Category: TwolfRank

T-Wolf Rank: #8 Dante Cunningham


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This is the sixth post in a series here on Howlin’ T-Wolf ranking the Timberwolves roster player-by-player. Ideally, Derek, Tom or Jonah will post a new player everyday for 13 days. As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf) Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) and Tom (@Tom_NBA) on Twitter as well.

How I get caught with Dante Cunningham, I really just don’t know. I got the player sandwiched between two players I would’ve loved to drool over. Instead I sit here looking through pages of Google Images in hopes of finding just one picture of this guy that might stand out (It honestly was harder than you’d think).

But after researching a little more — not on the photos — I came to realize that Cunningham may very well be worth this spot in the rankings. I had him at 12 in my personal list because I could only compare him to Anthony Tolliver. You have to figure he’d play a similar role as AT. But if Adelman knew any better, he’d find a way to get Cunningham out onto the court more often.

An athletic forward with the ability to play multiple positions, Cunningham has now played for four different teams in just a four year career. Despite not finding a place to call home quite yet in such a short career, Cunningham has put up some surprisingly good numbers.

The Portland Trail Blazers drafted Cunningham in 2nd round of 2009 — save the Portland jokes. He showed potential but nothing more than a solid role guy. It’s when Cunningham moved to Charlotte when he made leaps and bounds, well, sorta. Cunningham’s minutes, points per game and field goal percentage all increased. And last year, with the Grizzlies, Cunningham posted a respectable career-high 14.94 PER. He also posted a career-high true shooting percentage of 53.8, suggesting that his jump shots and shot selection has certainly improved.

But you have to wonder why the numbers are good. Is Cunningham really that underrated? Or are his stats simply concentrated due to the lack of playing time he’s gotten through his career? Having never really paid much attention to him until now, I can’t answer that question. I do think he will be able to replace Tolliver’s production with more efficiency and wholeheartedly staunch defense.

What do you have to say of Dante?

Also, check out this gem of a video shown to us by @TeeWolvesMerch

T-Wolf Rank: #9: Derrick Williams


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This is the fifth post in a series here on Howlin’ T-Wolf ranking the Timberwolves roster player-by-player. Ideally, Derek, Tom or Jonah will post a new player everyday for 13 days. As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf) Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) and Tom (@Tom_NBA) on Twitter as well.

STOP IT DERRICK

Some mornings, the sun seems a little brighter, the grass seems greener, the valium seems a little more potent (note: I don’t take valium), and I actually decide to be a positive human being. It doesn’t happen often, so don’t get used to it. But I’m about to look at the bright side when discussing Derrick Williams.

There are so many negative things we could discuss about Williams’ first season as a professional basketball player, but most of them have been widely covered already, to the point of redundancy. We could, for example, discuss the fact that Williams shot 28% from above the break 3-point range, and we could groan about the fact that these inefficient shots made up about 23% of his field goal attempts. We could point to the fact that on jumpshots, 63% of all of his FGAs, Williams averaged an ugly .356 percentage from the field, or that he averaged just 0.81 points per possession on spot-up opportunities, or that in isolations he averaged just 0.76 ppp. We could point to these and any other number of disturbing statistics as evidence of Williams’ failings as a rookie, and causes for concern going forward. But we won’t do that. Mostly.

We have a tendency as NBA fans to pigeonhole players into concepts we’ve already seen, rather than remembering that each player is unique. Williams doesn’t fit our traditional definition of either a small forward or a power forward. “If Williams can’t shoot threes as a rookie,” we say, “then he can’t be an effective small forward in the NBA.” “He’s a bust,” we say, after his first NBA season. “He’ll never work out.”

We’ve all thought it at some point, most likely on a night when Williams went 2-9 from the field, including 0-5 from three point range and turned the ball over five times. We’ve assumed he won’t pan out, that the Wolves should just trade him before he can do any more damage to his trade stock, that he was a mistake to draft so high.

Here’s the problem with writing off Minnesota’s #2 pick from the 2011 draft: Derrick Williams, though clearly underwhelming in his first NBA season, just became a legal adult four months ago. And despite the ridiculous amounts of negative attention he has received, there were positive signs as well.

Take his jumpshooting stats. Yes, .356 is rough. Yes, he took way too many jumpers. But Williams also shot .611 from inside the paint, the second most frequent area from which he shot. According to the NBA Stats Cube, 44% of Williams’ shots came within the restricted area, and he made 58% on those shots. These stats don’t point to a player who will settle for bad jumpshots for his entire career. They points to a player who finishes well around the rim, both on the drive and in the post.

I’m not saying that Derrick Williams will become another Dwyane Wade, building an entire offensive repertoire around hoop and making a Hall of Fame career out of it, nor that he will revolutionize the small forward position, nor that he will necessarily become an all-star at some point in his career. All I’m saying is that giving up on Williams after one year would be absolutely foolish, and perhaps just because a player doesn’t fit our traditional definition of a role doesn’t mean that it’s time for us to give up on him.

T-Wolf Rank: #10- JJ Barea


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This is the third post in a series here on Howlin’ T-Wolf ranking the Timberwolves roster player-by-player. Ideally, Derek, Tom or Jonah will post a new player everyday for 13 days. As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf) Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) and Tom (@Tom_NBA) on Twitter as well.

JJ Barea (or Jub-Jub) is one of the more polarizing Timberwolves on the roster: you either love him or you hate him. Kind of like <insert clever witty analogy that fits perfectly>. There really is no middle ground it seems in terms of how he’s viewed by fans. Either you’re inspired by the sight of a diminutive-still-six-foot-tall point guard breaking down the defense of giants or he’s a physically limited bit player who causes you to resent Mark Cuban for not retaining him and sparing you pain.

As for me, I’m a fan.

Yes, I know that his Usage Rate of 24% last season was a career high, and probably just too high. I also know that taking 10 shots per game to average 11 points per game in just 23 minutes per game is bad. And I know that there’s no way he can play anymore minutes than he does because of his “defense”.

I know this: When Barea missed extended time due to injury and the best ball-handler became Mike Beasley, things got pretty freakin’ ugly. When the offense would stagnate and the opposing defense got too comfortable, JJ provided a way to at least keep the defense honest. Sure, he’s a chucker, but his ability to draw attention and hustle enabled him to get seven double-doubles and a triple-double last season.

You have to take Jub-Jub for what he is. He’s not a starter, or spearhead of any positional revolution. On top of that you never have to wonder if he’s going to be putting in the effort each night. That of which is more than you can say about most of last year’s team once Ricky Rubio went down.

With all of that being said, Jub-Jub checks in at #10, and his ranking reflects his own abilities as well as the improvements to the roster.

 

Be sure to join the conversation on Twitter by using the #TwolfRank hashtag! The best tweets will be used in future posts as well. 

 

 

T-Wolf Rank: #11 Alexey Shved


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This is the third post in a series here on Howlin’ T-Wolf ranking the Timberwolves roster player-by-player. Ideally, Derek, Tom or Jonah will post a new player everyday for 13 days. As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf) Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) and Tom (@Tom_NBA) on Twitter as well. Be sure to join in the fun/discussion using #TwolfRank.

First, let’s get this out of the way: It’s spelled A-L-E-X-E-Y. Not Alexy, or Aleksy. Even his last name is S-H-V-E-D, not Sheved. As an experienced copy writer already, name misspellings bother me — like finger nails digging into a chalk board.

Misspelling his name is a bigger mistake than you might know now, however. Because if Shved seamlessly transitions from the Euro game to the NBA just like Ricky Rubio was able to accomplish, than Shved has the talent to become a big name you’ll never want to misspell again.

As it stands right now, Shved is not a top-10 player on the Timberwolves for a couple of obvious reasons. One of them being his background. Sprouting as a talented young gunner in the Russian league, making that hop across the Pacific to the NBA won’t be easy. For one, he barely knows a lick of English. During his phone conference to announce the signing a week before the Olympics started, his agent had to translate back-and-forth for him. Secondly, the way Shved plays can be both scintillating and horribly frustrating. He plays with a lot of the same flash and swagger that Rubio does but isn’t always able to control it. He forces passes which lead to turnovers and he can toss up some pretty bad, contested jumpers instead of creating something else.

All negatives aside, Shved possesses a special type of game that could very well flourish in the NBA. He’s quick and limber with above-average ball-handling skills. He’ll easily be able to play both guard spots and has special skills to exceed at both — he is very diplomatic with his decision making off pick ‘n’ rolls, which makes him a solid backup point guard option and he has a great pull-up jumper and outside shot, which makes him a great option at the 2-guard.

If there was any coach that could hone in on Shved’s strengths and teach and discipline his weaknesses it would be Rick Adelman. Shved seems coachable enough — this is where the Rubio comparisons don’t match up at all — but he does seem to struggle with his own hype, or at least gets caught up in it too much. His cockiness, no, confidence translates well to the NBA but you have to harness it. A lot of these players that grew up playing in the grind parks around the country like Rucker won’t take crap from a scrawny Russian.

The first step for Shved is to realize he’s not the go-to guy — yet. Instead, if he approaches camp with an open mind and a team-first mentality — I believe AK47 can help with this — then he’ll be on the right foot. Be coachable and be confident instead of stubborn and cocky. There’s a huge difference.

Think of Stephon Marbury. Shved and Marbury share a lot of the same qualities on and off the court. They love to shoot and make plays and do a swell job of mixing it up. Off the court, they love the fame and attention that the NBA game can bring a player. But if you let your head get in the way of your development, you can find your way out of the league and playing in China much sooner than you should be.

Shved can’t let that happen. More importantly, Adelman can’t let that happen. Both Kahn and Adelman understand how special Shved can be. Adelman most likely knows how best to harness that talent and develop a fully functioning product. But it all comes down to Shved’s first two years in the league and his mental approach. At only 23, he has time to learn and study. Then, by the middle of his second year, I hope, he’ll be able to burst into the Wolves’ young core as the starting shooting guard. Only time will tell.

Be sure to join in on the fun using #TwolfRank on Twitter.

T-Wolf Rank: #12: Greg Stiemsma


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Greg Stiemsma may have trouble getting off the bench for the Timberwolves.

This is the second post in a series here on Howlin’ T-Wolf ranking the Timberwolves roster player-by-player. Ideally, Derek, Tom or Jonah will post a new player everyday for 13 days. As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf) Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) and Tom (@Tom_NBA) on Twitter as well.

Jonah accused me of being likely to gush over Greg Stiemsma, probably because I love the Celtics and Stiemsma provided some surprisingly solid minutes for the C’s last season. But I promise to keep my gushing to a bare minimum (seriously!).

A list of Greg Stiemsma’s best basketball qualities:

  • He’s very tall.
  • He has excellent defensive timing, leading to some crazy shot-blocking numbers (seriously, 4.0 per 36 minutes last year? Absurd.)
  • He shot 54% from the field last year, which is serviceable, but also largely useless, since he only averaged two shots per game.
  • Did I mention that he’s tall?

None of these traits are mind-blowing, by any means. Certainly, the Timberwolves will be well-served having a better shot-blocker on the roster, particularly one not named Darko Milicic (also: someone who might actually give a crap). But Stiemsma’s only position is center, meaning that whenever he is in, Nikola Pekovic, who is much more productive, will be out.

This is the dilemma of Stiemsma, and it’s really not much of a dilemma. It’s much more important to play a productive player than it is to play an unproductive player who might prevent the opposing team from being productive. And honestly, aside from his shot-blocking, Stiemsma isn’t an elite defensive presence. He had a very high defensive rating, but much of that was a byproduct of the team he played for. He got lost on rotations too often, and he certainly isn’t an elite athlete (let’s be honest: you knew that by looking at him).

But I don’t mean to be crapping all over the Stiemer, either. He’s a fun player, even if the fun is somewhat ironic (sort of like a new-school, even taller version of Brian Scalabrine). He tries really hard, even if he isn’t always very good. He DOES block a ton of shots, and the lack of a defensive presence in the paint really hurt the Wolves last season. So maybe he will have more of an impact than I’m anticipating.

He also had my favorite quote of the summer (as I mentioned back in my reaction to the Stiemsma signing):

“It feels good to be wanted,” Stiemsma said. ”It feels good to have all your hard work pay off.”

I don’t know how well Stiemsma will play this season, but I can tell you this: it will feel good to cheer for him.

Join the conversation on Twitter: #Twolfrank. Here’s the best comment on Greg Stiemsma!

T-Wolf Rank: #13: Malcolm Lee


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This is the first post in a new series here on Howlin’ T-Wolf ranking the Timberwolves roster player-by-player. Ideally, Tom or Derek will post a new player everyday for 13 days. As always, you can follow Derek on Twitter (@DerekJamesNBA) and Tom (@Tom_NBA) as well. 

After Tom and I figured out the order for this T-Wolf Rank project, he volunteered to begin it with Malcolm Lee unless I had some attachment to Lee. I casually played it off like I barely knew who Malcolm Lee was and told him that maybe it would be better for me to take Lee and him cover the next ranked player since he was more familiar with him. And now, here I am.

On the night Lee was drafted and traded for, I’ll admit, I had no clue who this guy out of UCLA was. Then I learned that he was a combo guard who was very capable on the defensive end. He may have been an average shooter as a Bruin, but even if he didn’t improve as a pro, that was fine because there were other scorers on the roster.

That was the very moment when I joined the Malcolm Lee bandwagon.

Then came the surgery, rehab, and D-League stint for Lee. But finally, those of us who had been holding our breaths to see if Lee could exhale as he made his NBA debut on March 10th against the Hornets. Well, we found out what a rookie with no training camp who is recovering from surgery looks like as Lee played just five non-descript minutes, but at least showed some decent defense. That game sure didn’t help the Wolves fans who didn’t understand the Malcolm Lee hype beforehand.

I was at that game, and later that night, I would learn something that eventually caused my relationship with my girlfriend of several months at the time (Who bought us the tickets) to begin to unravel. So yeah, there is some level of association or attachment for me with Malcolm Lee.

As for Lee’s future, it’s difficult to use his rookie season as a predictor since it’s just a 19 game sample in a lockout shortened season. It will be fairer to reassess Lee after a full season with a training camp and preseason. Then we can ask, “Is he a better shooter than his .390/.200/.824 shooting percentages indicate”; “Will his turnovers and fouls per 36 minutes come down”; and “Can he grow into a non-offensive liability despite his defensive potential”?

Until then, Malcolm is #13 in our very first #TwolfRank.