Scouting the Timberwolves

PG – Ridnour

If you have a size advantage on Luke (and you probably will) then use it.  Post him up.  He won’t draw a charge, even if you aggressively back him down.  (That’s what the other little guy does.  He comes off the bench.)  Luke is best shooting off of clear dribbles to the baseline.  Don’t go jumping on his head fakes.

SG – Shved

The key to playing against Alexey Shved is to be as physical with him as you can possibly get away with.  He’s incredibly smooth with the ball when he has space to operate.  He’s incredibly uncomfortable when you take away that smoothness with bumps, slaps, grabs, anything you can think of.  If you violently chop him on a breakaway (like Jamal Tinsley did, tonight) don’t worry.  Nobody on the Wolves will retaliate to protect their teammate.  It’s cool.

Don’t let Shved dribble around without feeling you for most of the process.  When Shved is guarding you, and you’re cutting baseline, just “sit down” under the hoop.  You can seal him hard and probably get fouled or score an easy bucket.  Dwyane Wade did it.  Damien Wilkins did it.  Hell, Gordon Hayward did it.

SF – Kirilenko

AK47 will be active all night.  On offense that means he’ll backcut the second you look away.  On defense that means if there’s anything close to a loose ball you can bet he (and/or Dante Cunningham) will be flying toward it.  The number one key to neutralizing Kirilenko is to keep him out of the lane.  When he has the ball that means sagging off and letting him shoot.  If he’s behind the three-point line, he probably won’t make it.

PF – Love

Scouting is of utmost importance when facing Kevin Love.  First, if you are guarding Love, do not jump to block his shot.  Just put your arms straight up as high as you can.  He will head fake, pivot, dig his nose into the front of your jersey, throw up some garbage and look to the ref for a call that was never there to be made.  Meanwhile, the ball (likely having flown hard off the rim or backboard, if it wasn’t swatted by a help defender) will be headed the other direction, 5 on 4.  Last year (or the year before that) I would tell you to close out hard when Love has the ball behind the three line.  Not this year.  He’s hitting about 20 percent of 3’s this season, which isn’t so young anymore.  Love is crafty, and if his team is in the bonus you can bet he’ll use every trick in the book to get to that charity stripe (and he’ll make the foul shots, too).  So watch out for that.

C – Pekovic

Pek is a load and will combine offensive rebounding with deft footwork around the basket (both on the block and in pick-and-rolls) to be a scoring threat.  When Pek is on the block, the number one key is to force him to the middle.  If you play him straight up, it’s almost a guarantee that Pek will seal you with a drop step and when Pekovic seals you, it’s two points.  Invite that running hook in the middle of the lane.  He doesn’t get very close to the rim on it, and it isn’t a particularly strong move for him at this point.

[Tonight’s game was awful.  After a competitive opening quarter, things unraveled with a barrage of Jazz fast break points and clanked Wolves jumpers leading to an 8-point halftime deficit.  The second half only got worse with shots around the basket getting blocked by longer, more-athletic Jazz big men, and our own shots continuing to misfire.  The above report tries to highlight some of the things going wrong.]

Season Record: 14-14



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4 responses to “Scouting the Timberwolves

  1. Nathan Anderson

    What an awful game tonight. Ugh. In addition, I listened to the Jazz broadcast. The highlight of the Jazz broadcast was when after a Love offensive board and put back, the play-by-play guy uttered “backside Love.”
    At that point in the broadcast, juvenile humor was all the game had going for it. Well, for me at least. You, on the other hand, managed to write an insightful piece.

    This team has no chance of making the playoffs until Love 2012-13 approaches 90% of Love 2011-2012.

    I agree the Wolves appear a bit soft. Why is that? Any theories? Personalities I guess?

    • Nathan–
      Bummer you had the Utah feed. I’ve heard terrible things about Harpring and one of the silver linings of suffering through losses like this one is getting the honest takes of Jim Pete on FSN.

      I agree about the need for last year’s Love (and Rubio).

      Are the Wolves soft? I don’t know. Love and Pekovic certainly don’t play soft on the boards. J.J., for all of his faults, is not at all soft. But they don’t have explosive athleticism and Shved needs to start playing with more contact. The scouting report on him is going to be out there (and not because teams read this blog!) and he’ll have to adjust. Two basic adjustments would be to guard the ball a little bit better with his body (watch how Chris Paul and Tony Parker stick their butts out to ward off defenders–J.J. Barea too, actually) in traffic and, pains me to say it, but sell the contact a little bit more when he gets it. Flopping works and Shved should join the rest of the great NBA players and join in. Ricky and Love do it and it helps them get to the line and avoid some turnovers.

      Awful game tonight, and it will only get more difficult tomorrow at Denver. Let’s hope Love can get that shooting release back overnight.

      • Nathan Anderson

        Agree on Shved. He’s had a very good year but he will only be an above average NBA 2 if he can finish inside and get to the line. He seems to be able to get to the basket and he seems tough as well. Hopefully he’ll figure it out. Not sure that is something guys figure out though.

        Re: Softness. This is where the lack of shooting hurts. When teams like Utah decide to be rough inside the refs can only blow so many whistles. Even with all the rough housing, Love and Pek still grab a good amount of offensive boards. But if they are unable to pass it out and have guys hit shots, the lack of calls on the inside will not produce the FTs the Wolves need to win.

        • Shooting is a problem. It’s nice that they are doing so many other things well that .500 is still possible, but league-worst perimeter shooting is a problem for a team that also lacks explosive dribble penetrators. Much of the Rubio and Shved action is geared toward secondary options behind the three-point line. Never-ending “drive and kick” is not ideal. Denver, tonight’s opponent, falls into this cycle sometimes too.