Timberwolves Half-Season Review and Grades 2013/2014

Timberwolves bench

There’s a lot to think about midway through the 2013-14 NBA season (Jim Mone/Associated Press).

Well, we technically should be at the halfway point of the season, if not for the cancellation of the Timberwolves / Spurs game in Mexico City.  As requested in this week’s preview, let’s not get too caught up in the minutia and say that we are halfway there and it is time to provide a few thoughts on the halfway point of the season.  Below are a few thoughts about each player on the current roster and an overall grade for their efforts.

With the team struggling to get over the hump of .500 ball, things have looked a little underwhelming thus far this season.  With a 19-21 record going into this week’s action, our Pups are currently in 11th place in the Western Conference and have a good amount of work to do to catch Dallas and Phoenix, and surpass Memphis and Denver to get into the top eight of the Conference.  Can they do it?  Yes.  Will they do it?  I honestly don’t know.

Player: Kevin Love

Love has returned to action and has reclaimed the title of “Best PF in the NBA”.  He is putting up monster numbers: 25.1ppg, 13.0rpg, 4.0apg, and a PER of 27.4.  I can’t even bring myself to pull the “but he still isn’t making his team better / leading to victories” card anymore.  The team’s struggles are not his fault.  He is doing more passing than he has in the past and has become a much more complete player this season.

Half-Season Grade: A-

The “minus” can be attributed to his public criticisms of the team recently and the reports that he was “waiting for reporters” to do so.  That isn’t good, particularly when it came after his worst game of the season.

Player: Ricky Rubio

Here is where things may get testy.  I am extremely critical of Ricky on Twitter and the reasons are pretty clear.  The team has promoted him to be a franchise player since day one.  I love PG’s, particularly one that has some flash to his game.  I want Ricky to succeed.  We need Ricky to succeed.  He isn’t succeeding this season …

Rubio continues to struggle in building a reliable jump shot.  However, his confidence has been beaten down this season, particularly in December/January, and he’s struggling from everywhere on the floor.  He’s shooting 35% from the field right now in total, and 37% from 3PT range.  He’s averaging 8.5ppg, 8.1apg, and 4.7rpg, with a PER of 14.9.  Rick Adelman has been relying on Barea too frequently late in games, while Ricky sits on the bench.

I think this Twitter exchange that I had with Jon Krawczynski sums things up pretty nicely:




Final Grade: D+

Rubio’s grade has plummeted over the past few weeks, due to his struggles and decreased playing time – which for the record, is warranted, it just stinks that said playing time has to go to Barea.  As stated above, Rubio can’t be “fine” for this team.  He needs to be much, much more.

Player: Nikola Pekovic

Pekovic is having a really strong season and combined with Love, makes for one of the best frontcourt tandems you will find around the league.  He’s averaging 18.3ppg and 9.2rpg.  The only complaint you will find from me with Pekovic is that he plays below the rim and that isn’t going to change.  Do you win a championship with Love and Pekovic playing the 4 and 5?  I would say “no” with caveats.  The team needs a defensive presence as a reserve.  (We’ll get to this later…)

Half-Season Grade: B+

A strong first half of the season for Pek, who certainly isn’t resting on his laurels after getting his contract extension this past offseason.

Player: Kevin Martin

If we did a quarter season review, Kevin Martin probably gets the highest grade for the team, or at the very least, an equivalent one to Love.  However, Martin has struggled in recent weeks to find his shot and/or in looking rather complacent on the floor.  This team needs Martin to be the clear #2 scorer and there have been too many “off nights” in recent weeks.  He’s still averaging 19.2ppg, but he doesn’t do enough in the other aspects of the game.  We knew this already.  However, I am starting to get visions of Mike Miller at the Target Center, where you have a guy that is a scorer, refusing to put up shots or becoming bored with the game.

Half-Season Grade: B

An “A” for the first quarter of the season, a “C” for the second quarter and that averages out to the grade above.  If the Wolves are going to claw their way into the playoffs, Martin needs to be a 22+ points per game, efficient scorer.

Player: Corey Brewer

I doubt there were many fans as happy as I was when the Wolves resigned Corey.  I think he’s a terrific asset for your rotation.  With injuries and other shortcomings to this roster, Corey is being asked to do too much and is getting significant PT (32mpg).  Brewer creates havoc on the floor, and that is both a good thing and a bad thing.  But still, how do you not love this

Half-Season Grade: B-

Brewer’s a good rotational player who is being asked to carry too much of a load.  With more talent on the roster, the “good” will far outweigh the “bad”.

Player: JJ Barea

We’re not going to spend too much time on Barea.  I don’t like him on this roster.  Adelman uses him far too much and I don’t understand why he gets such a long leash, while nearly everyone else among the bench players is quickly pulled for doing remotely as dumb as what JJ tries to pull on the court.

Half-Season Grade: D

There isn’t a single game this season that I can point to and say, “JJ won that game for the Wolves”.  He hits double figures in blowout wins and in losses.  I want him off the team.  NOW!

Player: Dante Cunningham

Dante has struggled this season, but then I always tell myself how friendly his contract is for the team.  Cunningham is another energy guy off the bench that is a net-positive on a strong 8-10 man rotation.  If I left it at this, he would get a strong grade.  However, he is only averaging 5.1ppg and is shooting just under 45% from the field.  Less jumpers from beyond 16 feet please!

Half-Season Grade: C

Dante seems to have regressed vs. last year, but you have to equate for Kevin Love a little bit there as well.  I would like to see more Love at the “5” with DC next to him at the “4” in the second half of the season.

Player: Alexey Shved

Shved looked completely lost in the NBA for the first couple of months of the season but has played his way back into the rotation over the past few weeks.  I have no idea how or where the adjustments came or if it was just based on Adelman’s realization that the Wolves’ starters were going to run out of gas by Valentine’s Day if things kept going the way they were.

Half-Season Grade: D+

I want to give Shved a C- but the first few months were so bad.  I would also like to see Alexey get backup PG minutes the second half of the season, but that probably isn’t happening unless/until we find a new home for Barea.

Player: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

LRMAM has played the last 19 games for the Wolves, after coming over for DWill from Sacramento.  He has been used sparingly and relatively unimpressive.

Half-Season Grade: C-

I could see LRMAM becoming more of a cog in the machine if the team were looking to trade Cunningham away.  However, the “defensive presence” that we were told the Wolves were getting has yet to really showcase itself.

Player: Robbie Hummel

To his full credit, Robbie has always been ready to play when called upon by Adelman.  He has gone from starting two games earlier this season to a number of DNP-CD’s.  However, when he plays, it has generally been solid.

Half-Season Grade: B+

Not much more to say about Robbie.  You know he will be ready to do what is necessary when he is called upon.

Player: Shabazz Muhammad

I’m not even sure if it is worth giving Shabazz a grade to this point in the season.  Adelman has him buried on the bench and only uses him in garbage time.  However, I do think Shabazz deserves some credit for his thoughts (and efforts) after being sent to the D-League.  He lit the league up for a week and came back for more DNP-CD’s.

Half-Season Grade: B-

I like the positive things he had to say about his D-League experience, and of course the results while he was down there.  With the team struggling in the past month, it makes absolutely no sense to me that Shabazz continues to receive these DNP-CD’s.  I hate where this is going.

Player: Gorgui Dieng

Take a second and reread what I wrote for Pekovic above …

OK, now that you are back, this is exactly the type of player that COULD complement Love and Pekovic in the paint.  Look, I get it, he is completely raw.  But he also needs playing time to learn, if not in the NBA, at least send him down to the D-League for a few weeks at a time.  I’m disappointed with Shabazz’s minutes, but I’m more disappointed in what we are (not) doing with Gorgui.

Half-Season Grade: C+

Again, not really sure if it is fair to give Gorgui a grade for his body of work.

Player: AJ Price

When AJ plays (garbage time 99% of the time), he has looked fine.  I don’t have any expectations for Price at all.  If he is playing, it is either a really good thing or a really bad thing on the scoreboard.

Half-Season Grade: B

I’m not sure if this is the right grade or not, but there isn’t a reason to go much lower.

Player: Chase Budinger

Budinger has 42 games left to impress Wolves Nation.  If he doesn’t improve off of his current 16mpg and 4.2ppg, this team is toast.  Please get healthy and right Chase!

Half-Season Grade: Incomplete

Six games into his season and Chase hasn’t looked normal yet.  Chase is another key to the Wolves returning to the playoffs and we’re just going to have to wait and see if it happens.

Player: Ronny Turiaf

A great teammate, a great hustle guy that knows his role and limitations.  However, there have been a handful of games so far this season where the Wolves needed to commit a hard foul and it would have been great if Turiaf were available to do so.  Unfortunately, he too has spent too much time on the injured list and will need to prove his worth the rest of the way this season.

Half-Season Grade: Incomplete

Turiaf has played in nine games to date.  He was in the lineup last Wednesday against the Kings and definitely should have been the one to commit a hard foul against Derrick Williams, who showed signs of life against his former club.