Category: Uncategorized

Shabazz Muhammad tweets cryptic picture of new Wolves jerseys

Deprecated: Function eregi_replace() is deprecated in /home/howlintw/public_html/wp-content/themes/blaskan/functions.php on line 543

Here’s the tweet, and here’s a list of things we know about this jersey:

  • The part pictured is awesome.
  • The Wolves will play in it tonight against the Nuggets.
  • It looks really clean.

Here’s a list of things we don’t know:

  • Is it sleeved? (Shouts to @xThugNastyx for pointing out to me that the top of the right hand picture doesn’t appear to have the arm hole of a sleeveless jersey)
  • Are those mountains or W’s along the side?
  • Will Shabazz peel off his warm-ups at any point so we can see bazzketball/this particular jersey?
  • Is it possible (UNPOPULAR OPINION ALERT) that this jersey could look cool even with sleeves?


Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

Timberwolves destroy Brooklyn Nets 111-81

Deprecated: Function eregi_replace() is deprecated in /home/howlintw/public_html/wp-content/themes/blaskan/functions.php on line 543
For the first time in his career, Love won the battle of the Kevins.

For the second consecutive game I’ve attended at the Target Center (I was there for Saturday’s match-up with Boston as well), the Wolves obliterated a struggling Eastern Conference opponent last night, knocking off the Brooklyn Nets 111-81, and somehow that score seems closer than the game.

Let’s be clear about two things: First, the Nets are awful right now. Second, that doesn’t necessarily take away from what Minnesota accomplished.

There are a lot of problems in Brooklyn, and a lot of them seem to be stemming from the coaching staff. The Nets ran much of their offense through Paul Pierce and Andre Blatche, and three years ago, that would have been half of a good idea. Joe Johnson got a lot of touches and baskets in the second and third quarters, but by the time he had heated up, the Wolves were up by 20 or more. If you want to make some NBA bets, book it on

This is not what Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce signed up for when they joined this squad. Admittedly, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Andrei Kirilenko are hurt (as is Jason Terry, but believe me: I watched Boston last year, and he isn’t helping this team), but the Nets’ offense was uncomfortable and robotic last night. Most of it was built around pick-and-rolls on one side of the court, as well as something that resembled the Triangle. If a play started on one side of the court, it was incredibly unlikely to travel to the other side. This stagnant, stiff offense allowed the Wolves to get their hands in passing lanes, either to steal the ball or deflect it which led to a lot of throwaways.

Minnesota, meanwhile, executed…sufficiently. The Wolves didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (41.2 percent to Brooklyn’s 39.7), but they got an absurd amount of second-chance opportunities with 17 offensive rebounds. In addition, they scored 17 fast break points and 22 points on Brooklyn’s 20 turnovers.

One of the fun things about this season, however, has been how little explanation some of these wins have needed. In a lot of games in 2013-14, the Wolves are just simply better than their opponent. It’s a nice change.

Some bullets:

  • Another exercise in “ASDFKJDFSKDF Kevin Love stat lines”: 17 points, 16 points in 28 minutes. Love very well might have recorded another 20-20 game if he had played the fourth quarter, but none of the starters for either squad played in the final frame.
  • Cut Robbie Hummel some slack for that 1-for-8 shooting performance from 3-point range. His shots were almost all corner 3-point attempts, which are usually nice for him. He just hit a cold spell in the fourth quarter that he couldn’t shake.
  • I was at the game with my dad, and I mentioned how much I missed Rubio-to-Derrick Williams alley-oops. Williams entered the game late in the third quarter, and Rubio ALMOST connected with him, but Williams flubbed the catch before recovering and laying the ball in. In the fourth, Barea and Williams got out on a fast break, and Williams climbed the stairs to throw down a monster slam, but nothing was the same. Drake knows.
  • The Wolves played a Blurred Lines parody starring Nikola Pekovic at one point which went completely over my head until someone explained it to me. I’m old, shut up.
  • Corey Brewer got a wide open 3-point look in the corner on Minnesota’s first possession, and that seemed to spark him from downtown, as he finished 3-for-6 and tallied 15 points.
  • Kevin Garnett got: Two (2) standing ovations, eight (8) points, one (1) flagrant foul and one (1) technical. Both the technical and the flagrant came right on top of each other and seemed to stem from frustration more than anything (it’s hard to blame him). But Love’s response was pretty priceless: “That’s kind of vintage KG, just tried to get himself going, himself into the right mind frame. I just didn’t really care.”

Screen Shot 2013-11-23 at 10.50.03 AM


After resting their starters for the entire fourth quarter, one would hope the Wolves will be somewhat fresh for their match-up with Houston tonight. I won’t be in attendance though, so maybe there is cause for concern.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

Wolves at Clippers Preview: Kevin Love helps frail old men

Deprecated: Function eregi_replace() is deprecated in /home/howlintw/public_html/wp-content/themes/blaskan/functions.php on line 543

The Wolves played last night, the Clippers are very good, Doc Rivers is coaching, this will be a tough game. This has been your preview. And now, the movies!

All I know is that if Jay Bilas needed something off his shelf, he would NOT call Blake Griffin. Griffin’s wingspan just won’t get it done against taller, longer shelves.

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

When: 8:30 pm CST

See/Hear it: FSN and WCCO AM 830

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

Wolves crush Lakers 113-90

Deprecated: Function eregi_replace() is deprecated in /home/howlintw/public_html/wp-content/themes/blaskan/functions.php on line 543
The last time the Wolves beat the Lakers…well…you already know.

On March 6, 2007, the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Los Angeles Lakers 117-107 in double overtime. Ricky Davis scored 33 points to lead the Wolves, while Kevin Garnett added 26. Marko Jaric scored 12.

In 2007, Jim Carrey was starring in a mediocre thriller called “The Number 23,” and Jonah Hill was drawing genitalia in “Superbad.” An Avril Lavigne album was the top-selling record overseas.

In 2007, Florida won its second consecutive NCAA men’s basketball championship on the strength of big men Al Horford and Joakim Noah, as well as a scrappy wing named Corey Brewer.

You know where I’m going with this lede. All of these things happened in 2007, which was the last time the Wolves beat the Lakers, as will no doubt be pointed out ad nauseum over the next couple days. And that’s fine. But more important than the end of the streak — much more important, in fact — was the way Minnesota snapped it.

Maybe “snapped” is the wrong word. “Obliterated”? “Demolished?” Whatever. What matters is that the Wolves crushed the Lakers 113-90, riding a historic first quarter for 48 minutes to claim a big win.

Just how historic was that first quarter? Take a look at some of these numbers, from the Wolves PR team:

  • The 47 points bested the franchise record for points in a quarter.
  • Minnesota scored a franchise-record 47 points on 16-of-21 shooting. The Wolves missed their first two shots of the game and went 16-of-19 to close out the quarter. The Wolves ended the quarter on a 30-9 run over the final 6:06.
  • The 47 points were just three off the league record for most points in a first quarter. It was just the 28th time in league history a team had scored 47+ points in the first quarter.
  • As a team the Wolves hit on 7-of-9 attempts from long range in the first quarter – Love 4-of-5 and Martin 2-of-2.

If NBA Jam developers were writing code, they would have made sure either Kevin Martin or Love missed a little more in that first quarter. They were unrealistically, unbelievably hot. And although they cooled off eventually, the Lakers would never get closer than 14.

Putting aside the first quarter (with difficulty), let’s get to some real bullet points:

  • We are nearly 400 words into this recap without mentioning that Ricky Rubio finished with a high-quality triple-double. Rubio tallied 12 points, 10 boards and 14 assists, shooting 5-for-9 from the floor and 2-for-2 from 3-point range. His shooting was probably unsustainable, but his passing was excellent, and he bothered the Lakers into turnovers repeatedly, finishing with five steals.
  • Nikola Pekovic had fairly solid game, scoring 14 points and pulling down seven rebounds. He seemed to get into the flow around the basket a little better as time went on.
  • Minnesota’s defense, for the most part, was EXCELLENT. The Lakers finished with 18 turnovers, and although I wasn’t keeping track, the vast majority were forced by Wolves defenders sneaking up behind bigs for steals or getting their into passing lanes. Steve Blake, of all people, managed to light the Wolves up at times and finished with a team-high 19 points on 11 field goal attempts. But a big part of the reason the Wolves were so successful on the break (19 fast break points, according to ESPN who usually guesses such things very conservatively) was because the defense was stealing the ball and creating transition opportunities.
  • Here’s another reason the transition offense was working so well:

  • Playing Minnesota would be STRESSFUL for a defense. You have to be paying attention every single second on both ends because A) If you fall asleep on defense, Rubio will make you pay B) If you fall asleep on offense, Corey Brewer is leaky like a faucet and C) Kevin Love. See above.
  • The only rainy cloud on this otherwise sunny game: All five starters played more than 30 minutes in a blowout because the bench couldn’t really hold the lead. This wouldn’t be a big deal except the Wolves play the better of the two LA teams tomorrow night in Staples as well.

Minnesota is good this season. The Lakers are not. It wasn’t tough to project that this would be the year the Wolves ended the drought. But after all of the melodrama, it was nice to see Minnesota drain the tension from the beginning.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

Mavericks at Timberwolves Preview: What WHAT

Deprecated: Function eregi_replace() is deprecated in /home/howlintw/public_html/wp-content/themes/blaskan/functions.php on line 543

Somehow, all of us at Howlin T-Wolf are a little busy tonight, so in lieu of a real preview, here’s exclusive footage of the Mavericks locker room before every game.

Very important: Dirk Nowitzki’s thong sandals and untucked jersey. GUESS what DAY IT is!

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

Gorgui Dieng shows flashes as a rim defender

Deprecated: Function eregi_replace() is deprecated in /home/howlintw/public_html/wp-content/themes/blaskan/functions.php on line 543

Gorgui Dieng is an afterthought for most Wolves fans at the moment.

That’s probably fair. After all, the three scenarios in which he receives minutes at the moment are 1) The Wolves are up by 20 late in the game, 2) Ronny Turiaf is injured, Pek needs a break and Dante Cunningham is using the restroom or 3) Ronny Turiaf is injured and the Wolves are up by 20 late in the game.

He is by no means an offensive weapon yet, although his growth is probably a little bit stunted by playing with JJ Barea. If/when SportVU technology releases the “Players who dribble away from the screen in a pick-and-roll” stat, the category will probably be led, written and sponsored by Barea. But even when Barea ignores Dieng’s attempts to screen, Dieng is enthusiastically rolling to the baskets, and he’s obviously trying to get more comfortable in that particular set.

But that’s not why Wolves fans can be encouraged by Dieng’s early play. In limited minutes on the defensive end, Dieng has quietly been demonstrating why the Wolves saw fit to just snap him up 21st in the draft, instead of trading down and gambling they could get him.

Stats first: Dieng has played in three games and is averaging 7.8 minutes per game. He has tallied three blocks in those three games, but according to’s new SportVU statistics, Dieng is allowing opponents to shoot just 40% at the rim. Dieng’s sample size is clearly small enough to invite questions, but there is visual evidence that his defense could eventually be extremely solid in the NBA.

Before we begin lauding Dieng, we should point out that, at the moment, he’s averaging 15.7 fouls per 36 minutes. Carrying that out, he would foul out two and a half times per game as a regular contributor. His small sample size is obviously inflating that number, but he is still trying to understand what is and isn’t called in an NBA game.

But that last sentence is important: He’s still TRYING to understand. After committing his third personal foul by burying his arm in Jermaine O’Neal’s back (it was a fairly weak call, but one for which rookies will rarely get the benefit of the doubt), Dieng was extremely frustrated. But when Jermaine O’Neal went back to the exact same spot, we see Dieng throwing his arms up to make it obvious he isn’t fouling anyone.

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 7.13.34 AMThe result? O’Neal is forced to pass out of the post. Klay Thompson ends up with the ball and drives to the basket late in the shot clock. Once again, Dieng is alert.

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 7.13.55 AM

Thompson goes to the opposite side of the basket, but Dieng covers a lot of ground and is long enough to send Thompson’s shot away with a highlight-reel rejection.

Moving out of order through the clips in the video above, the first clip shows a similar court awareness. Dieng is committed to help defense, even when it’s difficult to get to the offensive player.

Klay Thompson breaks up Golden State’s set a little bit by simply beating Alexey Shved off the dribble (not for the last time). Toney Douglas is in the lane to screen Dieng off O’Neal, which ends up turning into a screen to prevent Dieng from helping on Thompson.

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 7.12.57 AM

By this point, the Wolves have swarmed the paint, and Thompson’s shot was going to be difficult anyway, but Dieng fights through the screen by Douglas and rejects it with his elbow.

The other clips above are essentially confirmation of what we knew about Dieng coming out of college. At Louisville, Dieng intrigued NBA scouts by blocking 3.2 shots per 40 minutes and by anchoring the top-ranked defense in the country. His muscular 6’11 frame and his 7’4 wingspan, as well as his quick feet and leaping ability, give him all of the tools to be a solid individual defender. Young big men often get into foul trouble (just ask Nikola Pekovic), and they often straighten themselves out. If Dieng can prove himself capable of understanding help defensive schemes in addition to his solid individual defensive abilities, he could be a tough rim protector for Minnesota.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

Lang Whitaker: Ricky Rubio looks “noticeably bigger”

Deprecated: Function eregi_replace() is deprecated in /home/howlintw/public_html/wp-content/themes/blaskan/functions.php on line 543
This photo, from Feb 2012, may not be accurate anymore.

In his first two seasons, Ricky Rubio surprised many fans and analysts by being a solid defender. One of the many incorrect stereotypes of European players is that they don’t have the speed or tenacity to hang with NBA-level talent on the defensive end, and Ricky Rubio disproved that by moving his feet smartly and using his excellent length to disrupt ball-handlers.

But Rubio has never sported a very impressive frame. Although sites like DraftExpress pointed out that his frame could carry NBA muscle, he always remained thin, despite two years in the NBA presumably on an NBA training schedule. Last offseason was essentially a wash as Rubio spent all of his energy recovering from his ACL injury. This offseason was Ricky’s first chance to really add to his body.

On’s Hang Time Podcast, Lang Whitaker revealed that he saw Rubio looking “big” in June. Save your muscle-watch jokes. Whitaker himself participates in the #MuscleWatch idea on Twitter, laughing at all of the articles claiming a team’s player has “lost 15 pounds!” or “added 15 pounds of muscle!” or “come to camp in the best shape of his life!” If Whitaker says Rubio looks bigger, he probably looks bigger.

From the podcast:

He’s big. I saw him in June and he was big. He was wearing a tight tank top. I asked him if he was trying to show off, and he laughed and said “Yes.”

He said he has never lifted weights his entire career. He always thought he needed to be fast not strong to be a point guard. Last year he got pushed around so much he thought “Maybe I do need some muscle.” He looked noticeably bigger.

You read correctly: According to Whitaker, Rubio said he has NEVER lifted before.

It’s not necessarily unprecedented. At Summer League in 2012, I overheard an exchange between then-Pistons coach Lawrence Frank and Detroit center Andre Drummond. Frank asked Drummond if he had lifted weights at UConn. Drummond shook his head, and Frank nodded, looking like he had expected as much.

Some of these guys, for whatever reason, haven’t lifted weights. This isn’t a knock against Rubio’s preparedness to this point — he certainly works extremely hard on other areas of his game. It’s just that weight training, apparently, has not been a part of his regiment until now.

Much has been made by many writers (including myself on this site) about how Rubio will shoot this season, and whether he can make an offensive leap. But if Whitaker is correct and Rubio has added some muscle, he could be a force on the defensive end. He doesn’t have exceptional quickness, but he managed to stay with some exceptionally quick guards. There was, however, no denying that Rubio wasn’t as strong as many NBA point guards, and with bull-like players such as Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams in the league, adding some muscle certainly can’t hurt.

We haven’t seen many pictures of Rubio coming out of training camp, and it’s going to be harder to feel out his size until we see him running and flexing in basketball action. But he looked broader in Media Day videos, and it will be fun to see how much improved strength helps him going forward.

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 9.23.04 AM
His shoulders certainly look bigger here.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

Chase Budinger sustained a “cartilage injury to the left knee.” Because of course he did.

Deprecated: Function eregi_replace() is deprecated in /home/howlintw/public_html/wp-content/themes/blaskan/functions.php on line 543
For whatever reason, the basketball Gods seriously hate Minnesota. Related: Chase Budinger is injured again.

Sigh. From‘s Mark Remme:

The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced that forward Chase Budinger sustained a cartilage injury to his left knee. Budinger will visit Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Alabama early next week. An update to Budinger’s status will be provided after that examination.

I’m going to list the reasons this doesn’t sound good. And then I’m going to go curl up in a comfy chair for a while and contemplate about how cruel the basketball gods are.

  1. “Cartilage” injuries are bad, bad, bad news. Lack of cartilage is what prevented Brandon Roy from coming back, and what will — inevitably — prevent Andrew Bynum from reaching his full potential (also: bowling).
  2. It’s his left knee again. Repeated knee injuries are bad, bad, bad news.
  3. Dr. James Andrews is the world-renowned doctor responsible for…well, just about every big-name knee surgery around. And while it’s certainly good that Budinger is getting examined by the best, it also doesn’t bode well that he’s traveling all the way to Alabama to have the best take a look at his knee.
  4. On a cold, unemotional note, Budinger is guaranteed $5 million per year for the next two seasons and has a player option on the third. The good news is that it’s in Minnesota’s best interest to make sure he’s healthy, so he won’t get jerked around at all. The bad news is, well, you know. Everything.

We will keep you updated as the story progresses, and we certainly wish Budinger the best in his recovery. But it appears that the injury bug likes the climate in Minnesota.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

Ricky Rubio’s jump shot: A closer look

Deprecated: Function eregi_replace() is deprecated in /home/howlintw/public_html/wp-content/themes/blaskan/functions.php on line 543
If trends are any indicator, Ricky Rubio missed this shot.

Over the past week or so, we have seen quite a few people take on the topic of Ricky Rubio’s scoring, a legitimate concern as the extremely talented-but-flawed point guard enters his third season in the league.

Zach Harper, on A Wolf Among Wolves, took a nice look at how Rubio could up his shooting percentage to 40% next season,  which would be a very modest improvement:

Ricky’s finishing in the restricted area has been pretty terrible in his first two seasons. Last year — granted while he was coming back from ACL surgery — Rubio made just 44.3% of his attempts in the restricted area. League average for guards was 56.6%. As stated above, average for point guards of top offenses over the past nine seasons has been 55.5%. If Rubio were to somehow improve to that 55.5% mark in the restricted area while still taking on average the same number of attempts he had the last two seasons, that alone would raise his field goal percentage to 39.1%, putting him right around that mark of 40%.

I highly recommend you go read the entire piece, as it’s chalk full of interesting information and worthwhile details like the paragraph above.

One of Harper’s points — and it’s a solid one — is that asking Rubio to improve to 40% doesn’t mean we are asking him to improve his jumper. All that’s required is he improves his shooting around the rim.

But Rubio’s jump shot, although it hasn’t shown a lot of improvement in his first two years, might not be unfixable. Watching his tape, he seems to have a few bad-but-fixable habits.

Here is Rubio’s shot chart from last season, per

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 9.05.23 PM

Clearly, his shooting isn’t great, or even good. Around the rim, he was abysmal, as Harper wrote in his article. But, interestingly, on long two-point attempts, Rubio shot .404 . That’s not an efficient percentage, but it indicates that he’s actually pretty solid from that range, even though it’s a shot most shouldn’t be taking.

For Rubio, however, shots from that distance are essential. Guards who can come off a screen-and-roll and be a legitimate threat from mid-range find themselves in position to score frequently, and for Rubio, the pick-and-roll was an important play even by point guard standards. According to, a staggering 42.8% of Rubio’s scoring plays last year were as a pick-and-roll ball handler, meaning if he felt confident firing away from mid-range, a screen could spring him.

Around the rim, Rubio is frequently off-balance, trying to put too much English on the ball off the backboard and fighting a losing battle. But off a pick-and-roll, Rubio often looked more comfortable getting set and firing up a shot (36% from the field per, 0.71 points per possession).

Let’s be clear: those numbers aren’t good. As a scoring pick-and-roll handler, Rubio was just 122nd in the NBA in points per possession. But going through his shot attempts from last season, there was a noticeable trend: When Rubio is able to square himself toward the hoop and land with his feet facing the basket, he was considerably more likely to knock down the shot. Take a look at a couple of examples:

In the first two clips, Rubio comes off a screen and gets both of his feet lined up immediately. In the third one, he is fading to his left a little bit, but he still lands facing the basket.

This held true pretty well throughout his attempts. Even when Rubio would be kind of off-balance, if his feet went up facing the hoop and came down in the same formation, the shot had a much better chance of going in. This shouldn’t be rocket science. Squaring up is a fundamental skill taught to potential wings at a very early age. But it’s interesting to note how much it helped a mediocre-at-best jump shooter like Rubio.

Rubio’s shooting splits also line up with something else notable: He seems to set himself best by far off the dribble. In spot-up attempts, per, Rubio shot 29.6% overall. He was so bad, in fact, that his poor 3-point shooting (31.7%) actually eclipsed his overall percentage, despite the fact that 3-point attempts made up just over half of his spot-up shots: 63 out of 121 spot-up field goal attempts were behind the arc.

It’s not a secret that Rubio is bad at spot-up shooting, and you can see defenses adjusting accordingly (which is part of the reason it’s so critical for him as a developing point guard to get some semblance of a jumper). At times, it got a little embarrassing how willing opponents were to hand the Wolves a good look from 3-point range.

But when you look at the video, Rubio’s form will tell you essentially everything you need to know about his spot-up shot at the moment.

I didn’t bother freezing any of the video in part because the hitch in his shot and his form is more pronounced when the tape is played continuously. Slowed down, Rubio appears to be doing fine on spot-ups. His body is square (in part because defenses give him weeks to set himself), his release is high enough and he gets some leg under his shot. But all of that is precisely the problem: He appears to be running through a mental checklist as he enters his shooting motion. You can sort of see him painfully lining the ball up with the basket and letting it go. It’s very rudimentary form.

The ironic thing is that when Rubio doesn’t seem to think about his spot-up very much (in that he just catches and fires immediately without lining it up beforehand), it looks a lot more natural (check his shot along the right baseline at about 0:57). Meanwhile, when he doesn’t take the time to set himself on his off-the-dribble jumpers…well…

My point is not that Rubio needs to develop his spot-up shot, at least not yet. Rather, it seems plausible that he could be a decent off-the-dribble shooter, and — as Zach Harper’s article pointed out — we aren’t asking for elite shooting. We are simply asking for decent mediocrity.

There’s no cure-all that will turn Ricky Rubio into the greatest point guard of his generation, but there are ways, seemingly, to improve his shooting percentages, which would go a long way towards pushing him into the conversation of elite point guards.

Ricky Rubio, right now, is not one of the 10 best point guards in the league. Minnesota needs him to be if they want to move beyond the designation of “low-rung playoff contender.” Rubio has the offensive awareness, the defensive tenacity and the basketball IQ to move into that list, but he isn’t there yet. We can only hope that, at some point, he figures out how to start making the jumpers fall.

The lay-ups too. If he went ahead and made a few shots around the rim, that would be ideal.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

#Twolf Rank: #7 Dante Cunningham

Deprecated: Function eregi_replace() is deprecated in /home/howlintw/public_html/wp-content/themes/blaskan/functions.php on line 543
Athletic and extremely hard-working, Cunningham quickly won Minnesota’s fans over.

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.

Dante Cunningham finds himself in a unique situation going into the 2013-14 season.

On the one hand, after setting himself apart from his peers with hustle plays, high-flying rebounds and inarguably the greatest mouthguard of all time, Cunningham can clearly play a solid role in Minnesota this season. He’s not a significant scorer (12.4 points per 36, 0.9 points per possession), but he has enough range to play a pick-and-pop game (Cunningham hit 41% of his shots from 16-23 feet in 2012-13, and 96% of those shots were assisted). He doesn’t have a post game (only 1.2% of his attempts last season were in post-up situations), but he’s solid as an offensive rebounder (he was 5th on the team in offensive rebound percentage and averaged 1.32 points per possession on the putbacks).

Cunningham is, in short, a solid player but not a starter on a playoff team. That’s not unique. What’s unique is how he will be measured against #8 on our T-Wolf Rank, Derrick Williams, because as of right now, Cunningham will — and should — be taking minutes away from Williams.

Not all of Williams’ minutes, mind you. Cunningham is an inferior scorer, which gives both players a role on the second unit. But since both are fairly limited to the power forward position, there isn’t a ton of extra playing time available. Figuring out who should be relieving Love off the bench, assuming Williams hasn’t made an unforeseen leap as a small forward, will be one of the biggest decisions Adelman faces in regards to his second unit.

But this post isn’t about Williams. It’s about Cunningham, and there’s obviously a lot to like.

For instance, this:

Also this:

And two-thirds of this:

The last video summarizes Cunningham just about as well as I could hope to manage. He is, at times, flawed (for instance: Dribbling escapes him, and he needs to get the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible). But those flaws are rarely prominent and often minimized (as evidenced by his chase-down swat), since Cunningham generally plays within his own skillset.

What’s more, his athleticism lends itself well to Minnesota’s guards. 16.7% of Cunningham’s offense came on cuts, according to which makes a lot of sense. Cuts are often an indicator that a player is athletic and hard-working. They are also a great way to create an efficient shot, especially when the player watching you cut is an elite passer like Ricky Rubio. It’s that kind of play that gives Dante Cunningham a lot of value.

He is, in short, absolutely the kind of player teams love to have.

For what it’s worth, that’s the second time in two posts I’ve said a player is “the type of player teams love to have.” That might be a good sign for Minnesota’s roster.

Here are your thoughts:

@the_real_gabby@Tom_NBA he’s a fan favorite who will hopefully lose out some time to D-will and small ball lineups.

a lineup with him, turiaf, brewer, budinger and rubio would make a fun, energetic, and hustle lineup. wont score, but would be fun

‏@ZacharyBD@Tom_NBA Really became a fan-favorite with some of his performances last season. Love the consistency he brings in the 2nd unit.

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.