shved (in his view), recent situations haven’t. But if the trend continues…well, that’s confusing.

      3. Conley’s definitely the better player right now. There are certain instances in which Rubio is the more valuable defender, but Conley is as good/better than Ricky at everything else, passing included. (Conley’s an extremely capable distributor; this isn’t to demean Ricky.) I’m hoping Ricky can follow Mike Jr.’s lead and learn to shoot more consistently. His shot looked pretty broken coming out of OSU, and now he’s reliable.

      4. Agree for the most part on Stern. I’ve always held him in some degree of contempt, but admired him at the same time. This is probably, at least in part, a representation of the whole “it’s better to be feared than loved” thing. I’m not a fan of Adam Silver, but I’m increasingly intrigued with how supposedly open-minded he is regarding experimentation with rule changes and other facets of the game. Shall be interesting to see how the transition goes over the next 12-18 months.

      5. Agree–#8 is the only realistic slot. Lots of competition fighting for it.

      • Jeremy

        On Adam Silver – I don;t know what to think of him really. I’m worried he will be too open-minded to some of the more “out there” ideas that get floated around. I see things all the time talking about shortening the games to two 20 minute halves, adding a four point shot line, reducing timeouts, making the uniforms into NASCAR style advertising canvases – I don’t think I would be cool with any of this stuff. There are even more pressing current considerations to be handled with the Sacramento arena debacle, getting a team (Milwaukee?) to Seattle, fixing the tanking problem…..As much as the idea of a progressive thinker sounds good on paper, I have a feeling that Silver will have a major bungle within his first year.

        • What do you have against turning uniforms into NASCAR style advertising canvases? ;)

          (Okay, okay, yes – Silver is almost sure to have a giant flub in his first year – I just hope he makes the right bets. Widening the court is a no-brainer.

          • It wouldn’t surprise me if Silver took things *too far* like Jeremy worries he might.

            The TrueHoop blog (which is awesome, normally) likes to push “progressive” basketball ideas which sometimes seek to fundamentally change what the game is. (Eliminate free throws? What the fuck?) If Silver takes too much of that and runs with it, look out.

            But I do think tanking needs to be addressed in some fashion via how the draft process works, and the league should really try to figure out a way to play less games and maintain revenue levels. If I had more of a life, there’s no way I’d be able to watch as many games as I do. Something in the range of 50 to 65 games seems like plenty. Less injuries, no back-to-back sluggishness, less travel, you get the idea.

            • Jeremy

              I thought the 66 game schedule from the lockout was a good number of games. Of course, I would spread it out so the schedule stays at roughly 3 games per week with way less back-to-backs. I don’t think I would want to cut down to much fewer than 60 something games because it makes it so likely that a short-term injury (like Pek’s right now) could fully derail your entire season.

              The idea of getting rid of free throws is the dumbest thing ever. I am actually mad that this got brought up.

              I think the most out-of-box progressive concept that I could get behind to make the league more interesting and solve the tanking issue would be to get rid of the conferences and implement relegation. There would be a “premier” league of sorts and a lower tier league (Wolves finally relevant!). The upper eschelon of the lower league receive the bottom seed in the playoffs. The relegation system is fluid, so teams can play their way up to the premier league or also be demoted down. I think the primary issue with this system would be that due to lower level competition, teams trapped in purgatory lose viewership/attendance/revenue. At the same time, that is also kind of the point – tanking comes with a price. There would also still be inter-league play so fans of the shit teams can still come out in droves to watch Lebron/Durant/Nick Young a few times a year.