Category: Uncategorized

#TwolfRank: #10 Ronny Turiaf

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Minnesota’s most entertaining hair might not see much playing time this season.

Welcome to the second annual #TwolfRank. It’s one of our favorite times of the year, to say the least. I bring you the fourth 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.

For what it’s worth, when I submitted my votes for T-Wolf Rank, Ronny Turiaf was much lower on the list.

Turiaf isn’t a bad player despite being a solid doppelganger for Rafi from The League. In fact, he is a good player to have on a roster. He’s enthusiastic, engaged, interested in every game. He tries very hard. He’s good for a few highlight plays in a season, if by highlight plays you mean funny moments when someone does something well or an official makes a bad call and he goes beserk. But he probably isn’t talented enough to crack Minnesota’s regular rotation.

There will be plenty of highlight plays for Turiaf to lose his mind over this season, especially if #2 on this list (BET YOU CAN’T GUESS WHO) stays healthy. More specifically, there will probably be plenty of opportunities for Turiaf to freak out from the bench, because he won’t get a lot of minutes. Minnesota’s depth at center isn’t great, but Johnson and Dieng both project to be better rim protectors than Turiaf. What’s more, playing Dieng will likely prove to be a priority, since Dieng’s development will be an important factor going forward. Turiaf is a passable rebounder (12.9 TRB%), but frankly, Minnesota won’t need to worry about rebounding very much throughout the game thanks to #3 and #1 on this list (BET YOU STILL CAN’T GUESS WHO).

In most places he plays, despite lackluster statistics, Turiaf ends up getting minutes. He averaged 10.8 minutes per game last year despite a PER of 9.4 and a TS% of .485, which is abysmal for a big. For the most part, Turiaf gets on the floor by working his ass off, hustling constantly and being a solid teammate. One shouldn’t discount the importance of those things by any means, but it’s equally possible to overstate the impact.

Players like Turiaf don’t get a team into the playoffs, but every playoff team wants a player like Turiaf on the roster. That’s significant. He was a solid, if subtle, addition to the team.

@jacobjbg@Tom_NBA his skillset has been replicated by younger players, but he remains a valuable insurance policy, and can still be a spot starter
‏@JJDacotah@Tom_NBA big body, decent defender, willing passer, good teammate.
@the_real_gabby@Tom_NBA i think hes a great fit for a backup center. like mark madsen but with more talent.
most importantly, he can teach EVERY other center on the roster a thing or two. if he can jump a car, can pek crush one?
@_Verts@Tom_NBA He… hustles.
@JonMeerdink@Tom_NBA Tremendous yelling skills. Facial hair game always on point. Has crazy eyes.
@ProBskbllTalk@Tom_NBA heart, towel waving, bulky
@thedailywolf@Tom_NBA Awesome teammate & supreme towel waiver. Speaks 5 languages (French/English/Spanish/Italian/Creole) which may help team chemistry.

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: #13 Chris Johnson

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Chris Johnson will return to the Timberwolves, but is there enough room for him in the frontcourt?

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

Whenever a team has a flashy pass-first point guard (ie. Ricky Rubio in Minnesota, Rajon Rondo in Boston or Steve Nash in Los Angeles), adding an athletic big seems like a game-changer.

No matter how good or bad that particular big may have been throughout his career, the assumption is having a talented point guard will make an enormous difference since alley-oops are awesome. This assumption helped DeAndre Jordan earn nearly $11 million a year to finish lobs from Chris Paul and do…something else, presumably. Jordan’s potential is constantly talked up and rarely witnessed.

Chris Johnson — a D-League sensation for much of his career and, at this point, somewhat of an NBA journeyman — could never be accused of being overhyped. But the easy assumption to make is that he will very much benefit from playing with a healthy Ricky Rubio, and unlike DeAndre Jordan, both stats and video would suggest this could be the case. To be fair, anyone would have a fun year in lineups with Ricky Rubio, but you understand my point.

Johnson averaged 1 point per possession as a pick-and-roll roll man, per His sample size was small, just 36 attempts, but large enough to be a sample size. While one point per possession isn’t world-beating, it places Johnson 64th in the NBA. Not bad for a a D-League journeyman.

In a recent piece on Larry Sanders, NBA guru Zach Lowe’s lede discussed a hitch in Sanders’ game as a roll man. Sanders would hesitate just long enough to ensure maximum effectiveness on his screen before diving to the basket. This messed up the timing of the play, allowing Sanders’ defender to cut off the driver and recover onto Sanders before Milwaukee’s big man could fly to the basket for an easy dunk.

Johnson seems to have a similar hitch, but in his case, it almost seems necessary. Pencil-thin and easy to maneuver around, Johnson needs to ensure his ball-handler’s defender is at least inconvenienced before he dives to the basket. The good news is Johnson usually does a nice job of identifying gaps and getting into open space. Near the basket, especially with Rubio on the floor, this particular skills often ends with a dunk.

As is the wont for many pick-and-roll screeners, Chris Johnson has a tendency to pop a little more than is probably healthy. According to, Johnson’s 15-20 foot shooting percentage was 41.7% last year. At the rim, he shot a ridiculous 84.6% on 1.3 attempts per game. That’s not a ton of offense, but it’s extremely efficient.

It’s easy to love a player like Johnson. He works in perpetual motion, seemingly full of boundless energy, continuously running around setting extra screens. Sometimes one has to wonder if he is setting screens that are a part of the play or if he just feels like he isn’t helping enough by clearing out of the way. This can cause spacing problems, but used sparingly, it can also cause productive chaos as players are sprung free unexpectedly.

Johnson faces heavy competition for minutes in the front court. Gorgui Dieng, profiled nicely by Derek yesterday, might be a priority from a development standpoint. Ronny Turiaf has considerably more NBA experience. Smaller lineups may slot Love at center briefly. And, of course, Nikola Pekovic will eat up the lion’s share of minutes at center assuming he stays healthy (and I’m knocking furiously on wood as I write this).

So what can we expect from Johnson this season? Some DNP-CDs, to be sure, but probably a few games in which he is a productive player. A lot of screens. A lot of rolls. A few more pops than we’d like to see, especially since Minnesota already has a certain power forward who pick and pops as well as anyone in the league. Injury insurance if someone (heaven forbid) goes down.

Perhaps most relevant, we can probably around 5-10 minutes per game in which the offense looks a little confused, but occasionally brilliant. We can expect a decent target two or three times per game for Ricky Rubio’s seeing-eye assists.

That’s not going to be a game changer, but it could be a lot of fun.

@Tom_NBA johnson is the perfect 10 minute a game center who gives maximum effort and energy. limited roll, but can excel at it #twolfrank

@Tom_NBA I was encouraged to see Johnson’s passing ability in summer league. tiny sample size, but nice to see. will help him get minutes

-Gabby Dearth, @the_real_gabby

@Tom_NBA @howlintwolf he will never rush for 2000 yards again

-Dan Wolf, @hashtagtroll

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

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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.

Ricky Rubio having offseason fun

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Just thought you’d enjoy seeing our favorite point guard, Ricky Rubio, being all articulate in this Relativity Sports ad.

Happening in Vegas: Suns-Timberwolves Preview

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Good morning or afternoon, depending on where and when you’re reading this! Sitting in my hotel before heading down to Thomas & Mack Arena to watch the Timberwolves and Suns game, and I’m happy to announce the coffee has kicked in for what should be another productive day out here. Hold on. There is one thing I need to address first:

Today’s game will not be broadcast in real time. It will be shown on tape delay tomorrow, Tuesday, July 16th, at noon CST. If you want to watch it in real time, while I don’t readily know where you could, you’ll just have to get resourceful in finding it. Otherwise, feel free to tweet me any questions you have about the game, because I probably know that stuff.

Now, this seems weird to do a preview for a Summer League game, and so far I’ve just rambled for 150 words, but the Suns have a few players of interest heading into this afternoon’s game. The Suns managed to acquire three underwhelming recent lottery picks : Kendall Marshall (13th overall in 2012); Marcus Morris (14th overall in 2011); Markieff Morris (13th overall in 2011). Guard Diante Christmas and forward Archie Goodwin are two other names of note, if for no other reason than hearing them mentioned in passing once or twice.

For the Timberwolves, all eyes will once again be on Shabazz Muhammad. It’ll be cool to see if Chris Johnson, Robbie Hummel and rookie Lorenzo Brown can continue to build that on-court chemistry together. Johnson midrange game, especially in the pick ‘n pop, was really fantastic on Saturday. And since I’d like to have a feel-good Monday at the arena, we hope to see Robbie Hummel do more good things.

Be sure to follow @DerekJamesNBA on Twitter for live, up-to-the-minute updates on the game straight from media row. Of course, there will be a recap to follow as well.

Kobe Bryant plays clutch “defense” on Ricky Rubio as Lakers beat Timberwolves

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We will have a full recap up tomorrow at some point, but for tonight, I feel like this play warrants discussion. As Lakers and Timberwolves game wound down tonight, Kobe Bryant clutchly missed a free throw with three seconds left, giving the Wolves a chance to tie. Rubio grabbed the rebound and flew up the court, ready to toss up one final attempt at the buzzer. Then the above happened. Here’s a freeze frame.

Screen shot 2013-03-27 at 11.37.08 PM
The forearm is part of the ball?

Minnesota’s Fox Sports North announcers were not shy in voicing their displeasure, and neither were Ricks Rubio and Adelman. It’s not hard to see why; there was a lot of contact, and the contact clearly affected Rubio’s shot. The likelihood of Rubio hitting either the 3-pointer or the three free throws should be completely immaterial. If it was a foul, it should have been called as such. You can now bet on NBA Playoffs, odds are already available at Top Bet.

Now to be fair, officials are not given the option to go back and look if plays were fouls or not. This may have been difficult to see in real time (I’m being very generous here). Further, games are very rarely decided by the officiating, and this game is no different. Certainly, a bad no-call in the final seconds affected the outcome, but there’s a difference between a bad no-call affecting and deciding the game. The Lakers shot considerably better than the Wolves both from the 3-point line and from the field in general. If Minnesota shot or defended better, they could have won without the benefit of a questionable call.

But that doesn’t change the fact that there is something very wrong with a system in which a referee does not feel comfortable making what was clearly the right call as time expires. Certainly, Kobe is a superstar, and he is one of the most popular players in the league, but his status doesn’t shouldn’t elevate him above the common rules of the game (rules like “You can’t swat a guy across his arms to prevent him from getting a real look at a potentially game-tying shot”).

Rubio probably wouldn’t have made that shot (which, incidentally, makes Kobe’s alleged foul a really stupid basketball play). He probably wouldn’t have made his three free throws to send the game into overtime. But he deserved the chance, and for a franchise that hasn’t seen a victory against the Lakers in 22 tries, this leaves a particularly bitter taste behind.

Oh, and Kobe had this to say, per ESPN.

“That’s not a foul. They ain’t calling that s—,” Bryant said. “I don’t think I got him. That’s a tough call to make. I just put my hand in. It’s not like I went out and smacked him across the arm or anything like that. It is what it is.”

Would Bryant have been “surprised” if a foul was called?

“No. We would have gone into overtime and won the game. It’s as simple as that.”

Allow me to make one addendum: They ain’t calling that s— on YOU, Kobe. You and maybe two other players won’t get called for that. I hope you realize how lucky that makes you.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

Here are a few truly flagrant fouls

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This is definitely a flagrant foul.

This is definitely a flagrant foul.

This is definitely a flagrant foul.

This is definitely a flagrant foul.

So after seeing all of this basketball violence, by my reasonable, unbiased and totally not-fallacious-at-all reasoning, I think we can definitively say that JJ Barea’s flagrant 2 should be downgraded and the Wolves got screwed. Thanks a lot refs, you big jerks.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

Shot down: Timberwolves outlast Hawks 108-103

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In case you missed it, Nikola Pekovic is REALLY good at basketball.

Two Positives:

Tom: What more can you say about Nikola Pekovic? He posted a 2011-12 Kevin Love box score line tonight, dropping 25 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. But the best part about good Pekovic nights is his efficiency. Since so many of Pek’s baskets come right at the rim from P&R plays, he ends up shooting 50-60% quite frequently, and tonight was no exception.

But what interests me most about Pek is the way the Timberwolves still feel comfortable going to him late in the game. Leading by just a point, the Wolves tossed him the ball in the post and allowed him to go to work. Often it seems like defenses collapse too much to allow post plays to be very effective, but Pek turned and fired up a baby hook of sorts. Josh Smith swatted it away much too late and was correctly called for goal-tending. The Wolves will need more games like tonight from Pekovic if they want to stay in playoff contention without Kevin Love.

Derek: There was one big reason for the Wolves’ hot start, and that was Derrick Williams’ ability to make jumpers. Sure, he got Rubio four assists, but it wasn’t always a certainty he’d make those shots in the past. You know the Timberwolves’ all-time record when Derrick makes three or more three-pointers in a game? 5-1

Even on the other end, Derrick continued to show some quality defense. I wouldn’t call it elite, but you can see the difference in the eye test and with just about every defensive metric known to man. Surprisingly, defense has been Derrick’s redeeming quality thus far. In fact, per 48 minutes (Sorry, Jim Pete.), Derrick is holding opposing fours to a PER of 9.4 while posting an ok PER of 14.4. He’s also holding the other team’s power forwards to 0.7 fewer points per 100 possessions, 94.1-93.4. Now, if he gets the offense down consistently, Williams could develop into a nice player.

Williams finished 7/13 with 17-1-1 on the night, including 13 first half points.

Two Negatives:

Tom: The only reason the Hawks were as close as they were at the end of the game was because Kyle Korver knocked down a pair of threes that brought them within striking distance. Korver hits threes, certainly; it’s kind of his thing. And the second three was a pretty nice play, as Korver got a well-timed pass coming off a nice screen. But on the first one, Andrei Kirilenko lost track of Korver which just SHOULD NOT happen late in a game.

Derek: Lou Williams had 21-8-4 tonight and nearly stole the game single-handedly. LOU WILLIAMS!!!1!

Two Observations:

Tom: Dante Cunningham came through when it mattered, if there is a time when “it” matters “more.” His final minute made up for an inefficient shooting night (3-9, six points), knocking down a huge mid-range jumper and coming up with a steal on an inbound pass. All’s well as ends well, Dante.

Derek: We had seen some inexplicable slow starts from this team off of rest before, and they would be without Kevin Love, so it was going to be interesting to see how they came out at home. But they came right out of the gate against the Hawks looking refreshed, and focused. They led by double digits for most of the game before making this one close late, but they played some really good basketball for about 42 minutes tonight, including the final minute.

Notes: After the game, Larry Drew called the Hawks “soft” to reporters…Rick Adelman was excused from tonight’s game for family reasons, and Terry Porter handled coaching duties…Tonight was the first game in a five game/seven night stretch that leaves them with a quick turnaround in Oklahoma City tomorrow…Lazar Hayward was re-signed to another 10-day contract before tonight’s game.

Ricky Rubio comes up short on an alley-oop attempt

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There’s been a lot of (well-deserved) negativity surrounding the Wolves today (read Jonah’s post directly below this one), so I’ll post this video I took last night at the Wolves/Rockets game during warm-ups. Frankly, I think it’s hilarious and we could all probably use a laugh (put it on mute, the sound got messed up during the upload).

I can’t tell which is funniest:

  1. Rubio isn’t even close. And it’s not that he muffed the catch or something…he never gets high enough to throw it down. This looks like my buddy who is CONVINCED that on the next dunk attempt he’s going to put it home, even though we can all see that he’s at LEAST three inches away from being able to dunk.
  2. He starts to do his little cocky hop-skip away after the play like he just threw down over Roy Hibbert. Shake it off Ricky, shake it off.
  3. JJ Barea, of all people, is the person who you can see in the background laughing at him. That’s how you know you messed up: Even JJ Barea is laughing at your dunk attempt. Yikes.

All in all, I think we can agree that Rubio, in true Christmas spirit, is much better at giving than receiving, and honestly, he just seems happier to be passing. At least, that’s what I’m inferring from this face. You can draw your own conclusions.Screen shot 2012-12-27 at 5.44.25 PM

Stick to that Ricky. <3 you.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

The Benefits of Patience: Wolves at Magic Preview

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Where: Amway Arena

When: 6 pm (Central Time)

See it: Fox Sports North

Hear It: WCCO-AM 830

Last year was a rough one, as I’m sure you recall. For a team that relied heavily on one superstar, one rookie and one breakout role player, the Wolves performed admirably, staying in the playoff hunt well into March. Then Ricky Rubio’s knee happened, Kevin Love’s (insert any of several minor but debilitating injuries but most notably his concussion) happened, Nikola Pekovic’s ankles happened, and suddenly the team was borderline unwatchable and the idea of making the playoffs was laughable. Suddenly, we were cheering for the Utah Jazz because we wanted their mediocre draft pick. Not fun times.

And yet we kept watching, and we marveled at what might have happened if Kahn had surrounded his superstars with real role players and real talent. What if Love and Rubio hadn’t been forced to carry the Wolves on their respective shoulders in every single game before their injuries? What if the rest of the team had been better, allowing Love and Rubio to rest, or even (gasp) have a bad game?

Tonight, we will get preliminary, very unfinished answers to those questions, since Kevin Love’s flu set him back during Ricky’s debut. Rubio isn’t at full health yet by any means. Neither is Love. But they don’t have to be for Minnesota to win.

That’s not a knock on Orlando. The Magic have been impressive, given their circumstances, beginning the year 10-13 and playing competitive basketball consistently, even in losses. Young players like Andrew Nicholson give Orlando hope for the future, and the excellent coaching of Jacque Vaughn gives the Magic an oft-entertaining, competitive product on the court. Minnesota is quite likely to have its hands full.

But the Wolves are much, much better than last year. Andrei Kirilenko has been an All-Star, whether he makes the trip to Houston as a participant or not. Shved has been a revelation. Dante Cunningham went from barely on our radars to key contributor. The reliable returnees (Ridnour and…Barea? I guess?) have continued to be reliable.

Ever since December 15 came and went, the ESPN Trade Machine has been hard at work, as fans post their favorite trade scenarios all over Twitter. But there’s a reason trades take a while to formulate. GMs put their teams together in the offseason with a goal in mind, and (as was pointed out to me on Twitter today) more often than not, that goal isn’t to acquire trade assets. It’s because they believe that their teams can win games. Panic trades often hurt and rarely help. But the Wolves are a team that may require patience, and will continue to require patience, because even if they struggle early integrating Love and Rubio, the potential for an amazing final product is there. As long as the team seems to be making steps toward that goal, we should embrace them in their current form.

Welcome back, Kevin and Ricky. We have been waiting (and waiting and waiting and waiting).

Projected starters:

Jameer Nelson — PG — Luke Ridnour

Aaron Afflalo — SG — Alexei Shved

Moe Harkless — SF — Andrei Kirilenko

Glen Davis — PF — Kevin Love

Nikola Vucevic — C — Nikola Pekovic

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.