Timberwolves Ink Chase Budinger, Kevin Martin to Deals

Both Chase Budinger and Kevin Martin agreed with Minnesota on Tuesday, adding two much needed perimeter shooters to a group that ranked dead last in three-point shooting last season.

Both Chase Budinger and Kevin Martin agreed with Minnesota on Tuesday, adding two much needed perimeter shooters to a group that ranked dead last in three-point shooting last season.

Things just got very interesting for the Timberwolves only a few days into free agency. On Tuesday, Minnesota got things started by coming to terms with RFA SG/SF Chase Budinger on a three year, $16 million pact and made some noise later that day by agreeing to a four year, $28 million agreement with UFA SG Kevin Martin.

Budinger, 25, was originally acquired by the Timberwolves in a draft day trade last summer that sent Minnesota’s 18th overall pick to the Houston Rockets. The Arizona product had trouble staying on the court during his first season for the Pups, as he missed all but 23 games after tearing his meniscus just 6 games into the 2012-13 season. When healthy, he brings strong perimeter shooting and a very high competence of Rick Adelman‘s corner offense, of whom he played for in Houston for two seasons before ultimately landing in the land of 10,000 lakes. He will likely be the starter at small forward with F Derrick Williams and SF Shabazz Muhammad also seeing time at the 3. [Read more…]

Timberwolves Free Agency Plans

Will OJ Mayo "rejoin" the Timberwolves?

Will OJ Mayo “rejoin” the Timberwolves?

At midnight, July 1st, the circus known as NBA free agency begins.  The Timberwolves are looking to be very active this offseason and clearly have a few priorities to take care of over the next few days.  Here is one perspective on what the Timberwolves free agency plans should or could be.

First, some quick housecleaning.  There were two moves announced over the past couple of days that play a pivotal role in what Flip Saunders and company do in free agency.  This past Friday, the team announced that they have picked up the option on Dante Cunningham’s contract for this coming season.  This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, as Dante played a key role for the team this past season and is a welcomed face and presence on and off the court for the team. [Read more…]

Timberwolves 2012-13 Player Grades: Forwards

"Don't worry, we'll pick up the slack in your absence" Photo credit: AP

“Don’t worry, we’ll pick up the slack in your absence”
Photo credit: AP

Here are our first round of reviews from this past season’s body of work.  Ladies and gentlemen, the Timberwolves 2012-13 player grades for your offseason enjoyment!  We’ll be concentrating on the forwards that graced us with their presence this past season.  Let’s get right into the season review …

Player: Kevin Love

Season Summary

To put it mildly, it wasn’t a great year for Kevin Love.  He broke a bone in his right hand before the season even started doing knuckle push-ups.  He returned earlier than doctors and the team had predicted and had a monster game against Denver on 11/21 at the Target Center – 34 points and 14 rebounds.  While putting up big numbers in the box score, it was clear that Love wasn’t himself after the first week.  He was not in game shape at all and his shooting percentages started to spiral downward – his final shooting percentages for the season were 35% from the field, 22% from three point range and 70% from the free throw line, all well below his career averages.

In December, Love missed a game here and there and averaged 17.5ppg and 13.3rpg.  By no means are those numbers to yawn at, but not what we were expecting to see from our all-star forward.  Then, shortly after the turn of the calendar year, the season came to a screeching halt for Love.  Ironically, it came against the Denver Nuggets, the team that he opened up his season against.  During a fluke incident around the paint, Love ran into a Nugget and re-fractured his hand.

That wound up being the end of Kevin Love’s season.  Despite rumors that he might return towards the end of the regular season, he never saw the floor again.

Season Highlight

While Love had several very impressive games, I am going to go with the night previously mentioned above – his return to the floor for the first time of the season and putting up the 34 and 14, leading the team to a victory.  It felt like it was time to get the season really going when he got back on the floor and my own conventional wisdom had hopes that his return was the start of a playoff run and a string of returning players to the lineup.  Yeah, that never happened.

Love had a few other monster games, including a 23 point, 24 rebound night in Sacramento on 11/27 and a season-high 36 points on 10-19 shooting at home against Cleveland on 12/7.  However, his return helped energize the fan base; if only for a short amount of time.

Season Lowlight

This one is pretty easy.  The Timberwolves season unofficially ended on Thursday, 1/3/13 when Love re-fractured the bone in his hand.  He was having a monster performance on the boards that night – 17 rebounds in 24 minutes, and everything went kaput on a fluke play.

Final Grade: Incomplete

If it ever comes out that Love didn’t break his hand doing knuckle push-ups and was originally injured doing something even dumber, this grade will be changed to an F minus-minus.  Let the conspiracy theorists have some fun with this one.

[Read more…]

Chase Budinger Out Three Months with Torn Meniscus

Associated Press – Nam Y. Huh

Three weeks into the NBA season and the Pups are having a rough go at it.  Not from a record standpoint, as the team remains near the top of Northwest Division, but on the injury front.  Here’s what the last week has presented to the Wolves and their fans.

Last Wednesday, JJ Barea mildly sprained his ankle while diving for a loose ball in the 4th quarter of a blow-out win vs. Orlando.  Why?  Even JJ doesn’t know why he did this, but he did and the injury forced him to miss the next three games.  JJ is currently listed as day to day this week.

In the next game against Indiana, Brandon Roy never came out of the locker room for the 2nd half.  It was later reported that Roy had soreness in his degenerative right knee.  Brandon has since missed the last two games because of the injury and is also listed as day to day.  It sounds like there is a very good chance of Roy being ready for Wednesday’s game vs. Charlotte.

The very next night in Chicago, Chase Budinger tore his meniscus in his knee and a timetable for his return will be announced after the surgery.  Woj is reporting this morning that the surgery was completed earlier today (by Dr. James Andrews …) and Budinger will likely miss up to three months.

Finally, in last night’s game against Dallas, Nikola Pekovic rolled his ankle and didn’t return to the game.  I don’t expect Pek to be out very long though.  Why?  Let’s let him answer those questions, “I didn’t hurt nothing, just a lot of pain” and “I don’t use crutches”.  Those were his quotes on the injury after the game.  If anyone in the NBA deserves a “beast mode” tag, it should go to Pek.

So, this brings up a few questions and thoughts.  What in the world did the franchise do to deserve this?  Haven’t the Wolves paid enough for all of the bad decisions made over the past twenty-something years?  What does this mean for the team in the short and long term?

In the short term, this of course adds up to awful news for the team, who are already missing their two cornerstones until mid-December (in a best case scenario).  The team must make do without five guys in what would be Adelman’s regular rotation and adds pressure to the few remaining willing and able wings on the roster.  Everyone will need to step up, but allow me to be a bit pessimistic for the next few paragraphs.

Andrei Kirilenko has been an absolute blessing thus far this season.  He has done a little bit of everything.  However, he will now need to carry a larger burden of the scoring.  Will he be able to do this?  How will his body hold up given the presumed extra minutes he’s going to receive?  Only time will tell.

Derrick Williams has been wildly inconsistent to start the season, which isn’t too much of a surprise.  However, DWill has to step up.  He cannot produce one night and lay an egg the next.  Quite frankly, I don’t have high hopes here and it doesn’t feel or look like Adelman does either right now.

Alexey Shved has provided solid minutes from his backup, rotational spot.  How, or can he match up with starting two guards in the league?  Will his flaws become more visible and problematic for the team with increased minutes and playing more against starters?

Can the team get net-positive results from Malcolm Lee and/or Will Conroy?  Is it even fair to set these expectations?  In Monday’s game in Dallas, Lee got the starting nod and didn’t look great, but made enough plays to warrant more time there if/when needed, which would also allow Shved to come off the bench in a 6th man role.

Longer term, this puts another caveat into this season’s goal of making the playoffs.  There will likely be added pressure on the team come January/February to start winning at a greater percentage in order to make it to the playoffs as the team’s cornerstones return.  Roy and Budinger’s injuries are big question marks that may (more likely, will) have an impact throughout the year, but the others should be back sooner rather than later.  At this point, I believe the team will need to tread water for the rest of November.  The team plays every other day this week through Friday (including last night’s win in Dallas), and are then off until next Wednesday, which may be a small blessing in an otherwise crazy start to the season.

Let’s focus on Chase Budinger’s injury for a second, as JJ Barea should return soon and Brandon Roy’s knee injuries are well documented and should now be expected to be an on again, off again item for much of this season.  In a limited amount of games, Budinger had already proven to be a valuable commodity for the Wolves.

At the time of the injury, Chase was the second leading scorer on the team at 11.8ppg.  He was also throwing in 3.5rpg and 1spg.  Most importantly, Chase was clearly option 1A or 1B on shooting from three point range, depending on how you feel about Luke Ridnour.  At the same time, it looked like he was getting more and more acclimated to his teammates and building confidence in his own game.  So naturally, the injury had to occur now.

While very cliché, the healthy Pups that remain on the floor are going to have to collectively make up for these missing points and the outside shooting that Chase was providing.  A few guys – particularly Roy upon his return and Shved – will need to quickly find their outside jumpers that have been missing so far this season.  The team’s PG’s are also going to have to become more effective jump shooters as well and do a better job at spacing the floor.

Naturally, another option would be for the team to go out and sign another player.  However, the Wolves have virtually no flexibility with the cap and only have the veteran’s minimum to offer.  Who could this go to?  Here’s a very short list of player’s available that I would consider: Mickael Pietrus, Josh Howard, and/or Ryan Gomes.  If you really want to drive yourself crazy, we can talk about expediting Troy Hudson’s comeback to the NBA.  (Let’s not)

Net/net, the injuries have continued to mount for the Wolves, but I have to say that in watching the past handful of games, this year’s roster is light years ahead of last year’s squad.  Their ability to overcome deficits and the injuries to Love and Rubio have been highly commendable.  However, we are certainly teetering on the edge of the cliff of not being able to make up for all of the injuries this team is enduring.

Here’s to a speedy recovery to all of the Wolves and to a healthy 2013!  (Please?!)

Preview: Timberwolves at Mavericks

In order to start laying the framework for tonight’s matchup in Dallas, the first important item of conversation is the recent news that Chase Budinger tore his meniscus in his left knee and will be out indefinitely. A timetable for his return will be made after he endures the procedure to repair the damaged knee, but regardless the loss of Budinger is a large blow to an already injury-depleted Timberwolves roster.

Following a tough road loss to a talented Chicago Bulls team, the Timberwolves have continued to overcome adversity and somehow sit at 4-2 which is good for fifth in the Western Conference. Tonight will be a sure test for Minnesota as Dallas has looked very good this season and has much more depth than the Pups currently have.

Alexey Shved will start tonight at SG with Roy sitting out due to soreness in his right knee. Shved has been one of the NBAs top rookies this season and was a key to Minnesota’s fourth quarter comeback victory in Brooklyn last week. The long and lanky Russian combo guard will have his work cut out for him as he will obviously need to assume a much larger offensive role with Budinger and Roy out, and we will be able to start to see just how capable Shved can be in Rick Adelman’s offense.

A player to pay attention to for the Mavericks tonight is rookie Jae Crowder out of Marquette, who despite being selected in the second round of the previous summer’s draft, has looked like a potential Rookie of the Year candidate playing at the SF position. Will Minnesota be able to replace Budinger’s versatility off the bench, and can the Wolves find production at SF when Andrei Kirilenko is on the bench? If Derrick Williams continues to play the way he has been, the Pups are in big trouble against the former NBA champion Mavericks.

The game will be shown on local TV and will begin at 7:30PM central time. Let’s go Wolves!

Minnesota Timberwolves 96 – Indiana Pacers 94

Photo Credits: Dave Wallis – Associated Press

The Timberwolves hosted the Pacers tonight to start a back to back and this one certainly didn’t disappoint.  Rick Adelman continues to put his finger on this franchise and the Wolves pulled out the victory in the last few seconds, moving to 4-1 on the season.  There was a little bit of a setback that we’ll cover off below however, as Brandon Roy didn’t play in the 2nd half.  Let’s get to it.

About an hour before tipoff, the Twolves announced that JJ Barea would be out tonight and won’t travel with the team to Chicago (and potentially Dallas).  In other injury news, earlier this week the Pacers announced that their star, Danny Granger, would miss at least three months of the season.  There are an awful lot of injuries for being so early in the season, aren’t there?

In any case, the Twolves opened up with the same starting five they have used all season – Ridnour, Roy, AK47, DWill, and Pekovic.  The Pacers countered with George Hill, Paul George (who I still get aggravated about when I hear/see his name due to the Wes Johnson era), Sam Young, David West, and Roy Hibbert.

The game itself started off with the teams going back and forth exchanging buckets (and turnovers).  The officials really let them play, with a lot of body contact being allowed.  Going into the first TO, DWill looked impressive hitting a 3 pointer and then a driving layup that gave the Pups a 13-10 lead and forcing the Pacers to call the TO.

With about four minutes to go in the 1st quarter, there was a loose ball off of a rebound that Hibbert decided to dive on the floor for.  In the process he took down Pekovic.  First, my heart skipped a beat thinking that Pek’s leg got stuck underneath Hibbert.  Second, since that didn’t happen, I assumed Pek would squash Hibbert for the remainder of the game.  (Side note: this didn’t happen)

At the end of the 1st quarter, the Twolves held the lead 21-19.  The Pups shot 53% to Indiana’s 38%, but failed to execute at the end of the quarter, as Ridnour turned the ball over as the clock wound down.  DWill had a very nice quarter with a game high 9 points.  Paul George quietly led the Pacers with 5 points.  The entire twelve minutes was a hard fought battle between the two teams, so it wasn’t a surprise to see the low score at all.

Adelman opened up the 2nd quarter without any starters in the game.  Alexey Shved had a very active first few minutes on the floor, including a few rebounds, assists, and drawing a foul on a three pointer (and hitting all three!).  Despite Adelman saying otherwise before the game, when Shved and Malcolm Lee were both on the floor, Shved was clearly the PG and directing traffic.

The Wolves opened up a seven point lead in the 2nd, but quickly gave it right back.  Similar to the 1st, the quarter was full of small runs, a good amount of banging in the paint, and aggressiveness.  At the half, the Pups trailed 43-42.  Similar to the end of the 1st quarter, the Wolves failed to execute as the clock wound down.  This is exactly where Roy needs to step up for the team, particularly while others continue to wear suits on the sideline.

Here are a few thoughts from the first half through a Wolves lens:

  • Both Wolves centers struggled – Pek was very quiet and Stiemsma picked up two fouls in very limited floor time
  • Malcolm Lee did not look good – expect more PT for Will Conroy over the next few days
  • AK47 only took two shots in the first half and I expected that to significantly increase in the final 24 minutes

As I checked to see who was on the floor to start the 3rd quarter, I noticed that Budinger replaced Roy in the lineup, which was a little interesting.  Seconds later, the Pacers broadcast team announced that Roy isn’t on the Wolves bench at all.  (Insert nervous twitch)

Minnesota managed to get into the bonus with just over 6 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter.  However, they never really took advantage of this for the remainder of the quarter.  While Pekovic continued to struggle against Hibbert, Budinger managed to be the sparkplug the Pups needed.  As the game continued to go back and forth, it was reported that Roy was out for the rest of the game with a sore left knee.  (Continues to twitch, must stay rational)

As I continued to check for updates on Brandon Roy, the Twolves managed to build a little momentum to close out the 3rd quarter.  Chase had a strong quarter and tallied 16 points, shooting 9-10 from the FT line through three.  The quarter ended with the Pups successfully executing an offensive set, as Shved dished to Lee for a layup.  The Wolves led 69-64 going into the final 12 minutes.

The 4th quarter started with some beautiful basketball from “my main man” Alexey Shved.  Sorry, just channeling the inner Rick Kamla there.  The Wolves built an eight point lead before David West went to work in the paint to end the run.  However, the Wolves were able to quickly answer with a follow-up layup from Dante Cunningham.

As the game wore on, it got more and more chippy.  The referees warned both teams to stop complaining, while the bumping and reaching continued.  Shortly thereafter, we had our first technical of the game, with Shved picking up the T on a poor non-call as he drove to the basket.  In what could have been a real game-changer, the Wolves continued to fight against the Pacers and maintained its small lead as the final minutes approached.

Then, the sequence of the game came from Team Russia.  Shved made a driving layup, followed by AK47 stealing the inbounds pass, then dishing/feeding Shved for another layup to put the Wolves up by four.  The game continued to go back and forth for the next few minutes.  With the Wolves in position of the ball and up by three, they had a perfect opportunity to put the Pacers away but Pekovic blew a layup (please leverage “the dunk” at some point this season).  This gave the Pacers one last chance to tie the game and it came to fruition as George Hill hit a step back three with under four seconds to play.

However, that left more than enough time for Adelman to draw up a game winning play.  Ridnour inbound the ball to AK47 and the Pacers (largely Gerald Green, to no surprise) fell asleep at the wheel as Budinger cut to the basket for a game winning layup on the Kirilenko assist.  Wolves win 96-94 and move to 4-1 on the season!  No, seriously!

Tonight’s Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Chase Budinger
  2. Alexey Shved
  3. George Hill

I’m not sure what to expect out of Saturday’s game against Chicago, but Wolves fans should try to enjoy this one for at least a little while.  Let’s go Wolves!

Minnesota Timberwolves 107 – Brooklyn Nets 96

Photo Credits: Skyler Reid

Coming off a 19-point loss in Toronto last night, the Minnesota Timberwolves played the latter of a back-to-back road trip in the sparkling new $1 billion Barclays Center in Brooklyn and came back from a 22-point second-half deficit to defeat the new-look Nets 107-96. The Timberpups offseason additions played crucial roles in fueling the comeback, and the Wolves went on to outscore the Nets 32-10 in the game-defining fourth quarter.

Minnesota’s offensive and defensive struggles were on full display in the first half as the Pups trailed Brooklyn 62-47 after the first half of play. The Wolves allowed the Nets to shoot an absurd 60% FG including 8-13 (62%) from beyond the arc in the first-half alone. Deron Williams led the charge for the revamped Nets with 8 first-half assists while 11 different Nets players scored. The Timberwolves did a much better job of limiting turnovers than they did the previous night in Toronto, but only knocked down 19 of 43 shot attempts (44%) including a miserable 1-8 from three-point range. Things got worse in the third quarter as these trends continued out of the break, but the Wolves found a spark nearing the culmination of the third quarter.

After suffering a mild concussion last night, JJ Barea was able to pass the necessary NBA-mandated concussion tests before the game and was very effective in the second half. Despite recording a modest line of 6 points and 6 assists in just over 29 minutes of action, Barea did a great job of game management in the fourth quarter and was very smart with his passes and shot selection.

Luke Ridnour once again got the start for the Wolves at PG, and had the toughest matchup of the night opposite perennial All-Star Deron Williams. Ridnour simply does not possess the physicality to stay in front of the shifty-strong Williams, and D-Will did a very good job of chipping away at Ridnour. Deron was able to consistently penetrate the lane and had multiple options sitting on the perimeter ready for open three-point attempts, of which the Nets converted at an extremely high rate through 3 quarters of play. However, Rick Adelman made an excellent second-half adjustment by putting the 6-foot-6 Alexey Shved on Williams on the defensive end, and Shved did just enough to slow down the superstar point guard.

Three cheers for the Russian combo of Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved tonight, as both were significant keys to the Wolves comeback victory. To begin, AK-47 played the most complete game of any player to step on the court tonight, as he was able to keep the team breathing even in the midst of their enormous third-quarter deficit. Kirilenko finished with another fabulous stat line of 16 points (7-11 FG), 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks and 1 steal in nearly 33 minutes on the court. Kirilenko continues to use the ball-fake to perfection, consistently keeping his defender off balance and gaining enough separation to effectively drive past his opponent to create scoring opportunities for himself as well as his fellow teammates. As long as AK-47 is healthy, he is worth his $10 million price tag.

Alexey Shved made two clutch three-pointers down the stretch for the Wolves and played a great game in the primetime. Shved ended with 10 points, 3 assists and 2 rebounds while really coming into his own at the end of the game. He was not scared of firing off pull-up threes and it proved to be beneficial for the team. I wonder if AK-47 and Shved were motivated by the desire to defeat fellow Russian Mikhail Prokhorov – the very man who tried signing both of them this offseason. I’ll let you decide that one.

Nikola Pekovic established himself on the low block early and exploited Brook Lopez’s poor post defense throughout the game. The Nets tried bringing double teams at Pek, but he did a very good job at seeing the court and was able to escape Brooklyn’s attempts to slow him down. With virtually no perimeter option to look to as a second option, Pek was virtually Minnesota’s only offensive option throughout much of the first half, and his 17 points on 7-9 shooting was one of the only things keeping this game from getting out of hand in the first half.

Pek continued his post dominance in the second half and we were even able to witness how much better he has gotten at running the floor, which is a testament to all of the hard work and conditioning the big center endured over the offseason. Pekovic finished with 21 points on 9-14 shooting while grabbing 7 boards.

Despite facing a 22-point deficit in the third quarter, the Timberpups did not go gently into the dark. Andrei Kirilenko fueled a Wolves run near the end of the third quarter and the Pups were able to cut the Nets lead to 86-75 heading into the last quarter of play.

From that point on, the momentum completely shifted in the Pups favor and Minnesota was able to gain their second lead of the game – the first lead of which was early in the first quarter – with 4:30 left in the fourth quarter. The Pups set the tone defensively and held Brooklyn to only 96 points after allowing 62 first-half points on their way to their second win of the season and first win on the road.

Enough cannot be said about the importance of Dante Cunningham and Chase Budinger tonight and in the second half especially. Cunningham was fierce on the low block and played remarkable defense, shutting down both Kris Humphries and even the 7-foot Brook Lopez. The 6-foot-8 Villanova graduate was extremely active on the offensive and defensive glass and was able to be very aggressive while not committing unnecessary fouls. It has only been three games, but I am absolutely sold on the Cunningham for Wayne Ellington deal. Cunningham was +18 on the court and logged his first double-double as a Pup of 11 points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes of play.

Budinger had by far his best performance as a Pup and was very good at moving without the ball and creating options for his teammates. Budinger is at his best when he is attacking the glass and filling openings on the perimeter for his driving teammates to look to, and he did just that tonight. His shot was falling and he looked very composed on the floor at the end of the game, which is something I could never say about Michael Beasley. I should not fail to mention that C-Bud played tremendous defense down the stretch and was apart of a total team effort on that particular end of the floor. The Arizona product ended the night with 16 points (7-10 FG) and 6 rebounds.

After failing to convert on a field goal in 22 minutes last night, Brandon Roy played better – but not by much – and was mainly a neutral force in this game. Even before his knee problems, Roy has always been a subject defender, and when matched up against 6-foot-7 Joe Johnson he definitely had his work cut out for him. Even so, Roy did a nice job as a distributor on the offensive end and logged 7 dimes to go with his 6 points (3-7 FG).

Tonight’s win is a true display of just how much this team changed over one offseason, and how the subtraction of a few players and addition of high-energy, fundamentally-focused team players can dynamically change a team. Coming back from 22 points in a tough, New York atmosphere to win by double-digits is something that I honestly could not have predicted from the Timberwolves. But perhaps I was wrong about this team possessing enough firepower and guts to do what previous Timberwolves teams could not do, which is winning without Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. And for that we all owe a big thanks to Rick Adelman – and ya, even David Kahn… a little bit. The Wolves are now set to host Orlando on Wednesday, and here are my three stars of tonight’s game:

  1. Andrei Kirilenko
  2. Dante Cunningham
  3. Chase Budinger