The Wolves have exceeded every expectation so far as a team. Here are my grade for every player. Agree/disagree? Let me know in the comments or get at me on Twitter.
Rick Adelman: A
We start with the man himself. I have a couple quibbles with his rotations, but Minnesota has tied last year’s win total by the All-Star break under his direction. Plus, his habit of playing the players who are playing well is refreshing after last year. Tough to penalize him for anything, really.
Kevin Love: A-
Love is having a borderline MVP season, which we will discuss at length later this week. So why does he get a minus? By getting suspended, Love cost Minnesota a chance to win against Memphis. In a Western Conference race this tight, one game might make the difference. He also misses defensive assignments regularly complaining to the officials about a no-call on offense, a horribly frustrating habit.
Still, Love has been the leader of this team, and with some help from his friends, he has the Wolves back to a respectable place. He is the franchise player, and he plays like it regularly, which makes complaining about him seem like splitting hairs.
Ricky Rubio: A
Rubio isn’t a purely A point guard yet, but the culture of selflessness that he has brought to Minnesota has been infectious, and the crowds he has brought to T-Wolves games this year have been enthusiastically behind him. One could argue that Rubio is the player most responsible for the way the Wolves have turned themselves around.
Nikola Pekovic: A
Pekovic is that kid you thought was going to get a C or a D at the beginning of the year, but surprised you so much with his performance that you gave him an A. Yeah, he still picks his nose and wipes it under the desk (or in Pek’s case, can’t defend against longer players), but he also gets 9-10 math problems correct (or shoots 9-10 from the field). You love his work ethic, his attitude and the incredibly high unintentional comedy scale he brings to the table every day. So you bend a little and give him an A.
Oh, and his Player Efficiency Rating is 22.4. 22.4! Nikola Pekovic! He is getting an A no matter what.
Wes Johnson: D-
Basically, Wes is the polar opposite of Pek. He has every tool imaginable, but he just can’t seem to harness any of them. He doesn’t get an F because he played great defense on Kevin Martin. Instead, I’m giving him a D- not to punish him, but as a teacher, to motivate him. You are better than this, Wes.
Michael Beasley: Incomplete
Beasley never strikes me as a D range player or below. His PER isn’t amazing (13.0, good for 200th in the league) but he is leading the Timberwolves in 3-point percentage (by quite a lot, actually…), he’s averaging 17.1 points per 36 minutes, and he seems to be doing pretty well coming off the bench. Give this to Beas: he may be a little crazy, but he doesn’t seem like the kind of player who would be a locker room malcontent over minutes. He has some incredible games and some mediocre ones. But the Timberwolves seem to need him, warts and all.
So where do we grade him? I have no idea. Thus the incomplete. His grade after the season should be a little more clear.
Luke Ridnour: A-
Ridnour has quietly been everything Minnesota could ask for. Need Wes Johnson to shut down Kevin Martin? No problem. Ridnour will battle with Chandler Parsons, who is nine (!!!) inches taller than him. Rubio needs a break? Ridnour can fill in for as long as you need. His assist to turnover ratio is good. He plays hard, always gives a crap and can be relied on to take big shots. Plus he has a game-winner on his first half resume. He gets penalized (along with just about every other T-Wolf) for a relatively low 3-point percentage, but otherwise it’s been a very solid season for Ridnour.
JJ Barea: C+
Barea gets his grade docked for attendance (he has missed a lot of games due to injury), but all will be forgiven in the second half if he continues to play the way he did against Utah. In the last game before the All-Star break, Barea played like the spark plug Minnesota needs him to be. We’d love to see more of that from JJ.
Darko Milicic: D
For every two field goals Milicic makes, he turns the ball over once. Darko lost his starting job to Pekovic, and deservedly so. I’d be more willing to cut Darko some slack if he didn’t occasionally have quarters in which he is the most dominant player on the floor. These quarters feel like an indictment on his effort for the rest of the quarters.
Derrick Williams: C-
In a strange twist, Williams is in the middle of the NBA in PER, and fifth on the Wolves in field goal percentage. He has struggled with his three point shot, but many players do coming out of college. Plus he has been on the receiving end of some of the best Rubio passes of the season. An interesting note: Williams played most of the crunch time minutes against Utah as the Wolves were attempting to come back, and he made a couple of huge plays.
Much like Wes, this grade is unreasonably harsh, and mostly supposed to be used as a motivator. We’d like to see more consistent play from D-Will.
Martell Webster: Incomplete
Another incomplete, this one because we are waiting to see how Webster performs as he gets more comfortable coming back from his injuries. And even though I’m sorely tempted to penalize him for his brain fart against Denver…I won’t.
Wayne Ellington: B-
Ellington seems to have lost his spot in the rotation, which baffles me a little bit. His numbers are a little low, but he’s also one of three players on the Wolves who can create a shot and he knocks down open threes, which is more than you can say for Wes who…starts. Whatevs.
Anthony Tolliver: C+
It pains me to see Tolliver on the bench this much. Tolliver works his ass off, always cares, always hustles. He just doesn’t always score.
Brad Miller: C
Thanks for coming to class, Brad.
Anthony Randolph: C-
See Brad Miller, except Randolph’s performance is more disappointing, simply based on his athleticism.