#NBArank and #TwolfRank Recap

According to both NBArank and TwolfRank, the Timberwolves are primed to make a ruckus in the West

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.

T-Wolf Rank #1: Kevin Love

Kevin Love shows off his prize for earning number one in T-Wolf Rank? Ok, fine. That is a gold medal.

We have reached the end of T-Wolf Rank. We hope you have enjoyed reading the posts as much as we have enjoyed writing them. Also, thanks for your tweets and comments that made this such a fun project to do. As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf) Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) and Tom (@Tom_NBA) on Twitter as well.

Are you surprised? I mean, was there any doubt along the way that Kevin Love would top this list? Sure, Rubio may be most valuable, but Love is a close second and easily their best player. Among Howlin’ T-Wolf staff, he was a unanimous selection for this spot, obviously. Love, just 24 years old, has a list of career accomplishments that make most current and former players blush. In fact, as a fellow class of ’07 grad, his resume dwarfs mine, but somebody has to lead the way.

Here’s the shortlist:

–          2009 All-Rookie Second Team

–          2009 NBA Rookie of the Month (March)

–          2010 Gold Medal FIBA World Championships

–          NBA All-Star (’11 and ’12)

–          NBA leader in rebounds per game in 2011

–          2011 Most Improved Player

–          All-NBA Second Team (2012)

–          2012 Gold Medal Team USA

–          Finished 6th in the 2012 NBA MVP voting

–          In 2011, became the first player since Moses Malone in ’82-‘83 to average 20 and 15 while setting the post-merger record for consecutive double-doubles.

Ok, so maybe “short” was the wrong word to describe Kevin Love’s accomplishments-to-date. But darn it if it isn’t an impressive one. Clearly, Love has emerged as a top-whatever player in the league, but can he go anywhere else but down? Yes, the player that averaged 25 and 13 a season ago can still improve.

Let’s start with his defense. Before receiving his second consecutive All-Star nod, Love actually broke public perception and played some decent defense. Granted, it wasn’t enough to scare Dwight Howard or Josh Smith, but it was legitimately good. But once he got that selection it was obvious that he lost interest in playing defense and went back to leaving his man to chase rebounds instead of contesting jumpers. This is frustrating thing since we’ve seen him play defense and now know that it’s simply a choice he chooses not to make at times.

Heck, somehow Love managed not to commit a single foul in the paint last season. That’s probably acceptable for a point guard, but not a power forward. I mean, how is that even freaking possible?!

Love could still grow as a leader, too. In fact, that’s the one thing I hope he learned from playing with Team USA. Leadership isn’t bitching about not getting a call on offense and staying back to argue with the ref while the other team winds up with a power play. Leadership is about doing setting an example and doing what it takes, as your team’s best player, to make sure your team is in the best position to succeed. Also, a leader knows that if his teammates “quit”, then that reflects on him somewhat; basketball is a game of “we”.

Hearing Love talk about wanting to win but not doing team things regularly to help the Timberwolves win is frustrating. Love has to realize that as hard as he works to be great, and he is, he still needs to work harder to be not just the best player he can be, but teammate. That means deciding to get off your ass on a no-call to hustle back on defense, and to make playing defense a focal point night in and night out. And that means publicly taking blame for something that may not be your fault, and dealing with the issue behind the scenes.

(Ok, so Kobe doesn’t abide by the last one, so maybe we’ll just forget that.)

I don’t want to say that he has to act like a number one ranked player – he doesn’t have to do anything – but things like that are expected of a number one player whether or not he asked for those expectations.

However, I’m hopeful that if anyone can do this, it’s Love. It’s been fun to watch him grow as a player season-after-season as a result of his own hard work. Love wants to be great, we want Love to be great, and in just over a month and a half, we’ll find out just what surprises he’ll have for us in 2012-’13.

 

T-Wolf Rank: #2 Ricky Rubio

We have reached the Top 3 of T-Wolf Rank. We hope you have enjoyed reading the posts as much as we have enjoyed writing them. As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf) Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) and Tom (@Tom_NBA) on Twitter as well.

Having a solidified point guard in the NBA is a lot like having a long-tenured quarterback in the NFL (And, no, I’m not getting into the replacement refs). A quarterback is the commander both on and off the field; he’s the general to his comrades and a symbolic leader for the ownership and fans alike to adore. With a good one, a team can at the very least stabilize themselves in above-average play. Without one, a team is bound for dismal seasons and endless waves of face-palmed fans.

The Timberwolves have never had that guy — thus the thousands of former, now face-palmed fans. You know, the one we can call our captain. The one players can deeply invest their game and trust in. The one fans can sport his jersey for an endless amount of years without any retro aspect weighing in. I’m not saying it’s an easy feat to find that player but the Wolves haven’t even come close. They’ve trotted out lifelong backups and various projects on the court since their birth of existence. The closest thing we’ve ever had was Stephon Marbury or even Terrell Brandon.

That’s just pitiful.

So when you think of Ricky Rubio’s arrival to the Twin Cities, it’s sort of like a God-send in disguise. No, he’s not Jesus nor will he become the next Pistol Pete but he certainly won’t be another Jonny Flynn. And for that, we’re thankful. He’s going to be somewhere in between. Where he lands on that scale is only a matter of hard work, dedication and, frankly, how long this team can stay devoted to winning.

Last season when Rubio exploded onto the scene, no one expected anything like that from him. Many Euro-born players have some transition time they need to acquaint their self in the league. But Rubio literally did hit the NBA from the blindside. He was spectacularly effective and certainly a show-stopper but he also showed us some inexperience and areas of his game that certainly need improvement. Most notably, he’s an average shooter, at best, and could also use some work on his pick ‘n’ roll defense (It’s bizarre how good he is with the pick ‘n’ roll on offense but still greatly struggles to defend it.)

The thing is that we’re, no, I am in no place to critique. We’ve quickly learned in the last year that Rubio could possibly be the quarterback the Timberwolves have so desperately yearned and just a flat-out special player to cheer for. He’s a flashy player with a adolescent flair fans have fallen head over heels for. But he’s also one of the smartest players I’ve seen and a devoted worker — we’ve seen that in all the updates on his rehab coming back from that torn ACL. It’ll be tough to start the season without him, but I have a feeling that once he returns, likely by the beginning of December, the team will move forward without a hiccup because everyone will embrace the franchise’s newfound quarterback.

T-Wolf Rank: #4 Andrei Kirilenko

This is the tenth 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 every day for 13 days. As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf) Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) and Tom (@Tom_NBA) on Twitter as well.

What’s that AK? You give this post a thumbs up? Why, thank you!

Andrei Kirilenko needs the Timberwolves. And the Timberwolves need Andrei Kirilenko.

Kirilenko is one of several examples on the Timberwolves roster of a low-risk/high-reward signing. Much like fellow new additions Chase Budinger, Alexey Shved and Brandon Roy, Kirilenko’s play will determine just how far this Timberwolves team will go. He’s yet another wild card in David Kahn’s hand; which is preferential to the Joker cards he played last season. Kahn has also invested some $25 million on the three players above and is betting they’re the missing links to bring this team to the next level.

As for Kirilenko, he too has something to prove. To prove that he can stay healthy and be effective. To prove that, at the age of 31, he can still consistently contribute to a playoff team. And finally, to prove that the Andrei Kirilenko we see this NBA season will be the rejuvenated one we saw for CSKA Moscow and in the Olympics and not the Andrei Kirilenko plagued by injury and (perhaps coincidentally) consistency issues.

Kirilenko wanted to return to the NBA to win, and the Timberwolves need to prove that they can win.

The price tag shouldn’t concern you that much; he made $17 million in the final year of his last NBA contract. If he’s healthy, he’s easily worth $10 million. Besides, if he’s your guy and there isn’t such a proven commodity on the market with the potential to still be a factor, then why not? After all, if cap space won championships, the Kings would have had a dynasty after these past few seasons.

By now, we know what a healthy Kirilenko can bring. If he’s healthy, he’ll bring solid post defense and effective help defense, which were two things last year’s Timberwolves had a dearth of. We know that he is a willing passer who will work to get teammates good looks in and out of the post. Offensively, if he’s able to stay on the floor, we know that he’s probably better off getting his looks within the flow of the offense versus creating his own shot.

If he’s able to, the Timberwolves could make the playoffs, and Kirilenko has attained redemption (Weird word to use for a player who posted a 16.2 PER in his most recent NBA season, but those are the expectations for a former all-star). Likewise, if the Timberwolves make the playoffs, they give off the impression of a team that isn’t afraid to make a couple gambles in the name of being successful. However, if they fail, Kirilenko’s days being viewed as a valued contributor are likely over and the Timberwolves are just a lottery team that takes too many careless risks.

Who knew so much could be on the line for both parties?

Want to join the conversation? Be sure to use the #TwolfRank hashtag and let your voice be heard!

 

T-Wolf Rank: #7: Brandon Roy

This is the seventh 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.

I feel like when I gave my ranking of Brandon Roy for #TwolfRank that it was much lower than Tom or Jonah would have. Actually, I was told I had him too low based on what he had accomplished in his career to-date. Don’t get me wrong; I love Brandon. But his knees are bone on bone! And besides, it’s going to be weird seeing Brandon in a non-Blazers uniform. Maybe the way I’m viewing Brandon Roy is no different than I would someone who, say, just got out of a long relationship.

You know that while they may be happy with you, they may still dream about their Ex once every few weeks. Deep down, you always know that their heart will always be there (Portland). You also know that they still have family (fans, teammates, friends…etc.) that you’re going to have to run in to and have to hear about all of their glory days with them. Making sure you can deal with that in itself is important to being happy with that person, or in this case, player.

After all, no one likes to feel like they’re a rebound (pun intended) or someone’s stepping stone on the way to something greater.

But that’s all a part of the uncertainty that comes along with starting over. There is a risk that comes with investing your trust and faith when you have that nagging feeling in the back of your mind that things could go wrong at any moment. All it takes is a freak collision, peculiar misstep, or awkward landing, and suddenly you’re right back to where you started. Sometimes that means putting your heart on the line, and sometimes it’s $10 million dollars, or even both, I suppose.

At the same time, you cannot move forward while dwelling on the past, either. Yes, the logical part of your brain tells you not to get to close because you’re all but certain you know how things will end, but your heart tells you that there could be a chance for something special. Could the same player whose production fell in half as his body gave out from under him have anything left to give? In the same way that a person takes some time to themselves for some introspection and soul-searching, Brandon took a year off and get that nifty platelet surgery.

Isn’t it all we want is for someone to give us a chance to prove that we have something left to give, offer, or benefit somebody else’s life? Few things in life are worse than being counted out before you’ve even had a chance to begin. That’s just want Brandon wants, too: another shot at basketball. If people put forth as much effort in their personal lives as Brandon has in his comeback, there’d be more happy people on this earth.

Alas, sometimes you have to see something to believe it, and for that doubt to be erased. I want Brandon Roy to remove many of these reservations, and be successful. For the sake of his friends, family, and fans, I don’t want to get in too deep and see anyone get hurt. It won’t be much longer before we find out just what the next chapter of Brandon Roy brings, and I’m eager to find out. If you’re like me, you may think you know how the story ends, but then again, you never see a good (or good-bad) twist coming.

Want to be featured in a future #TwolfRank post? Join the conversation by using the hashtag!

 

 

T-Wolf Rank: #8 Dante Cunningham

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

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

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.

 

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