Building off of Zach’s latest player profile, our latest Video of the Week (VOTW) focuses on the one and only JJ Barea. The compilation of highlights really shows all of the “good JJ” that you need to know and what is possible when JJ plays within the system built around him. Barea can hit the outside jumper, beat his opponent off the dribble and finish strongly in and around the paint. When JJ catches fire, watch out because he can carry the offensive load for the team for the remainder of the quarter, half, or game. [Read more...]
The Pups finished the tournament with a 3-3 record. Their wins came against the Heat, Kings, and Blazers, while they lost to the D-League team twice and lost at the buzzer to the Suns. What did we learn from the Timberwolves Summer League session? I think there are a few takeaways from the week.
- Shabazz Muhammad is going to work his tail off to get meaningful minutes.
- As Flip alluded to during one of the broadcasts, Gorgui Dieng is ready to play in the NBA from a defensive standpoint, but has a good amount of work to do on the other end of the floor.
- Beyond Muhammad and Dieng, there is likely only to be one open roster spot and a few guys from this team made a decent case for that spot.
What are some Wolves lineups we’ll see on the floor this season? Assuming Nikola Pekovic’s contract is finalized according to plan and players remain healthy, I’ve broken down possible combinations for who would be in the starting five, and have included the positives and negatives for each.
I call this the “Five with Fire”, because what is a lineup without a corny nickname:
- Ricky Rubio
- Kevin Martin
- Chase Budinger
- Kevin Love
- Nikola Pekovic
In this five, Chase Budinger starts at swingman. Most of the lineups will contain the Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin backcourt and with Budinger’s cutting and spot-up shooting abilities, fits right in. His length and speed makes him a tough guard for opponents not used to chasing a faster 3 around the floor. Look for Chase to cut around screens for catch and shoot opportunities as well as backdoor cuts to the basket such as this one: [Read more...]
Following a disappointing 2012-13 season in which the Minnesota Timberwolves amassed a 31-51 record, it is time to individually break down the contributions from each of the Timberwolves’ guards over the past season.
Player: Ricky Rubio
After having his impressive rookie campaign derailed by a torn ACL and MCL, Ricky Rubio missed the first 20 games of the 2012-13 season and made his much-anticipated return with an epic performance on December 15 against the Mavericks, playing 18 minutes while recording 8 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals.The expectations for Ricky this season were relatively low as few people expected him to have an Adrian Peterson-esque return from ACL surgery. As the season crept on and the injuries compounded – including Kevin Love’s twice-broken hand – the fans focus for Ricky became centered around a cautious approach for the young Spaniard given the future health implications that come from knee surgery. As the playoffs became a pipe dream to even the most hopeful Timberwolves fans, we got much of our satisfaction watching Ricky make small, yet incremental improvements in his game before finally getting back to full speed for the final two-ish months of the season.
Despite playing without K-Love, Tricky Ricky showed us that he can be a game-changer by himself even if he is not an efficient scorer. Playing on a surgically-repaired knee, Rubio proved that he is back to where he was last season as a perimeter defender. In fact, the Catalan point guard recorded the most steals (43) in a ten game stretch since Ron Artest in 2002. Rubio’s length – 6’4″ with a 6’9″ wingspan – paired with his defensive instincts make him one of the top perimeter defenders in the NBA, and he should be a major contender to make one of the NBA All-Defense teams next season if he can stay healthy for most if not all of the season. [Read more...]
Having lost their previous three games on their West coast road trip, the Minnesota Timberwolves came home on Saturday night to host the Phoenix Suns in their last matchup of the season with fomer Wolf Mike Beasley missing the game due to the birth of a new child. Congrats, Beas.
The Wolves faced off against their former fourth overall selection Wes Johnson who has become a starter for the dreadful Suns. While I will admit that the former Syracuse star has somewhat expanded his game since his days in a Timberwolves uniform, he is still a long ways away from being a productive player on a competitive NBA team as evidenced by his 10.31 Player Efficiency Rating.
Ricky Rubio looked much more comfortable against the soft defense of Goran Dragic than he did the previous night against the Utah Jazz. The Wolves immediately had an easier time gaining penetration in the half court and found openings in the short corner on back cuts from Derrick Williams and Andrei Kirilenko. [Read more...]
The Minnesota Timberwolves travelled to Utah on Friday night to battle the Jazz in a critical game for Utah’s playoff hopes. With the Los Angeles Lakers and Jazz fighting it out for the final seed in the West, the Jazz looked to their bigs to help them past the lottery-bound Timberwolves.
Nikola Pekovic sat out Friday night’s meeting against the Jazz with an injured left calf. The frontcourt matchup was made increasingly more difficult with the absence of the Wolves starting center. Minnesota defended the interior well in the first period despite facing mismatches in Utah’s favor. The Jazz led 11-10 after the first timeout about midway through the first quarter.
Utah began to expand on their lead following Ricky Rubio’s second foul with around four minutes remaining in the first. The starting Jazz bigs of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap did a nice job of running the floor in transition. [Read more...]
On various occasions this season, the Timberwolves have shown us glimpses of what could have potentially been a special 2012-13 campaign had it not been for the myriad of injuries that led the season down the drain. Tuesday night happened to be one of those instances.
Travelling to Detroit to take on the Pistons, the Timberpups staged a second-half blowout due to an explosion of three-pointers despite ranking dead-last as a team in shooting from range. Once the Wolves got hot in the third quarter, the lackluster Pistons seemingly went into autopilot mode and disappeared as they fell to 24-48 on the season.
This game was not as lopsided in the first half as it ultimately turned out to be, and was much more of a defensive battle than the shooting contest it later evolved into. The Pups led 19-16 after the first quarter as Nikola Pekovic controlled the pace in the paint. Detroit, still without rookie center Andre Drummond as he recovers from back surgery, had a difficult time containing Pek as he managed to muscle his way around the interior for second-chance buckets. Drummond, who was the eighth overall selection in last summers NBA Draft, has played absolutely fantastic for Detroit this season before requiring back surgery. The 19-year-0ld center was making a case for Rookie of the Year before falling to injury, and the Pistons have sorely missed his presence in the middle as PF Greg Monroe has been forced to play out of position at the 5.
The second quarter was largely uneventful as the two teams kept it close for the majority of the period. Alexey Shved continued his underwhelming second half of the season highlighted with a few stupid turnovers that led to Detroit fast breaks. Both of his turnovers in the second quarter were the result of him leaving his feet and broadcasting passes across the defense, leading to easy interceptions by defenders watching both their man and the ball. In order to limit these turnovers, Shved needs to take more direct lines on his drives and not leave his feet before deciding to pass.
Pekovic led the Timberwolves with 14 points and 8 rebounds on 6-7 shooting in first half as the Wolves went into the lockerroom with a 44-38 lead. For the Pistons, Monroe led with 8 points and 4 rebounds while having a very difficult time sticking with the 290-pound monster opposite of him in the paint.
The game shifted after the break as Minnesota came out of halftime red-hot from behind the arc. For the first few minutes of the third period, the two teams traded three-pointers as each squad demonstrated good ball movement and spacing. The Pups opened up the second half by hitting 5 of their first 6 three-point attempts and closed the quarter a ridiculous 7-9 from long range as a team. After going scoreless in the first half, Andrei Kirilenko added 7 points in the third quarter as he was very active in the cutting lanes and along the baseline. Pekovic contributed some fierce defense on the Pistons primary scorer, Monroe, and the team highlighted their big third quarter by turning a 6-point halftime lead into a 28-point lead to close the quarter.
The fourth quarter was much of the same, with a few more JJ Barea three-pointers and a raising temper from Pistons Head Coach Lawrence Frank. The Pups held on the win by a score of 105-82.
Keys of the Game:
- Three-point shooting - Take a note, Wolves fans. This is what happens when more than one Timberwolves player heats it up from downtown and when players effectively feed off of each other on offense. While this is only one game and a total outlier to take from this season, it is important to recognize the importance of Minnesota gaining more healthy bodies – especially when those healthy bodies can shoot threes. Seven different players hit at least one three pointer for Minnesota, and as a team they shot 14-26 from deep.
- Passing - The Wolves tallied 26 assists as a team and did a very good job of rotating the ball the find the open man on the perimeter. It must be noted that the Pistons did a poor job of closing out Minnesota shooters, but it is encouraging to see the Wolves actually knock down open shot attempts.
Three Stars of the Game:
- Nikola Pekovic - While JJ Barea may have had the best performance statistically, I believe that Pek deserves the credit for effectively opening up shots on the perimeter due to his interior dominance in the first half. After a big first half, Pek finished the game with 18 points (7-10 FG) and 11 rebounds in 30 minutes.
- JJ Barea - Huge game for Minnesota’s sparkplug PG as he recorded 21 points (8-11 FG) in only 21 minutes. Throw in 5-7 from beyond the arc and only 3 turnovers and you have a classic example of what “Good JJ” can do for a team off of the bench.
- Ricky Rubio - Ricky faced off against his close friend and fellow Spanish National teammate Jose Calderon and had the edge in the matchup. Only needing to play 27 minutes, Ricky finished with 14 points (6-9 FG), 9 assists and 4 rebounds. Rubio hit both of his attempts from long range and provided solid defense against a good PG in Calderon.