Category Archives: Uncategorized

How Much Is A Steal Really Worth? (More than you might think)

An interesting take from FiveThiryEight’s Benjamin Morris. For a while, I’ve been inclined to think that steals are underrated because of the popularity of Hollinger’s PER statistic.

I get the substantive criticisms of both steals (or, more specifically, of over-relying on steals as a meaningful metric), but I still want players who’ll get steals. This includes players who’re active on defense, players who move their hands and feet well, and players who know how to play angles. It isn’t just the reckless gamblers.

Of course, it isn’t that simple – the players who move their hands and feet well and know how to play angles are sometimes more likely to gamble recklessly due to overconfidence in their own defensive prowess. But if that’s true, it doesn’t mean they’re bad defenders.

 

 

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by | March 27, 2014 · 10:03 PM

20/20, Gorgui Style

2020gorgui

Gorgui Dieng had 22 points, 21 rebounds, and 4 assists last night in his third career start. I think that broke some team records.

What else happened in the game?

Let’s just forget the rest of that game.

In the words of Jay Bilas, I gotta go to work.

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Why Gorgui Matters

Dieng

First things first: What this post is not.

This post is not a knee-jerk reaction to Gorgui Dieng’s nice performance last night in his first career start; a points-rebounds double double with 5 blocks mixed in for good measure. Despite the low level of competition — the Kings sans Cousins — Gorgui impressed fans with his calling-card rim protection, as well as some competent-looking finishes around the basket.

Adelman sung Gorgui’s praises after the game. “Dieng did a great job coming in, double-double and as the game went on he got more and more comfortable,” Coach said in his presser. “It was a good win to get.

But this isn’t the Gorgui Kneejerk Post. There are enough reasons to delay that one for a while: His 6.5 fouls per 36 minutes, his 42.4 percent free-throw accuracy, and his horrific plus-minus numbers, are good places to start when chilling one’s enthusiasm about the Wolves rookie center.

This post is about why we should take interest in Gorgui’s development and what he *could* mean to this team going forward.

I see three main reasons why Gorgui matters:

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It’s Algonquin for ‘The Good Land’ (WOLVES 112, Bucks 101)

I guess it’s 90s Movie Clips Week here at Punch-Drunk Wolves.

There isn’t a whole lot to say about tonight’s win at Target Center over the Milwaukee Bucks. The Wolves were supposed to win by a lot of points on their home court against the worst team in the NBA. They came out all too conscious that inevitability and fell behind early. Despite being owners of one of the league’s worst offenses, the Bucks made their first 12 field goals (!) and led 33-22 toward the end of the first quarter.

Throughout most of the first half, Kevin Love looked uninvolved and not particularly engaged. Ricky Rubio sat out more than usual after picking up his second foul. The Wolves trailed by 6 at the half.

Things got better in the second half, but never quite so good that you felt much of anything about the game. The Bucks are 13-51 after the loss, after all, and like I said, the Wolves were supposed to win and pretty much played like it.

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How to feel about a double-digit road win (Wolves 108, KINGS 97)

30" x 22" mixed media on paper painting by Holly Grimsrud

hollygrimsrudart.com

Timberwolves fan expectations are in a funny place. Heading into last night’s game in Sacramento, the team had a win/loss record of 28-29; under .500 and good for tenth place in the Western Conference. They are far removed from playoff contention. Minnesota’s road record was 12-18, which happened to be the exact same number of wins and losses that the Kings had on their home floor. With these facts taken under consideration, one would think that a victory — any victory — would generate some good feelings.

But when the Wolves did win — by 11 points, no less — it just didn’t seem all that impressive.

There are a few possible explanations for this:

One is that the Timberwolves have underachieved compared to expectations. Wins like last night’s over the Kings feel overdue. According to Basketball Reference, the Wolves have an “Expected W-L” of 37-21; a record that would have them in sixth place and in the thick of the playoff picture. Instead, here we are at 29-29 and most likely looking forward to another draft lottery.

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Simmons On Kevin Love Trade Ideas

My best guess: I think Love rides it out in Minnesota, then jumps to the Lakers in 2015. But I wouldn’t rule out the Celtics. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

–Bill Simmons dishes on Kevin Love trade possibilities over at Grantland. (http://grantland.com/the-triangle/the-nba-bag-volume-1/)

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by | February 26, 2014 · 2:30 PM

10 Questions & Answers About Shabazz (Wolves 110, SUNS 101)

Flea

Question 1: How’d Shabazz do tonight?
Answer 1: Bazz was unreal. Had his best game as a pro. 20 points and 6 boards. TOUGH boards. Crunch-time, sky-up-in-a-crowd boards. For shits and giggles, he also had an assist and 2 steals. By far his best game.

Question 2: Yeah, but did he help the team?
Answer 2: Yep. Wolves won at Phoenix, despite Martin and Pek sitting out. Shabazz’s plus/minus was +8 in 24:20 of action.

Question 3: What are Shabazz’s strengths?
Answer 3: Physicality, positioning, and touch around the basket. That spinning lefty hook.

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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?

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Pek Goes Too

All-Star reserves are announced tonight on TNT.

The Timberwolves made a super funny video to promote Nikola Pekovic, a candidate for one of the slots.

They get extra points for including some Punch-Drunk Wolves art at the 0:25 mark.

Great stuff, and good luck to Pek.

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Finding Defense in Chicago (Wolves 95, BULLS 86)

chicagostyle

That was an unusual Timberwolves game.

They won, but that’s not the weird part. It happens half the time, after all. The strange thing about tonight’s win over the Chicago Bulls was how the Wolves won.

They scored 95 points, which doesn’t seem so odd until you consider that the Wolves average 114.1 points per game in wins (a stat that includes tonight’s game bringing it down). They won by 9, which is just a titch more than half of their average victory margin of 17.0 (again, including this game). The Wolves are one of the league’s best offensive rebounding and second-chance points teams, but tonight they pulled down only 5 boards on their own end.

Most importantly, the game’s outcome seemed to turn when the Wolves upped their defensive intensity.

That never happens.

Let’s quickly rewind to the beginning of the game.

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Bull Fight (The Wolves-Bulls Edition)

It is Nikola Pekovic's job - it's his vocation - to wipe smiles like Joakim Noah's from opposing centers' faces.

It is Nikola Pekovic’s job – it’s his vocation – to wipe smiles like Joakim Noah’s from opposing centers’ faces.

Following a disappointing loss in Portland on Saturday evening, the Wolves (21-22) continue their four-game road trip tonight in Chicago (22-21). Tip is at 7:00 P.M. CST. The game can be seen on NBATV and heard on WCCO 830.

Derrick Rose won’t be walking through that door. (Eds. Note: He might limp to that bench, I’m not sure. Key thing is, he isn’t playing tonight or for a long time.) Neither will Luol Deng, or even Kirk Hinrich.

But beating the Bulls tonight will require the Wolves  to play top-level basketball. The Wolves haven’t beaten the Bulls in a very long time. Last season, Chicago swept the season series against the Wolves for the fourth straight year. They’ve now won seven straight against Minnesota.

And despite being decimated by injuries, the Bulls are perhaps the NBA’s hottest team that no one really cares about.

The Bulls are tied for the League lead in January wins so far, going 10-3 in 2014. They’re 8-3 since trading  Luol Deng earlier this month in what appeared a clear towel-throwing move.

But the Bulls keep winning. Because Tom Thibodeau.

Remember when I said Derrick Rose, Lu Deng, and Kirk Hinrich won’t be walking through that door? That doesn’t  matter. Thibs keeps the engine running on overdrive no matter what lineup he can put on the floor.

A few things stand out for tonight’s game.

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The Love-Saunders Friendship: How much does it matter?

“[Michael] Jordan was skilled at verbal blood sport; no one in the league was better at zinging other people. He seemed to know how much to bait [Bulls general manager Jerry] Krause and, when there were danger signals, just when to back off. Jordan might have his own raging emotions, but he was a master at controlling them. He was mature and very tough mentally, and he had a certain high, professional coldness that allowed him to turn on his emotions as he so chose and to use his rage as an instrument. If anything, no one in the league was more skilled at creating artificial rage when needed.

Pippen was different. His emotions were always more raw and closer to the surface, and he had far less control over them. When he got into a situation like this, especially when he had been drinking, he was not nearly as good as Jordan at knowing when to let go. As Jordan began the baiting on the bus, Pippen took it over, berating Krause–When are you going to stop taking credit for drafting me and for my career?–then loudly and angrily demanding that the Bulls either sign him to a new contact or trade him. None of it was being done lightly, and Pippen became louder and angrier on the ride. It was the voice of anger and alcohol. Finally, [Phil] Jackson held up a bottle of beer, as if to tell him that he had been drinking too much and to stop.”

–Playing for Keeps, David Halberstam

Just about everybody was happy when David Kahn was fired was not retained as Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations. Kahn made a lot of mistakes. He blew draft choices. He prioritized potential ahead of realized talent (to an unusually high degree). He didn’t know when to shut up to the press (which was awesome for fans, but bad for his team’s reputation, particularly in light of its win/loss record and standing in the league).

But when Kahn was let go, his flaw that fans focused most on was his cancerous relationship with Timberwolves star, Kevin Love. The two got off on a rocky start when Kahn would tell people that Love was the third or fourth best player on a championship team. There are rumors that Kahn was considering trading Love. And most famously, the Timberwolves refused to offer Love a five-year maximum contract; the decision which affects the team now as it might be forced into trading Love at this coming deadline, if the playoffs don’t seem realistic and a message is sent — whether by Love, his agent, or someone else in the know — that he is not going to re-sign with the Timberwolves in 2015. Even though Glen Taylor was apparently the maker of that decision, Kahn was the basketball boss and it seems highly unlikely that his input was not a key factor. When Kahn handed Love a four-year contract — literally, handed it to him — Love crumpled it up and threw it in the trash.

So with that background, Flip Saunders was to be a savior. Saunders is a good old boy in a state that treasures Good Old Boys. He might not value advanced stats — they are just “information confirmation,” after all — but the one thing we knew he would get right is Kevin Love.

And to his credit, Saunders seems to be having success in making friends with Love. In his interview with Britt Robson of MinnPost, he lauded Love’s commitment to the organization. He said that they have lunch all the time. He said that Love really does like it here.

I threw out a question on Twitter last night to gauge fan opinions on this issue: Continue reading

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The past month of play

As I’m sure you already know, the Timberwolves beat the Jazz on Saturday. That game was played at Target Center. It was not close. The blowout allowed Coach Adelman to play his first round picks, Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, for the final six minutes of the game. (Gorgui actually played a little bit in the first half, too.) Adelman was in a good mood after the game. When his presser closed with some jokes about a ridiculous lob pass Dieng threw from beyond the halfcourt line, it seemed as if Rick wanted to hang out for a while. Suffice it to say, it was a happier mood than the one that followed Wednesday’s loss to the Kings.

The Wolves and Jazz match up again on Tuesday. This one will be in Utah and marks the beginning of a four-game road trip that includes stops in Portland, Oakland/Golden State, and Chicago. As the Wolves are currently 2 games below .500 and 4 games out of the playoffs, they can’t afford a losing streak. Ideally they win at Utah and Chicago — where Luol Deng no longer plays and Derrick Rose is not in uniform — and steal one of the two difficult games on the West Coast. A 3-1 road trip would get the team back to .500 with some momentum after the first impressive win (whether it come at the Rose Garden or Oracle) in ages.

A few points about the recent play of the Wolves during the stretch of games I alluded to in my last post (everything since the 12/18/13 win over Portland at Target Center, which was about one month ago):

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Notes on a Disaster

The Wolves lost to the Kings last night. At home. When Sacramento was on a back-to-back and the Wolves were rested.

It might be the team’s worst loss of the season.

Some notes about the game and other issues with the team:

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Kings vs. Wolves (The Run DMC Edition)

pekovic-cousins1

I’m traveling on business, and have to make this short.

The Timberwolves (18-19) host the Sacramento Kings (13-23) tonight at 7:00 pm CT. You can see and hear the game at the usual places, FSN and WCCO 830-AM, respectively.

A few notes of interest:

  • Pekovic-Cousins Grudge Match: Two of the best (and biggest) centers in the NBA go head-to-head tonight in what looks to be the game’s marquee matchup. Cousins is having a monster year, ranking among the NBA’s top 10 in both points (23.5) and rebounds (11.6) per game, which puts him in a strong position to make this season’s All-Star game. Pek has arguably been the Wolves’ best player in recent games, beasting his way to 23 and 10 on 55% shooting and over 5 offensive rebounds over his last dozen games.  All I can say about their head-to-head matchup is by way of a public service announcement: Any time Nikola Pekovic and DeMarcus Cousins are set to go to war, hide your women and children.

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Durant was awesome and that’s cool… But what about the Wolves?

“I’m not a must-win kind of person. When Reggie Miller comes in and scores eight points in the last however many seconds, that’s exciting for me.  If Earl Monroe came in with the Bullets and scored 100 points and the Knicks lost, that also made me happy.”

-Woody Allen

That quote applies to last night’s game. Well, it applies to being a Timberwolves fan at Target Center during last night’s game when Kevin Durant scored 48 points. Durant was splitting Corey Brewer-Dante Cunningham double teams. (Yes, apparently, that’s possible.) He was sticking so many ridiculous 3s that he rimmed out a heat check from 42 feet out (all numbers approximate). And he, of course, was served his Closer Coffee after the game for hitting a silky smooth, ice cold dagger off the dribble for the win. The quote comes from Harvey Araton’s excellent When The Garden Was Eden. I’ve used it before when doing some soul-search blogging about why I care about millionaires throwing a sphere through a ring. Kevin Durant ranks right with Jordan and Kobe as one of the greatest scorers I have ever seen. To see him drop an angry 48 on a pick-up-the-slack night Without Westbrook was something I’ll never forget.

And with that out of the way: The Timberwolves.

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Wolves-Thunder Preview: The “Kevin Durant Comes Around” Edition

Tonight at Target Center, the Timberwolves host the Oklahoma City Thunder. The game tips off at 7:00 CST. It can be seen on Fox Sports North Plus and heard on 830 WCCO Radio. The Thunder is without Russell Westbrook. He aggravated his bad knee and underwent another surgery. Along those lines (and In Case You Missed It) be sure to check out Bethlehem Shoals’ Plea To The Basketball Gods, for GQ. The Wolves are two-point favorites; a betting line that certainly factors in the superstar guard’s absence. These teams have played twice this season and split the matchup. The Wolves won when Russell sat and lost when he played.

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Can a defender slap a shooter on the hand? (Mavs 100, WOLVES 98)

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There’s a blurry screenshot of the play.

Down by two with three seconds left, Ricky Rubio inbounded the ball to Kevin Love. Love took a dribble to his left and set himself for the game-winning (or tying? I can’t quite tell) shot. Shawn Marion then reached across Love’s arm and hand to tip the ball away. Replays confirmed that The Matrix caught at least Love’s hand, if not part of his arm. He must’ve bent the laws of physics too, because neither referee with clear sight of the play blew his whistle.

The Wolves-fan outrage was predictable, but justified. Any NBA player deserves that call. But an MVP candidate playing on his home floor, on the last play of the game?

As Adelman questioned after the game, what would happen if that were Dirk or LeBron taking that shot? The rhetorical question doesn’t even require an answer.

After the game, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann took to defending the refs’ interpretation of a rule:

For convenience, I’ll just paste in the rule page linked by Schuhmann, with the pertinent sections circled: Continue reading

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LOWE: Wolves 8th-Best in West

This should turn around, and the Wolves have played the league’s second-toughest schedule — and one heavy on road games. In a group of flawed teams, Minnesota has the most potential to stabilize as an above-average two-way club.

–Zach Lowe, in today’s Tuesday column at Grantland.

Link here.

Lowe runs through his Western Conference Power Rankings and slots the Timberwolves 8th in the conference; just ahead of the Mavs and just behind the Suns.

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by | December 24, 2013 · 10:03 AM

We are who we are. (LAKERS 104, Wolves 91)

Los Angeles Lakers Practice, NBA Europe Live

Pau Gasol got the best of his friend and fellow Spaniard in last night’s game at Staples Center.

The Timberwolves lost, last night. They lost to the Lakers. L.A., as you probably already know, is without veterans Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, and even Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar. In their stead are Nick Young (The Swaggy Point Guard Edition!), Xavier Henry, and former Timberwolf, Wesley Johnson. It seemed like a game that the Wolves should win easily. But they didn’t.

Corey Brewer missed all 8 of his shot attempts. Alexey Shved made just 1 of his 7. Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea were the best backcourt scorers last night, shooting a combined 6 for 17. Kevin Love was awesome and Nikola Pekovic was okay. Kevin Martin was mediocre. Playing 2.5 on 5 isn’t going to cut it. Despite a slew of Laker turnovers in the middle of the game, the Wolves played down to their competition and allowed the outcome to be determined by late-game, Pau Gasol hero ball. Some difficult shots went down and that was that.

Over at Canis Hoopus, Eric in Madison captured the sentiment of Wolves fans everywhere. It was a terrible loss that highlighted the team’s primary weaknesses of poor shooting and an inability to contain opposing scorers. (The Wolves currently have the league’s fourth-worst field goal percentage, and the league’s worst opponent field goal percentage. That seems like a bad combination, doesn’t it?)

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