"The Timberwolves vs. conventional wisdom"

A truly fascinating article on Truehoop written by Ben Polk over at A Wolf Among Wolves has really dissected everything that is right and wrong about these Wolves, and some ways we could fix it by the help of some serious statiticians.

Ben starts off by addressing the general public because they are the ones who often have an off-kilter perception of this franchise and its players. They’re the ones that look at our dismal 6-21 record and assume our team is as bad as last year’s — which they’re clearly not. They’re ultimately the beholders of this conventional wisdom that the Timberwolves have been bad, they’re bad now, and always will be very bad.

But to their untrained eye, — and even their demise — Ben has found some things that have significantly turned around for the better this season. Among those being the clearly positive development of Kevin Love and the resurrection of Mike Beasley, who may turn into one of the league’s most dynamic scorers. But maybe more importantly, the Wolves season entails other characters who have helped mightily along the way and factor into being an integral part in this franchise’s corner-turning season.

A complete 180-change from last year to this season is the level of athleticism each player has. The additions of Wes Johnson and Anthony Tolliver, as well as the on-going development of Corey Brewer, have increased our level of athleticism tenfold compared to last season. They’ve also found some strong veteran leaders to help guide this team when they wander astray. Luke Ridnour and Martell Webster are leaders on the court and use their experience and basketball i.q. to follow through on what they think is best for the team.

As a fan that actually watches this team on a nightly basis, I’m understanding the process it takes to go through a rebuilding phase — And it’s not easy, let me tell you that. Developments and enhancements in areas like athleticism and veteran-savvy are important. That’s why people looking from the outside in, who have a skewed look into who the Timberwolves really are, just ridicule and retort the Wolves because they don’t understand the current nature of this franchise. They fail to grasp what this team has truly overcome already compared to last year’s squad.

But some people, properly dubbed analysts for the most part, look deeper into our fluid situation. Mathmeticians like Wayne Winston and David Berri dive deep into the depths that is world of advanced statistics and configure new ways to harp, or praise, a team. Based on the facts I laid above about the current developments and improvements on this year’s squad, both Winston and Berri believe the Wolves could be substantially better if a few, simple lineup tweaks were to be made.

Let’s go through what those tweaks could be and analyze what Ben, Winston and Berri all had to say:

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Be like Dennis?

I’m sure you all remember the glory days of the NBA. Michael Jordan and the Bulls were a true dynasty that provided some of the greatest memories the NBA has to offer. Guys like MJ, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman all compartmentalized their game to form a near unbeatable team during the mid-to-late 90’s. MJ was, well, MJ. Pippen was the ultimate sidekick who seemed to do everything right. And Rodman was like Mr. Clean when it came to keeping the glass shining (Too corny?)

Well unlike the Bulls, the Wolves are obviously missing some pieces (i.e. the MJ and the Pippen). But in Kevin Love, the Wolves have a Rodman-like rebounder that plays a huge advantage in their favor.

Rodman had a brilliant career. He had a minimal post game to speak of, if any at all, but his job on the court wasn’t to score anyways. His role was to be mean, grab rebounds and entice fear into the eyes of his opponents (Trust me, he did this freakishly well).

When you look at Rodman’s numbers, it’s quite astonishing. During the ’95-’96 season, Rodman posted a career high and league best offensive rebounding percentage with 20.83%. That means Rodman was estimated to rip down nearly 20% of the available offensive rebounds through that season.

In his ’92-’93 season, Rodman posted another career high and a league best defensive rebounding percentage when he grabbed 36.78% of all available defensive rebounds when he was on the court.

Through just 11 games this season, we’ve seen some outrageous numbers from Love in terms of rebounding. His 31 rebound game last Friday grabbed attention on a national level, when ESPN acknowledged his effort and rewarded him with the front page headline.

Now I understand that 11 games isn’t near the full sample size of 82 games like Rodman’s numbers had to withstand, but just to give you a realistic view on his progress thus far this season, Love has an ORB% of 17.63% and a DRB% of 34%. That should be rather impressive because it leads the league currently . . . By a lot, in terms of the DRB%.

He’s on pace to post the 5th best DRB% in a single season since the ABA days. Maybe even more impressive, and to give you a better idea of where he fits in on the all-time scale, the guys above of him are Ben Wallace, Bill Walton and, of course, Rodman himself. That’s some pretty good company if you ask me.

Rebounding is a key, fundamental skill in basketball. And in today’s fast-paced style of game, players don’t play nearly as many minutes and aren’t always likely to be in the right position to grab rebounds when there are a lot more shots being put up. But Love has adjusted to his role and, when given the proper amount of minutes, can post these daunting numbers and help the team produce some wins.

And, ultimately, it’s all about the wins.