Tag Archives: Minnesota Timberwolves

Wolves-Kings: 5 Questions

Questions greatly outnumber answers as we enter closing hours of Preseason and begin the real thing.  Here are five of mine pertaining to tonight’s opening tilt versus the Kings of Sacramento:

1) Does a Timberwolf shooting guard steal the show? Of the possible [realistic] subplots to the early Timberwolves schedule, I think Brandon Roy or Alexey Shved (or both!) exceeding expectations would be most beneficial to the team’s hope of making the playoffs. Will Roy resemble his All-NBA self? Will Shved look more like the guy who out-dueled Manu Ginobili on a global stage, or the one who at other times rode the bench when David Blatt saw enough between-the-legs passes for one night?

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4 Teams, 2 Spots

The Jazz and Mavs will compete with the Wolves for a playoff spot.

Marc Stein has released his first Power Rankings of the 2012-13 season.  A quick scan down to the middle teams shows support for something that I have been thinking to be true about this Western Conference playoff landscape: There will be four teams fighting for two playoff spots.  They are the Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors and, yes, our very own Minnesota Timberwolves.  If you follow Stein’s writing, you know that he loves Dallas and, like many others in the NBA media, quickly took to the Rubio-led Timberwolves of 2012.  It comes as no surprise then, that he has them ranked slightly ahead of Utah and Golden State.  Stein ranks the Wolves 14th–8th best in the West.  He has Utah and Golden State ranked 16th/9th and 17th/10th respectively.  He has Dallas ranked 10th overall, 6th in the West, ahead of Memphis, which he ranks 11th/7th.  His Dallas bias got the best of him there.  While the Mavs could surprise and do well in a Post-Jet & Chandler World, there’s no reason to expect them to finish ahead of the Grizzlies.

Why only two spots? Continue reading

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Positional Battles

photo by David Sherman/NBAE (via espn.com)

It strikes me that even if Hassan Whiteside becomes a Timberwolf in the coming days, the playing roster is probably complete.  It also strikes me that there is far from a clear-cut starting lineup, or even playing rotation.  Rick Adelman does not strike me as a coach who worries about going deep into his bench to appease reserve players.  At least not in big games when he’s coaching his best teams.  Before speculating about this year’s rotation, let’s look back at last year’s:

Point Guard – Ricky Rubio (34.2 minutes per game)
Shooting Guard – Luke Ridnour (33.0 minutes per game)
Small Forward – Wesley Johnson (22.6 minutes per game; 64 starts)
Power Forward – Kevin Love (39.0 minutes per game)
Center – Nikola Pekovic (26.9 minutes per game)

Reserve Guard – J.J. Barea (25.2 minutes per game)
Reserve Wing – Martell Webster (24.3 minutes per game)
Reserve Forward – Michael Beasley (23.1 minutes per game)
Reserve Power Forward – Derrick Williams (21.5 minutes per game) Continue reading

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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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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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A Loveless Victory (WOLVES 86, Kings 84)

Nobody quite knew what to predict for Minny’s first game of the season without its best player.  In fact, PJ published two separate posts in anticipation and speculation on exactly how this should shake out.  While the Kings are pretty lousy, they were coming off three consecutive wins and had big man DeMarcus Cousins playing the best basketball of his short career.  To eek out a win, even if ugly and way-too-close for comfort, is impressive in Love’s absence.

No Love

First things first: How did they do at replacing Kevin Love?

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The Big 3 (Wolves 120, ROCKETS 108)

The early season narrative for the TWolves has been that Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love are amazing players who need some help.  Other starting players, most notably Wesley Johnson and Darko Milicic, have failed to provide meaningful production or consistent play that breeds any confidence in the two stars’ supporting cast.

Michael Beasley led last year’s team in scoring per minute (21.4 per 36; 19.2 per game) but didn’t make himself many fans after ankle sprains on each leg derailed what looked like a promising season.  In 73 games, he surpassed 30 points 8 times, and 40 points once.  But the way he scored those points, often isolation sets with some ball-stoppage, isn’t popular or always fun to watch.  Also, and much more significantly if we’re being fair, his defense was often times lazy and always incoherent.  A plausible retort to this would be that he was simply “joining the club” of Rambis-coached wings who had no idea how to rotate defensively.  Beasley had serious flaws to be addressed if he were going to be an impact player on an up-and-coming team led by Rubio and Love.

This season, some fans and analysts expected a breakout year from Supercool Mike, both because of Rubio’s playmaking but more so because Rick Adelman would devise schemes to get him the ball closer to the hoop.  A problem with the Rambis triangle was that it often resorted to clearing out for Mike 24 feet from the basket for everyone else to stand and watch.  This wasn’t good for Mike’s efficiency or the Timberwolves win/loss record.  In the early going this year, he showed flashes of improved play.  His defense was been better.  Night and day.  He’s played respectable defense on LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and even Kobe Bryant.  If you watched Wellington try to guard Kevin Martin (or if you remember the days of Shaddy McCants trying to defend Baron Davis or LBJ) you’ve seen an outmatched defender in a Wolves uniform. This is not Michael Beasley.  If he’s focused and coached, he’s an adequate-or-better defensive wing.  His shot was colder than we’ve ever seen it in the early going.  He put together stinkers of 11-27, 2-6, 5-16, and 4-12 before spraining his foot and missing the next 11 games.  It should be noted that the Wolves were probably playing their best basketball in that early going against a brutal schedule.  They trounced the Spurs and Mavs (with Dirk, unlike the second time they beat them without Mike) and held late-game leads on title-favorites OKC and Miami.  But Mike needed his shot to fall like it used to before things could really take off for he and the team.

Of course, the schedule weakened right around the time of the injury and the team ripped off an 11-game stretch of over-.500 basketball, going 6-5.  THEY’RE BETTER WITHOUT BEASLEY!  LOOK AT THE BALL MOVEMENT!  Only, if you watched the Toronto or Atlanta games, you saw what happened against a respectable foe when the game slowed down and shot creating became a necessity.  The Wolves have exactly one shot creator on the team, and he was sidelined for those games.  You might also look at those 6 wins and notice that they came against either garbage competition (Wizards, Hornets, Kings, Pistons) or good teams that were without future Hall of Famers (Clippers without Chris Paul, Mavericks without Dirk Nowitzki).  The record was inflated by an easy schedule.  Despite what some desperately wanted to believe, the team was NOT better without its best scorer.

Fast forward to tonight’s game at Houston.  The Rockets (who recently spanked the Mike-less Wolves at Target Center) held a mighty 9-2 home record heading into this game.  Minnesota had no rest, traveling overnight into Houston after a hard-fought loss against LA.  Houston rested last night in their beds at home.  This was not a game the Wolves should have won.

Oh, but they did win, and they pummeled the Rockets behind Mike Beasley’s 34 points on 14 shots.  Mike had his jumper going, his dribble penetration game going, and he was getting to the line where he hit all 12 attempts.  His monster scoring performance led the way in this one, increasing the lead throughout the second half.  The Ricky & Love show became a Minnesota Big 3, as Rubio damn-near f’d around and got a triple double (18 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds) and Love added 29 & 7 of his own.

Is Mike going to score like this every night?  Of course not.  But he will some nights, and on those nights Minnesota will be almost unbeatable.  When he’s clanking shot after shot?  Sit him down, or watch Kevin Love collect rebounds.  Beasley draws extra defenders, a skill that doesn’t show up in a box score but is essential to consistently-successful offense in the NBA.  He also complements the team’s best players by adding a skill that neither possesses: a dominant one-on-one game that will foul out opponents, allow teammates to get some rest on offense, and challenge opposing coaches into lineup decisions they might not prefer.

I hope this isn’t a one-game fluke, and an amazing coach like Adelman can draw as much of Beasley’s natural talent as is possible.  He’s a restricted free agent this off-season and the forward duo lauded by John Hollinger last year could be really something, especially with the Spanish floor general leading the way.

Some additional thoughts:

* Martell Webster’s feisty defense in the second quarter turned the game.  He plays D on a slightly-different level than his teammates.  Watch a Memphis Grizzlies game for comparable effort and approach.  This is an asset, for sure, especially from a guy that the team can afford to get in foul trouble (because he will, if he plays this way).  Webster should be the starting shooting guard very soon.  Let’s all hope his back stays healthy.  No more of these.

* Derrick Williams is frozen out of the rotation.  TRADE DERRICK WILLIAMS will become a common meme.  That could be wise, depending on the deal, but let’s not lose sight of the talent here, and how similarly-awesome college players with talent took their licks en route to NBA improvement.  James Harden and Evan Turner took time to adjust, as Williams will.  Biggest reasons for NOT trading him:  (1) He’s on the rookie scale; and (2) He’s insurance against Love getting injured or Love bolting after 3 years.  If he continues to improve as a power forward, and he will, those are not insignificant factors.  A shooting guard can be signed in free agency this off-season, if need be.

* Kyle Lowry versus Ricky Rubio could be an All-Star debate in the next few years.  Lowry bested him at Target Center, and Ricky took this match.  Very different players.  Very good players.

Season Record: 10-11

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