Timberpups Weekly Preview 2014 – Week 19

 

(photo credit: StarTribune.com)

Good times are coming for the Wolves?!  (Photo credit: StarTribune.com)

 

Setting the stage:

The past week was pretty kind to the Timberwolves, who took out Phoenix and Sacramento on their way to returning to .500 ball on the season (29-29).  The next two weeks includes a number of very winnable games and this is where the team just needs to get hot and stay hot, if they aren’t already in that area.  The Wolves have one more road game to finish up this road trip and then return to Target Center for a four game stand.

While I have written the playoffs off for this season, that doesn’t mean I can’t suggest a hot streak to bring them a little bit closer to that 8 seed.  The Wolves remain 5 games behind Phoenix, but would also need to leapfrog Memphis, who has a 4 game advantage on our team.  It is certainly going to be an uphill battle, all I ask is that they make it interesting.

Game 60: Monday, 3/3, 8pm – Timberpups @ Denver Nuggets (TV: FSN Plus)

Monday night in Denver will wrap up the five game road trip for the Pups and will give them an opportunity to go over .500.  The team is 4-1 since the all-star break and will have Sunday off in order to rest up a bit for the Denver air.  The Nuggets’ season is a lost cause as they have lost 10 of their last 11 games.  Hopefully that means the Wolves are catching them at the right time.

Opponent to watch:

Randy Foye – With Ty Lawson injured, I might be reaching here a bit.  However, Foye is averaging 19.6ppg in his last five outings and is coming on for the Nuggets.  As Wolves’ fans have experienced, this may not necessarily be a good sign, but hey, it is what it is.

Predictions:

I would normally suggest the Wolves take one on the chin here, closing out a five game road trip in Denver.  However, they had that huge break between games this past week and the Nuggets are looking abysmal of late.  Final score: Timberwolves 109, Nuggets 102

Game 61: Wednesday, 3/5, 7pm – New York Knicks @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The Wolves took care of the Knicks at MSG very early on this season and I expect more of the same in this match-up.  Going into Sunday’s match-up with the Bulls, the Knicks have lost 11 of their last 13 games and the team is on the back page of the NY tabloids newspapers for all the wrong reasons.

Opponent to watch:

Carmelo Anthony – Melo is second in the league in scoring at 28.2ppg.  His team is 17 games under .500 and I still believe there’s a strong correlation here.  Fair or unfair, I’ve never been a fan of Melo and feel like he has underachieved in his career.  Despite outstanding statistical performances, he has yet to win much of anything.

Predictions:

While Corey Brewer will have his hands full, I expect the home team to have no problem here in their return to the Target Center.  Final score: Timberwolves 108, Knicks 97

Game 62: Friday, 3/7, 7pm – Detroit Pistons @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The Pistons will host the Knicks and Bulls prior to Friday night’s match-up in Minnesota, so they will be equally rested for this game.  Heading into this week they are also on quite a losing streak, having dropped 7 of their last 8 games.  Despite how awful the Eastern Conference playoff picture looks, the Pistons find themselves in the lottery right now, with a 23-36 record heading into the week.

Opponent to watch:

Brandon Jennings – Remember when Jennings made fun of Ricky Rubio several years ago before he was drafted?  Yeah, I barely do too, as that feels about 12 years ago.  Well, Jennings leads the Pistons with 16.8ppg and 7.9apg and you can see where that has gotten the team in the standings.

Predictions:

Why does Joe Dumars still have a job?  Final score: Timberwolves 104, Pistons 95

Game 63: Sunday, 3/9, 6pm – Toronto Raptors @ Timberpups (TV: FSN Plus)

Maybe the most surprising team in the NBA this season (sans Portland?) the Raptors head into this week with a 32-26 record, which leads the Atlantic Division and puts the team in the 3 seed in the conference.  Read that entire sentence again.  Good grief.  I have no idea how this team is doing it but it does make me a bit frustrated to think that Dwane Casey could have been the Wolves long-term coach.

Opponent to watch:

DeMar DeRozan – There were times when Wolves fans believed they could steal DeRozan from Toronto for twelve cents on the dollar.  Those days are long gone as the SG is having a banner year with the team, averaging 22.7ppg, while also throwing in 4.5rpg and 3.9apg.

Predictions:

The Raptors took care of the Wolves back in January and this might be a tough one again.  Toronto has a game later today but are then off until Friday against Sacramento, before heading to the Target Center.  In other words, this team should be fresh.  Final score: Raptors 99, Timberwolves 95

Wrap-up:

Taking three out of four this week will go a long way to making the rest of the season a little more interesting.  The first three games this coming week should be W’s for the team.  If they drop any of them, the Pups will need to “steal” Sunday’s game against the Raptors.

Let’s go Wolves!

Recap – Nuggets 117, Timberwolves 110

Ricky Rubio in the new Timberwolves Lights-Out Sleeve Jersey (Photo credit: Timberwolves Facebook)

Ricky Rubio in the new Timberwolves Lights-Out Sleeve Jersey
(Photo credit: Timberwolves Facebook)

 

Our Pups returned to the Target Center to take on the Nuggets Wednesday night, kicking off the Thanksgiving weekend!  As an added bonus, the Timberwolves showcased their new “sleeve jersey” for the first time.  They will wear these jerseys in 10 games over the course of the season, per the FSN broadcast.

Once again, no surprises or changes in the Wolves’ starting five – Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  The Nuggets opened the game with Ty Lawson, Randy Foye, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, and JJ Hickson.

Game Summary

Wednesday night at Target Center was full of exciting plays and mounting comebacks, only to see the Wolves fall short in their efforts.  The loss drops the team to 8-9 on the season and you can find the negativity all over Twitter.  While a few numbers are below to prove it, the Pups desperately need to get more out of their bench.  (You already know this)  [Read more...]

Recap – Nuggets 117, Timberwolves 113

 

Nuggets ... Wolves ... Manimal vs. Love (Photo credit: NBA.com)

Nuggets … Wolves … Manimal vs. Love
(Photo credit: NBA.com)

The Timberwolves hit the road Friday night for a nationally televised game in Denver against the Nuggets.  The ESPN broadcast team spent a minute or two talking about the Wolves’ hot starts to games thus far this season.  So you could have assumed how this game started, the complete opposite.  Thank you Breen and Barry!

Kevin Martin returned from a bout with the flu and rejoined the starting lineup, along with Rubio, Brewer, Love and Pekovic.  Brian Shaw tinkered with the Nuggets starting lineup on Friday going with Ty Lawson, Randy Foye, Jordan Hamilton, Kenneth Faried, and JJ Hickson.  Insert your Randy Foye jokes here:

 

Game Summary

Wolves first game on national TV this season ended in a loss, thereby negating the above tweet and providing me with bad karma thoughts all over the place.  I’ll remain quiet about tomorrow’s game at Target Center against the Celtics.  Tonight’s game in Denver just felt underwhelming … which makes 0 sense given the final score of 117-113.  A few, good individual performances from the Pups, but not enough to bring home the W.  Let’s take a deeper look …

First Half 

Thanks to the kiss of death from Breen and Barry, the Nuggets jumped out to a 6-0 lead.  The Wolves quickly fought back however, led by a quick five assists from Ricky Rubio.  Rubio assisted on five of the Wolves first seven baskets and gave his team their first lead, 15-14.  Whatever Brian Shaw said in the huddle worked, as the Nuggets had an impressive rest of the quarter, taking a 35-26 lead at the end of the first twelve minutes.  That was largely due to the surprising, impressive play of JJ Hickson.

After the Nuggets scored the first five points of the quarter, the Timberwolves found themselves down by 15 points.  Rather than rolling over, the team gathered themselves and began an impressive run, led by the starting unit, minus Rubio and with JJ Barea.  I’m not sure what this means, but we had two JJ’s going off on the same night and neither really would have been your choice for player of the game before the opening tip.

In the last few minutes of the quarter, Kevin Martin came alive (again) and led the Wolves all the way back to take a lead at halftime, 60-56.  Here are a few additional notes at half-time:

  • Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love had a rock solid first half, combining for 25 points and 9 rebounds … but it was done “quietly” somehow
  • Rubio finished the half with 0 points and 9 assists – very excited about the passing, not thrilled at all about the 0-3 from the field
  • Following up on the Randy Foye joke – 0-3 from the field, and a game low -9 on the +/- scale … predictable

Second Half

The seesaw battle continued into the third, with the Nuggets dominating much of the quarter.  Through the first four minutes, the Wolves had one bucket … albeit a thunderous dunk by Corey Brewer.  Unfortunately, you don’t get style points in the NBA … yet, but who knows what Adam Silver has up his sleeve.

The Pups continued to turn the ball over (15 through three quarters in total), which allowed the Nuggets to increase their lead back to nine points.  With about 90 seconds to go in the quarter, the visitors made a small spurt to cut the lead to 86-81 at the end of three quarters, as Barea hit a fading jumper that rattled around the rim approximately seven times before falling through the net as the clock expired.

The resiliency in the Wolves continued to breakthrough in the fourth quarter as well.  Surprise, surprise, but the teams went punch for punch in the final frame as well.  The Nuggets built a thirteen point lead about halfway through the quarter and back came the Wolves again.  The Kevin’s and Corey led the charge, cutting it all the way down to a two point game after a three pointer from Love.

Unfortunately for the Wolves, they couldn’t get over the hurdle and fell short in Denver.  There were a few questionable calls/no-calls in the final minute, but this is a young team that is going to have to earn the respect of the officials.  Essentially, what Adelman said earlier in the week about being under the radar and not having earned anything yet came to fruition tonight.

A hard fought game but the Nuggets knock off the Wolves, 117—113.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Wilson Chandler – He didn’t have the most appealing box score, but Chandler knocked down open jumpers and led the Nuggets with 19 points, on 6-9 shooting.
  2. Kenneth Faried – 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Manimal, who shot 8-12 for the field.  Someone on the Wolves needed to commit a hard foul during this game and it didn’t happen.
  3. JJ Barea – Barea was a sparkplug off the bench tonight, keeping the Pups in the game.  He threw in 4 assists and 4 rebounds and helped mount most of the charges the team made.  

Key Takeaways

  • Rubio must make open jumpers for this team.  Opponents will continue to go under screens and he is going to have to start taking and making these shots.  As mentioned before the season, and mentioned by Barry tonight on the broadcast, this team could be really special if he makes the leap, and his jump shooting is preventing said leap.
  • Until the fourth quarter, Kevin Love was playing well but really not making a lot of noise.  Expectations are pretty high for a guy that throws up 28 and 10 and you don’t bat an eye.  Fair or unfair?

Game Notes:

Robbie Hummel played 13 minutes tonight while DWill, Shabazz, and Shved all received DNP-CD’s.  I have no idea what these three are (not) doing in practice, but it can’t be appealing on the eyes.

Wolves are back at it tomorrow night at the Target Center against the Celtics.

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...]

Luke Ridnour Trade Ideas

Luke Ridnour Being Shopped?

luke-ridnourI hopped on to trusty old ESPN today and read a little rumor about the Wolves shopping Cool Hand Luke around. According to ESPN, the Jazz, Celtics and Mavericks may be interested in our steady Point Guard.  As much as I like Ridnour, I concluded that it would be smart to analyze a few trade scenarios in order to find potential ways of improving our team as a whole.

Luke’s contract: 2 years with roughly $4,000,000 per year

Utah Jazz: 

There are three players that could realistically work (I wish Hayward, but no way); Randy Foye (1 yr $2,500,000), Raja Bell (1 yr $3,480,000), and Alec Burks (3 yrs and $6,330,000).

FoyeThe only player that would work straight up is Bell; the others would take a little extra…maybe some cash considerations.  I would not be overly excited for any of these three, but I would think Foye is the best of them.  He has become a better player since we last saw him in a Wolves uniform and he would bring a 3 point shooter we desperately need. Bell is more known for his defensive services, which is never a bad thing, but we need more than defense. Similarly, Bell and Foye are under the final year of their contract, which is nice to free up cap space for re-signing Pek, which I believe that we should!  I have not gotten the opportunity to see Burks play much since being a lottery pick a few years ago, but his shooting this season has been less than adequate. However, he has turned things on this month and has seen his percentages grow incrementally.  He has not had many minutes until this month, so appears likely that he is being showcased to the rest of the teams of the NBA.

Overall, my choice for a trade, need it be with Utah, would be Randy Foye. He is a scorer who knows how to play, can handle the ball, and only has one year left on his deal providing the Wolves with more flexibility.

Boston Celtics:

The Celtics are trickier; I would say the Wolves most likely target player is Jason Terry (3 yrs $5,000,000/yr)

The trade would work out financially while bringing the Wolves a compatible player for our offense. However, his lack of size, relatively large salary and aging body worry me.  I have long been a big fan of his offensive skill set as he has proven the ability to hit the 3-ball time and time again. However, he appears to be in steady decline as his 3PT% currently sits at .357%, which is his worst 3PT% since his last season with the Hawks back in ‘03-‘04.  His contract is an issue, as it takes up more cap space for a longer period then Ridnour, and while Terry can man the 2-guard position (which is by far our greatest need), he is 35 and only stands at 6’2”.Terry

If it were my decision, I would pull the trigger on Terry if he were to become available.  We would need to run with undersized lineups more frequently, but the presence of the veteran Terry could bring a refreshing change to our backcourt.  It could also allow Shved to start with Rubio and we would have two scoring threats in the backcourt off of the bench.

Dallas Mavericks:

As I examine the Mavericks roster, I notice only two players that a trade for Ridnour would financially work for, O.J. Mayo and Vince Carter.  Since I have no belief that the Mavs would trade Mayo for Ridnour, I will not even bother to speculate.  Carter (2 yrs $3,090,000/yr) is the scoring SG/SF we need who has even improved his defense over the past few seasons while possessing veteran accumen.  Carter is currently 36 years of age, but fills multiple needs and is even cheaper than Ridnour.

VinceI would be very enthusiastic should the Wolves somehow land one of Mark Cuban’s favorite veterans. Carter has everything we need (minus the age) and is not a huge expense.  It will bring almost another million to the table come summer and he still can throw it down when Rubio sends a lob his way.

 

If the Wolves were to trade Ridnour (who I would hate to see go), I would be most excited towards acquiring one of Foye, Terry or Carter.  It is never fun to see a player like Ridnour depart, but his leaving may bring the necessary depth at SG or SF we desperately lack in order to effectively compete in the Western Conference.

Brandon Roy Finally Becomes a Timberpup

I really can’t hide my emotions on this one – I absolutely love the signing of Brandon Roy.  Sure, it is six years and a few knee procedures later, but if he produces anything this coming season, I’ll finally be able to move on from the now infamous (and tragic) Roy for Foye trade from draft night 2006.

What do I mean by “produces anything”?  I don’t expect Roy to play 30 mpg whatsoever.  I’d like to see his time somewhere between 20-24 mpg, especially for the first half of the season.  Let’s see how he is feeling the day after a game, and more importantly, after back-to-back nights.  There’s no reason to wear him out early on in the season, even if Rubio is missing from the lineup (as he likely will be).  Even in his introductory press conference, Brandon seemed to be aligned to a similar plan; he mentioned he would like to play as much as possible, but needs to be smart about it.

There were two other important sound bytes from the introductory press conference that caught my attention:

    [Read more...]

Timberwolves Sign Brandon Roy

The Timberwolves have been prompt to addressing the various team needs so far during this hectic free agency period, beginning by the team sending their first round selection for the likes of SF Chase Budinger. They then took nearly a week to woo UFA SG Brandon Roy, and have reportedly struck a deal with the former Trail Blazer. The deal is reported to be a two-year pact worth $10.4 million, with only the first year being guaranteed. Roy recently retired due to medical concerns over his “cartilage-less” knees before this past season, and he has undergone platelet-rich blood therapy in an attempt to overcome the lack of cartilage in his knees, which is the result of his having several surgeries on each knee.

The Timberwolves originally selected the Washington star with the 6th pick in the 2006 draft, but traded him for Randy Foye on draft night after Timberwolves doctors red-flagged Roy’s knees as a potential problem for his long-term health.
[Read more...]