Category Archives: Timberwolves

Assessing Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love Trade Scenarios

Andrew Wiggins, future Timberwolf?

Andrew Wiggins, future Timberwolf?

 

Bill Simmons posted a doozy on Grantland today right before lunch on the merits of a trade involving Kevin Love to Cleveland for a package centered around this year’s #1 overall pick, Andrew Wiggins.

All of Grantland’s NBA hitters weighed in on Love-Wiggins: Simmons. Sharp. Trillion. netw3rk, Klosterman (does he still work there?).

I was pretty stoked, at least by what-I-read-over-lunch standards. But after I read it, I left the cafeteria pissed off.

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Will Wiggins be a Wolf? Wolves-Cavs Trade Possibilities

 

Dion Waiters: Eerily reminiscent of J.R. Rider

Dion Waiters: Eerily reminiscent of J.R. Rider. Future Timberwolf?

Andy G: So, LeBron made another Decision. He’s going home to Cleveland; a decision that many in the media began to expect a few days ago. He wrote a great letter explaining everything, published by Sports Illustrated yesterday.

It did not take long after the announcement for the conversation to turn toward the Timberwolves. Specifically, it was previously reported (by Adrian Woj, no less) that the Cavaliers had been pursuing a trade for Kevin Love that would be contingent on them signing James. So, now that they signed James, everyone is wondering about that Love deal…

The obvious player that the Wolves covet is Andrew Wiggins, the number one pick in the most recent draft. So far, the Cavs are reportedly not willing to part with Wiggins. Instead, they’re only willing to go as far as (something along the lines of) Anthony Bennett (LAST year’s top pick) and maybe Dion Waiters and one more guy to make the salaries match up. Maybe they’d throw in a future draft pick or two.

The Wolves, by all reports to date, will not trade Love for the Bennett-Waiters package. They need Wiggins.

So here we are, waiting for Dan Gilbert (or Flip Saunders) to blink.

Let’s start with the big question:

Do the Wolves end up with Wiggins?

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Notes on a Scrimmage

While the world continued to wait for LeBron James’ next Decision, Timberwolves fans in Minneapolis stepped away from Adrian Wojnarowski’s Twitter account for 90 minutes of intrasquad scrimmage. The Wolves invited fans to watch the summer league roster run up and down for [just shy of] three quarters of loosely-regulated, but pretty intense basketball. Eyes inevitably fixed on high flyer Zach LaVine, the team’s latest lottery pick. But Shabazz Muhammad and Alexey Shved also logged big minutes. So did rookie Glenn Robinson III. Gorgui Dieng did not (illness).

Here are a few notes. I shouldn’t have to say that any praise — or criticism, really — comes with the caveat that this was a team scrimmage in July; one replete with players that will never play a second of *real* NBA action. Tonight was about seeing what guys looked like in the truest “eye test” form.

A few brief observations:

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Wolves Draft Review

GR3

The Wolves drafted Michigan Wolverine, Glenn Robinson III, with the 40th overall selection in Thursday’s draft.

So, on Thursday night the Wolves drafted Zach Lavine (Eds. Note: That’s how we spell it here.) and Glenn Robinson III with their first and second-round draft picks. Lavine infuriated fans with his alleged response to the Wolves selecting him. Robinson III looked happy to be selected at all. What to make of this?

Zach Lavine

Patrick J: I like the Lavine pick. As I argued before the draft, when you’re in the position the Wolves are in now, you go big or you go home. Zach Lavine may or may not turn out. That’s hardly the point. The Wolves are entering a period without Kevin Love. From that positition, you draft the guy you think has star potential–even when there are players who might help you more next season. (Ahem, Gary Harris, ahem.)

Britt Robson, reporting on the Wolves’ selection of Lavine, wrote this:

But the most significant thing Saunders said about choosing LaVine spoke to matters of context and ambition. “Sometimes you have to try and hit a home run. Some players that are ready-made, they are only going to be doubles hitters. This guy has an opportunity to be a home-run type player.”

That captures it pretty well. Does it mean I align with every idea the Wolves management has? No. But in this case, they made a defensible and possibly an unusually good pick.

Andy G: I’m not as bullish on LaVine as you are. He’s drafted to (basically) play shooting guard, yet he didn’t even average double figures in his lone college season at UCLA. Continue reading

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INBOX: The 2014 NBA Draft Edition

Zach Lavine: Future Timberwolf?

Zach Lavine: Future Timberwolf?

The draft is tomorrow. It kind of snuck up on Punch-Drunk this year. Rather than micro-analyze each prospect’s interviews like last year, we haven’t paid the whole thing much attention at all.

I blame Kevin Love.

Anyway, we’ll dig into what we feel are the big questions facing the Wolves, and Wolves fans as we head into another NBA Draft – a draft that doesn’t promise to be memorable for the franchise, but certainly could be.

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Does Ricky Deserve a Supporting Cast?

Is it reconcilable to consider Ricky Rubio to be a good NBA point guard, and at the same time object to trading Kevin Love for established, highly-paid veteran players like the ones rumored to be involved in the Golden State negotiations?

That’s a long, awkwardly-phrased question that might require a couple of readings to understand, but it’s one that I’m asking myself in different forms as the draft approaches along with the deadline to trade Kevin Love for maximum available value. It seems that so much of one’s opinion about a given Love Trade hypothetical turns on what that person feels about the Wolves roster aside from Love.

Can Rubio lead a good team?

Next season will be his fourth as an NBA player. He’s plenty experienced and is now pretty far removed from his unfortunate knee injury of March 2012.

Consider what Bill Simmons wrote in his 2012 Trade Value column, shortly before his ACL tear:

23. Ricky Rubio
Poor Ricky played himself out of the top 15 with a ghastly shooting slump (he’s down to 35.5 percent shooting for the season) that mushroomed these past eight games (17-for-69), a swoon that would feel like a bigger deal if Jason Kidd didn’t shoot 38 percent for his first three seasons. Special players figure it out. Rubio sees the floor differently. He’s always a half-step ahead of everyone else, especially defensively. His unselfishness is genuinely infectious in a Bird/Magic kind of way; along with Rick Adelman (it’s 1999 Sacramento all over again for him), that’s the biggest reason why the Timberwolves have morphed into the league’s best passing team. And you can’t deny his effect on Nikola Pekovic (a stiff last season) and Kevin Love (now a franchise guy). Watch the Wolves every week and you can’t help but mutter, “Those guys look like they’re having fun.” Yeah, because it’s fun to play basketball with Rubio and Love when Adelman is coaching you.

Of course, you can pick apart Rubio’s “impact” pretty easily with advanced stats, which actually makes me feel better about basketball as a whole. I’m glad Ricky Rubio can be picked apart. I’m glad he’s the 33rd best point guard in PER right now. That reinforces everything I believed about those numbers in the first place. Sometimes, they’re going to be a little … off. They should be used to accentuate what we’re watching, not to single-handedly shape opinions or beliefs. You can’t fully measure how teammates relate to one another and fit in with each other; even the five-man plus/minus stat (which I like) only goes so far. We’ll always have players and teams defying their metrics. Kyrie Irving is better than Ricky Rubio — we can all agree, right? — but I’m not sure this particular Timberwolves team would be better with Kyrie Irving. That’s why I love basketball. It doesn’t always make sense. And by the way …

A. Minnesota is going to make the playoffs unless somebody gets hurt.

B. Rubio could shoot 30 percent the rest of the way and still be the second-biggest reason it happened. So there.2

That version of Rubio — healthy, and running a high-ball screen offense suited to his skills — seemed extremely valuable; possibly more valuable to his team than even Kevin Love. He was a great defender and an only-one-in-the-league passer who saw stuff that nobody else could even imagine. He was a real weapon.

But then he got hurt.

And then the NBA stopped locking out its players, which allowed full off-seasons, which allowed brilliant coaches like Rick Adelman to install their preferred offenses. In Rick’s case, that was an offense that cared little about point guard dribbling and creative passing. It prioritized careful entries to the high post and perceptive, timely cuts down the baseline for opportunistic layups against reckless defense. As effective as it was, it was not good for an improvisational wizard like Ricky Rubio.

Before I beat that dead horse too much, I’ll get to the question here:

Is it time for the Wolves to make a decision on Rubio and the point guard position?

Should they at least consider drafting a point guard in the lottery?

A step further: Some of the potential Kevin Love trades involve mid-lottery picks. Would it be crazy to pull the trigger on one and draft Marcus Smart, who might be a future star point guard (in a more conventional style)?

Forgive me, here, as I’m just trying to follow the logic of strenuously objecting to the idea that Love should be traded for veterans that command a salary befitting their performance, and that Rubio (and PEK!) should be surrounded with a reasonable supporting cast in the next few seasons.

If the best option is to rebuild and slash payroll, what does that say about Ricky Rubio?

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Six Questions About Trading Kevin Love

As you already know, Kevin Love is on the trading block. Where he plays next season remains an unanswered question, but we are beyond the period of speculating whether or not the team is answering phone calls and entertaining serious offers. Given Love’s extended silence that followed the report that he will leave Minnesota next year as a free agent, it is safe to assume… well, exactly that. If he is not traded, he is going to leave Minnesota in 2015. He eventually made a brief ESPN appearance which did nothing to change this perception.

Flip Saunders and the organization have the option of keeping Love for one more season in hopes of attaining that elusive playoff berth that has escaped them for the past decade. More likely, they will trade Love for whatever they can get right now, or at least some time before February’s deadline.

I have not written much about these rumors (well, beyond the Twitter machine) for a few reasons, but primarily because it’s a dilemma that leaves me faced with way more questions than clear answers or opinions. With that in mind, I’ll rattle off some of them and share some reactions; reactions that vary from knee-jerk opinion to ones with a bit more factual basis and analysis.

1. Must the Timberwolves trade Kevin Love?

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“Flip Hires Flip,” and The Thing We’ll Have to Get Over

Washington Wizards v Chicago Bulls

In case you missed it (and at this point I doubt anybody reading this site missed it) Flip Saunders has been named head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves. He actually appointed himself leader of the sideline from his lofty perch where he currently sits as president of basketball operations. This is the second time that Saunders will coach the Wolves. He is the franchise’s career wins leader by a huge margin from the days when he led from the sidelines the teams led by Kevin Garnett on the court. They made the playoffs a bunch of times.

Purely on the merits: Saunders is a decidedly satisfactory basketball coach. He’s coached good players to pretty good seasons. He’s coached great players to very good seasons. He’s coached undeveloped players to terrible seasons. He is respected but not necessarily admired. For more on What Hiring Flip Saunders Means, check out Andrew Sharp’s piece for Grantland, or Britt Robson’s for MinnPost.

The part that I need to write about today is something I’ll try to avoid harping on too much in the future. Beating dead horses is a hobby of mine and many other writers – particularly ones that devote their time and energy to this frustrating franchise – but it gets tiring and is usually not fun to read.

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Canis Hoopus Roundtable Part I

Patrick and I, along with some other Wolves writers that you are familiar with, participated in a little Roundtable/Q & A over at Canis Hoopus. Go check it out.

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by | May 19, 2014 · 10:42 AM

Learning from The Machine: Some Observations about Past Timberwolves Draft Picks

Learning from The Machine

Learning from The Machine

I recently read an interesting paper, entitled “Profiting from Machine Learning in the NBA Draft (paper available here).” The author of the paper is Philip Maymin, Assistant Professor of Finance and Risk Engineering at the NYU School of Engineering. Maymin has written several articles applying machine learning techniques to NBA basketball.

Here’s the study’s abstract: I project historical NCAA college basketball performance to subsequent NBA performance for prospects using modern machine learning techniques without snooping bias. I find that the projections would have helped improve the drafting decisions of virtually every team: over the past ten years, teams forfeited an average of about $90,000,000 in lost productivity that could have been theirs had they followed the recommendations of the model. I provide team-by-team breakdowns of who should have been drafted instead, as well as team summaries of lost profit, and draft order comparison. Far from being just another input in making decisions, when used properly, advanced draft analytics can effectively be an additional revenue source in a team’s business model.

Based on The Machine’s* projections, we’re going to discuss some choice decisions the Wolves made in past drafts.

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The Timberwolves Season, Backward and Forward: The Intermediate View

izzzzo

Hey Coach, how do you feel about the Timberwolves job?

[This is part 2 of a multipart season-review series. This post looks back in time at the season that was and a bit of what is to come. A subsequent post will use what we learned this season to take an even-more (!) prospective look ahead at what the Timberwolves should look like in 2014-15 and beyond.]

1. Coaching Search: Who will it be: Flip or The Field?

Patrick J: Survey says….the field? The question mark remains there because Flip remains insistent on including the “never say never” clause in his remarks.

I’ll go on record: I, like many Wolves fans, would prefer not to mix business with pleasure, POBO duties with coaching, or whatever other mixed metaphors might be relevant here.

Look, I admire what Flip did in shaping the early aughts Wolves into the Western Conference title contenders that they were. He was and likely still is a solid NBA coach. Maybe not a great one, but not a bad one, and the Wolves could certainly do worse. They have in the past. (Exhibit A: Rambis, Kurt.)

More than that, I’m uneasy with the notion of the guy who was hired out of thin air to replace David Kahn taking the reins over all of the Wolves franchise that matters, for many intents and purposes within a year of his hiring. Whether or not true, it would feel too premeditated. And that means Flip would immediately be the target of criticism, whether fair or unfair, and fans would be more prone to ask “what if” questions about the Wolves coaching seat than they would if Flip had stayed in his lane and led the franchise from his POBO seat.

Even more than that, there’s a great pool of available coaches whom Flip could hire for the job. We’ll touch on this below, so I won’t say much about them here, but Flip and the Wolves would look better if they hire one of the numerous attractive outside candidates. Presumably they also know this, which (presumably?) contributed Flip’s declaration today on ESPN that he’s an unlikely candidate for the job.

Awarding the job to an outside candidate with the bona fides worthy of this job is a winning move for everyone, fans included. So let’s hope “The Field” triumphs in this one.

Andy G: Agree on what’s preferable, so I’ll answer on what I believe is more likely. I’d bet on Flip over the field. By just a nudge.

My most likely scenario looks like this:

Flip/Wolves Brass float all sorts of rumors of high profile, totally unrealistic candidates that are in consideration for the job. (See Izzo, Tom; Donovan, Billy.) Once those inevitably don’t happen, the Wolves are left standing on their heels on the eve of Kevin Love’s final season under Kahntract.

What option will they have but to choose continuity and familiarity, perhaps with an unwritten promise to Kevlar that he will have final say in, you know, the *real* coach.

That’s my most likely scenario. Flip over the field. Then if Love decides to leave, Flip can just keep the job, long term.

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Timberwolves Season in Review: The Retrospective

cabana-pek

My college roommate was on vacation and took this unbelievable photo of Pekovic. He emailed it to me, when I was at happy hour. I tweeted it. It went viral. The internet is cool. -AG

[This is Part 1 of a season review series. This post looks back in time at the season that was. A subsequent post will use what we learned this season to take a prospective look ahead at what the Timberwolves should look like in 2014-15 and beyond.]

1. Season Highlight

Andy G:  Let’s kick this thing off on a positive note. Even if we blew Adelman’s finale against the lowly Utah Jazz the other night.

The season highlight happened immediately, during the first few games of the season. That’s a little bit depressing, as it necessarily means the team moved downhill throughout the season, but it is nevertheless true.

I was visiting your place in Pittsburgh when we watched the Wolves on League Pass, blowing Kevin Durant’s Thunder off the Target Center floor. (That really happened.) Then they handled the Knicks, who we still thought were good. (They won 54 games last season.) The Wolves began the year 3-0. I think Mark Stein had them near the very top of his power rankings. Kevin Looked like a *real* MVP candidate. Kevin Martin’s contract looked like a bargain. On his leak-out, bomb, receptions-turned-dunks, Corey Brewer looked like Randy Moss with a smile. A huge smile. Ricky Rubio looked healthy, which was a step up from the season prior. Everything was coming together. Finally. Those were the days.

All 5 or 6 of them.

Anyway, my season highlight was the first week. Things were looking so great.

Patrick J: Season highlight? Would it be wrong to say Shabazz Muhammad’s D-League Showcase? (Eds. Note: Yes, it would.)

Okay, so all of the games you mentioned were great. But Corey Brewer’s 51-point game in a win over the Rockets was TRULY great. We chronicled it here.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m an unrepentant Corey Brewer fan. CAVEAT EMPTOR: I don’t care what the stats say. He’s everything that is fun and unusual and spontaneous and (Eds. Note: “sometimes”) right about basketball. I expressed my admiration for Brew before he even came back to the Wolves in this piece we did for Timberwolves.com. When I wrote that, I felt kind of silly writing such complimentary words about such a bit player who wasn’t even on the Wolves. But hell, you feel what you feel, so you write what you write. And I’m writing this: For all his faults, Corey Brewer will always be one of my favorite Timberwolves of all time. (Say it with me: FIFTY. ONE. POINTS. [Full stop.] IN. A. WIN. [Full stop.] OVER. THE. ROCKETS. [Full stop.].)

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Work or Play?

workandfun

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ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!! (Wolves Beat LeBron, INBOX Edition)

Andy G: The Wolves took on LeBron James and the two-time defending champion Miami Heat last night, so they must’ve lost, right?

No!

For the first time in approximately forever the Wolves were victors over a team with LeBron James on it. (Eds note: I think Dave or Jim on the broadcast said the last time was 2005, back about when ‘Bron was going to war with Agent Zero and Caron Butler’s Wizards in the Playoffs. How long ago does that seem?) It took a pair of overtimes, some Kevin Love and even Chase Budinger heroics (!) and every ounce of Ricky Rubio’s floor-generaling stamina, but they eked it out.

They eked it out, of course, on a missed Corey Brewer backwards alley-oop layup attempt… in which he was fouled for some reason! He made one of the free throws. Crazy ending to a crazy game.

I enjoyed it tremendously.

Your thoughts?

Patrick J: The Brewer “shot” (at about 3:20 in those highlights) was one of the most amazing I’ve ever seen that didn’t go in. You know how Corey does inexplicable stuff all the time and it’s sort of endearing and sort of grating? This was one of those times. I still don’t know (1) how he even got in position to get that shot, (2) how he formulated the idea that the shot could look like that, (3) how he managed to draw a foul call on such an ill-advised shot. But that’s just Brew. Continue reading

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More Notes on Shabazz

Shabazz Muhammed - Future Timberwolf?

So I just clicked on the Timberwolves team stats page and was shocked by something I saw:

Shabazz Muhammad is shooting 46.3 percent from the field, this year.

That statistic is not shocking because it is great or unusual in any way. It is shocking because, for such a long stretch of this season, Shabazz had pitiful efficiency numbers. For the season’s first three months, he shot just 26.1 percent from the field. That’s obviously terrible. I tend to be an apologist for Timberwolves rookies, and have often advanced the notion that he would shoot a higher percentage from the field if he were given more consistent minutes.

But I am very unfamiliar with my Timberwolves Rookie Apologist takes being proven correct. In the case of Muhammad (and to some extent, Gorgui Dieng) it seems there may be an exception. He saw his first doses of real playing time in February. In that month, he shot 45.7 percent from the field, while producing 20.5 points and 8.9 rebounds per 36 minutes. In March, in even more time, those numbers changed to 53.1 percent, 18.2 points, and 5.2 rebounds. His assist numbers remain extremely low and true to the projections built off of his collegiate stats.

Shabazz’s PER is up to 13.4 and almost at the league average of 15.0.

Three more things about Shabazz:

1. His shot chart: Continue reading

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MOAR GORGUI (WOLVES 107, Hawks 83)

“[Gorgui Dieng] really rebounded the ball. That’s the thing I really like about him. The more he’s played in the last few games, the more calm he is offensively. He’s slowed down a little bit. He made a couple moves tonight where guys came at him, he showed them the ball and then went up and scored afterwards. He’s got a little bit of confidence and he knows what he can do. And he’s really kinda sticking within our parameters of what we want him to do. Every once in a while he goes off like that little spin move he had (media laughs) but he doesn’t wanna do that all the time. But that’s okay. He’s rebounding the heck out of the ball. Every game he’s in, he goes and gets it.”

–Rick Adelman

The Wolves beat the Hawks — the last Eastern Conference playoff seed, if the season ended tonight — by 24 points tonight at Target Center. After a sluggish, difficult-to-watch opening quarter that featured 13 turnovers between the two teams, the focus picked up and the quality of play followed. Despite a relatively modest 14 points and 12 rebounds from Kevin Love, the Wolves steadily built up a lead off of their defensive pressure. Atlanta’s 25 turnovers — 17 of which resulted from Timberwolves steals — were the biggest factor causing such a one-sided final score.

Ricky Rubio (6 steals) and Corey Brewer (3) in particular were aggressively picking away passes and dribbles, before leading fast breaks. Rubio literally took one in the chin in the first half, sustaining a cut that required 15 stitches. No matter. He came back in and dominated the third quarter with thievery and dime dropping.

But it was Gorgui Dieng who once again turned in the headlining Timberwolves performance. The rookie center from Louisville continued his impressive run with the starting unit, compiling a stat line that included 15 efficient points, 15 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. Perhaps most importantly for the foul-happy rook was that he limited himself to just 3 of those in over 41 minutes of action. Gorgui’s +25 plus/minus was the game’s best by 6 points.

He’s interesting to watch on defense; entirely unlike Nikola Pekovic, who is obviously the typical starting five man next to Kevin Love. Dieng is much quicker and covers a lot more ground after hedging a ball screen, for instance. He occasionally switches onto smaller, quicker players. He contested a Lou Williams three tonight after a switch. He successfully defended Shelvin Mack’s crossover dribble, after a switch. (Maybe he’s been taking lessons from Switch Defender Extraordinaire, Dante Cunningham?)

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Timberwolves Catch-Up

I apologize for the lack of content over the past few days. Since the double-overtime win over the Mavs, when Ricky Rubio put together a triple double and one of his greatest ever performances, the following has happened:

* The Wolves were blown out by the Rockets at Houston.

* The Wolves played really well for three quarters at home against the Suns. And then were blown off the floor in the fourth quarter.

* The Wolves were destroyed by the Grizzlies at Memphis, last night.

It has not been a fun stretch. The first and last of the three were unpleasant for obvious reasons. The middle game left a certain sting due to how the game unfolded (crunchtime collapse) and also because of how neatly it symbolized this entire season; one that has included first-quarter point barrages followed by late-game stagnancy.

Add these factors to my interest in the ongoing NCAA Tournament, and a busier-than-usual work schedule, and you have my excuse for not posting much, recently.

The big-picture team and fan issues remain the same:

We’re all pretty sure that Rick Adelman is coaching his last career games. Kevin Love is awesome, but worn down from trying to carry his team. Corey Brewer and J.J. Barea are playing outside of their natural (read: smaller) roles. Ricky Rubio is good, but needs to be better. Nikola Pekovic is big, and will always miss some games due to leg injuries. Kevin Martin can score, but he’s almost certainly overpaid. Chase Budinger seems like damaged goods, and needs to have a huge off-season in the weight room. The Western Conference is loaded and the Wolves might struggle to crack its top eight in the foreseeable future.

Gorgui Dieng seems to be the one bright spot of late. Over the past five games (the first five starts of his career) Gorgui is averaging 12.2 points and 13.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, in 32.4 minutes per game. He’s shot 56.1 percent from the field and 71.4 percent from the foul line. In these games, the Wolves have performed at their best with Gorgui on the floor and at their worst with him off of it. This is a nice change from earlier in the season, when Gorgui’s sporadic playing time usually coincided with poor team performance. In one of the weaker draft classes in memory, the Timberwolves may have plucked a good player at Number 21. That is your dose of optimism for this Tuesday morning.

Next up are the Hawks, tomorrow night at Target Center.

Until then.

Season Record: 34-35

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Unshackled Ricky Rubio

But the Knicks, they put the shackles on him, man, you know, on his whole game. They locked him up, like, in a straight jacket or something.

But when he was in the streets of Philly, in the playgrounds, ahh! (laugh)

You know what they called him?

What?

Jesus.

That’s what they called him. Jesus. Cause he was the TRUTH.

It might have been due to Nikola Pekovic’s absence. Without him, the Timberwolves’ typical offense — which is very high-low intensive — does not make as much sense.

It might have been due to a specific matchup the Wolves wanted to exploit, like Jose Calderon’s poor defensive skills.

Or maybe it was because the playoff chances are now gone, and it is time to tinker with new ideas.

Whatever the case, Rick Adelman removed the shackles restraining his point guard, Ricky Rubio, and let him run wild.

Last night, Rubio played one of his finest games ever. He had a triple double with 22 points and 15 assists. He had 4 steals. His energetic, at times ball-dominant, floor leadership showed flashes of prime Steve Nash or Chris Paul. If the Wolves were not running pick and roll, it was because Ricky just took off on his own, reading and reacting the way only he knows how.

The only point in time in which things changed was with a few minutes left in regulation, when the Wolves went to a sticky isolation offense involving Kevins Love and Martin. That also happened to be the worst offense the team played all night. Rubio ended the game having played 49 minutes; 49 minutes in which his team won by 11 points, which is an impressive plus-minus in a game that ended with a 1-point win in overtime.

Dallas wanted that game, too. This wasn’t tanking-season stuff. Rick Carlisle called a pair of timeouts in the opening minutes to chew out his team and make sure they knew that — to borrow Bobby Knight youtube language (nsfw, language) — he wasn’t there to f**k around! But the timeouts did not change things. Because Ricky.

It would be fun to see the last 16 games played this way. It not only seems good for the health of Ricky Rubio’s development, but possibly Gorgui Dieng’s too. The young center had another double double last night; this one in just 25 minutes. Gorgui, and players like him, are more likely to succeed in the style generated by Rubio. Defenses become scrambled, which means more dunks and open shots become available. If Pekovic returns, it’s probably a different story — the Wolves had a very nice thing going (aside from crunchtime) with Love and Pek as the focal point. But if Pek’s ankle needs time to rest and heal, let it heal. Let it heal and let Ricky be Ricky.

If last night was any sort of predictor, we will all gladly watch 16 more games with Unshackled Ricky Rubio running the show.

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No Playoffs? What’s Next?

With a playoff run out of the picture, will Nikola Pekovic play out the rest of the season?

With a playoff run out of the picture, will Nikola Pekovic play out the rest of the season?

The Timberwolves aren’t making the playoffs. Let’s put that idea behind us.

The Wolves underachieved this year.

It doesn’t matter how many more games they win or lose. Making the playoffs this season was a benchmark - the benchmark - for that nebulous but real concept known as “success.” And this season, the Wolves were unsuccessful.

I’m not going to get into why the Wolves failed. We’ve talked all about the draft picks, free agent signings, the failings of the second unit, Adelman’s rotations, Barea over Rubio, close losses, and everything else, ad nauseum. 

What’s Next?

Lots of Wolves fans will check out. It’s no secret that interest in the team waxes and wanes with the team’s highs and lows. When the team is winning, fans take interest. When it isn’t, they don’t. This isn’t an indictment of fair-weather fandom. It’s just human.

The real question is whether the Wolves will also check out as a team.

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“The Best Part of My Day” (Raptors 111, WOLVES 104)

(Not safe for work, language)

@PDWolves: See, for me, it’s like that scene in Good Will Hunting. You guys have seen that, right?

@brianjacobson: Yeah.

@bobs219 (nods)

@GymRatInParis (doing something on phone, not paying attention)

@PDWolves: Ben Affleck’s like, “One day I just wanna pull up to your house to pick you up, and you’re not there. You’re just gone.” And for me, one day I wanna just turn on a Wolves game, and Ricky’s shot just LOOKS DIFFERENT. Rather than that weird sequencing and wind up, he just pops up and fires it. With way more arc. I don’t even care if it goes in, I just want it to look different.

You know what I mean?

@bobs219: (seems a little confused) Yeah.

@brianjacobson: (incredulous look on face) That’s a pretty loose ‘Will Hunting’ tie-in.

@PDWolves: But you got it.

@brianjacobson: I’m not sure that even makes sense.

@PDWolves: Whatever, you’re right with me.

@bobs219: Grimmy, do you have any other super popular movies you wanna force comparisons to? Maybe something from Shawshank?

@PDWolves: Well, let’s see.

I know that hope is a good thing; maybe even the best of things. And with tonight’s loss the Wolves’ playoff hopes are shot. And that really sucks.

How’s that?

The Timberwolves lost to the Raptors on Sunday night.

Kevin Love played a great game, scoring 26 points and almost notching a triple double. Nikola Pekovic was solid, chipping in 17 of his own and fighting hard all night for the deepest, choice real estate possible and cashing in on baby hooks near the rim and off the glass. Corey Brewer played like a slightly-crazier-than-usual Corey Brewer with a surprising level of success. He had 17 points and 6 steals and was a best-among-all-starters +10 in 44 minutes of action. Say what you want about Brewer, but it’s damn impressive that a person can play that hard for almost an entire game.

But the Raptors were just better. DeMar DeRozan scored 25 points despite battling some foul trouble. Steve Novak came off the bench to shoot 6 three-pointers and make 5 of them. Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, and Chuck Hayes set bruising screen after bruising screen for Kyle Lowry, who posted a triple double with 20 points and a pair of steals.

When Shabazz Muhammad scored three times in a short fourth-quarter sequence, and Ricky Rubio was gesturing for the crowd to get excited, the Raptors responded with sweet perimeter shooting and extra hustle on the offensive boards to fend off any possibility of a dramatic finish.

The Wolves’ most blameworthy stretch came at the beginning of the second quarter when a 33-33 first-quarter score quickly became a 13-point Raptors lead. Kevin Love, who ended up playing 41 minutes, had to check back in a little bit early to keep the ship from sinking. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who took back some first-half minutes from Muhammad (who did not play until the second half) was extremely ineffective, dropping the ball for turnovers and doing nothing to limit Raptors points. LRMAM somehow ended the game with a plus/minus of -18, despite only playing 4, middle-of-the-game minutes.

But credit goes to the Raptors and former Timberwolves coaches Dwane Casey and Bill Bayno. They have an impressive team that includes skill and grit at point guard, length, athleticism and shooting strokes on the wings, and punishing size up front. They earned this win.

Next up are the Milwaukee Bucks, who come to Target Center on Tuesday night. Milwaukee has the worst record in the NBA and the Wolves will probably win that game.

Until then.

Season Record: 31-31

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