Andy G wrote a nice mid-term report yesterday that assessed the team via “superlatives” rather than letter grades. It’s an excellent post. Read it now if you haven’t yet.
I’d have given LVP to Chase Budinger, not LaVine, but a case can be made either way. LaVine has certainly hurt the Wolves more, on average, than any other player–at least among the ones who’ve been playing. But if you think about “Least-Valuable” in relative terms, based on some expectation of (solid-to-good) performance–like voters for the NBA’s MVP seem to–then I think I’m on firmer ground to argue that Budinger has been a huge letdown, while LaVine has been a sometimes-pleasant surprise, despite the spasms of mistakes he’s prone to making in rapid succession, especially when not playing in transition.
Simply put, Budinger is touted to have one “plus” NBA skill–his three-point stroke–and he has shot poorly all season while generally playing tentatively and lethargically. He’s only shooting 33.3% from distance so far. Really, Wiggins and Muhammad have been the only bright spots from distance in an offense that generates few three-point shots. Muhammad was just beginning to get comfortable looking for shots from behind the arc when he went down with his current injury.
Andy kind of got at this concept of “relative to expectations” with his “Most Disappointing” superlative, which went collectively to the Power Forwards.
If he hadn’t used the schema he did, I’d nominate Thad Young as a prime candidate for LVP. He’s brought inefficient scoring on a shot-selection that even a true chucker would blush at, all while grabbing very few rebounds.
The chart below shows that Young is grabbing only 5.5 boards per 36–worse not only than Dieng and fellow most-disappointing power forward Anthony Bennett, but also than Shabazz Muhammad and Corey Brewer (!) and Chase Budinger (!!). (Eds. Note: Glenn Robinson III has also outrebounded Young per 36, but in a tiny sample size. Jeff Adrien would be the team’s top rebounder per 36, if I’d relaxed the 20-game minimum threshold.)
Simply put, Thad Young hasn’t gotten after it this season, unless you count questionable shot-hunting–a sin LaVine has been guilty of at times as well. He has a contract with a player option for next year that is looking more and more cumbersome for the Wolves. Like Budinger, Young shows few signs of being a veteran leader, unless you count bad habits and sub-par performance as desirable leadership qualities.
Overall, there’s much to agree with in Andy’s mid-term wrap. But I had to quibble around the margins.
The Wolves play the Pelicans at home tonight before going to Atlanta to play the white-hot Hawks on Sunday. Let’s hope they steal a win tonight–perhaps with Young and Budinger showing signs of life as we move into the season’s second half. Here’s some food for thought about the Budinger we might be seeing, had he not suffered injury upon injury after signing with the Wolves.