Shved & Williams Handed the Keys to the Wheel: (CSKA Moscow 108, WOLVES 106)

The final score might alarm casual fans, or even incite some good old fashioned Timberwolves jokes. But it really shouldn’t. First, international basketball — particularly at the level played by CSKA Moscow — is very close to the NBA. Recent “Dream Teams” that included LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony have had close calls en route to gold medals in recent Olympics. Certain members of tonight’s version of CSKA — definitely Milos Teodosic, Nenad Krstic and Victor Khryapa — would crack most NBA rotations. Teodosic — previously unknown to me; now my favorite non-NBA player not named Khalid El-Amin — played like some best-of-both-worlds combination of Ricky Rubio and Jimmer Fredette. When you add this to the fact that Rick Adelman sat his first unit for all of Winning Time, including an entire overtime, the loss isn’t alarming. At all.

Moving beyond that, I’m resorting to bullets. It’s preseason after all, and not worth over-analyzing…

* Adelman handed the keys to Alexey Shved and Derrick Williams, and let them go try to get a win. I have no way of knowing if this was an actual “test” or just Rick ensuring that he doesn’t over-work his starting five. In any event, Alexey struggled offensively, shooting just 2-12 from the field. His 4 assists to 1 turnover was impressive, and would’ve been better had he not been paired with non catch-and-shooters Williams and Turiaf. Shved still waits outcourt for a ball screen. The offense run by the first team — one looking more high-post/Princeton-y — was not available to the second unit, because that just ain’t what Alexey’s about. He made some good plays and some bad ones, but the late-in-the-shot clock desperation that killed him at times last year was on full display tonight.

* Derrick Williams played a big role in tonight’s game. On the plus side, he scored 21 points in 30 minutes. He drew enough fouls to shoot 12 free throws. He pulled down 9 rebounds, finished well around the basket, and — at the power forward position, anyway — looked like a superior athlete. On the minus side, his instincts upon catching a pass look just as confused and hesitant as the last two years. His scoopy shots around the basket worked tonight against an inferior opponent devoid of an athlete of his caliber. In The Association, I’m just afraid it’ll be the Same Old Same Old. Oh, and he missed 5 of those 12 free throws. On balance, he played a decent game.

* After a shaky opening, the first unit started to click in the second quarter. Ricky Rubio looks better than I remember in last year’s ongoing rehabilitation process. On both ends of the floor he looks athletic and aggressive. Kevin Love is still reliable. When opponents get overaggresive, one post feed to Love followed by a strong pivot and a head fake takes care of the problem. Love punishes reckless defense with foul draws. The Wolves first team was trying to run a wing-entry offense that involved a lot of post passing. Kevin Love had 5 assists, which was 2 more than Ricky Rubio. The cutting between Martin and Brewer is pretty clearly designed to discourage pressure defense and create backdoor layups. Both Love and Pek missed an open cutter, but that will come. I suppose it’s an open question as to how Ricky’s ball skills mesh with a passing offense, but I’d say that’s a bridge we’ll cross when we come to it. Anything that gets defenses off balance is good for Minnesota; a team without a natural one-on-one creator of offense.

* Brewer seemed to improve in his time in Denver, but his energy-level and non-stop motion has not changed. Whether he’s leaking out for dunks, or just curling hard off a down screen, everything Brewer does is full speed. He misses a left corner three and follows his shot only to miss again. But the defense is so scrambled up trying to follow him around that Pekovic is there to clean up the mess for two points. I think a strong offensive rebounding team like Minnesota’s will benefit some from Brewer’s wild cuts and drives.

That’s all for tonight. Next game is Wednesday at Toronto. I’d guess Adelman will change up the rotation a bit, particularly with the second unit to give some different players a chance to show something.

Until then.

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10 responses to “Shved & Williams Handed the Keys to the Wheel: (CSKA Moscow 108, WOLVES 106)

  1. David Grimsrud

    Will the Wolves pay D. Williams $6.3 million next year? He doesn’t have a position with his team. He will play a lot in October and then be traded before the month is over. Flip’s challenge is to find equal value, someone who will fit a need.

    • It would make sense to showcase him before the games actually matter. If they don’t trade him before the deadline — which I think is Halloween or maybe the day before it — I’d guess they’ll pick up his option. It isn’t for next year though, but the year after that. He’s signed for next year already.

  2. Bobs219

    Biased much? Not that I’m the biggest D Williams fan…but it’s not a fair shake to qualify the starting 5 performance with a note about the quality of the opponents and then marginalize D Thrill’s performance due to the quality of the same opponents.

    • Bobs219 – It seemed to me that some of Williams’ success last night was simply a result of jumping over people. We’ve seen enough of his NBA career to know that doesn’t usually work well for him. If I’ve become biased against D-Thrill, it certainly didn’t start out that way. I used to think/hope he could become a scoring power forward along the lines of Amare – if not quite that great.

      The starting 5 performance wasn’t great, but I think the Wolves would’ve won, had Adelman put them back in with 5 minutes to go.

      • Bobs219

        I completely agree with your general assessment of Williams’ game. But in the interest of looking at the opposite side of the coin….Why can’t he make a career out of jumping over his opponents?

        In Blake Griffin’s short career he has used athleticism to do just that. Similar to Williams he has the “deer in headlights” expression 15-20 feet from the hoop, especially facing the rim….but why can’t DWill use that speed and jumping ability to get to the rim and have it be OK? Doesn’t need to be good, just OK….

        • The difference between Blake and D-Thrill is that we have seen Blake actually do this consistently in NBA games. We’re still waiting to see that consistency from D-Thrill. It’s not like he hasn’t been given any opportunity to do so.

          • Blake is another example of what I used to hope Williams could [almost] become. Like Mark says, he’s had an opportunity to show us something and hasn’t taken much advantage of it. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with him. If they pick up his option and he DOES improve (in whatever playing time he gets) I suspect he’ll factor into the team’s contingency plans for Love’s 2015 opt-out. If he plays mostly like he did last year and the one before that, it’ll be a non-factor and they’ll probably try to dump his salary at the earliest opportunity.

  3. David Grimsrud

    Good points. William’s future with the Wolves maybe tied to how well Love does. If the team struggles, Love could go on the trading block. Lots of trade value in Love. This team will need defense and guys who can pass the ball.

  4. David Grimsrud

    Nothing posted on last night’s game against Bucks. Rookies Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng aren’t afraid of contact. That’s good news for a team that has tended to be soft in recent years. Tough guys win. Hope the Wolves watch video of the Pacers. Othyus Jeffers did well.