- Kevin Love emerged as a top level talent. Not a Tier 1 guy like LeBron or Kobe, but certainly in that 2nd or 3rd Tier of very good players. At the age of 22, he’s got plenty of time to still climb towards that top group. He’s firmly established himself as the elite rebounder in the game, as evidence by his ridiculous 53 game streak of double-doubles and being on pace to average 15.5 rebounds per game, the most since Dennis Rodman averaged 16.1 in 1996-97. His offensive game has evolved to the point of being able to consistently and efficiently score against bigger and faster opponents, which is impressive given that about 80% of NBA power forwards are technically bigger and faster than Love. Most importantly, he’s developing as a leader. His inner and not-so-inner struggle with the attitude, demeanor and nightly effort it takes to be a true team leader has been evident throughout the last year but it’s a positive struggle in that his growth in this regard has been equally as evident. It’s kind of like in The Matrix when Neo does some crazy shit in the training mod and even though he’s stumbling through a lot of the basics everyone gets that glimpse of his potential, of what could be. They see that Neo could actually be The One. Well, this season we’ve seen surefire signs that Kevin Love could be “the one” to lead us Timberwolves faithful out this dark time.
- Wesley Johnson has shown signs of his own that he’s capable of being a game changer from the wing position. No question, he’s had his moments that made us all wonder if DeMarcus Cousins would have been the better pick, but what rookies don’t often make you second guess those decisions. Also, in fairness, Darko’s often lackluster play has elicited more of those moments than anything Wes ever did. If you’re looking for proof that the Wolves might indeed have their small forward of the future (cc to Rambis: Wesley Johnson is not a shooting guard) look to the last two games against the Lakers in which Wes went head-to-head against Kobe for the majority of the game.
Wesley Johnson: 24.5 points, 6 rebs and 2 steals on 50% shooting
Kobe Bryant: 21 points, 4 rebs, and half a steal on 40% shooting
- Anthony Tolliver makes this list because all winning teams have guys like Tolliver. He takes charges, he brings outstanding energy every night, depending on the matchup he can guards 3s through 5s, he doesn’t need a lot of minutes or a ton of shots to make an impact on the game, and so on and so forth. And then there’s this quote from last week. "I know it's been tough on Kurt," said Wolves forward Anthony Tolliver, who claimed after Sunday's loss that "a lot of guys on this team don't bring it every night.” That’s a hell of a statement. A true statement. Not done in a way that passes blame but in a way you’d like a vet leader to step up and hold his teammates accountable. He’s like Mark Madsen, but with game and attitude.
- The point guard play has been totally unacceptable the last two seasons. Luke Ridnour is a backup. He’d be good in that role. What we saw this year out of Ridnour is the reason why at the age of 29 he has never been a long term starter before. He’s a backup miscast as a starter. He was asked to do more than he is capable of and in my opinion, that means he was set up to fail. Of course, the other half of what I believe to be one of the worst point guard rotations in the league is Jonny Flynn. No excuses here. When you take a guy 6th overall you aren’t drafting a backup, you’re drafting a starter or at the very least, a key contributor. Flynn, on the other hand, is a constant liability and often times his entry into the game was an indication that things were about to unravel quickly. In only his second season I’m ready to declare Jonny Flynn a bust. Keep in mind, this is coming from the guy who argued the merits of Foye over Roy well past the point of reasonability. Flynn was a bad pick. Not because they had previously drafted Ricky Rubio, I actually thought the logic there was sound. Instead, Flynn was a bad pick because he is a bad player. He’s terrible defensively, he’s beyond careless with the ball, and his on court awareness and overall decision making boggles the mind. Whether Rubio comes over or not, Jonny Flynn must go this offseason.
- The Wolves are a very poor defensive team. Shocker, right? I tend to feel the coaching staff gets too much blame for the inabilities of their players, but this is one area in which the coaches are on the hook. They could have and should have demanded more of the players. If I were the coach I would have said something like this: “Either you guys follow the defensive game plan and guard your assignment or so help me God, I will bench you. And if the guy who replaces you won’t play defense, then I’ll bench him, too. And if the next guy won’t do what I say, then I’ll scour the D-League and the ABA and Europe and all of the Earth until I am literally pulling civilians off of First Avenue to come in here and put a hand up.”
- The Al Jefferson trade and, in effect, David Kahn’s job performance gets failing grades (so far). Former Golden Gophers Football Head Coach, Tim Brewster, was a breath of fresh air here in the Twin Cities after being hired a few years back. He talked a big game about restoring honor to the program, going to and winning the Rose Bowl, and all sorts of other ranting that sounded great at the time. The problem is when those dreams didn’t come true he looked like an even bigger asshole than if he had just been a quiet loser. Kahn appears to be following in Brewster’s footsteps. Kahn rolled through the door as an anti-McHale. Open, honest and engaged. He was going to turn this thing around and make the Wolves a championship caliber organization, or so he said. It looked good at first, too. He got rid of all of McHale’s garbage, hired a high profile coaching candidate in Rambis and made an aggressive pre-draft trade to acquire the biggest name in the 2009 draft, Ricky Rubio. Flash forward two years and nothing is really that much better. The team is younger, faster and possessing more potential but in the end, they’re not much closer to being competitive than they were pre-Kahn. He failed to make his one big “signature move” after outlining a series of now expired time periods in which making such a move would be likely given all the Wolves’ tremendous…assets. He followed up a good trade for Michael Beasley with a bad trade of Al Jefferson. The two 1st round picks the Wolves received in the trade are yet to be determined so I’ll resist calling it a complete debacle but the highly touted trade exemption they received for Big Al quietly faded away into oblivion at this season’s trade deadline, leaving the Wolves with a bunch of nothingness in exchange for the guy we trade KG for. The rationale for trading Big Al was that the Jefferson-Love duo was brutal defensively. Here’s a newsflash: the Darko-Love combo is equally as brutal. At least with a Jefferson-Love-Beasley frontcourt they would have had a tremendous amount of scoring ability on the court at any given time. Instead, Kahn made the decision to sell low on Jefferson and we are where we are. Factor in Kahn’s poor draft record and he’s officially one offseason away from me forming some not so positive conclusions about his ability to build a winning team.
- At times Michael Beasley was one of the few bright spots on this team. At other times it was painfully clear why the Heat were willing to give the former #2 overall pick away for circus peanuts. In fairness to Beas, he was playing injured for most of the season. Unlike a lot of other players in this league, he refused to use it as an excuse. That’s part of it. The other part is that he really struggles to maintain focus throughout the game. The lapses on defense are most obvious. He simply stops paying attention to the flow of the game and the next thing you know his guy is streaking to the basket uncontested or comfortably spotting up on the 3 line waiting to knock down an open shot. It’s frustrating because this is completely correctable. Or is it? What can Kurt Rambis say that hasn’t already been said to him at some point? Can you really improve someone’s attention span? Ignore all the stuff about him not being committed to basketball or lacking the passion to win on a nightly basis. It’s untrue and completely blown out of proportion because of his laid back demeanor. Beas, as simple as it sounds, needs to get his head in the game and keep it there.
- Part of me wanted to put Darko Milicic’s performance this season in the bad category, but truthfully, it wasn’t all bad, or even mostly bad. There were some definite positives, such as his 2.2 blocks per game, which puts him at 4th for blocks among centers. In the end, the Darko experiment is/was a disappointment and therein lies my unfair inclination to label his season as bad. It’s not because he didn’t live up to his modest salary (yes, overreactors, his contract is modest by NBA standards), but rather because there was a legitimate hope that Darko’s defense, his efficient scoring and his excellent passing ability for a big would make an ideal starter in the Rambis hybrid triangle offense. He struggled out of the gate but quickly adapted and after the first month of the season it appeared the Wolves had found their starting center of the future. From there, it was all downhill. His offense became more and more selfish, evoking memories of Al Jefferson and his “black hole” presence on offense. He passed less. He hustled less. He visibly sulked up and down the court when his shot wasn’t falling. However annoying, none of this stuff bothered me as much as his decreased commitment to defense. That should have been his bread and butter. The offensive stuff was all secondary. On defense is where he could have and should have been a force, but that too faded as the season went on. It appeared as though he simply stopped caring. And there, my friends, is the summary of Darko’s career in a nutshell. Tons of ability, but not enough desire. Put ‘starting center’ on the list of Timberwolves needs this offseason.
- Nothing is more ugly than a lack of fundamentals at the professional level. Behold, your 2010-11 Timberwolves…
* 30th in points allowed at 107 per game
* 29th in fouls at 23 per game
* 24thin assists at 20 per game
This all results…
* 29th in wins at 17
* 25thin fan attendance at just under 15,000 per game
Not much more to say than that.