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ESPN merely created the NBA Rank series to pass the down time that falls into place between the end of the offseason and the start of training camps around the league. Without it, it could perhaps be the most boring 2-3 weeks of the year concerning basketball. And now with it, we’ve quickly learned how the public is so fast to judge — including myself — the very players we watch on the court. It’s perhaps a bit wrong but it’s human nature to feel like our opinion is worthy and thus lists and rankings such as these are born.
I will admit they’re fun. This #TwolfRank series may have turned out to be the most entertaining and interactive thing we’ve ever done and HTW, and for that, we thank you. And now here’s a review of the Timberwolves’ showing in #NBArank and #TwolfRank.
404: Malcolm Lee | Score: 2.52 | 2011 Rank: 429 | TwolfRank: 13
Lee was the lowest player on the Timberwolves to be ranked. That’s no problem. Lee has been working hard in the gym just these last two weeks — first one to start working out here, actually. He’s the kind of player that has something to prove, and this UCLA Bruin just might be able to crack some minutes with the departure of Wayne Ellington. Oh, but now Alexey Shved’s here too. Well, patience is always key. He’ll get his turn. For now, Lee is a solid bench warmer that gives the Wolves depth at the guard spots that they didn’t last year with all the injuries.
353: Alexey Shved | Score: 2.86 | 2011 Rank: N/A | TwolfRank: 11
Shved’s a wildcard, and he plays that way too. You often never know what he’s gonna do next on the court. In that sense, he’s a lot like Rubio, but Wolves fans will see often see him at the 2-guard, if those minutes accumulate at all. Being the wildcard he is, coach Adelman may find it difficult when to throw him into the lion’s den. It could be early in the season because of Rubio’s injury and the need for a back-up shooting guard. Or maybe way later in the year just to give him more time to study and learn the game. Whichever it may be, he has a high ceiling and could become a real treat to watch for the next three seasons.
298: Dante Cunningham | Score: 3.33 | 2011 Rank: 311 | TwolfRank: 8
A journeyman to say the least, Cunningham came into his own last season after getting time with the Grizzlies with Zach Randolph missing a big chunk of the season. He’s a gritty bench presence with a hard-nose. The number one thing that Glen Taylor came out and said the Wolves needed this summer was a deeper frontcourt, one with length, athleticism but mostly toughness. Cunningham brings all three of those to the table and now has a good chance to step in as Kevin Love’s immediate backup with Derrick Williams’ alleged move from the 4 to the 3.
294: Louis Amundson | Score: 3.38 | 2011 Rank: 257 | TwolfRank: N/A
Freshly signed but still eager as hell, Amundson was seen working out at the Target Center the day after he signed. And he plays the game in that exact same way with a particular knack for rebounding. Amundson again solidifies the Wolves’ frontcourt depth along with Cunningham but also gives him some healthy competition at the same time. We never see “competitions” happen on the Wolves, usually because any player good enough just gets the minutes. Not anymore. This team is deeper than any I can remember in recent memory, which bodes well for the long, difficult push to make the 2013 NBA Playoffs.
270: Greg Stiemsma | Score: 3.58 | 2011 Rank: N/R | TwolfRank: 12
For the first time in David Kahn’s tenure, there will be two centers capable of holding down their own. No more Darko Milicic or Ryan Hollins. Stiemsma, although fairly unproven, spent last season in Boston learning from one of the game’s best interior defenders in Kevin Garnett. If even an ounce of that growth can plant itself here and eventually uproot, Stiemsma has a chance to become a great backup center in the league, one you never have to worry about. Stiemsma gives Pekovic support in the way a cleanup hitter backs up his 3-hitter. And did I mention he led the league in blocks per minutes last season? That’s something new for us.
194: Luke Ridnour | Score: 4.41 | 2011 Rank: 182 | TwolfRank: 6
This is a shameful ranking. For anyone who watched Timberwolves basketball last season would know that Ridnour was arguably the most versatile player on the team. He was asked to play shooting guard for a majority of the season alongside Ricky Rubio, which even meant him covering guys much taller than him (I vividly remember him shutting down Chandler Parsons, who’s 6’9″, at the Target Center). Ridnour is a nice guy with a controllable passion for the game. I believe he’ll be a big key moving forward this season as Rubio rehabs but don’t be surprised if he gets moved by the trade deadline. It’ll break all of our hearts but he’s a likely candidate, unfortunately.
145: Brandon Roy | Score: 4.85 | 2011 Rank: 59 | TwolfRank: 7
So, here we go. Roy consistently says that he’s knees feel great and he’s just getting himself in game shape. Most rational thinkers believe this is a high reward/low risk investment, which it is. Also, most rational thinkers that know anything about the sport’s hardships, without healthy knees, you’re not going to last the bumps and bruises of a long, reckoning season. We all want to see him succeed, but success in my mind is more along the lines of 25 minutes and 13 points per game. Or something along those lines. He believes he can one-up that and push it to starter’s minutes (30-35 mpg) and maybe even be the second-leading scorer on the team. Only time will tell. I’m just happy to see him playing basketball again.
139: Derrick Williams | Score: 4.93 | 2011 Rank: 196 | TwolfRank: 9
Somebody believes that Williams upcoming position swap will do wonders for his game. Is it worth a jump from 196 to 139? HTW doesn’t think so. But I still believe. Williams has all the tools to become a ferocious force, regardless of which position he plays. But he needs to slow the game down and stop settling for bad jumpers. We know he can hit them, but we also know he can drive at will and at least get to the free throw line. The latter heavily outweighs the former, and so to justify his newly dubbed ranking, he needs to perform and do it efficiently.
134: Juan Jose Barea | Score: 4.97 | 2011 Rank: 92 | TwolfRank: 10
I’m not sure if it was the transition from D-town to Minny or his wife’s pregnancy, but something was off with Barea all of last season. He clearly was not the same player we saw in the 2011 NBA Playoffs. But if he has any of that spark left, he could be the fire-starter off the bench that we need. With Ridnour the likely trade target from the backcourt, that means Barea will have to step up this year and prove he’s worth being here for another two years after that.
133: Chase Budinger | Score: 4.97 | 2011 Rank: 170 | TwolfRank: 5
Somehow, in some unimaginable way, Budinger was ousted out of Houston’s starting lineup in place of Chandler Parsons. Sure he was injured a little but to me, Budinger is one of those guys who does what he’s told and does it well, which makes losing his job a head-scratcher. His numbers last season were solid, not great but solid, including the oft-mentioned corner three-point shooting percentage he boasted last season. Budinger helps the Wolves in way Wesley Johnson couldn’t, which is a gift from God. He’ll be able to efficiently backup the 2 and 3 postions, giving Adelman all the flexibility in the world. It also doesn’t hurt that he has a great relationship with the coaching staff already.
105: Nikola Pekovic | Score: 5.34 | 2011 Rank: 395 | TwolfRank: 3
Pek jumped up 280 spots from last year to this year. That’s not enough. And if he isn’t higher on next year’s, and I’m talking in the top 40, Pek will literally rip someone’s face off. I don’t know if anyone has seen photos of his new slender, chiseled physique but they are nightmare-inducing. We saw Pek could throw bodies around last season, I can’t wait to see what he will do this year. As long as he stays out of foul trouble, keeps that ankle healthy and builds on what he did last season, I really have no doubt that he’ll be able to establish himself as a top-5 center at season’s end. And just for entertainment, here are three guys ranked ahead of Pek: Emeka Okafor, Omer Asik and Javale McGee. HAHA.
79: Andrei Kirilenko | Score: 5.93 | 2011 Rank: 90 | TwolfRank: 4
Obviously, AK47 didn’t play in the US last season, and one has to wonder why. Well, for one it was because of the lockout. But another reason I don’t think anyone has touched on was AK’s desire to get away from the NBA game for a while. Some people just need a break and AK hit that wall after so many up-an-down seasons with Jerry Sloan and the Utah Jazz. AK’s time in his homeland wasn’t a vacation, though. He ended up winning the MVP award of the Euroleague playing for CSKA Moscow, alongside Shved. He also was the leader of a feisty Russian Olympic squad that took home the bronze medal. AK’s expectations are high and it seems like his mind and body are fresh enough to jump back into the NBA.
47: Ricky Rubio | Score: 6.71 | 2011 Rank: 204 | TwolfRank: 2
It’s sincerely a shame that the Wolves will be without Rubio for the first part of the year. Even with the newfound depth in the backcourt, nothing can replace what the fans were treated to with Rubio’s boyish charm and on-court flair. The good news is that, at his press conference yesterday, Rubio will be saying hello and goodbye to Vail, Colorado and his doctors for the last time before training camp. He is indeed running and shooting free throws but is limited to just that. He says agility drills and jump shooting might not happen until November or later. But sooner or later he’ll get to grace our presence yet again. Let’s just hope the Wolves can hold their own until that happens.
7: Kevin Love | Score: 8.86 | 2011 Rank: 16 | TwolfRank: 1
After being under appreciated for so long to start his career, and having to sit behind the incumbent Al Jefferson, Love has finally emerged as the Timberwolves’ leader. To take it further, he’s now emerged as the league’s clear-cut best power forward. And he can only go up from here. He’s taken his hard-nosed game to new heights by becoming the best inside-out player in the league. He sports a deadly three-point jumper and still manages to grab 13 rebounds a game — 4 of them offensive boards. He’s developed a game that no one has seen since Larry Bird, and although he’s not that good, there’s no saying he can’t reach those heights.
Biggest Riser: The biggest riser by the numbers is Nikola Pekovic, who jumped 280 spots, but you can also note that Greg Stiemsma wasn’t even ranked last season and soared all the way to 270.
Biggest Faller: That honor goes to no other than Brandon Roy, and rightfully so. The man is attempting a comeback after semi-retirement on a more-than-a-bum knee. It won’t be easy but anything’s possible… I guess.
Average Timberwolves Score: 4.76
Average Timberwolves Rank: ~186
Random Notes: If anyone frequents on Daily Thunder, you probably realized I stole this format from Royce Young himself. But you’ll also notice, towards the bottom, that the Timberwolves sport a higher average score AND rank than the Thunder. What does that mean? Well, absolutely nothing. At the very least you can argue that the Wolves’ depth is much stronger than the Thunder’s but a quick, strong rebuttal would just state that they have Durant, Westbrook and Harden. End of conversation. I wouldn’t throw the fact completely out, though. With our own top 10 player, a deep bench and a proven coaching staff devoted to turning the organization’s culture around, the Wolves are primed and ready to make some noise in the Western Conference. They’re no longer a doormat to an easy victory rather a test of a team’s will to win. They will be scrappy and they will be tough. Oh, and also very white.
Differences between NBArank and TwolfRank: There are some obvious differences from ESPN’s NBArank and HTW’s own TwolfRank. One major difference is the ranking of both Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko. Everyone knows AK is a sound baller with tested playoff experience, but Pek is just a beast. There’s no way around it. I put in my two cents on Pek under his blurb and will stand by that statement at year’s end, if he stays healthy. A top 5 center in the league is more valuable than an above-average small forward, as versatile and defensively stout as he is. The other big difference is ESPN’s affection for JJ Barea and Derrick Williams. I see their argument on Barea because of what he did in D-town but D-Will? Any educated Twolves fan would agree that D-Will is not worthy of being a top 150 player in the league, which is why he found himself at the end of our TwolfRank rotation. Could he one day move up? Hell yes. Without a doubt. But his rookie campaign was so up-and-down, you have to take a flyer, and I’m not even going to mention what position he’s going to play because that can play a major role in his development. But for now, we can all agree that he’s likely not worthy of his spot in the top 150, which may justify our “questionable” 9 ranking in TwolfRank.