Timberwolves Summer League Rewind

Shabazz Muhammad at Timberwolves Summer League

“Here’s what we need you to do Shabazz…”
(Photo credit: Chase Stevens / Las Vegas Review Journal)

While the Summer League rolls on tonight and tomorrow, the Timberwolves’ participation in the tournament ended this past Friday.  After falling to the D-League Select team for the second time on Thursday, the Wolves were bounced out of the tournament, wrapping up with a consolation game on Friday – their fifth game in as many nights.

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.

  1. Shabazz Muhammad is going to work his tail off to get meaningful minutes.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

[Read more...]

Probable Timberwolves Lineups for 2013-14

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.

Who will join these two in the Timberwolves starting five?

Who will join these two in the Timberwolves starting five?

I call this the “Five with Fire”, because what is a lineup without a corny nickname:

  1. Ricky Rubio
  2. Kevin Martin
  3. Chase Budinger
  4. Kevin Love
  5. 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...]

Timberwolves 2012-13 Player Grades: Guards

Ricky Rubio and Alexey Shved at the 2013 Rising Stars Challenge (NBAE/Getty Images)

Ricky Rubio and Alexey Shved at the 2013 Rising Stars Challenge (NBAE/Getty Images)

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

Position: PG

Season Summary

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...]

Minnesota Timberwolves 105, Phoenix Suns 93

Photo Credit: Jim Mone, Associated Press

Photo Credit: Jim Mone, Associated Press

Game Summary:

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...]

Minnesota Timberwolves 100, Utah Jazz 107

AlJeffersonGame Summary:

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...]

Minnesota Timberwolves 105, Detroit Pistons 82

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Game Recap:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

 

Minnesota Timberwolves 100 – Houston Rockets 108

wolvesrockets315Game Summary

On Friday night the Wolves visited the Houston Rockets to start the St. Patrick’s Day holiday weekend.  There was no luck of the Irish (or any other nationality) for our Pups in the Toyota Center as the Wolves fell and fell hard.  Interested in a quick Recap - Minnesota Timberwolves 100 - Houston Rockets 108.  Interested in more?  Here is how the night transpired.

The Wolves continued on without Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko, their 8th and 9th games missed in a row, respectively.  The starting lineup remained as Rubio, Ridnour, Gelabale, Williams, and Stiemsma.  The Rockets opened up with Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Donatas Motiejunas, and Omer Asik.

Early in the game, Derrick Williams picked up an offensive foul that was arguably the worst I have seen called all season.  Not two minutes later, Williams picked up his second offensive foul and he was on the bench less than four minutes into the game; with the team already down to a bare minimum of able bodies.  The writing felt like it was on the wall for this one pretty early.

However, the Wolves played very well early despite missing Williams.  Dante Cunningham played well and the Wolves hit 59% of their shots in the 1st quarter.  Mickael Gelabale had a very strong quarter, with 4 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists.  Greg Stiemsma also played well, shooting 3-3 from the field for 6 points to go with 2 blocks.  At the end of the 1st, the Pups held a 27-22 over the Rockets.

The good times continued for the Wolves in the 2nd quarter, as they were able to stave off an early run from the Rockets.  In the latter portion of the quarter, the Wolves were able to increase their lead and it had the early looks of a blowout.  Minnesota outscored Houston 30-17 in the quarter to take a 57-39 lead.   Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • The NBA TV studio crew practically destroyed the Wolves in pregame and spent most of halftime trying to change the topic
  • The Rockets looked like they were asleep at the wheel, with 15 turnovers through 2 quarters
  • Total team effort from the Wolves; 57 points, with four different players with a team high 8 points
  • It is amazing how well the Pups look when they hit shots – 55% at the half

The Rockets started the 3rd quarter like a completely different team, hitting jump shots and playing much better defense.  They started the quarter on a 12-5 run to cut the Wolves lead to 11, forcing Adelman to burn an early timeout.  James Harden came alive in the 3rd quarter and took it to the Wolves.  Unfortunately, the Wolves didn’t make any defensive adjustments (i.e. switching Rubio and Ridnour on one end of the floor) until there were less than two minutes in the quarter and after the Rockets cut the lead to 5 points.  After a wild, final ninety seconds of the quarter, the Wolves took an 80-74 lead into the 4th quarter.

There was another 12-5 run by the Rockets to start the 4th quarter, which gave the home team the lead and forced another timeout by Adelman.  The remainder of the quarter was not much better.  With two minutes left in the game, the Rockets still had the Wolves doubled up in the quarter, 25-12 and held a 99-92 lead.  At this point, realistic fans should have been well aware that this game was over.  The Wolves couldn’t do anything to stop or contain the Rockets in the second half and ultimately fell 108-100.

Keys of the Game

  • Game of two halves – Wolves defense gave up 39 points in the 1st half and 69 points in the 2nd.  They scored 57 points of their own in the 1st half and were held to 43 in the 2nd.
  • Rebounding – The Rockets outrebounded the Wolves 44-36, allowing Carlos Delfino to grab 10 rebounds (4 offensive).
  • Three point shooting – The coaching staff needs to put a limit on 3PT’s taken during a game and put some type of penalty on the team when it exceeds said number.  For a team that is really, REALLY bad at long range shooting, the Wolves remain way too trigger happy.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. James Harden – Huge second quarter from Harden without any response from the Wolves – 37 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists, including 16-18 from the FT line.
  2. Jeremy Lin – Virtually the exact same comment as above for Harden.  24 points and 8 rebounds.
  3. JJ Barea – Barea had a nice game for the Wolves, with 19 points off the bench on 8-12 shooting.