Posted on: January 29, 2011 10:33 am
If history is the gauge by which we assess the present, then in a few days Kevin Love will be screwed out of an All-Star game appearance. Just like he was in the rookie game a couple years back. Just like Al Jefferson was for the All-Star game the same year when he was clearly one of the top bigs in the West. Love isn't flashy enough, his team sucks, he plays in fly over country. The usual stuff.
Usually in these situations I would wait for the inevitable to happen and then complain about it. I thought I'd mix it up and go all preemptive on it this year.
Before I state the obvious, let me first address this claim that Love shouldn't make the All-Star game because his team is bad. This is a made up excuse. It usually works that the best players happen to come from the best teams but to my knowledge it's called the "All-Star" game, not the "All-Stars Who Also Play For Winning Ball Clubs Game". There is no way anyone can deny that Kevin Love is an All-Star. Some can say the Wolves are only a 10 win team and so how good can anyone on that team individually be? Well, to them I counter, the Wolves would be a 1 win team without him.
One final disclaimer, I do not in the slightest bit care about the All-Star game. It's not about that. Watching a bunch of divas laugh up and down the court while they take turns dunking holds zero interest for me. People rip the NFL's Pro-Bowl for being a pointless exhibition. Then what is the NBA All-Star game? There's an equal percentage chance I'll watch The Bachelor or Housewives of Madison County or that new sitcom about those two obese people who manage to love each other in spite of their wretched BMIs. It's not about that. It's about respect. The Wolves haven't deserved it a lot lately, but in the few instances they do, believe I will let it be known.
Kevin Love is #1 in the NBA in rebounding at 15.7 per game. That's 2.3 more per game than the next guy, Dwight Howard. He has 30 more offensive rebounds than the guy with the 2nd most offensive rebounds, Zach Randolph. He has 60 more defensive rebounds than the next closest guy, once again, Super Dwight.
Kevin Love is #1 in the NBA in player efficiency rating at 29.6. LeBron James is 2nd at 26.9. Google it if you want the real definition but basically player efficiency measures how bad ass you are and how few chances you need to prove you are a bad ass. Kind of like the new inmate who walks into prison and immediately punches the warden in the face and then shanks the first guard who steps to him. That guy would have a really high inmate efficiency rating.
Kevin Love is shooting 44% on 3 pointers. The only other forwards who are also in the realm of All-Star consideration and near that mark are Paul Pierce at 41% and Dirk Nowitzki and 39%. His 63 3-pointers made are 5th among all Power Forwards/Centers in the NBA.
Kevin Love is 4th amongst power forwards (3rd in the Western Conference) in points per game at 21.6, which leads to...
Kevin Love is #1 in the league in double-doubles at 41. Blake Griffin is next with 37. The Wolves have played 44 games, which means that 93% of the time the Wolves take the court Love is going to get a double-double. That's more than Dwight, LeBron or anyone else in the league can say.
Kevin Love is 7th amongst power forwards (5th in the Western Conference) in assists per game at 2.54. That number isn't Earth shattering but it shows he is at least in the conversation and by no means some sort of black hole who gets numbers simply by dominating the ball.
Kevin Love's 47% overall shooting percentage and 2.3 turnovers per game aren't especially noteworthy. They also aren't by any means a detriment or a source from which a detractor could draw criticism.
The truth is, I actually think Love will make the Western Conference All-Star team. Not out of blind fandom or luck but based on what you just read. These numbers are undeniable. When Al Jeff got overlooked in 2009 one could say his turnovers were too high or that he was a ballhog, but with Love there is nothing not too like.
***I was so gonna end that last sentence "nothing not to Love" but then I played through the whole scenario in my head of having to punch myself in the nuts for being such a wank and decided against it. Just thought you should know that.
Posted on: December 14, 2010 4:53 pm
As a long-time Wolves blogger and die hard fan, I’ve concocted and assessed dozens of trade scenarios in print, hundreds in discussion and probably, sadly, thousands in my mind. Throughout the last five years of perpetual rebuilding 99% of those scenarios have involved trading for young, potential laden players. This idea is a complete change in direction.
Rationale: It has been reported that Portland is considering dealing away some of their aging players for younger ones given that the team has seemingly plateaued and/or been injured to death, so to speak. Andre Miller is at the top of the list for such players. Mostly because of his age (34), but also because he has a team option in his contract for next year for 7.8 million and it’s unlikely the team would pick that up if they decide to head in a younger direction. Portland would replace Miller with Ridnour, who should score fan points as a former Oregon Duck. They also add Brewer, who would replace much of the perimeter athleticism and defense they’re missing from Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw.
Rationale: There is no question, Rip is overpaid at over 12 million for each of the two seasons after this one. His production level just doesn’t justify that. Part of that is due to a declining skill set but I would argue that even more of it is a result of Detroit’s further reliance on Rodney Stuckey and the addition of Ben Gordon. Ellington gives them a shooter at a fraction of the cost. They also get some big time potential in Pekovic, which seems like a really good fit because we all know how well Detroit develops Serbians.
The next question that begs answering is what would the Wolves want with a couple of past their prime players like Rip Hamilton and Andre Miller? I can answer that in three parts.
1. The Wolves don’t need more youth. They need knowledge. They need to learn how to win. Adding a couple of savvy vets like these would expedite that development. Beasley and Love are immensely talented. Darko, Wes, Martell and Flynn have all shown flashes of exceptional play at times. Add in Ricky Rubio and another lottery pick next year and you have the core group of eight Wolves players moving forward. Keep in mind, when I say ‘learn how to win’ I don’t necessarily mean teaching plays or how to properly take a charge. I’m talking about developing the mental toughness and perseverance required to consistently win games. There have been five games already in this short season in which the Wolves had double digit 4th Quarter leads only to squander them away and eventually lose. There have been another seven losses in which they either had commanding leads at some other point in the game or were competitive throughout before letting it slip away. That’s twelve losses. Twelve games out of eighteen where if the team were only a bit more experienced or prepared or disciplined the outcome might have gone the other way. Throw Hamilton and Miller into those games and that’s two more players on the court who know how to win. Two players who know how to protect the ball and work the shot clock and how to execute when the game is on the line. That’s what the Wolves are missing right now. Add that and give the future guys, Love, Beasley, Flynn, Wes and company, a taste of winning sooner rather than later.
2. It’s not like Hamilton and Miller are completely cooked, they’ve just lost a step. They’re both still productive players. Think about a lineup of Miller – Hamilton – Beasley – Love – Darko with Flynn, Wes, Martell and Tolliver bringing up the 2nd unit. It’s hard to project a win total for that group but I do know it would be a lot more than it is now. Again, this isn’t about winning a championship or even the division. It’s about developing a culture of winning and making sure these young guys don’t become mentally defeated by too much losing at such a young age.
3. As the summer of 2009 taught us, big time free agents aren’t coming to Minnesota in its current state. It will take at least two years of winning before this organization is even remotely viewed as an attractive destination for players seeking anything other than a massive payday. By that time both the Hamilton and Miller deals would be off the books. Why not bring in a couple of high character pros to bridge that gap? Given the state of NBA trade market and the respective situations for the Pistons and Trailblazers, I think both deals are realistic.
Posted on: December 10, 2010 11:02 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2010 11:15 pm
Things were so much more simple way back in the summer of 2008.
I was in my 20s.
The Wolves had only sucked for two years in a row instead of five.
George W. Bush was still President.
But getting back to the Wolves, they sucked. Badly. Hopelessly bad. They needed more than just better players. What they needed was a franchise face. Someone to resurrect this one perennial playoff team. They had Al Jefferson to work the post. They needed a dynamic guard to carry the outside scoring and to also carry the spirit of the fan base. The draft was approaching. They needed OJ Mayo. Everything about Mayo looked good. I mean, hell, for a while when he was in high school the experts all compared him to LeBron. We could use a LeBron here in Minnesota. Even his name, OJ Mayo, sounded like the name of a star. Nothing ever goes right for the Wolves but on draft night that year things did go right…for once. David Stern got up and said his name and for a few hours we had OJ Mayo. The savior was coming North.
We Wolves faithful went to sleep that night (if one could manage to overcome the excitement and actually fall asleep) with visions of OJ Mayo taking over Target Center the way KG did not so long ago.
Then we woke to text messages from our Dads saying “Did McHale really just do that?” Were our Dads not happy with the Mayo pick? Why would he not want Mayo? Surely, we didn’t do something catastrophic like trade Mayo for anyone other than say, LeBron.
Then we flew to the computer and in a few clicks came across the headline “Wolves Deal Mayo to Memphis in Midnight Blockbuster.” LeBron did not play for Memphis.
Rage. Hysteria. Crushing disappointment. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m a rube. I felt cheated. I ripped off an email to the T-Wolves ticket rep who I had been talking to about potentially purchasing season tickets with a summation of “Go F--- Yourself!”
The line from McHale and Co. at the time was that Mayo was a low upside guard with limited athletic ability. Essentially, players like him are a dime a dozen. On the other hand, we were told that Kevin Love possessed a highly unique skill set. He could rebound on a truly elite level and pass as well as any big in the league. OMGod, how they raved about his outlet passing. Love’s basketball IQ and intangibles would clearly make him the better pick. That’s what the guy who traded Brandon Roy for Randy Foye said.
To a disenfranchised fanbase, it all sounded like an elaborate ruse to clear Marko Jaric’s horrendous contract off the books. McHale had been so wrong so many times before, where did he get the nerve to think he was capable of outsmarting another league executive? The fact that the only NBA starter-worthy player on the team, Al Jefferson, happened to play the same position as Love only added to the vitriol.
Nothing happened during year one to change anyone’s mind. Mayo got off to a hot start. It looked then like he was ascending to stardom before our eyes.
Flash forward three seasons and McHale’s prophecy is basically coming true exactly as he said it would. Instead of ascending to stardom it appears Mayo was only hitting that low ceiling McHale had projected. Kevin Love, on the other hand, is a monster. OJ Mayo is a back up. There isn’t a GM in the league who would choose Mayo over Love right now. That’s pretty wild. It's wild because the guy who let Chauncey Billups walk while signing Troy Hudson to a long term deal called it.
Compare the numbers this season.
Kevin Love – 20.1 points, 15.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists on 43% shooting (41% on 3 pts)
OJ Mayo – 11.9 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists on 39% shooting (37% on 3 pts)
It's not even close.
Of course, the next chapter of this book could swing back around again. And then back the other way once more. But for now it's lopsided. For as much as I ripped the guy who orchestrated an illegal contract with Joe Smith, got caught, fined up the ass, had draft picks taken away and then signed Joe Smith again a couple years later, I can certainly be man enough to admit that, in this instance, I was wrong and he was totally right.
Posted on: November 26, 2010 9:06 am
Edited on: November 27, 2010 5:04 pm
First blog of the year. I know it’s been a while but I’m certain for my handful of loyal readers the old saying, absence makes the heart grow fonder, is entirely true in this case.
The Wolves are 4-12 but their level of player is far better than that record suggests. In the last week alone they’ve let double digit second half leads against Charlotte and San Antonio slip away through a lack of discipline and a series of mistakes that quite truthfully wouldn’t be tolerated on a high school level. For a veteran team accustomed to winning these errors would be intolerable. For a ‘rising from the ashes of a giant shit storm’ type team like the Wolves the late game breakdowns are no less frustrating but at least show progress.
A dude I know (shout out to Jake Rosch of England) recently asked the following questions of me and a group of other dedicated NBA followers.
“Who is the Wolves best player now? What needs to happen for the Wolves to take the next step?”
Great questions, Jake. Let me answer those now.
Right now the Wolves best player is Kevin Love. As is the case with all young teams, that could completely change by this time next week but right now it's Love.
Beasley has been their biggest assassin but Love is bringing it most consistently.
Case in point, last night vs. the Spurs. The Wolves led by 20 at one point and ended up losing in overtime. Gut wrenching. Heart breaking. Soul crushing. All of that to us diehards. Lots of profanity and dejected looks by me to be seen by no one in the lonely depths of my basement.
Beasley was decent. 15 points on 5 of 12 shooting with 9 rebs. A good game but there were at least two definite points late in the game in which he tried to force his offense and it resulted in a turnover to easy Spurs bucket on the other end.
Love is straight balling right now. 32 points and 22 rebs last night, a lot of which was head to head on Tim Duncan. His jumper is falling, his post game has evolved to the point where he can get his shot off against more athletic bigs, and his near mythical rebounding projections are finally coming to fruition because his defense has improved to the point where Rambis can afford to leave him on the court for heavy minutes.
The third DARKhorse (oh yes I did just do that) in this conversation is Darko. For anyone who hasn't been following, Darko is playing his best stretch of basketball in seven years. That’s not just on the maladapted Darko scale either. He is playing legitimately high caliber basketball. In fact, recently some of the Wolves most productive stretches of play have been when they’re running their offense through Darko and allowing him to either work in the post of utilize his Vlade-like big man passing (Trivia Question: What does Darko have that Chris Webber does not? A: An NBA championship ring).
***Allow me to briefly interject to apologize for that last little thing there. I realize many of you will not get it but yet I made the decision to go ahead with it regardless.***
The current overall Wolves player rankings, as I see them, are as follows.
1. Kevin Love. 19 pts and 14.5 rebs a game on the season. Both of those numbers are climbing, too. He’ll be the first Wolves All-Star since KG if he keeps this up.
2. Darko Milicic. 18 pts, 8.6 rebs, 3.6 assists and 4.2 blocks a game over the past five contests. His confidence level is sky high right now and you can actually see it on his face. Gotta feel good for the kid that he’s finally beginning to show what he can do.
3. Michael Beasley. 26 pts and 7.1 rebs over the past 8 games. The talent level is obvious. The question that remains is if he can sustain this sort of production and become the go-to scorer the Wolves so desperately need.
4. Wesley Johnson. Pretty much a one dimensional offensive player right now with his jump shooting. His one dimension happens to be what the Wolves are most in need of, which slightly inflates his overall value right now. What also stands out is his surprisingly polished defensive play, which is something his critics were sure would be terrible at this level.
5. Anthony Tolliver. Not doing much stat-wise but he takes at least one huge charge a game and has proven able to knock down and open three, which is a huge weapon for a guy who can guard the 3-5 positions depending on the match up. He’s a great dirty work guy. The guy a team like Miami is sorely missing right now.
6. Corey Brewer. Some less spastic defense, mildly improved jump shooting and sparkplug energy off the bench are still being overshadowed by mind numbing lapses in judgment and dribbling gaffes, the likes of which you might see in pee wee rec league
They technically have six other active players but I’m not ranking any of them because none of them are playing consistently good enough ball to do so without some major clarification, which I’m just not willing to commit to. Sebastian Telfair and Luke Ridnour seemingly flip a coin before each game to see which one of them should be terrible that night. What I don’t understand is how sometimes they both seem to lose that flip. When guys like Wayne Ellington, Lazar Heyward and Kosta Koufos come into the game things tend to unravel quickly, which makes sense because they’re best suited as third stringers or more prominent roles in the D League.
The good news, in a messed up Timberwolves sorta way, is that they have three injured players in Martell Webster, Jonny Flynn and Nikola Pekovic, who should all eventually resume prominent roles on the team and push the likes of Tolliver and Brewer further down that list to around 10 or 11.
Ok, gotta go. Have a great Thanksgiving peoples of the United States (and Americans at heart living abroad).
Posted on: July 19, 2010 7:43 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2010 8:08 pm
Al Jefferson has been traded to the Utah Jazz for two future 1st round picks, one of which originates with Memphis and the other with Utah. As is protocol with the vocal majority of disillusioned Wolves fans, the initial reaction was one of shock, terror, self-pity and rage. Now that we’ve had a few minutes to digest the deal, let me offer six reasons why dealing Jefferson in the fashion they did is not in fact the catalyst for Armageddon as it may have originally been portrayed.
1. If David Kahn could have got more for Jefferson, he would have. Dealing Jefferson within the division signals that Kahn was merely looking for the best return. Utah presented that. Those who complained about not trading Jefferson for someone like Andre Igoudala or Danny Granger or Josh Smith or Kevin Martin are forgetting one vital component: trading requires two willing parties. The market on a given player is only what someone is willing to pay, and clearly, the market for Jefferson wasn’t exactly booming.
2. In Al Jefferson’s three seasons as the focal point of the offense the Wolves won 22, 24 and 15 games, respectively. It’s hard to justify dedicating 25% of your cap to a guy who can’t, even by sheer force of will, get the team to 30 wins. Put any true star (in other words, someone worthy of eating a fourth of your payroll) on the worst team in the league and they still get 30 wins.
3. Al Jefferson is only 25 years old but has already run up a notable injury history. Nagging injuries in Boston were one thing, but tearing his ACL two seasons ago put him on a whole different level. I’m not saying players haven’t come back from ACL tears, but guys his size, who were already heavy footed to begin with, typically don’t get healthier with age.
4. With Kevin Love , Michael Beasley and even Nikola Pekovic on board the Wolves have several talented pieces that can replicate, if not exceed, Al Jefferson’s contribution to the team. They are younger, cheaper, possess more upside at this point and bring a more versatile game to table, or rather court.
5. Kurt Rambis claims to utilize a system that breaks down to roughly 70% uptempo attacking style offense and 30% Triangle. The former requires big men to be agile and able to run the court. The latter requires a focus on accurate and timely ball movement and a keen sense of the overall scheme. No matter how you slice it, Al Jefferson is not a good match for this system.
6. Al Jefferson, though still young and already having demonstrated impressive skill for such a young age, has failed to improve notably on areas of weakness within his game. The same knocks he had three years ago he still has today. Poor defensive awareness, apparent unwillingness to share the basketball and/or inability to pass out of double teams, and so on. Even the most adamant defenders have to admit that he seems to have plateaued. In fairness, some of this is due to an unimpressive surrounding cast. Some of it is surely due to ineffective coaching. Without question, some of it can be attributed to the ACL tear. All of that aside, when it comes down to it a player eventually has to answer the naysayers and Jefferson has not done this. In failing to do, the crowd of naysayers has grown even more. Now go back to #1 and the part about his market value.
Let me close by saying that I don’t mean this to be a slash and burn job on Jefferson now that he isn’t a member of the Wolves anymore. Far from it. I’m a big Al Jefferson fan and I am glad he will finally get a chance to win. What he does, he does extremely well. I challenge anyone to name five better offensive low post players in the entire league. On top of everything, he seems like a genuinely good guy and so he’s easy to cheer for.
I’ll liken this trade to the rare instance of breaking up with a girlfriend on legitimately good terms. You know, she’s really cool and in another time and place maybe she could have been the one. But personally, emotionally and spiritually you’re headed in one direction and she’s headed in another. Neither in bad directions, just different. You’ve outgrown each other. Truthfully, you probably should have ended this awhile ago but things were cool so you rode it out, hoping the ship might right itself. In the end, you saw this coming but at least you gave it a fair shake. Many say it, few mean it. We still want to be friends.
Posted on: July 7, 2010 2:01 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2010 2:12 pm
Darko Milicic is a Timberwolf!
It's a relatively minor signing in the grand scheme of things but still definitely getting its fair share of attention, most of which is negative. I don't necessarily fault all of that. After all, while his fellow draft classmen are currently seeking max contracts it's simply amazing that Darko is still in the NBA. I also don't blame the national talking pieces for not watching a lot of T-Wolves basketball last year. Who, outside of the diehard, really could stand to? Had the critics, or anyone for that matter, cared to pay attention they would have seen Darko playing regularly and playing well.
Darko had been all but written off in New York...and Memphis...and Orlando...and Detroit. At first glance, he appears to be right up there with Kwame Brown and Michael Olowokandi as all-time busts. Dig a little deeper, look at the facts and the real picture starts to look a little different. The guy came over to the United States at the age of 18. He went to a championship caliber team and tried to earn playing time from a coach in Larry Brown who is well-known for being entirely disinterested in developing young talent. He's actually admitted since then that he never gave Darko a chance. Then factor in that while Darko was riding the bench behind Rasheed and Ben Wallace, LeBron, Carmelo, Bosh and Wade were being allowed to shine as the new faces of their franchise. There's really no telling what this sort of environment did to stunt Darko's growth as a player and a person. It certainly didn't help his rep that Detroit basically threw him under the bus in an effort to clear themselves of the crime of passing on Carmelo, Bosh and Wade.
In the end, it's not Darko's fault that Detroit took him second in the deepest draft in NBA history. It's not his fault that Larry Brown, Joe Dumars and company had no interest in developing his game. Yet the brunt of everything is on him. He now has the opportunity to prove everyone wrong and I personally am glad he has that opportunity with the Wolves.
Here is what we know about Darko from his time in Minnesota last season. Most notably, he has a high basketball IQ. He understands both the defensive and offensive sides of the game and that's something you can't measure in a box score. He is a tremendous passer for a 7 footer and runs the floor extremely well given his size. His strong defensive capabilities stood out on a Timberwolves team starving for such qualities. Finally, despite his long and winding road, he's only 25 years old. He could very well just now be turning into the player they thought he would become way back when.
Above all, a lot is being made of his contract. The full length sum is for 20 million over 4 years, although only around 15 million and 3 years of that is guaranteed. Perhaps, some people are simply naive as to the scale of NBA contracts or maybe they just don't think he's worth that much. I disagree. Below is a list of true centers in the league who are not on their rookie contracts and how much they are scheduled to make next season.
Pau Gasol 17.8 mil
Yao Ming 17.6
Dwight Howard 16.5
Andrew Bynum 13.8
Erick Dampier 13.2
Samuel Dalembert 12.2
Tyson Chandler 11.7
Emeka Okafor 11.5
Chris Kaman 11.3
Eddy Curry 11.2
Andrew Bogut 11.0
Mehmet Okur 9.4
Andres Biedrins 9.0
Marcus Camby 8.4
Andreas Bargnani 8.0
Joel Pryzbilla 7.4
Nazr Muhammed 6.8
Desagna Diop 6.4
Marcin Gortat 6.3
Nenad Kristic 5.8
Reggie Evans 5.0
Darko Milicic approximately 4-5 million
Kendrick Perkins 4.3
Zaza Pachulia 4.3
So maybe you don't like the idea of Darko getting in the range of 5 million a season but in that event you probably don't like the scale of NBA salaries in the first place. The truth is that if you are in the vicinity of 7 feel tall and can play decent basketball you're worth a lot of money. My point here isn't to say Darko was a homerun signing or certainly not that he deserves more. I mean only to convey that everyone should calm down because in the distorted world of professional sports, Darko did more than enough to prove himself worthy of the very modest contract he got.
Posted on: June 24, 2010 1:11 pm
Wes Johnson, SF Syracuse
- Super athletic
- Good, clean jump shot
- Great transition player
- Has physical tools to be a solid defender
- Low maintenance, positive chemistry guy
- He’ll be 23 years old when next season starts
- Troubles creating own shot
- Ability to get to free thrown line
- Played Zone D in college
- Limited upside
Why The Wolves Will Draft Him
- Wesley Johnson represents the most glaring need for the Wolves. His ability to shoot, run the floor and defend NBA wings would immediately upgrade the team significantly. Some compare his upside to Shawn Marion, but I think an unselfish version of Rudy Gay with defensive commitment is more appropriate. If that’s true I think he warrants a pick at #4. Plus, I think the criticisms of his game are overrated. Most notably, his age. Remember, he sat out an entire season due to a transfer. Take that away and he’s the same age as Evan Turner. Another overrated knock is the fact that he played in the Syracuse zone, which means he’ll struggle with man. Let’s keep it in perspective, he played one season at Syracuse. His previous two years in college and high school he played man. Given his size and athletic ability, he should be able to thrive as a defender at the next level.
Derrick Favors, PF Georgia Tech
- Athletic freak
- Ridiculously strong already for age (19)
- Strong defender/shot blocker
- Tons of upside, pure talent to be a superstar
- Seems like a solid character guy
- Very raw, will need years to develop
- Not much offensive polish, relies on athleticism to score
- Somewhat unknown ability due to college system
- Motor and passion for the game are questionable
- Passive on the court at times
Why The Wolves Will Draft Him?
- Derrick Favors represents the most upside in this draft. If John Wall can be Chris Paul, then Favors can be Dwight Howard. Given the premium on size, I think most owners take Howard over Paul. Of course, Wall still deserves to go #1 because he’s much closer to reaching his potential, whereas Favors has a lot more room to grow or even possibly bust. Drafting Favors would initiate a roster revolution that would start with the dealing of Al Jefferson or Kevin Love and so in a way, it would be the least convenient of the three possible picks. Despite that, Favors still represents a no brainer pick at #4 because of his immense potential and the allure of eventually paring him with Ricky Rubio to form the next Steve Nash/Amare Stoudemire duo.
DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C Kentucky
- Refined offensive skill set
- Very young, lots of potential
- Runs floor pretty well for his size
- Plays with a mean streak
- Good passer
- Poor conditioning, aka overweight
- On and off court attitude concerns
- Immaturity, even considering his age
- Plays below the rim
- Played against much smaller opponents in college
Why The Wolves Will Take Him
- DeMarcus Cousins averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds a game as a freshman at Kentucky last year. Most impressively, he did so in only 22 minutes a game. That projects out to some pretty gaudy numbers if prorated out. At only 19 years of age the kid has incredible potential. Less concerning than his physical liabilities are the major red flags surrounding his attitude and psyche. He’s demonstrated a notable lack of composure in the past and investing millions of dollars and the future of your franchise in someone like that is a risky proposition for a team like the Wolves who can’t afford any more draft day debacles. Consider this: what would DeMarcus Cousins had been like if he were on the Wolves last season during a 15 win campaign? Can you imagine him staying positive, cheering his teammates on and remaining optimistic about the growth of the team? I can’t either, which is why I would be surprised if Cousins goes #4 on Thursday night.
Posted on: April 15, 2010 4:10 pm
Jonny Flynn had a productive rookie season. It was a good season. Yet listen to most Wolves fans describe it and you would probably walk away thinking it was a disaster. A flop. A total bust. Out of frustration of enduring the worst season in Wolves basketball, I, at times, have been guilty of this too. But alas, some perspective.
Below are the full season stat lines for various starting point guards in the league. To be more accurate, they are the stat lines from the player’s first season in which they averaged at least 28 minutes per game. I chose that number because it suggests it was the first season in which the player was given a starter’s type role.
See if you can predict who did what.
a) 7.9 points, 5.5 assists, 2.9 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 36 FG% in 31 minutes per game
b) 10.8 points, 4.5 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 42 FG% in 29 minutes per game
c) 10.6 points, 5.1 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 49 FG% in 29 minutes per game
d) 11.3 points, 3.3 assists, 2.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals 35 FG% in 32 minutes per game
e) 9.2 points, 4.3 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 42 FG% in 30 minutes per game
f) 13.5 points, 4.4 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 42 FG% in 29 minutes per game
a) Steve Nash - 3rd Season
b) Deron Williams - 1st Season
c) Rajon Rondo - 2nd Season
d) Chauncey Billups - 1st Season
e) Tony Parker - 1st Season
f) Jonny Flynn - 1st Season
So as you can see, Flynn’s rookie year compares favorably, if not flat out better, than many of the top point guards in the league. The three glaring exceptions are Jason Kidd, Derrick Rose and Chris Paul, who all had superior rookie seasons, but in the end that’s what those players are, exceptions. Otherwise, every other great point guard in the NBA clearly failed to experience a statistical breakthrough in their first, second or even third prominent season. The other thing to remember is that with Flynn’s outstanding quickness and athleticism, as well as the fact that’s he’s a mere 21 years old, he still has plenty of room to develop.
The next question that bears asking is why then is Flynn the subject of such harsh criticism? I can narrow it down to four primary causes.
1. The Systematic Maladaption of Timberwolves Fans
Very simply, the vast majority of Wolves fans believe they are cursed. They believe that no matter who they draft, who they acquire in trade or free agency, who they decide on as coach or GM or who they send to represent them at the draft lottery, they are so thoroughly cursed that it will positively end up a disaster. And so when a player, in this case Flynn, is taken the demoralized ranks of Wolves fans essentially start the countdown to when they can officially call the pick a failure without appearing completely irrational. Some skip the countdown all together and jump straight off the cliff. Note, I’m not saying some of the skittishness isn’t warranted. On the contrary, proof of an actual curse certainly would answer a lot of questions. But fans and critics alike need to calm down, step back and take a few deep breaths. Case in point: Brandon Roy. Yes, the Wolves traded Brandon Roy for Randy Foye. An epic debacle of a trade. In that same draft, the Raptors took Andreas Bargnani over Roy. The Bobcats opted for Adam Morrison. The Bulls took Tyrus Thomas and the Hawks thought Shelden Williams would be better. The truth is that several teams swung and missed big on Roy, but bitter, jaded, sky-is-perpetually-falling Wolves fans don’t see that. They just see the cliff.
2. That Darned Ricky Rubio
People, a lot of them, live an orderly life. They like things the way they do. Everything has to fit neatly in its place. In my highly unprofessional opinion, it is this characteristic that lies at root of the inability of Wolves fans and the draft clowns at ESPN to comprehend the logic behind the Flynn pick. The Wolves took a PG in Rubio and so the nice and neat, orderly folks of the world thought that naturally they would fill another position of need. Most, at the time, said they should have taken DeMar DeRozan because his draft card said “Shooting Guard”. That made orderly sense. Instead with Flynn, the Wolves took who they thought was the best player available (before you shout “Stephen Curry” at the computer screen please go reread the thing above about point guards in their first season). They drafted the best player available because at this stage in their progression overall talent is what matters, not filling out a roster sheet. The drafting of Rubio was the drafting of an asset more than it was a contributing player. They were drafting an incredible future possibility when they took Rubio, whereas with Flynn, they were drafting their starting point guard. Plus, there would have been an actual honest to goodness riot at Target Center if the Wolves had passed on Rubio with two consecutive picks. Things played out as they did and now, unfortunately, there is this mystical floating Rubio head that looms over Flynn every time he misses a shot or commits a silly turnover. The floating Rubio heads says things like “Flynn is garbage, luckily you have me waiting in the wings” and “Don’t get used to the smiley guy with the headband, when I get tired of Spain I’ll be over to claim my job”. Rubio, in a way, has prevented people from ever really supporting Flynn in the same way a fan base never really gets behind an interim head coach or in the way a kid never really embraces a mom’s boyfriend. They know the next one is right around the corner so why get attached?
3. A Bad Situation
Nothing about his rookie year was really ideal for Jonny Flynn. He was also cast onto a team that by design was supposed to fail…miserably. Known for his ability to fast break, he was surrounded with tree trunks the likes of Damien Wilkins, Sasha Pavlovic and Ryan Gomes. A master of the pick and roll at Syracuse, he was told to forget about the pick and roll and basically adopt a new philosophy and style of play in Minnesota, where on the flipside fellow rookie PGs, Brandon Jennings and Steph Curry, were placed in systems that perfectly suited their respective games. These contradictions were done in the name of making Flynn a better overall player. Flynn could have been allowed to play differently, more to his strengths, but in doing so he would have been sacrificing long-term potential and growth in favor of short-term results. Allowing Flynn to do what he does best on nightly basis, with little check or balance, would have resulted in better box scores and simultaneously put him on to the fast track to becoming the next Bobby Jackson, a serviceable and effective scoring backup point guard. Not a bad thing necessarily. However, by forcing him to harness his established talents and instead pain stakingly improve on his weaknesses the belief is that he will eventually develop into a legitimate upper tier starting point guard. This is the vision (and gamble) of David Kahn and Kurt Rambis. It sounds terrific in theory and if it works they will both look like geniuses some day. If it doesn’t pan out, see #1.
4. He Played Like A Rookie
I'm going to keep this one short because it's the most apparent and requires the least analysis. Possession killing shots in the first five or so seconds of the shot clock, completely avoidable turnovers at costly times in the game and occassional defense void of any awareness or teamwork were the main culprits. In other words, he played like a rookie. The problem is that the three points above combined with the state of the average Wolves fan being sick and tired of being sick and tired and it all led to the fact that there just wasn't the patience or tolerance of rookie-like play, even though there probably should have been. Flynn didn't play like a rookie of the year or even like he deserved top 5 consideration, but he also wasn't as bad as he was too often portrayed.
The point of this isn’t to make excuses for Jonny Flynn. I’m the first to admit he deserves a fair amount of criticism for some of his play this year. Really, I’m just trying to balance the overwhelming amount of criticism he has received with the credit he also deserves. A commonly held belief is that point guard is by far the toughest position to transition from college to the pros. Based on that and the past development of other guards in the league I tend to believe that maybe, given his respectable stat outputs, obvious intangibles and consistent leadership skills that just maybe, Flynn could make a lot of people eats their words and end up as the Wolves future floor general. Unless, of course, they land John Wall. In that event, ignore everything I just said.