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

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

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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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Millsap’d Again (JAZZ 111, Wolves 105)

When Paul Millsap missed a wide-open layup as the regulation buzzer sounded, it looked like the Wolves might actually steal this one from the Jazz.  They had trailed Utah 92-80 with only 4 minutes to go before pulling off a miraculous comeback to force overtime.  After a Pekovic basket tied the game with 0.7 seconds left, the Jazz ran a brilliant out of bounds play that nearly ended the Wolves hopes with a heroic shot.  Instead, Paul’s heroics would come from steals in overtime (8 total for the game!) that sealed a win that Utah probably deserved all along.

Things were actually looking good for the first part of overtime.  Wes Johnson (after a HORRENDOUS first four quarters of action) hit a pair of jumpers and pulled down a tough rebound, and had the Wolves leading 105-103 with 1:31 to go.  But, the next Wolves possessions were as follows:

* With game tied, Luke Ridnour pass stolen by Paul Millsap.

* With Wolves down by 2, Martell Webster misses wide-f***ing-open corner trey.

* With Wolves down by 4, Paul Millsap steals ball from Kevin Love.

Each blunder was followed by Jazz points.  Each blunder was inexcusable.  So it goes.

A whole bunch of bullets:

* Ridnour, that last turnover notwithstanding, made A LOT of nifty assists in this game.  He seemed to look for Pekovic frequently and found him rolling or sealing at the right times.  Luke finished the game with 13 assists.

* Anthony Randolph Sighting!  AR15 had 5 points and 3 steals in 12 minutes off the bench.  He took the ball hard to the basket twice in the second half, each time not getting a call that could have been made.  His biggest weakness right now is the rotation of big men that lie in front of him on the depth chart.  All things considered, his play isn’t that bad.  Those that incessantly rip on this guy are off base to some extent.  Sure, his decision making will leave you shaking your head at times.  But that happens with every player.  Every other player doesn’t get you 17 & 8 per 36 on 50 percent shooting and hyperactive defense.

* Speaking of AR15 getting minutes, Coach went 10 deep tonight despite Mike Beasley being out with a sore toe.  This cut deep into D-Thrill’s minutes.  The rook played 16 total, while Randolph and Tolliver each played 12.

* This was Kevin Love’s best game of the year against Paul Millsap and the Jazz.  But that isn’t necessary saying much.  He took 23 shots to get his 25 points, numbers not befitting of his renowned efficiency.  In three games versus Utah, he’s shooting just 29 percent from the field.  Still, he did plenty of good things in this game (like pull down 16 rebounds) and can hardly be blamed for the result.

I’ll wrap this up with a brief take on the trade deadline (in)activity.  The rumor mill had me and everyone else convinced that Mike Beasley was headed to Tinseltown in a three-teamer that would bring back two-guard chucker, Jamal Crawford.  Jamal has plenty in common with Beasley as a jumpshooting player.  One notable difference is that while Beasley at times seems conflicted about gunning, Jamal is unapologetic and perhaps unaware.  He just chucks.  And chucks.  Would he have helped this team?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I have no idea.

But the reason that the deal did not happen is that one version had Portland requiring Luke Ridnour to come their way.  If you have watched Luke play this year, you realize that this would not be a good thing.  The other version had us taking on Derek Fisher’s contract, adding over $3 million to next year’s payroll.  No thanks.  There are legitimately-good wing players available in this coming free agency.  Ray Allen, Eric Gordon, O.J. Mayo, Nic Batum.  I don’t know which the Wolves prefer most, but I have to believe they’ve got eyes on those guys and want as much dough as possible to toss their way.  With Ricky out for this season, a rash decision to run at the 8-seed–particularly one that might not even be an upgrade over what Beasley provides–would have been a mistake.  No trade was fine with me.

Season Record: 22-22

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Blazers Edged (Wolves 122, BLAZERS 110)

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I want to see this Wolves team shooting the three.  Aside from Pekovic post-ups and Love’s free throw generating, it’s the team’s best way to outscore opponents. Ricky Rubio is a big reason for this.  His other-worldly court sense manifests itself with a steady supply of could-be assists to standing spot shooters.  It’s up to those guys to bury enough treys to make it work.

Last night, it worked.  Three-point champion Kevin Love led the way.  15 of his 42 points came from behind the arc.  Love’s 42, 10 & 4 (with 0 turnovers) is pretty insane.  What a great game in front of his hometown fans.

But it wasn’t just Love.  Wes Johnson was 2 for 2 on threes.  Martell Webster (21 points and 8 rebounds) was 3 for 5.  The team combined for 12 threes on 23 attempts; a 52.2 percent clip.

This was a fun game for a lot of reasons beyond the barrage of three-bombs.  It had intensity, which nearly boiled over when D-Thrill mixed it up with Crash Wallace in a late-game encounter.  Talk about a growing-up moment for the rook.  Martell Webster played a magnificent game, producing points and rebounds and even blocking a couple shots.  If Martell can be the “solid” wing that we thought we were getting, that will certainly help.  It is no coincidence that his breakout game came at the expense of Wes Johnson playing time (9 minutes, despite making his only two shots–though he did have 4 fouls.  How is that even possible?)

Another tough one tomorrow night when Lob City comes to Target Center, looking for revenge.  Let’s hope they are as unsuccessful in this pursuit as San Antonio was before them.

Season Record: 19-19

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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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Mile Low (NUGGETS 103 , Wolves 101)

Tonight was a weird, weird, game. The play was rough and sloppy. The Wolves lost in OT.

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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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