Friday, January 6, 2012

Theoharides on the Education of the T-Wolves

 Alex Theoharides (@Minne_Pop) returns to take on the early season successes and failures of the "indie" team of the moment—The Minnesota Timberwolves.

In the early start to the NBA season, The Minnesota Timberwolves have become one of the most entertaining teams in the league, equally capable of making young boys and sage editors (re: Matt Domino) yearn for their games to be shown on NBA TV. Led by new coach Rick Adelman, The Wolves play a fast and loose brand of basketball, designed to take advantage of their plethora of ball handlers (Ricky Rubio, JJ Barea, Luke Ridnour) and talented rebounders (Kevin Love, Anthony Tolliver, Darko Milicic). Despite playing several of the best teams closely, the Wolves record 2 wins, 4 losses (as of Friday) was also reflective of their youth.

Take a look at their four losses:

Mon, Dec 26
Tue, Dec 27
Fri, Dec 30
Wed, Jan 4

In each of the four losses, the Wolves were within four points. Although three of the four opponents were quality teams, who the Wolves were expected to lose to, looking more closely at these games reveals that the Wolves are losing for the many of the same reasons that they lost close games last season. At the end of games, their options on offensive are extremely limited. Their most talented scoring threat is Michael Beasley, who is averaging a meager 13.5 points per game, while shooting only 40% from the field. Beasley is also prone to turning the ball over at the end of games, talking to himself at the foul line, and leading my coworkers to ask me if I thought he was stoned during the games (to which I almost always nod my head yes). Not exactly, the player you want handling the ball late in games.

Meanwhile, the team’s best player (by far) Kevin Love isn’t the type of scorer who can create shots for himself. His best offensive skills are his three point shot and his ability to put back offensive rebounds. After losing nearly 25 pounds in the off-season, his post moves and his ability to drive to rim have both improved. However, no one will ever confuse him for being Zach Randolph.

Luckily, the young Wolves upcoming schedule (vs. Cleveland, @Washington, @Toronto) should give them the opportunity to learn how to close out games. In particular, it would be advisable for Adelman to keep the ball in Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio’s hands, allowing him to create open looks for his opponents down the stretch. Rubio is second in the team in both PER and Plus/Minus, and leads the Wolves in assists, averaging 7.0 per game. By surrounding Rubio with shooters like Love and Barea, and slashing big men such as rookie Derrick Williams and the oft-overlooked Tolliver, he should be able to lead the Wolves to easy baskets late in the game.

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