#TwolfRank: #5 Chase Budinger

Credit: TwinCities.com

Welcome to the second annual #TwolfRank. It’s one of our favorite times of the year, to say the least. Here is the ninth part in this roster-long series and we are officially halfway through. As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf), Tom (@Tom_NBA) and Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) on Twitter as well to partake in the fun. You can find the rest of the series here

In Chase Budinger’s first three NBA seasons he missed a measly 20 games. Then in his first season in Minnesota, Budinger fell victim to whatever blight was cast upon the roster of the 2012-’13 Timberwolves and missed 59 games after injuring his knee early on. Not just in Houston, Budinger rarely missed time in college as well, making the Timberwolves unlucky or Chase unable to handle the cold (*joke*).

And when he came back from his surgery he struggled to regain his form that he had in his final season in Houston. We knew there would be some bumps in his road to recovery and Budinger consequently contributed to another recurring theme of the Timberwolves season: poor shooting. In fact, as March turned to April and Chase’s minutes were extending, his production dropped off almost across the board.

Here’s a fun fact about Budinger: for his career he shoots .382 percent from three on the road and a much more average .331 percent at home. Same goes for field goal percentage, points, rebounds and assists per game– they’re all better on the road than at home. This is based on 116 career regular season home games and 117 career road games, so it’s a legitimate sample.

I wondered if it was just Target Center when I noticed that his road numbers were superior to his home numbers, but check this out:

  • In the 2010-’11 season while playing the Timberwolves in Houston, Budinger shot 2-7 (.286 percent) from the field, including 0-3 from three. A couple of months later the Rockets rolled into Minneapolis and he went 4-6 from the field and 3-5 from deep.
  • In February of that same season, the Timberwolves went back to Houston and Budinger struggled again at home, shooting just 1-5 from the floor and missed each three point attempt. So, what happened when the Timberwolves and Rockets met up on the last game of the season in Minnesota? Yep, 12-21 and made four of his eight three point attempts on top of that.
  • Rewinding things to his rookie season, Chase went 1-3 at home from the field but then shot .500 percent when the Rockets came to Target Center.

Apparently, the secret for Budinger to improve his shooting at home, at Target Center, is to have him play for the other team, which isn’t the best gameplan. Really, it’s kind of an interesting trend.

So, why is Chase Budinger ranked fifth here on T-wolf Rank? Because of what he is capable of doing and the assumption that last season was the outlier given his past performance and history of good health.

That’s why re-signing Budinger was a priority this offseason and was like the majority of their moves in that they were doing what was expected, or what they needed to. His contract is pretty fair at $16 million for the next three years, or $5.3 million per year, especially if he’s healthy and can shoot between 37 and higher consistently.

Want to take part? Look for one of us to tweet out who the next player will be and tweet us your thoughts on him using the #TwolfRank hashtag and we’ll throw your tweet in the post.

#TwolfRank: #8 Derrick Williams

Credit: LandmarkTemporary.com

Welcome to the second annual #TwolfRank. It’s one of our favorite times of the year, to say the least. Here is the seventh part in this roster-long series and we are officially halfway through. As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf), Tom (@Tom_NBA) and Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) on Twitter as well to partake in the fun.

I really can’t believe this is my first time writing about Derrick Williams this summer. Especially since I seemingly spent all last summer debating his weight and what fucking position he was going to playing during the upcoming season. Which of course went from me saying that I didn’t see him being a small forward now based on what I had seen, to what some interpreted as: “Why do u h8 him? He’s still young and can git better…looser!”

Which of course led to many exasperated sighs and facepalms as I had to explain that I was not holding a referendum on a player’s career after just one season, but that he wasn’t showing that he could be a small forward right now. I mean, small forwards typically have to shoot from distance, which he struggled to do in his rookie year and that’s all I had to go on. And at that time he looked like a better power forward, so that’s what I said and– my word, why was this so important to people anyway? If he’s good who cares where he plays?

I never said he could never, ever, ever be one no matter how hard he tried. Hell, he could become a firefighter, mailman or own a landscape company. Maybe he could even be a small forward. Or still a power forward.

It really became the epitome of an internet argument: I get asked a question about the present and give an answer about the present that magically morphs into a conversation about what Derrick will be doing in five years. It’s like the summer heat had gotten to everyone, causing a surge in heat stroke cases as reading comprehension levels plummeted.

I’m not saying that it wasn’t my comprehension that was in question, either, because it’s entirely possible.

And stop telling me young players get better, because I know that. Besides, that wasn’t even the question.

Really, I had no idea and neither did the people asking me had no idea if he’ll ever be one. But that stopped no one from wanting to launch a full-scale debate over it. The funny thing is that I spoke to Demetri McCamey who was on the Timberwolves’ summer league team and he re-buffed me when I asked if he was a point guard, shooting guard or combo guard. His answer: They, positions, don’t matter– it’s all basketball. You may enter a set at a certain spot, but as the play unfurls, your role changes. And, consequently, shooting guards, power forwards, small forwards…etc. all become irrelevant and things like Basketball IQ and a player’s ability to adapt to the game situation become far more important.

Anyway, Derrick’s rookie season left us with more questions than answers, which is not exactly what you want out of a number two overall pick.

The first question was his shooting, and really his ability to shoot efficiently from anywhere. No, really:

Williams 12

Courtesy of basketball-reference.com

As you can see he struggled as a rookie from everywhere. Remember, .632 percent at the rim only sounds high; league average is typically right around .700 percent. Most of Williams’ struggles were attributable to him being as to dribble or create a shot for himself in any manner. Which is also usually a characteristic of an NBA small forward, as well as being able to stretch the floor. And as a result he barely managed to eke out a .400% field goal percentage — which is still bad for a power forward, even, if we’re still talking about positions — in addition to not being able to shoot .300 percent from three.

In season two we needed to see some improvement for Williams for the good of the team, and it came, as incrementally as possible.

Williams 13

Courtesy of basketball-reference.com

The first thing that immediately stands out is the fact that he managed to shoot a lower field goal percentage within three feet of the rim despite taking 100 more attempts from that spot, which is impressive in its own way. He even managed to get worse from within 3-10 feet of the hoop which, again, is amazing since these are supposed to be higher percentage, ergo, easier shots.

You’d be more upset if he didn’t improve his midrange game up to a respectable near-forty percent, up from barely-thirty in his rookie season. The same thing for the next two spots– improvement — most notably his three point percentage from year 1 to year 2. All of this is good and encouraging for a player with aspirations of being a perimeter player someday. Except the missing shots within three feet of the basket thing; quit bricking dunks!

And did you notice?

I know you saw it.

You didn’t? I mentioned it earlier.

Yes, that!

Last season the Timberwolves figured that less of Derrick handling the ball and being asked to make something happen with that ball, the better. A lot more of his shots were assisted in his sophomore year, and I mean a lot– in some cases 20-30 percent, especially from 16 ft.-<3pt. This means that Derrick was employed as a catch-and-shoot player instead of being a creator. On top of that Derrick also did well as a cutter and in transition, managing to be efficient and keep the offense moving. Basically this is a nice way of saying that he played best when he played within the offense, which is like calling a quarterback a game manager. It’s a compliment, even if a little backhanded.

In fact, in Isolation plays last season, Williams shot just .295 percent and just a 0.64 points per possessions  in such situations (per MySynergySports.com), ranking 182 in the NBA. Even in post-ups, he managed a 0.71 PPP and made just a third of his shots, good for 132 in the entire league.

Even the fact that Derrick was asked to create less this season led to a slightly lower Turnover Percentage despite winding up with a higher Usage Rating. Ball-handling is another area he will have to continue to improve upon, but in the mean time he can still be used effectively in other ways that ISO’s and Post-Ups. This is perhaps the most encouraging sign for a player who had efficiency concerns coming into the season and hopefully this trend will carry into year three.

To review, Derrick passively involved in the offense, good; Derrick actively involved, not-so-good. Yet, anyway.

The other issue was his defense, which he worked hard to address in the offseason and it wound up paying off. No matter which category it is, Derrick just about improved in all of them, according to Synergy. As a rookie, he had a 0.89 ppp against Isolations, which became a 0.70 last season. He also improved in hand-offs and both pick ‘n roll man and ball handler situations. As a whole he dropped his ppp from 0.95 to 0.91, which is notable improvement.

Although points per possession is not kind to Williams in the post, his post defense last season is actually defensible, no pun intended. There was a slight uptick in that metric as a whole and his Defensive Rating showed little if any improvement, but it reflects in his Defensive Win Shares as well as the court. See, with the plethora of injuries the team suffered, Williams was often asked to guard bigger and more athletic players, like the Detroit’s Greg Monroe. This is problematic because no matter how much you try, it will be tough if you’re less athletic, shorter and weaker than the person backing you down. And often times Williams would body up his opponent on the block properly only to have them back him down and flip the ball in over his head. The team tried to send help, but that’s risky to do for an entire game and tough to do when you send that help after the opponent picks up his dribble. Really, that’s a matchup that Williams shouldn’t have to see again unless there are more injuries, which there shouldn’t be.

Williams made some good strides last season, certainly more deserving of this ranking. Still, he hasn’t truly carved out a role yet, but it appears he’s something. Whether he’s a power or small forward not only doesn’t matter too much, but it’s also way too early to tell. While Williams needs to continue to improve the things he did last season, he needs to continue to do so while also improving his other weaknesses. For now, #8 is fair for Williams for now. Maybe not for always, but for now.

#TwolfRank Comments:

@OmidFerdowsi: @DerekJamesNBA Some lions need more time than others to adapt to their new environment. I think he’s finally adapted to his and is ready.

@88mugsy88: @DerekJamesNBA he can dunk two handed, not one handed though

@88mugsy88: @DerekJamesNBA he likes shoes

@Moesquare: @DerekJamesNBA He has a D in his name, and D is for Dunk

#TwolfRank: #11 Alexey Shved

Source: AWolfAmongWolves.com

Welcome to the second annual #TwolfRank. It’s one of our favorite times of the year, to say the least. I bring you the third part in this roster-long series.  As always, you can follow Tom (@Tom_NBA), Jonah (@howlintwolf) and Derek (@DerekJamesNBAon Twitter as well to partake in the fun.

I think it’s safe to say that Alexey Shved’s rookie season didn’t wind up being what we or himself initially thought it would be. As a result, Shved’s performance turned into a source of frustration for fans and the rookie himself. And unfortunately we saw the side of Shved that we were afraid of and the one that Shved worked so hard to improve himself.

See, because of injuries Shved was asked to take on a larger role than anyone originally expected him to, and when things went sour, so did Shved. And it’s not entirely unfounded.

No, no I’m not condoning pouting, but Shved hit his rookie wall, and hit it hard.

See, in December Shved shot .420 and .355 percent from the floor and three on his way to averages of 11.4 points per game and 5.8 assists per game. I know what you were thinking at the time. You were thinking, “Oh, what a great sign from a rookie 27 games into his career! What a steal!”

Then, unfortunately for Shved, the rest of the NBA figured him out quickly and his minutes dwindled as his production did. Seriously. He never shot above .400 percent from the floor for the rest of the season, and only shot over .300 percent from three again once, when he shot .300 from distance in April. Before we knew it the once promising start was beginning to look like an anomaly, or a flash in the pan. Was it the attitude? Was it his smallish frame? Both?

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom as soon as the calendar rolled from 2012 to 2013.

Shved still managed to finish fourth — third if you don’t count Brandon Roy — on the team in Assist Percentage, demonstrating a willingness to set up teammates while also posting a near-average Usage Rate. Additionally, although his efficiency at the rim may have been perfectly average, it was still his best floor shooting spot, which may or may not be a good thing after all.

The answer for Shved may be to take on a smaller role– which he will. Well, so long as Shabazz Muhammad, the player ranked one spot below Shved in #TwolfRank, can prove to be a productive contributor. If each player can help each other adapt to the NBA slowly,the team will be better for it. If they both falter…I…I…don’t want to think about that right now. When you think about it, the Timberwolves don’t actually have much of a choice with their bench guards than to put their faith in two young players with questions concerning their maturity.

With the Timberwolves mass-injury troubles hopefully behind them, they can finally bring Shved along at the more deliberate pace they intended to last season. If a smaller role can bring back December Shved while simultaneously boosting his confidence long-term, Shved could possibly ascend up this list sooner rather than later. As for now, there are questions about which Shved is the real Shved, and how much more a 24 year old guard can improve since young guards mature quicker than bigs.  I’m not saying he can’t improve, especially since there is an adjustment period from Europe to the NBA, but historically, guards are approaching their apex at his age, which would be troubling if this is near Shved’s.

Sometimes, it’s important to — HERE COME THE CLICHES — walk before you can run! Take baby steps! Less is more! Actually, “less is more” is a good one to keep in mind with Shved, because that may just be the key to re-unleashing December Shved once again. Or better, because I’m too excited about average production.

#TwolfRank: #14 Gorgui Dieng

Photo: TwinCities.com

Welcome to the second annual  #TwolfRank. It’s one of our favorite times of the year, to say the least. Here is the first installment in the series.  As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf) Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) and Tom (@Tom_NBA) on Twitter as well to partake in the fun.

Gorgui Dieng is ranked this low because, well, he isn’t expected to be making meaningful contributions to this team this season. And with the way this roster is built, that’s just fine, but the future is certainly what matters as far as Dieng goes. Really, this isn’t a bad thing, and although the Timberwolves are hard up for depth behind Nikola Pekovic, they will survive a 2-3 developmental years for Dieng.

At 6’11 and 245 pounds, he has the tools to matter someday. In college, he excelled in offensive efficiency, defensively ability, and on the boards, so he has the ability to become Pekovic’s backup someday as long as he develops properly. I mean, he may not be ready today, but there’s a reason the team invested a first round pick in the guy.

Until Dieng is ready, the Timberwolves will continue to feed themselves on short term deals for journeymen centers to solidify the backup center position. Perhaps a stint in the D-League, which Flip Saunders is a major proponent of, would benefit Dieng better than watching Pekovic and Ronnie Turiaf play ahead of him. Because no team with serious playoff expectations ever really gives a developing center major burn– those things just don’t go together.

What’s encouraging is that Dieng was still the same efficient player he was in college from the field and at the line during summer league, despite averaging 3.5 fouls and 2.2 turnovers in 15 minutes per game. But that’s what young players are supposed to do in places like summer league. Landing in Minnesota as a whole will be great for him because he can be brought along slowly instead of being thrown right into the wolves (excuse me.)

For now, Dieng is number 14 — last — but the idea is that he eventually ascends at least a few slots higher.



@OmidFerdowsi: @DerekJamesNBA I think he has the skill set to be like Ibaka. I see a lot of upside for him on both ends of the floor.

Want to take part? Look for one of us to tweet out who the next player will be and tweet us your thoughts on him using the #TwolfRank hashtag and we’ll throw your tweet in the post. 

Announcement: The Return of #TwolfRank

It’s that time of year again where the Howlin’ T-Wolf crew — Jonah, Tom, and myself — get together to rank and discuss the Timberwolves roster player-by-player. And now that this is the second year, and therefore second consecutive year, you can say that this is now a tradition. Of course the best part is that, you, the reader get to participate via Twitter.

How does it work? 

I’m glad you asked!

To start, each writer ranks the Timberwolves roster from top-to-bottom (only including guaranteed contracts) and then we average them out to get one comprehensive list. Then each day we will (try) to reveal a different player each day with a post about the player. The part of this that makes this really fun is the #TwolfRank hashtag that we use. The day before we will announce who the next player is and then have our followers tweet us their thoughts on the player using the #TwolfRank hashtag. You can be funny, you can be serious– it doesn’t matter!

With that being said, look for the announcement from any of our accounts (Derek: @DerekJamesNBA; Tom: @Tom_NBA; Jonah: @howlintwolf) to see who the next day’s player will be, shoot us a tweet and we’ll use it in the post. Simple, I know.

If you missed last year’s, check it out here.

There’s a Time and Place for Everything: This Was Neither

You’ve probably heard by now that Timberwolves rookie Shabazz Muhammad was kicked out of the NBA’s rookie program for having a female visitor, as we’ll word it. Which I suppose is relieving to know that it’s not drugs or anything, but it’s still not allowed, and still gets you kicked out. For someone who has been as scrutinized as Shabazz has the last year or so, this was exactly the type of thing that he didn’t need.

It’s not that he had a woman in his room; he is a 20 year old, after all. It’s the fact that he broke a pretty simple rule to understand. I think the other ones are no drugs, no weapons, no fighting or leaving the toilet seat up. Okay, I might have made that last one up…

To his skeptics this is exactly what they were waiting for– Muhammad to do something that could be taken as a distraction. To those following the team, this is a welcome break in a relatively unexciting offseason (Kidding!) And for those who supported Muhammad and believed he had wised up, they’re frustrated.

From everything that I’ve read and watched on Muhammad, he’s not a bad person by any means. In a lot of ways he’s undergoing the same growth that all of is did at that age just on a much bigger platform where each indiscretion is amplified one hundred fold. But still, he broke a simple rule that wouldn’t be a big deal if he literally did it anywhere else but here. Lesson learned: even the small rules are important.

This is one of those things that doesn’t feel like a big deal, but is a big enough deal to be talking about. I mean, was it really worth the likely-inevitable fine coming and having to answer these questions up until training camp starts? Couldn’t you just wait? (Well, maybe not. I guess I don’t really know.) This is one of those things they talk about staying out of your own way since this is entirely preventable.

One way or the other Shabazz got an idea how the NBA works whether or not he stayed for the entire program. Which I think is actually a pretty clever dual, either way, lesson for the NBA to pass on to incoming players.

Timberwolves Schedule Highlights

With all of the overhaul in the front office and on the roster this offseason, there is understandably much hype for the coming season. Despite the upgrades that Flip Saunders has made to the roster, Wolves fans learned last season that you need more than just talent: you need luck. Yes, damn your hard work and in-born talent– sometimes the only thing that matters in the end is not landing on your ankle wrong. It’s unfortunate but, hey, what can you do?

Anyway, the Timberwolves kick off the season on October 30th against the Orlando Magic at home, and then turn around to face Oklahoma City, when Kevin Martin faces off against his old team.

Conversely, the Utah Jazz come to Target Center on April 16th to close out the 2013-`14 regular season. I say “regular season” because I’m hoping they have a post-season. I’m not trying to jinx anything but I’d rather spend May covering the playoffs instead of researching draft prospects for a change. It’s been 10 years and year 25, I don’t think I’m asking too much here!

The Timberwolves have a tough stretch in December that includes playing in Oklahoma City on the first, at “home” against the San Antonio Spurs in Mexico City on the fourth and the Heat make their lone appearance in Minneapolis on the seventh. And Dwight Howard will make his first appearances as a Houston Rocket at Target Center on February 10th and March 20th.

Kevin Garnett returns to Minnesota on November 22nd with the new-look Brooklyn Nets. This will also mark the return of former Timberwolf Andrei Kirilenko.

In February, Utah and the Timberwolves will play a home and away series on the 18th and the 20th. One can only assume the four days off will be because they are traveling by station wagon instead of flight.

As far as back-to-backs, the Timberwolves will play 20 total, including three in February alone. Hey, the All-Star break is for rest for a reason, right?

Ya know what? February sucks. Period. If being the month of the year that is also known as, “The Official Homestretch of Winter” wasn’t enough, the Timberwolves will also spend their longest time away from Target Center going to Utah, Portland, Sacramento, Phoenix and Denver in a stretch that lasts into March. Hey, at least they’ll have their longest homestand of the season (Four(Portland, Houston, Denver and Indiana) and winter is almost over.

One more thing before I go: who wants to go to the Bobcats game with me on January 10th? No one? Fine. I’ll go by myself.

What Happened in Vegas: They Lost (And Game Preview)

This game was pretty forgettable as a whole. On the brightside they’re 0-2 against the D-League Select but 2-1 against everyone else. Really,  no one outside of Chris Johnson really stood out and was terrific at getting to the line again. Othyus Jeffers was pretty good still and so was John Holland, but no one else really stood out.

Robbie Hummel went 2-7. Welp.

Shabazz Muhammad shot 25 percent from the field tonight and some people are clamoring for his retirement. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t peak yesterday. Or at least I hope not. That wouldn’t be good.

Can we get more than four summer league games before holding a referendum on a player’s career?

No? Okayfinethenwhatever.

Really, you have to give the Select team some credit. They’re undefeated and beat the Timberwolves for the second time in five days, in part because they forced them into shooting 33.8 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from three. Despite also cutting back on their turnovers considerably, they still got beat on the glass, 47-38. Enabling the Select team to grab so many more defensive rebounds enabled them to prevent the Timberwolves getting any second chance points and also keeping them from building more momentum.

It may not have mattered if they had gotten more second chance opportunities given how the entire team struggled shooting, but it could have also given them some rhythm, which they desperately needed.

You Mean I Get a Preview, too? What Value!

Consequently, the Timberwolves will play the Portland Traiblazers team in the consolation bracket instead of the championship bracket. Which is a little unfortunate because it won’t start until 9:30pm central and I have no idea where it will air; NBA TV or ESPN 3 would be my guesses, though.

As for the Blazers, they lost again as well yesterday, this time to the Suns, giving them a 1-4 record. C.J. McCollum has starred for the Blazers with averages of 21 points per game, 4.0 rebounds per game and 3.4 assists for the the rookie guard (His averages are much more impressive if you don’t look at this shooting efficiency.) The Blazers are full of players like McCollum who have nice averages, like Will Barton and Thomas Robinson, but have not reached those marks efficiently.

I will not be there for this one since I will be in the air during game time on my way back to Minneapolis, which is disappointing because this week has been a blast. But you can still follow me on Twitter anyway and use other Timberwolves people who will be in attendance and giving live updates.