Category: 2012 Offseason

Rubio and Williams Named to All-Rookie Teams. Does It Mean Anything?


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Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams were rewarded for their rookie seasons on Tuesday.
Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams were rewarded for their rookie seasons on Tuesday.

Today the NBA All-Rookie Teams were announced with a noticeable Minnesota flavor. On the 1st team, Ricky Rubio joined Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, Denver’s Kenneth Faried, Golden State’s Klay Thompson, the Knicks’ Iman Shumpert, and Detroit’s Brandon Knight. On the 2nd team, Derrick Williams was joined by Irving’s teammate Tristan Thompson, Houston’s Chandler Parsons, Sacramento’s Isaiah Thomas, and New Jersey’s MarShon Brooks. That makes for an even 7 players on the 1st team and 5 on the 2nd team. Hold on, “even” must not be the right word there. Anyway, Rubio and Williams join Mike Beasley, Wes Johnson, and Kevin Love as the other previous selections currently on the roster. I’ll even mention that Jonny Flynn as a recent selection. How much stock can you put into these selections as far as figuring out a player’s career direction? Well not much.

(Edit: I spent over an hour trying to get a nifty little graph, chart, or anything that illustrated the various Win Shares Per 48 Minutes each recent Wolves All-Rookie had, but it wouldn’t take. So, here it goes: Love- .178; Rubio 0.070; Beasley 0.063; Johnson- 0.026; Flynn- -0.015.)

It doesn’t really mean too much. Whether they were 1st team or 2nd team, it’s difficult to guess how a player’s career will wind up. I mean, Beasley was a 1st teamer, but Love was a 2nd; who wouldn’t take Love over Beasley? Notice that it’s taken Beasley 4 seasons to amass a whopping 0.004 more WS/48 than Williams already. It’s sad. Looking at the point guards, it’s not even close in terms of career success to say that Ricky Rubio is having a better career thus far. These things really don’t mean much, but they can be a fun thing to examine.

Exit Interviews: Nikola Pekovic


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Big Pek,

Judging by this picture of you in the hospital, you must’ve been awfully distraught after being thwarted in the MIP race. I totally thought you had it in the bag, as did you, purely speculating from your pain-filled facial expression.

I’m just kidding. We all know you just underwent surgery, and we’re happy to hear that all went well and it was a success. The road to recovery is a long and trying path but we know you can overcome the tribulations and return to your battering ram form that took the league — and some of its best big men — by surprise.

Speaking of your elevated play this last season, we couldn’t be happier with how vastly your game improved from your rookie year to this. If you haven’t read Tom’s piece on why you should’ve won the MIP award, — yes, we’re still bitter — well, you should. But if you don’t find the time, allow me to ramble off some stats your way. Your PPG jumped up 8.4. We saw your shooting and true shooting percentages increase 0.47 and 0.34, respectively. You bullied your way in the paint much more, which led to an additional 4.4 RPG from last year to this. And you managed to increase your minutes on the floor without committing so many petty personal fouls.

But the biggest, and perhaps most frightening stat was the surge in your PER. You went from a posting a dismal 11.2 in 2010-2011 to a scary-good 21.4 this season, the second highest tally on the team behind only Kevin Love. Partly because of that, you and Love ended up forming a dangerous duo in the frontcourt that could very well compete, and even obliterate, some of the strongest front lines in the NBA.

Honestly, it’s hard to really capture and describe how much your improvement helps our chances at, well, improving. The bruising offensive style of your game beautifully contrasts Love’s new perimeter-hawking tendencies, which allows us to swallow up offensive boards better than anyone in the game, and we could tell you found a chemistry catching passes from Ricky Rubio. And your newfound fancy footwork in the post is simply outstanding. Paired with your special touch underneath, you made some of the NBA’s toughest post defenders look simply incompetent matched up against you. You were like Al Jefferson minus the jumpshot, plus a more battering, brute approach to your post game. It was just a phenomenal sight to see you blossom as your minutes increased this season. It’s just a shame that you had to go down with those nagging injuries, but, like I said, we’re not worried about your pending recovery.

But something continues to perplex me. How does one go from barely being D-League material to being considered a top 10, maybe top 5, center in the whole league? Was it a fluke? Or did you truly feel out the NBA game enough after that first year to become more comfortable? I don’t know which answer is right. I know which one I want to be true but we’ll never know until you fully recover from surgery and begin working on the court again this offseason.

The bottom line is that your unprecedented contribution this season were nearly unfathomable but truly a blessing. No longer do we need to search for a starting center, that is as long as your improve your defense and shot blocking ability. We’re likely not going to find a replacement any time soon because this franchise has never found a cornerstone center to hang its hat on but you’re the closest thing we’ll get to that. Believe me, that’s a compliment.

Exit Interviews: Wes Johnson


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Wes,

Coming into the league as a 23-year old rookie, you were heralded as an “NBA-ready” prospect, but your rookie season was filled with lots of ups-and-downs. I guess that a rookie is still a rookie no matter how polished they are supposed to be, and, to be fair, you did show some flashes of promise. Then, you were handed a real point guard, and a Hall of Fame coach, and it seemed logical to expect you to build on the positives from your rookie season, while also getting away from the negatives as well.

“Supposed to”, were the keywords from that sentence I guess, as things didn’t go as expected…at all.  I still want to believe, but I’m quickly losing hope.

And here’s why.

Offensively, you went from an average player last season to an absolute liability this season. I’m not sure which metric to use to back that up with since your Usage Rate dropped as your Turnover Rate rose; your Offensive Rating fell 8 points from 101 to 93; and you were one of three players — Mike Beasley and Darko Milicic being the other two  – who finished the season with negative Offensive Win Shares, and wound up tied with Darko for last on the roster, overall.

I don’t like comparing you to Darko, Wes.

Many think your offensive issues could be psychological, which could be a better or worse case scenario. It’s as if you don’t trust your abilities, and play it safe instead of being an aggressive playmaker, which we’ve seen a couple of times (I think). Passing up open shots to dump it off to a teammate who’s double-teamed hurts the team, as does settling for jumpers when there is a higher percentage shot that is just a few dribbles away.

Maybe you don’t trust your ball-handling abilities, and that’s fine, we can all improve, but they won’t improve if you don’t dribble. Even then, you’re 6’7, and quick, which should enable you to take a quick dribble to get in the lane and get a better shot up. Although you’re not a great foul shooter, you need to get to the line more than 0.5 times per game. Heck, you were still last on the team in free throw attempts per 36 minutes (0.8 per game) by almost half a shot. 34 attempts in a season is not OK for a starter averaging 20-minutes per game. I know, the other team is sweaty, and it’s gross when they foul you because of that, but it won’t kill you, and ultimately wipes away.

To wrap this up on a somewhat positive note, your defense was average at best, but it was average at worst, too. By now, we may have figured out that guarding shooting guards isn’t your thing, as you gave up an Opp. PER/ 48 Minutes of 18.3, but just a respectable 15.0 against small forwards. In addition, your per 36 minute averages of around one block and one steal were nice to see. Still, if you can’t score on opposing perimeter players, your defense on them won’t matter as the team cannot continue to start a player that ultimately cost them wins on any end of the floor.

It’s foolish to dismiss a player after their rookie year, but adding that second season into the sample doesn’t offer much hope to extrapolate. It’s possible it’s not too late. I mean, most of us counted out Nikola Pekovic before the season, and he’s a couple of years older than you, so it is technically possible. I’m just not sure how likely that is anymore. I want to be wrong here, I really do. All I know is that it’s beginning to be too much to bear watching you struggle night in and night out. I know you didn’t choose to be the #4 overall pick a couple years back, but you were, whether or not you like it.

- Wes Johnson at Basketball-Reference

- Wes Johnson at 82 Games

Exit Interviews: Michael Beasley


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Oh, Michael, the good times we had...

Mr. Beazzz,

Upon your arrival in Minneapolis just two years ago, I couldn’t be more precise in saying how excited I, no, everyone was for you to grace our presence. A second overall pick practically given to us from the basketball gods seemed like just the thing to turn our misfortune and dismay around that the post KG era left us drowning in. Right off the bat you seemed to gel seamlessly into Rambis’ star-less offense and took on the bulk of the scoring. Alongside Kevin Love, you two seemed to unite a formidable duo that would ravage the West’s best for years to come. Love would throw two-handed, full court alley-oops to you as you ripped them through the net with such force and vengeance. Your defense was as impenetrable as the Great Wall of China. You finally turned into the superstar the NBA thought you’d become, lifting yourself to all-new heights, far above and beyond anything your childhood friend Kevin Durant has been able to accomplish in that two year span.

(Yawwwwwwwwwn…..) Was I just dreaming?

I apologize if the blurb above offended you in any way but it’s what we all expected from you, Michael. The pressures and expectations of the NBA officially proved to be too much to handle, while you tried to do your best to shape up your attitude and mature a little bit. And while we did see some great strides in your maturity in the last two years, I’m just not so sure that you’re the right person for this team right now.

The biggest reason for us letting you go has nothing to do with your performance over the last two years. We understand the player that you are and the things you can do on the court. Your offense is your blood, your baby, and it’s becoming more versatile as your grow. You are a serious threat to beat your man off the dribble and take it to the hoop for that patented floating jumper. But where you grew as an offensive juggernaut is the improvement on your deep 2′s and 3′s. From last year to this season, your three-point shooting definitely improved, and so did your shot selection on the perimeter.

You might not understand because your stats don’t agree but you really did make vast improvements this season. And you may also not understand why coach Adelman put you in the sixth man spot but it was what was best for the team. Honestly, having your scoring prowess to call on from the bench was a blessing in disguise while you were healthy. This very well could be your role in the NBA from here on out, so be ready to be placed into that spot on another team in the near future.

But, unfortunately, your role on this team is no more. We truly appreciate everything you’ve given us these past two years, but your price tag is too steep for what you actually offer this current roster and coach Adelman. It’s just not going to work out. So we bid you adieu and good luck finding a new home.