Author Archives: Patrick J

The Punch-Drunk Podcast, Episode 7

In which we review the preseason, prospects for the regular season, and Mike Penberthy.

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Bill and Jalen on the Timberwolves

Bill and Jalen

Bill and Jalen

Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose are back with their NBA Preview. Shot in countdown-style Youtube videos that go team-to-team, from projected best to projected worst, you get a 15-minute read-in to what these guys really think about each team. As such ubiquitious basketball personalities, whose “meta” usually covers the entire league, it’s a different thing when, each season, Bill and Jalen “drill down” into their rankings and outlook for each and every NBA team.

Today, Bill and Jalen posted their annual video about the Wolves. Here’s what I thought they were off and on about:

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Measuring Success for the Timberwolves in 2014-15

fork-in-the-road

I am back at the blog after a summer hiatus and I’m excited about the season. You know the reason already–change.

If you’re reading here, you probably already know all about the changes from last season–Rick’s out, Flip’s in, Love’s out, Wiggins is in, the Wolves are gambling the farm on young talent, yet have failed to move numerous veteran players on bad contracts who promise threaten to slow the youngins’ development, and that this odd mix of the young and the promising and the old(er) and overpaid could create locker room weirdness.

While I’ve been away from the blog, I’ve still been reading the excellent news updates and analysis that is churned out daily on sites like Canis Hoopus, A Wolf Among Wolves, TWolves Blog, and numerous others (see, e.g., here, here, and here). These sites extend the beat reporting by the Strib, the Press, and Fox Sports. Equally  important, their material is the lifeblood that keeps Wolves Twitter vibrant in the lean months when no games are actually played, no drafts are happening, and (Wolves) free agency activity is minimal. They are the locus of coordination for the 24/7 chatter on teh interwebz that satiates the irreconcilables among us Wolves fans. (Eds. Note: If you’re reading this post, you’re probably in this group.)

Being away from blogging for a few months can serve to restore, or alter, a blogger’s perspective. You can’t read everything, you’re not farming for tidbits to harvest, and you have time to step back and take a longer view on why it is you’re blogging in the first place.

For me as a Wolves blogger, this has allowed a kind of introspection about the real meaning of all of the changes to the franchise’s architecture. The issues I’ve kept returning to are simple, fundamental, and, I believe, are ultimately the ones that will make or break fans’ retrospective on 2014-15 when they look back at the upcoming season, and the offseason changes that preceded it, in the coming years: competitiveness and progress.

These are meta-issues that have little to do with confidence bands on predicted 2014-15 wins. From a less abstract perspective, these issues imply two sets of questions heading into this season:

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Wheelman Presents: The Punch-Drunk Podcast, Vol. 7

Eyes on the Rise and other cool stuff.

 

 

 

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Welcome to Minnesota, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins

Anthony Bennett

New Timberwolves forward, Anthony Bennett, as a freshman at UNLV. He gained a lot of weight after shoulder surgery before his rookie NBA season, but appeared better conditioned this summer in the Vegas League.

Patrick J: So Flip Saunders went and did the impossible, turning a depressing Kevin Love trade situation into an extremely exciting one that netted the Wolves the last two number one overall picks in the NBA Draft, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett.

It was inevitable that the Wolves would have to trade Love. He wasn’t re-signing in Minnesota and the Wolves couldn’t let him walk away and get nothing in return. It was not inevitable that the Wolves’ take from a Love trade would be a good one. The Warriors offered David Lee and Harrison Barnes, but refused to include Klay Thompson in any trade for Love. The Bulls reportedly offered Nikola Mirotic and reserve defensive stopper Taj Gibson for Love. Those would’ve been pretty terrible deals for Minnesota.

Getting a prospect with as much realizable potential as Andrew Wiggins at least gives the Wolves a chance at recouping the value they were going to lose anyway when Love departed Minnesota.

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Waiting for Wiggins: Day 16 of 30

wiggins-calendar16

You’ve probably heard the news: the Wolves  reportedly have a deal in place that will  send All-Star  forward  Kevin Love  to the  Cleveland  Cavaliers for  this year’s number  one overall pick Andrew  Wiggins, LAST YEAR’S number  one overall pick Anthony Bennett, and a future first-round pick.

As usual, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski  broke the story ahead of time. Woj has become  a mythical figure  for his ability to  break *every* NBA  story before anyone else. I mean, literally, every story. The “Woj Bomb” is now a trope on NBA Twitter, inspiring clever plays on words and witty tweets that are often structured along the lines of “If a Woj Bomb confirms X rumor, I will perform Y outrageous act!”

The difference this time is that Woj, in the way only Woj could, confirmed the biggest trade since the Thunder traded James Harden to the Rockets more than TWO WEEKS before it can legally happen. In a league in which trades involving superstars in their prime and trades involving number one overall picks are both rare, the rarity of such deals gave pause both to hordes of Cavaliers and Wolves fans.

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Assessing Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love Trade Scenarios

Andrew Wiggins, future Timberwolf?

Andrew Wiggins, future Timberwolf?

 

Bill Simmons posted a doozy on Grantland today right before lunch on the merits of a trade involving Kevin Love to Cleveland for a package centered around this year’s #1 overall pick, Andrew Wiggins.

All of Grantland’s NBA hitters weighed in on Love-Wiggins: Simmons. Sharp. Trillion. netw3rk, Klosterman (does he still work there?).

I was pretty stoked, at least by what-I-read-over-lunch standards. But after I read it, I left the cafeteria pissed off.

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Will Wiggins be a Wolf? Wolves-Cavs Trade Possibilities

 

Dion Waiters: Eerily reminiscent of J.R. Rider

Dion Waiters: Eerily reminiscent of J.R. Rider. Future Timberwolf?

Andy G: So, LeBron made another Decision. He’s going home to Cleveland; a decision that many in the media began to expect a few days ago. He wrote a great letter explaining everything, published by Sports Illustrated yesterday.

It did not take long after the announcement for the conversation to turn toward the Timberwolves. Specifically, it was previously reported (by Adrian Woj, no less) that the Cavaliers had been pursuing a trade for Kevin Love that would be contingent on them signing James. So, now that they signed James, everyone is wondering about that Love deal…

The obvious player that the Wolves covet is Andrew Wiggins, the number one pick in the most recent draft. So far, the Cavs are reportedly not willing to part with Wiggins. Instead, they’re only willing to go as far as (something along the lines of) Anthony Bennett (LAST year’s top pick) and maybe Dion Waiters and one more guy to make the salaries match up. Maybe they’d throw in a future draft pick or two.

The Wolves, by all reports to date, will not trade Love for the Bennett-Waiters package. They need Wiggins.

So here we are, waiting for Dan Gilbert (or Flip Saunders) to blink.

Let’s start with the big question:

Do the Wolves end up with Wiggins?

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INBOX: The 2014 NBA Draft Edition

Zach Lavine: Future Timberwolf?

Zach Lavine: Future Timberwolf?

The draft is tomorrow. It kind of snuck up on Punch-Drunk this year. Rather than micro-analyze each prospect’s interviews like last year, we haven’t paid the whole thing much attention at all.

I blame Kevin Love.

Anyway, we’ll dig into what we feel are the big questions facing the Wolves, and Wolves fans as we head into another NBA Draft – a draft that doesn’t promise to be memorable for the franchise, but certainly could be.

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Kevin Love’s Trip to Boston

Love Harvard

In an offseason without games to report on, every Wolves-related event that might affect the course of the future–whether in a small or large way–gets reported.

One event that might affect the Wolves’ decision of if, when, and where to trade Kevin Love is Love’s recent trip to Boston. Love reportedly went to Boston just to learn more about the place. From Jerry Z’s story:

“I’m here to just check out the city and see what it’s like,” when asked why he was in town.

When a Boston Globe reporter approached him Saturday afternoon at a Boston hotel, Love said, “I’m sorry man, I can’t do nothing, I can’t.” He was referring to his inability or unwillingness to talk publicly about the purpose of his visit.

(Eds. Note: I wonder if K-Love took the Freedom Trail tour that every other citizen-tourist who travels to Boston because he wants to learn more about the place ultimately takes. If so, he could’ve got a lot just from this Lonely Planet vid.)

Given all this, some issues emerge from Kevin Love’s little offseason getaway..

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Learning from The Machine: Some Observations about Past Timberwolves Draft Picks

Learning from The Machine

Learning from The Machine

I recently read an interesting paper, entitled “Profiting from Machine Learning in the NBA Draft (paper available here).” The author of the paper is Philip Maymin, Assistant Professor of Finance and Risk Engineering at the NYU School of Engineering. Maymin has written several articles applying machine learning techniques to NBA basketball.

Here’s the study’s abstract: I project historical NCAA college basketball performance to subsequent NBA performance for prospects using modern machine learning techniques without snooping bias. I find that the projections would have helped improve the drafting decisions of virtually every team: over the past ten years, teams forfeited an average of about $90,000,000 in lost productivity that could have been theirs had they followed the recommendations of the model. I provide team-by-team breakdowns of who should have been drafted instead, as well as team summaries of lost profit, and draft order comparison. Far from being just another input in making decisions, when used properly, advanced draft analytics can effectively be an additional revenue source in a team’s business model.

Based on The Machine’s* projections, we’re going to discuss some choice decisions the Wolves made in past drafts.

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Wheelman Presents: The Punch-Drunk Podcast, Vol. 5, Part 2 (The Timberwolves Coaching Search Edition)

Andy G's mom likes Mike D'Antoni.

Andy G’s mom likes Mike D’Antoni. (Original photo from Twitter.)

The Punch-Drunk Podcast has been on hiatus for a while. But now it’s back. With more discussion of the Wolves’ vacant coaching position. (Eds. Note: Andy G’s stanky-leg Comcast internet connection cut out at the very end, so when the Comcast Gods restored connectivity, the pod was split into two parts. This is part two. Part one is here)

In this edition, we recover from Comcast-induced technical difficulties, discuss the pros and cons of some potential candidates for the Wolves’ head coaching position, and speculate that Andy G’s mom has a crush on Mike D’Antoni.

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Wheelman Presents: The Punch-Drunk Podcast, Vol. 5, Part 1 (The NBA Playoffs First Round Edition)

Mike "Nude Boozer iPhone autocorrect" Budenholzer has the Hawks poised for game seven in Indiana.

Mike “Nude Boozer iPhone autocorrect” Budenholzer (left) has the Hawks poised for game seven in Indiana. Spurs coach Greg Popovich has his own game seven against Dallas.

The Punch-Drunk Podcast has been on hiatus for a while. But now it’s back. With more NBA playoffs. (Eds. Note: Andy G’s stanky-leg Comcast internet connection cut out at the very end, so when the Comcast Gods restored connectivity, the pod was split into two parts.)

In this edition, we discuss the first round of the playoffs, our favorites in the five upcoming Game Sevens, our nickname for Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, and whether the playoffs so far offer any lessons for the Timberwolves in their effort to contend for a playoff spot next season.

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The Timberwolves Season, Backward and Forward: The Intermediate View

izzzzo

Hey Coach, how do you feel about the Timberwolves job?

[This is part 2 of a multipart season-review series. This post looks back in time at the season that was and a bit of what is to come. A subsequent post will use what we learned this season to take an even-more (!) prospective look ahead at what the Timberwolves should look like in 2014-15 and beyond.]

1. Coaching Search: Who will it be: Flip or The Field?

Patrick J: Survey says….the field? The question mark remains there because Flip remains insistent on including the “never say never” clause in his remarks.

I’ll go on record: I, like many Wolves fans, would prefer not to mix business with pleasure, POBO duties with coaching, or whatever other mixed metaphors might be relevant here.

Look, I admire what Flip did in shaping the early aughts Wolves into the Western Conference title contenders that they were. He was and likely still is a solid NBA coach. Maybe not a great one, but not a bad one, and the Wolves could certainly do worse. They have in the past. (Exhibit A: Rambis, Kurt.)

More than that, I’m uneasy with the notion of the guy who was hired out of thin air to replace David Kahn taking the reins over all of the Wolves franchise that matters, for many intents and purposes within a year of his hiring. Whether or not true, it would feel too premeditated. And that means Flip would immediately be the target of criticism, whether fair or unfair, and fans would be more prone to ask “what if” questions about the Wolves coaching seat than they would if Flip had stayed in his lane and led the franchise from his POBO seat.

Even more than that, there’s a great pool of available coaches whom Flip could hire for the job. We’ll touch on this below, so I won’t say much about them here, but Flip and the Wolves would look better if they hire one of the numerous attractive outside candidates. Presumably they also know this, which (presumably?) contributed Flip’s declaration today on ESPN that he’s an unlikely candidate for the job.

Awarding the job to an outside candidate with the bona fides worthy of this job is a winning move for everyone, fans included. So let’s hope “The Field” triumphs in this one.

Andy G: Agree on what’s preferable, so I’ll answer on what I believe is more likely. I’d bet on Flip over the field. By just a nudge.

My most likely scenario looks like this:

Flip/Wolves Brass float all sorts of rumors of high profile, totally unrealistic candidates that are in consideration for the job. (See Izzo, Tom; Donovan, Billy.) Once those inevitably don’t happen, the Wolves are left standing on their heels on the eve of Kevin Love’s final season under Kahntract.

What option will they have but to choose continuity and familiarity, perhaps with an unwritten promise to Kevlar that he will have final say in, you know, the *real* coach.

That’s my most likely scenario. Flip over the field. Then if Love decides to leave, Flip can just keep the job, long term.

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Timberwolves Season in Review: The Retrospective

cabana-pek

My college roommate was on vacation and took this unbelievable photo of Pekovic. He emailed it to me, when I was at happy hour. I tweeted it. It went viral. The internet is cool. -AG

[This is Part 1 of a season review series. This post looks back in time at the season that was. A subsequent post will use what we learned this season to take a prospective look ahead at what the Timberwolves should look like in 2014-15 and beyond.]

1. Season Highlight

Andy G:  Let’s kick this thing off on a positive note. Even if we blew Adelman’s finale against the lowly Utah Jazz the other night.

The season highlight happened immediately, during the first few games of the season. That’s a little bit depressing, as it necessarily means the team moved downhill throughout the season, but it is nevertheless true.

I was visiting your place in Pittsburgh when we watched the Wolves on League Pass, blowing Kevin Durant’s Thunder off the Target Center floor. (That really happened.) Then they handled the Knicks, who we still thought were good. (They won 54 games last season.) The Wolves began the year 3-0. I think Mark Stein had them near the very top of his power rankings. Kevin Looked like a *real* MVP candidate. Kevin Martin’s contract looked like a bargain. On his leak-out, bomb, receptions-turned-dunks, Corey Brewer looked like Randy Moss with a smile. A huge smile. Ricky Rubio looked healthy, which was a step up from the season prior. Everything was coming together. Finally. Those were the days.

All 5 or 6 of them.

Anyway, my season highlight was the first week. Things were looking so great.

Patrick J: Season highlight? Would it be wrong to say Shabazz Muhammad’s D-League Showcase? (Eds. Note: Yes, it would.)

Okay, so all of the games you mentioned were great. But Corey Brewer’s 51-point game in a win over the Rockets was TRULY great. We chronicled it here.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m an unrepentant Corey Brewer fan. CAVEAT EMPTOR: I don’t care what the stats say. He’s everything that is fun and unusual and spontaneous and (Eds. Note: “sometimes”) right about basketball. I expressed my admiration for Brew before he even came back to the Wolves in this piece we did for Timberwolves.com. When I wrote that, I felt kind of silly writing such complimentary words about such a bit player who wasn’t even on the Wolves. But hell, you feel what you feel, so you write what you write. And I’m writing this: For all his faults, Corey Brewer will always be one of my favorite Timberwolves of all time. (Say it with me: FIFTY. ONE. POINTS. [Full stop.] IN. A. WIN. [Full stop.] OVER. THE. ROCKETS. [Full stop.].)

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Linkalicious, Vol. 4 (The Glen Taylor Edition)

Glen Taylor, Minnesota mogul

We linked to part one of Britt Robson’s interview with Glen Taylor yesterday. Now, part two is up, and it’s well worth your time.

If you aren’t a regular at Britt’s space over on MinnPost, shame on you.

In addition to Britt’s regular journalistic acumen, these pieces are especially important and are must-reads.

There is a lot at stake here, and they have the exclusive. Go now.

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Linkalicious, Vol. 3

Bethlehem Shoals says…The Team of the Year is the Phoenix Suns. (Yes, Phoenix)

netw3rk’s suggestion for a new advanced stat: the True Loathing Rating (TRL TLR).

My Ph.D. advisor apparently attended one of the worst basketball colleges in all the land. 

Why Terrence Ross should be one of your favorite NBA players.

Britt Robson got Glen Taylor to talk about the future of the Star Tribune.

 

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Three Bees

'Bazz plays tonight against 'Bron and Beas.

‘Bazz plays tonight against ‘Bron and Beas.

The Timberwolves play tonight (6:30 CDT tip, views on FSN, sounds on WCCO 830).

So, the Wolves aren’t in playoff contention. The Twins season is underway. The weather is nice should be getting better soon. Only the diehard are following the team as closely as they were a few months ago.

However, there’s a special interest in tonight’s game. Scratch that – three special interests: ‘Bazz, Beas, and, of course, ‘Bron. Three Bees, three angles.

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Link-a-licious, Vol. 2

What LeBron James really means to the city of Akron, Ohio.

“We see your shot charts and raise you ‘scrimmage’ shot charts.” – Basketball-Reference to NBA.com.

Yet another way in which Kobe Bryant is misunderstood.

Jacob Greenberg has a more introspective piece on Kobe.

Steven Lebron and Seerat Sohi (@Damian Trillard) talk about about being Canadian, Sohi’s experiences as a female NBA writer, and avoiding all things Eastern Conference.

 

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Link-a-licious, 4/1/2014

How one of the most successful AAU coaches in America became one of the East Coast’s biggest drug traffickers.

The rise and possible decline of NBA blogging networks.

Gonzo NBA journalism in the Philippines, as only netw3rk and Rafe Bartholomew could do it.

The 1980s NBA, summarized in a three-minute read.

And some thoughts on NBA statistics from the 1960s.

 

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