The Timberwolves will face Jonny Flynn and the Houston Rockets for the first time since cutting bait with the 2009 1st-round pick on draft night in June.
We all remember how bad Flynn’s Wolves tenure was.
This was arguably only partly Jonny’s fault.
Kurt Rambis, whom Wolves POBO David Kahn hired AFTER he drafted PGs Ricky Rubio and Flynn with the 5th and 6th picks, implemented the point-guard unfriendly triangle offense–the kiss of death not only for Flynn, but also for Ramon Sessions, whose career non-Wolves PER of 17.6 dropped to 12.9 under Rambis.
Flynn also suffered a hip injury that required surgery during the summer after his first season. He missed the season’s first six weeks and never regained whatever explosiveness he occasionally showed in his rookie year. Flynn’s lack of basketball ability also hindered his development.
It’s hard to erase the memories of Flynn’s ball stopping and thrown-away passes and ill-advised heat checks that are etched into Wolves fans’ collective psyche, and it’s hard to forget that Kahn could’ve drafted Stephen Curry or Demar DeRozen or Brandon Jennings or Jrue Holiday or Ty Lawson (oops, he did!) instead of Flynn. And it’s hard to forget that picking Flynn immediately after he had picked Rubio was what ignited so many KAAAAAAAAAAAHHHN! refrains heard over the past two and a half years.
What The Numbers Say
Statistics were consistent with what Wolves fans witnessed on a nightly basis: Flynn was historically bad during his sophomore season. (More on this below.)
So it was interesting when Houston Rockets GM Daryl “Dork Elvis” Morey–a man-god among NBA stats geeks who is a living symbol of the evidence-based movement–traded for Flynn on draft night. Morey has shown signs of eschewing statistics in making other decisions, including hiring former Wolves vice-president Kevin McHale as Rockets coach, but one year earlier Morey would’ve been the last GM Wolves fans would’ve thought might take a flier on Flynn.
The statistics aren’t encouraging.
First, consider how analytics rate Flynn’s 2010/11 season with the Wolves.
How bad was it?
The 4th worst in the past 26 years, according to one estimate.
In more than 800 minutes, Flynn sported a 7.1 PER, an offensive rating of 85, and a defensive rating of 114. He had negative win shares.
By these metrics, no guard has had as bad a season since Charlie Scott out-stunk Flynn in 1979/80.
There is little evidence that a fresh start with a new franchise and a point guard-friendly coach are resuscitating Jonny’s career prospects. Flynn has only played 70 minutes over 5 games in 2011/12, but his 9.8 PER remains abysmally low and his WS is 0.0.
Jonny’s TS percentage and eFG percentage have dropped from .444 and .417 to .383 and .325, respectively, and his 90 offensive rating is closer to last season’s abomination than his rookie rating of 97.
This despite the fact that, albeit a limited sample, Flynn has been playing with better teammates in a point-guard friendly offense.
Kyle Lowry, who is physically similar to Flynn, is sporting a PER of 22.3 and a WS of 2.0; Lowry’s TS percentage is .570 and his eFG is .506.
After fewer than 5 games in Houston, Rockets writers have already written Jonny off. This pretty much sums it up:
Yet Flynn believes he’s now in a better situation. He clearly does not miss playing for Rambis.
“That’s not my style; I don’t think that’s anybody’s style,” Flynn said about Rambis’ > triangle offense. “Most coaches, they play to the style of their players. You
never hear of a coach going out there and doing something totally opposite to what his > players do best.”
So far Flynn has failed to crack McHale’s rotation. He’s stuck behind Kyle Lowry, who’s having an All-Star season, and Goran Dragic, another solid point. So it’s safe to assume Jonny won’t be playing much this season unless the Rockets’ backcourt suffers a rash of injuries. (TONYA HARDING ALERT!)
Still, Jonny remains optimistic:
“In this league, you just have to wait sometimes,” Flynn said. “Wait for things to turn around in your direction. When it does, it’ll be good finally to show everybody the
Somewhere out there, Jonny’s smiling that toothy grin Kahn found so seductive, smiling because somehow he’s still on an NBA roster.