Tag Archives: derrick williams

Maccabi Haifa! (WOLVES 114, Haifa, 81)

A mediocre photo of Brandon Roy, taken by me.

In what was either a coincidence or something related to the dismal crowd that showed up to face an Israeli opponent on a Tuesday Night when a 50/50 presidential election had a debate (okay, definitely the latter), I was able to sit close to the floor for the second straight [preseason] game.  This time, that meant seeing star defensive lineman, Kevin Williams, in the beer line.  It meant an up-close look at new Timberwolf Andrei Kirilenko (the guy never stops talking and moving–fun to see in person), and the unexpected meeting of Brandon Roy’s family.  His mom, wife and kids were all cheering for “Bran Bran” which tipped us off quickly who they were.  Super nice people who seem to like Minnesota.

A few things about the game:

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Coming into Focus: 5 Things We (Think We) Know about the 2012-13 Timberwolves

What’s in store for the Wolves this season?

Sometimes you just want to know what the future holds. You look into your crystal ball, but all you see is fog, so you ransack your house looking for that Ouija board you got in college. You don’t find it, so you go on a peyote-fueled drive through the deserts of Mexico, looking for that shaman who your buddy says changed his life. You make it back into the States in one piece.

It’s three games into the Wolves preseason, and you’re now wondering if the Wolves are going to be any good this year. “Will they make the playoffs?” “What will Adelman’s rotations look like?” “Will Nikola Pekovic raze a village in frustration after a tough loss and get slapped with a season-long suspension?

At Punch-Drunk Wolves, we have the answers. A few emerging impressions about this year’s team are below the fold.

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Back to Target Center

Alexey Shved makes his Target Center debut tonight versus the Chicago Bulls.

Thank God that the short window of nice Minnesota weather is behind us and we can get back to our usual routine of spending 1 or 2 nights per week inside Target Center watching the Wolves, amiright?  The fun parts of preseason are seeing the new faces and looking for signs of change, good or bad, that could impact the team’s chances at regular (and post!) season success.  Two years ago at the home preseason debut, I was taken by how big and athletic Michael Beasley was, and the ease with which he could rise up for clear looks at the basket.  Though Beas has enough weaknesses to offset this strength, it has been one that serves him well in giving his team a scoring punch.  This was evident in a single viewing of a game that didn’t actually *matter*.  Last year was Ricky’s debut.  We did our best to temper enthusiasm, but the passes he was delivering were unlike anything we’d seen.  Ricky had eyes on all sides of his head, it seemed.  Like with Beasley’s dribble jumpers, Ricky’s passing wizardry carried over into the real games and he’s now one of the league’s most marketable young stars.

What should we keep an eye out for in tonight’s game against Chicago? Continue reading

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Breaking Camp: The Scouting Report on Derrick Williams

Derrick Williams brings the pain

The early reports on Derrick Williams are coming in, and they are good.

Williams drew unanimous praise after the first two Wolves practices in Mankato on Monday and Tuesday.

“He’s a guy who can attack the basket,” Adelman said. “And he needs to do that.”

Well, he did that throughout the week.  And Bayno, Adelman, and Brandon Roy liked what they saw.

The coaching staff, who worked with Williams in his rookie year, came away touting Williams’ improved conditioning and professionalism.  Roy, a newcomer to the Wolves, simply saw a dynamic player.  On Williams, Roy said:

He’s extremely talented. He makes explosive plays that nobody can guard. I’m trying to tell him to now do it every time.

The biggest thing now is to get his motor going. He’s a good guy by nature, so he’s kind of laid back. He just needs to get that mentality that he wants to dominate. He should want to be a dominant player.

It’s nice to see Williams getting praise from Roy, the team’s natural leader. But the big question is, can Williams get clock over Wolves incumbents and new acquisitions who are vying for minutes at his natural position–power forward–and the position he’s trying to learn, small forward?

At the power foward, Kevin Love showed up to camp out of shape.

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Training Camp Murmurs, Take 1: Shved, Williams, Love, Roy, Budinger

There isn’t a high volume of meaty information coming from Timberwolves training camp. But there are interesting tidbits here and there.

One such tidbit involves Alexey Shved. Shved is a talent, but coming into camp there were question marks about his frame and his lack of experience, despite the skills and composure he put on display at the Olympics.

But Shved has kept on truckin’ during the first two days of camp.

Joan Niesen has the choice firsthand info on Shved:

“Yes, Shved is thin, but he’s also taller than Adelman expected, and he’s not getting manhandled on the court. He looked good in 5-on-5 on Tuesday, playing smoothly and quickly,” Niesen reports.

Wolves coach Rick Adelman concurs.

“I just don’t see him getting pushed around,” Adelman said. “I said before, the thing that will be the biggest adjustment is at the defensive end. He’s just going to have guys coming at him all the time, and that’s where he’s going to make his adjustment. He’s going to get better offensively because he has skills.”

So does teammate and fellow Russian Andrei Kirilenko.

“He’s a young, talented guy who can really run and bring you a lot of energy on the floor,” Kirilenko said. “He’s not afraid to take a shot in the crunch moment, which is needed on every team in the NBA. He’s young, with the potential to keep growing.”

Other training camp tidbits that got my attention are below the fold.

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Looking at the Wolves Offense, Part II: Interior Scoring

Pekovic plays the post like a Boss

Last season the Wolves offense was often out of whack, and it was usually blamed on poor wing play. But their interior play was also spotty. Nikola Pekovic’s emergence was a revelation, but Darko Milicic’s stinky jump hook almost canceled out Pek’s brilliance. Mike Beasley tried at times to play around the hoop, and he never managed to establish and maintain that part of his game.

What will the Wolves interior offense look like this season? In Part I of our series on the Wolves offense, I looked at three-point shooting. Now, in Part II , I look at the Wolves’ interior scorers to see how things might unfold in 2012-13.

The player-by-player rundown is below the fold.

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Top Wolves Questions Heading Into Training Camp, Part II

Can Brandon Roy take over as the Wolves’ closer?

With training camp just around the corner, there are a bunch of top-level questions that remain unanswered as October 2nd approaches. There’s been a ton turnover on the roster, and many players’ roles are anything but clear. Long story short, the team’s success this season will likely hinge on the answers.

In part 2 of a two-part series, I look at the ten questions I think are most important heading into the 2012-13 season. The countdown, from #5 – #1, is below the fold.

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Top Wolves Questions Heading Into Training Camp, Part I

What will David Kahn do next??

With training camp just around the corner, there are a bunch of top-level questions that remain unanswered as October 2nd approaches. There’s been a ton turnover on the roster, and many players’ roles are anything but clear. Long story short, the team’s success this season will likely hinge on the answers.

In a two-part series, I look at the ten questions I think are most important heading into the 2012-13 season. More below the fold.

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Musings on the Draft

Jay Bilas had a nice piece (Insider) yesterday on NBA Draft prospects who have star potential. Bilas isn’t perfect, but (1) he has a good feel for the draft by virtue of actually having seen most players play multiple times, and (2) he sees the forest for the trees on this issue–the draft is all about identifying potential impact players – stars – which is correlated, but not synonymous, with college advanced stats.

It’s a deep draft, but beyond Anthony Davis it isn’t clear who will break out as the kind of player teams  later regret passing on.

Bilas sees five potential stars in the draft–maybe more.

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What is Anthony Randolph’s Upside?

Derrick Williams sucked Thursday night against the Clippers after looking great against Denver the night before. Williams only managed to muster 4 points against the Clips after thrashing the Nuggets’ front line.

Meanwhile, you have Anthony Randolph. Randolph almost never plays. But he played exceedingly well against Denver (28 pts in 31 mins, 11-16 from the floor) after Kevin Love got concussed, and he followed it up with a nice 16 and 9 night against the Clips.

Randolph’s solid play of late is not a revelation.

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Tanked (Warriors 97, WOLVES 94)

Klay Thompson, son of former Gopher great, Mychal Thompson

The game wraps have become fewer and farther between, but I attended this game so it makes sense to post some notes.

For much of the 2nd Quarter, this game felt like a breeze.  The Warriors scored 4 points in the first 9:03 of the period while the Wolves built up an 18-point lead near the half.  For the final 26:57 of the game, the Warriors would outscore the home team 72-51.  Those 72 points came the easy way; many from Charles Jenkins uncontested layups.  Kevin Love was needed as a help defender, but he either lacked the energy or inclination to play that part on this night.  On multiple–possibly consecutive–possessions, Love watched dribblers take the layup when he was within range of at least a foul, if not a solid contest. Continue reading

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Royal Beatdown (KINGS 115, Wolves 99)

With Ricky on the mend (surgery this Wednesday), the season hitting the homestretch, and the Wolves’ playoff hopes looking dimmer by the day (now 2.5 games behind Houston for the 8 seed), there is less and less to add to the discussion with these game wraps.  With that in mind, I’ll share a few brief observations about each Wolves player from this disappointing loss that may not come through in the newspaper: Continue reading

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Back to Work (Wolves 127, SUNS 124)

Was it a coincidence that the first seven quarters of Wolves ball that I missed in weeks were the first seven quarters of Ricky-less ball?  Yes, actually.  Saturday’s TV coverage was FUBAR’d by the NBA, with reciprocal blackouts for paying customers of NBA TV and paying customers of NBA League Pass.  I actually thanked the NBA (to myself, at least) for this blunder.  It sounds like I missed a wretched display by the home team.  Tonight’s contest mostly conflicted with my men’s league game (we won, thanks for caring) so I was only able to listen to the 3rd Quarter on the drive home and watch the 4th on FSN.

Based on the box score, radio commentary, and my text inbox, it sounds like Mike Beasley, Derrick Williams and Nikola Pekovic collectively carried the Wolves through the first half as K-Love struggled with his shot.  Beasley in particular (15 points on 6-7 shooting in 16 minutes, (tied for) team-high +8) must have been crucial to the 7-point halftime lead.

The radio broadcast of the third quarter sounded like Suns matchups of recent past.  Al Horton repeatedly described Suns action begun by Steve Nash and finished by an open jump shooter.  The Wolves 7-point lead quickly became a deficit.  But then, as is happening more and more often, K-Love came to the rescue by bombing from outside.  Love hit 5 threes in the second half (5-9 total for the game) en route to another 30-point game for the superstar.

Now, the part I was actually able to watch: the fourth quarter.  Or as Magic Johnson and Roger Dodger call it, Winning Time.

The Key Players of #winningtime, in reverse order:

5. Derrick Williams – The rookie was on the court for the first 7:42 of the fourth and seemed to be involved in every play.  He aggressively and stupidly goaltended a floating shot that had no chance of going in (sound familiar?) BUT–he got away with it, somehow.  On offense, he hit a pair of square-up J’s, one from downtown, and converted his own backcourt steal into a dunk.  Defense was another story.  His “defense” on Channing Frye reminded of recent Kevin Love efforts against Magic stretch four, Ryan Anderson.  Put simply, Williams does not want to guard out to 24 feet.  You know why?  He’s a power forward.  (This dilemma of the stretch four is exactly why I want K-Love to embrace his own shooting talent, as he is doing of late.)

4. Channing Frye – As I just mentioned, Frye’s shooting was a problem.  He entered the game with 8:26 to go with his team down by 2.  He quickly hit a pair of 3′s, each giving his team the lead.  While the Wolves were ultimately able to hold off the Suns, Frye’s sniping was nearly a deciding factor in the other direction.

3. Sebastian Telfair – Bassy played well in the last Wolves-Suns tilt, too.  He must have it out for his old team or something.  In the early part of this 4th Quarter he was pretty dominant, even if in ways that are UNSUSTAINABLE.  When JJ went under a ball screen, Bassy buried the jumper.  A moment later on another ball-screen sequence, he hit a three and D-Thrill fouled him for good measure and a fourth point.  RIGHT AFTER THAT, he ripped Luke on a careless dribble and converted a layup.  8 quick points in the 4th Quarter.

2. Kevin Love – The MVP candidate had 13 points in the 4th Quarter, despite resting from 8:26 to 4:18.  Not much else to say.

1. Luke Ridnour – Notwithstanding the turnover to Bassy, Luke was huge down the stretch.  He made a layup with 4:35 to go, and a long 2 with 3:55 to go.  With 1:50 to go he made a sick little hesitation move on Frye (I think) and an even-crazier layup in traffic with the shot clock winding down.  He collected an offensive board with 1:15 to go and a key defensive board with 0:54 to go.  With 17 seconds left and a 1-point lead, he calmly went to the line to extend it to 3 and help seal the win.  Great Winning Time performance for Luke.

Nice to get a win.  It’ll be interesting to see if any moves are made before the trade deadline on Thursday.  Also on that day is the next game, a nationally televised (EXCEPT MAYBE IN MINNEAPOLIS!) contest against the Utah Jazz, a key rival for the 8-seed.  Big Al scored 33 tonight on 14-18 shooting in an easy Jazz win, so we’ll have to have our interior defense ready to roll.  Until then.

Season Record: 22-21

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Weird is Good (WOLVES 106, Blazers 94)

Minnesota beat Portland tonight for the second time in five days.  The following facts describe the two matchups:

  • Three point guards (Rubio, Ridnour, Barea) played a combined 88 minutes in each game.  The team was essentially going without a two guard.
  • Kevin Love averaged 35.5 points, 13 rebounds, and 3.5 assists over the two victories.  While he didn’t guard LaMarcus Aldridge all of the time, he certainly outplayed him.
  • Wes Johnson played a combined 37 minutes.  In that time he scored 25 points on 10-13 shooting.  In tonight’s game, he even dribbled and cut a few times.
  • Coach Adelman was able to find 56 minutes of playing time for Derrick Williams, despite his playing Kevin Love’s position.  The rook averaged 12 points and 7.5 rebounds over the two games, off the bench.
  • The Wolves won both games; the first two victories over Portland since Kevin Garnett was wearing #21 for the good guys.  If Saturday was a rite of passage, tonight was a statement game.
  • Most importantly, the Wolves combined for 25-46 shooting from downtown.  54 percent shooting from 3 is going to lead to victories for almost any team.  Especially in high volume.

What does it mean?

If you haven’t noticed already I am as prone as any NBA rube to making kneejerk reactions.  One minute my trade machine has Derrick Williams going to Boston for cap space and the next I’m lauding him as the next Amar’e Stoudemire (that used to be a compliment.)  But as more games are played–not just Wolves games but all around the league–what I’m finding more and more is that there is no such thing as a prototype NBA roster.  A team with a classic 1-2-3-4-5 is no more likely to be successful than one with some oddities.  Dallas won the championship last year with a 50-year old point guard and (for the deciding Game 6 at least) our very own midget, J.J. Barea, playing the two.  Miami, the perpetual title favorite for as long as Wade and James are playing, has an offense built around two wings that are almost the exact same offensive player.  Chicago built a contender around a single offensive threat who (oh by the way) happens to play point guard.

The Wolves are winning games with a weird team.  Not only do they start two point guards, but they bring a third off the bench for big minutes.  It is all point guards all the time.  And it works.  Luke is showing off what a tremendous shooter he is, relieved of primary playmaking duties that he sometimes struggles with.  When J.J. comes in and inevitably finds himself defending the post, he draws a charge.  EVERY SINGLE TIME.  Ricky is versatile on defense, often switching and jumping the passing lanes.  On offense, he’s a true point.  It seems to work.

On the front line, things were just starting to reek of conventionality when Pekovic went down with a foot injury.  Tonight (and Monday versus the Clippers) we saw extended sequences with Williams at the 4 and Love at the 5.  I’ve made my feelings clear on this idea.

I write about this because the trade deadline is looming (March 15) and every Wolves fan has their own shooting guard who the team MUST pursue.  Some want Kevin Martin while others prefer Jamal Crawford or Monta Ellis.  I’ve clamored for Eric Gordon.

Well, the Wolves have now won 8 of their last 11 games and if the season ended right now they would be in the playoffs.  Is it really time to deal away a starting player?  The Wolves are a weird team.  When they’re hot, they chuck away from downtown and shots fall.  Kevin Love is the league’s most-productive and stabilizing force.  He is our Batman; a constant force.  His Robin walks through a revolving door with a new face on, each game.  A trade isn’t likely to bring in a star player of real notoriety.  Kevin McHale isn’t walkin’ through that door.  Neither is, I’m guessing, his current shooting guard, Kevin Martin.

In a Western Conference that looks more wide open by the day, why not just embrace the weirdness of a dual point guard/power forward/Balkan center lineup that has all sorts of personalities and nearly shatters the Likeability Scale?

Of course, after Friday’s Laker game the Wolves play New Orleans and Phoenix.  If they drop that pair I promise to write 5,000 words about the need for a veteran wing, balanced roster, go-to hero scorer, and every other adage and convention I can think of.

I hope that doesn’t happen.

Season Record: 21-19 (Currently 8th in Western Conference)

 

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Love vs. Griffin: Under the Microscope (A Misplaced Title for a Misplaced Plan)

Well, that was interesting.  I had planned on doing a special post that analyzed the Love-Griffin matchup, breaking down each possession where they guarded one another.  Since I did the work (the few times the matchup occurred) I’ll post the results, below.  But the obvious story from this game was that just when Lob City was imposing its will on the young Muskies from Minnesota, Derrick Williams Happened.  And then Michael Beasley Happened.  Just check out the box score.  Two bench forwards EACH SCORED 27 POINTS!!! Beasley shot 11 for 15; Williams 9 for 10.  Each made every attempted 3-pointer (Beasley 3-3, Williams 4-4) and each made every shot they attempted in the 4th Quarter (I think).  These two PUMMELED the Paul-Griffin combo when it mattered most.  This wasn’t some lottery-bound, spongy defense either.  D-Thrill was doing elbow-flying jump stops on Kenyon Martin, the meanest forward in basketball.  Supercool Beas was torching Caron Butler.

Anyway, I won’t extrapolate too much on this performance.  It’s obviously anomalous for any players–let alone a couple of young and unproven ones like Beasley and Williams–to combine for a 20-25 shooting night and 54 points off the bench.  But Pat and I are card-carrying fans/supporters/apologists of both players, so we’re sure-as-shit going to give some props when Williams and Beasley shine on one of the biggest stages in the league.

In this League Pass Era, this game was being witnessed all over the country by hoops junkies, and Beasley-Williams will be the buzz tomorrow morning.  What a fun game to watch.

Now, to that Love-Griffin Matchup:

Since Love and Blake are widely considered the league’s best young power forwards, I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at their matchup in tonight’s game.  I noted what happened each time the two matched up on one another and anything happened.  (Essentially, I ignored possessions where they weren’t guarding one another, and possessions where they simply passed the ball without any activity surrounding the matchup, like a double-team.)

Here’s the list:

1st Quarter

Blake on Offense:

  1. Posts up Love, head fakes, up-and-under, 2 points
  2. Blake slides behind Love for alley-oop dunk attempt, misses dunk
  3. Pass comes to Blake on wing/mid-post, Love gambles for steal and misses, Blake has open path for dunk
  4. Blake squares up from top of key (20 feet) and clanks a jumper
  5. Hard double team comes from Rubio, Blake passes out leads to ball swing and jumpshot attempt
  6. Squares up and drives, Love fouls him at the rim, Love exits game cursing out refs

Love on Offense:

  1. Squares up and hits jumper in Blake’s face
  2. Dribble drive, takes difficult, contested jumper and misses
  3. Pick and roll, catches pass but DeAndre Jordan is help defender and blocks shot

2nd Quarter

Blake on Offense

(No matchups)

Love on Offense

  1. Squares up and dribble drives, Blake flops for charge–no call–and Love is fouled by help defender on shot
  2. Posts up, ball poked away and it’s call out of bounds off Love

3rd Quarter

Blake on Offense

  1. Missed 3-pointer when he was floating around near end of shot clock
  2. Fully double-teamed by Rubio, passes out for ball swing
  3. Fights with Love for offensive rebound, gets it, is fouled on shot
  4. Posting up, pass sails overhead and out of bounds
  5. Floating 18 feet out as Paul drives, Love follows Paul toward basket, pass goes out to Blake and Love dares him to shoot — makes jumpshot.

Love on Offense

  1. Posts up, misses hook shot
  2. Posts up for long sequence, 24-second buzzer goes off before shot, turnover
  3. Picks and pops, misses 3-pointer

4th Quarter

(No matchups, for reasons mentioned above.)

A few thoughts on this matchup:

  • For the game, Love had 10 pts 7 rebs 2 asts 2 tos
  • For the game, Griffin had 30 pts 7 rebs 4 asts 3 tos
  • Obviously, this was not Kevin Love’s night.  He shot 4-13 for 10 points and 7 rebounds in 25 minutes.  Everybody knows that isn’t him.  As Williams was killing it, Love went into the locker room with some kind of injury.  What was interesting for my exercise was how often Adelman had other defenders on Blake.  Perhaps it was an attempt to keep him out of foul trouble–Blake had it going in the 1st Half (24 points) and was getting lots of contact off dribble penetration.  Williams, Pekovic, and Darko defended Blake for the majority of this game, hence the few number of matchups for me to describe.
  • Blake commands a double team–a full one.  Not many in the league are in this category and he’s already there.
  • Blake can’t shoot very well.  Until he gets a better rhythm on his shot–jumper and free throws–he’ll be fighting with guys like Love and LaMarcus Aldridge for “Best 4 in the World” recognition.  If he shot just a little bit better, it wouldn’t even be a discussion.  His potential is so, so high.

This was obviously a rather disjointed Game Wrap.  Chris Paul had me worried; the Wolves had no answer for him until Williams made it rain from the Staples Center sky.  If there are two measured take-aways for what to do next, they are:

* Take two or three minutes from Kevin Love and give them to Derrick Williams.  Love is awesome, but he isn’t the type of player that should lead the NBA in minutes per game as he currently does.  He’s a rebounding big man.  That’s exhausting work and the team would benefit from having a bit more energy from both Love and his eager replacement.

* Give the Wes Johnson minutes to Michael Beasley already.  Shit, we’ve seen the talent discrepancy and it’s outrageous that this goes on.  Beasley will upset us sometimes with a blown assignment or a ball-stop.  But he’ll also go off from time to time, and he’ll ALWAYS be a better all-around basketball player than Wes.

Lakers tomorrow night.  Kobe was concussed by D-Wade in the All-Star Game (yes, this happened) so he may not play tomorrow.  Maybe it can be a Staples Sweep?

Season Record: 18-17

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INBOX: Target Practice, the Pau and Monta Edition

THE PAU GASOL IDEA


RUMINT has it that the Lakers would throw in Pau's Ed Hardy shirt for a conditional second-rounder, which Kahn demanded as a part of any trade

Patrick J: With all rumors swirling around Pau Gasol, the only thing for a hard-up blogger to do is fire up the good ol’ trade machine.

Wolves get:
Pau Gasol
Darius Morris

Lakers get:
Michael Beasley
Derrick Williams
Wes Johnson
Luke Ridnour

In this two-team trade, the Wolves’ lineup would look something like:

PG – Rubio
SG – Barea
SF – Webster
PF – Love/Randolph/Tolliver
C – Gasol/Pekovic
6th man: Pekovic

The Wolves end up with a Pau, Ricky, K-Love core. Barea and Webster are arguably upgrades over Johnson and Ridnour as starters at the 2 & 3. Pek is a matchup nightmare against opposing teams’ second units. We still have one high-upside enigma with Anthony Randolph. (One’s enough, right?)

An elephant in the room common sense question is whether the Wolves would be competitive in a Pau Sweepstakes.

John Hollinger’s (Insider) column suggests the answer may be no:

“It’s not hard coming up with dance partners, that’s for sure. Send him to Houston for Luis Scola,Goran Dragic, Marcus Morris and Chase Budinger, and the Lakers suddenly fill four rotation spots with one deal while saving several million on luxury tax; deal him to Indiana for David West,George Hill and Dahntay Jones and you accomplish a similar feat. These aren’t the only possibilities; one can build similar trades with several other teams, ones that don’t bring back a talent on Gasol’s level but plug so many gaps that it may be worth it anyway.”

Can a Williams/Beasley/Ridnour/Johnson package compete with Scola/Dragic/Morris/Budinger or West/Hill/Jones? We know the Rockets really want Gasol, and that’d be a pretty strong offer. What do you think?

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Two for the Money (Wolves 111, HOUSTON 98)

The human head weights 8 pounds. Pek's head weighs 18 pounds. (Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report)

In a comment yesterday, I said the Wolves hadn’t really owned a game since their last victory over Houston. They broke that streak Friday night, again against the Rockets, in a 111-98 victory in Houston.

Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love were the big stories.

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Can Derrick Williams Win the Dunk Contest?

Williams dunks from far places

This blogger says no.

I decided to rank the dunkers, based on how well I expect them to do in the contest (that is, NOT on their in-game dunking ability). My list is below the fold.

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Taking Care of Business…or something (WOLVES 102, Bobcats 90)

The good news: Minnesota snapped its 4-game losing streak tonight, earning a decided victory against the Charlotte Bobcats.

The less-good news: I have no idea what to make of the performance, because Charlotte is the worst healthy NBA team I have seen in recent years.

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INBOX: ’08ers Being Frozen Out? (The Conspiracy Theory Edition)

Andy G: We wrote some about the awesome 2008 Draft class, yesterday. With Michael Beasley losing minutes to Wesley Johnson, and AR15 racking up DNP-CD’s the way J.J. Barea racks up wild turnovers, is it possible that these restricted free agents are being frozen out of bigger pay days?

I mean, there’s more-than-plausible deniability here; each guy has his own weaknesses and hardly COMMANDS big minutes. Beasley gets lost on defense and scores inefficiently more often than not, and AR15 has bouts of losing all control of his emotions and play. But Mike provides needed shot creation and AR15 racks up production in short minutes at reasonable efficiency… next summer, they’ll be taking their talents around the league, looking for long-term contracts. Might it be that Adelman or (more likely) KAHN are scheming to limit those contracts, perhaps planning to re-sign at least one of them at a bargain bin rate?

Patrick J: I like where you’re going with this, but I’ll disagree anyway. These guys are pretty much the basketball equivalent of that hot girl you always see at the bar whenever you go out for a drink: lots of potential on the outside, but deep down you know she wouldn’t be there if she weren’t deeply flawed on the inside. Randolph’s problems show up less in the stats than on the court. He just can’t control his body or emotions. (Sort of like that girl.) Beasley’s unfocused disengagement gets more troubling by the game. Both look like reconcilables, but they’d need the right situation, coaching, teammates, role, etc, and I think we’ll be lucky if either turns it around here. So I’ll give Adelman and Kahn the benefit of the doubt on this one–you know they want to exploit that talent more than anyone.

AG: Okay, I like the analogy, and you are probably right. How about tihs: Let’s assume that ONE of these two guys is getting the Isaiah Thomas Freeze-Out from some combination of Kahn, various Adelmans, and (just for fun) Rob Moor.

Which guy do you think the team would intentionally withhold an opportunity to, in hopes of retaining him at a discount?

PJ: I guess if we think through the implications of the theory, the answer would be Randolph–the reason being that he appears to be permanently benched DESPITE putting up solid numbers and being on the floor during many of the team’s better early-season runs, which often came during 2nd-half comebacks. In contrast, Beasley keeps getting fairly consistent, if limited, minutes. It’s weird to think about this since Randolph doesn’t seem like he’d be that expensive regardless, but he’s got the raw athleticism, length, and basketball IQ of DeAndre Jordan, and Jordan got paid (relatively speaking) after just one decent season, so it isn’t inconceivable that the same could happen to Randolph if he got enough showcase this year.

AG: I would also bet on Randolph, if forced to choose. I’ve been kicking around Derrick Williams trade ideas like it’s my job (even though I still like D-Thrill as a budding power forward prospect) and I’d guess R.J. Adelman spends much of his day doing the same. If the team can get wing value for D-Thrill (like Mayo, or Redick, or Kevin Martin, or Monta Ellis, or…) then all of a sudden AR15 means more to the team as a long-term backup big man. By freezing him out of minutes this year, they’re positioning themselves to be able to match what promises to be a reasonable offer, if he gets one. Problem is, he might just take his qualifying offer (if we extend it) and wait for UFA status. Hard to say, but I enjoy NBA conspiracy theories.

PJ: Here’s a question regarding another ’08er: Would you trade Derrick Williams for O.J. Mayo? Would Kahn? Would Chris Wallace?? With Z-Bo out, Memphis needs a PF and the Wolves need a SG, so the basic logic seems sound. But it hurts my brain to try to work through Kahn’s and Wallace’s potential thought processes. Who says no?

AG: D-Thrill for O.J.? I’m not sure that either team does it. Williams isn’t good enough (yet) to be relied upon by a team that hopes to contend for a championship. O.J. isn’t good enough for the Wolves to trade the most-recent #2 pick in the draft for. The trade would have to be adjusted somehow in our favor. Anyway, that’s probably enough speculation about the ’08ers for now. Until next time.

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