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.
Kevin Love: Below average back to the basket low-post game. Love lacks the tools–height, length, footwork, burst–to be a great back to the basket post player. K-Love is a light years behind Al Jefferson in this regard, and always will be. But as with every aspect of his game, Love has found a way to get it done using the tools he has–Love is one of the most resourceful players in the game. He draws fouls at an extremely high rate (7.7 throws per 36 last season), is a good foul shooter (82.3 percent career rate), and has developed a very nice face-up game from the extended block where he can get an easy bank shot or drive right and try to draw a foul. Love’s a scoring machine inside and out, something I never expected to say when he came into the League.
Nikola Pekovic: Pek came into his own last season. This is the big story from last year, I think–almost as big as Rubio, and too few people outside Minnesota realize what a beast Pek is, and how important he is to the team’s success. Pek’s transformation involved going from a foul-prone backup, to becoming one of the biggest loads in the NBA on the block: night in and night out, you’ll only find a few centers across the league who have chance to guard Pek. Pekovic averaged 13.9 ppg last season and 18.5 per 36, and I look for him to average closer to his per 36 stats this season per game as he’ll be playing bigger minutes from day one, particularly if the rumors of his slimmer, better conditioned body are true. One more thing about Pek: big-man play is usually key on championship-level teams, and if the Wolves are on their way there, you can thank your lucky stars it’ll be Big Pek and not Darko Milicic walking through those doors.
Derrick Williams: What position does he play? Can he shoot the three? Who’s he going to get minutes ahead of? These are all common and valid questions about Williams. But in this post, we’re looking at the Wolves interior offense. Where does Williams fit in? Andy G has long said that Williams’ explosiveness from a face-up position on the block means he should be watching pre-microfracture Amare tapes rather than chirping on Twitter. And I agree with that. Williams has astounding explosiveness that he hasn’t translated into efficient scoring around the hoop. As with his shooting, Williams’ lack of touch around the basket appears more due to confidence issues/overthinking it than to a lack of skill. This applies to free throws too, where Williams should be better than 69 percent, especially given that he gets to the line 5 times per 36 minutes, best on the roster of returning players after Love and Pek (5.3 FGA/36). If he can get his head on straight, a lot of people are going to be very pleasantly surprised by what we have with this guy, and Adelman will be forced to find minutes for him even if he can’t crack the starting rotation. The best-case scenario would be if Williams developed sort of along James Harden’s trajectory, struggling at first and then showing his value until he found himself on the floor while still coming off the bench.
Greg Stiemsma: It’s hard to get very excited about what the addition of Stiemsma means for the Wolves offense. He averaged 2.9 ppg. He doesn’t shoot much. That’s fine. You’re going to like that unlike Darko, as a backup center Stiemsma is going to stay in his lane on offense and not try to do too much. And you’re going to love his effort and defensive ability. I’m actualy really enthusiastic about the Stiemsma signing and think it’ll look like one of the wiser moves AdelKahn made this offseason, even if not the flashiest.
Pekovic is still the only true low-post threat the Wolves have. They need to exploit that. Feed him, feed him, feed him. Does he still look hungry? Feed him some more then! This isn’t rocket science, kids. He can do things no one else can, and he makes it look easy.
Love does his thing, but it’s not the traditional low block thing, and he’s better when he’s playing the stretch 4.
Williams has talent, but hasn’t shown that he’ll be reliable or consistent.
Aside from making sure Pek gets plenty of post-up opportunities, the second key is not to overemphasize ballstopping post-up play. This should be just one look we throw at opposing defenses. Ball movement, and movement without the ball, are going to be the bread and butter keys to the offense given our returning and new personnel.
And it could be oh-so-nice.
A full training camp and the infusion of new talent should make this season’s offense much, much prettier, and hopefully more efficient, than last season’s.