Wolves Record This Week: 2-1
Despite what seems like a never ending cavalcade of injuries that are apparently plaguing this team, they continue to exceed expectations on the court. This week the team sandwiched two victories around a road loss to the Chicago Bulls in which they tallied their lowest point total of the season. Speaking of points, here's an interesting stat -- The Wolves are 5-0 when scoring 90+, but 0-2 when scoring less than 90. Interesting, the team is currently ranked 23rd in the NBA in scoring and is averaging 91.57 points per game. One thing that has helped to turn the tide early this season is the fact that they are holding opponents to only 88.43 points per game. That is the second lowest total in the NBA. Aside from the injuries, one of most interesting aspects to the Wolves strong start is the resounding "team" aspect to their wins, especially offensively. Nikola Pekovic is the leading scorer right now with only 15.3 points. Throughout their first 7 games, there have been only three 20 point individual performances -- Pekovic twice and Barea once. Last year the team had eight 20 point performances through 7 games, but almost all of them came from Kevin Love. There might have been a question going into the season as to who would help fill Love's shoes offensively, but clearly the answer wasn't any individual player. As a result, it shouldn't come as any shock that, as a team, the Wolves are averaging 3.5 more assists per game than their opponents, which is good for second best in the NBA. No matter how they're getting it done, it's pretty darn impressive. Let's get into specifics.
Team Injury Streak: 4 games!
In one of the more depressing streaks your favorite team can go through, this one has to rank near the top. The Wolves have lost players to injuries in four consecutive games. Barea went out against the Magic with a sprained ankle, they lost Roy with knee issues against Indiana, Budinger tore his meniscus against the Bulls, and Pekovic went down with a sprained ankle against the Mavs. What is that all about? Four consecutive games? This has left our favorite team with only 1 of its top 7 guys on the depth chart. That speaks much to the level of depth this team has, but this trend must top. It has to -- for the children, at least. Won't somebody please think of the children?
Chase Budinger: A-
Speaking of injuries, in the one and a half games he played this week, Chase was great. He was a key cog in Friday's game against the Pacers, and that was before his brillint cut to the basket to make the game winning layup on a great pass from Andrei Kirilenko. Budinger mentioned after the game that the play wasn't designed to go to him, but he obviously had the court awareness to notice that Gerald Green was doing what Gerald Green does, which was to fall asleep on defense at an inopportune time. Beyond that though, Budinger scored a team high 18 points off the bench, on 4-6 from the field, and went to the line 10 times, converting 9 of those attempts. The news came out yesterday that Budinger will be out for the next 3-4 months, and he'll be sorely missed during that team. It *should* probably force the team to sign another guard, but we'll see if that ends up coming to fruition.
Ref's Willingness to Use Beer-Soaked Basketballs: F
If you weren't able to catch the very beginning of the game in Dallas, let me try to set the stage for you on this one because I can't find a clip of it on YouTube. In the opening play after the tip, the basketball got knocked out of bounds into the front row. TV cameras showed a ref holding a beer-soaked basketball shortly thereafter. He showed it to OJ Mayo and Luke Ridnour, which prompted Luke to immediately shake his head "no" to. That, of course, makes me assume the ref was legitimately contemplating the idea of continuing to use it. Guys, estimated revenue for the NBA is $5 Billion this season. BILLION. I'm pretty sure we can afford to substitute a different ball.
Nikola Pekovic: B+
Pekovic was another guy who was having an extremely solid week before he went down with a sprained ankle against the Mavericks. In his two and a half games, he was averaging 17 points on 55% from the floor and 7.3 rebounds per game. Side note -- I wonder how much he's been missing the presence of Kevin Love. He seems to be missing a lot of the shots was making last year and hasn't been snagging as many rebounds as he did with Love by his side. Are teams focusing on him more since Love isn't around to draw that attention? It's entirely possible that I'm overthinking it and that it's just a new year and he isn't quite hitting his stride yet. With Pekovic currently available, that leaves the Wolves with exactly one legitimate center on their roster. Let's hope the big guy can come back soon.
Luke Ridnour: C
Luke Ridnour has been put in a tough spot with Rubio being out. He's currently playing the second most minutes on the team right now, just behind Andrei Kirilenko. He's been doing a nice job of running the offense, but for a starting point guard playing more than 30 minutes per game, I find it a little odd that he's averaging only 3.6 assists per game. That ranks him fifth on the team. This week he also shot only 32% from the field on an average of 11 shots per game. To his credit, however, Ridnour did manage 6 steals against the Mavericks, and had a nearly 3 to 1 assist to turnover ratio. He's been up and down for me, but I'd generally like to see a bit more efficiency from him on the offensive side of the ball.
OJ Mayo's Headband: D-
Honestly, does this guy even know how to wear these things?
Far be it from me to critique NBA Fashion, but -- I think -- headbands are generally used to keep sweat off of your face and out of your eyes. Not surprisingly, Mayo recognized the ineffectiveness of his headband and took it off about 5 minutes into the game.
Andrei Kirilenko: A
Continuing to(probably) be a steal of your NBA Fantasy League draft, Kirilenko also continues to be the glue that is helping to hold the team together and is often the X-factor in the victories(this column is in no way affiliated with The X Factor on Fox, starring Simon Cowell). This week, the box-score-stuffing AK47 averaged 11 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.3 steals, and 1.3 blocks. He's a complete monster on the court and might be the overall MVP of the team over the first two weeks of the season. I also love the fact that he seems to be diving on the court every time he thinks he might be able to snag a loose ball. He was a little flat with his shot the first two games of the week, but he's still shooting 57% on the season. Is there anything the guy can't do?
Alexey Shved: B+
Last week I suggested that Shved wasn't exactly living up to the "Russian Ricky Rubio" nickname that some have bestowed upon him. I'm willing to recant that in a sense, because Shved's having the same effect on me that Rubio did last season, in which I generally don't want to miss any second he's on the floor. His gameplay isn't as flashy as Rubio's is(Shved's passes might not make any top plays), but his court presence as an NBA Rookie continues to impress. He has a natural ability to get into the lane and either draw contact or find an open teammate. His defense also hasn't been nearly as bad as advertised. I love what he's bringing to this team right now.
Wolves Highlight of the Week:
Derrick Williams might not be making a huge impact on the court so far, but he sure is making a big impact in this section of the column! For the second week in a row, Williams helped build his SportsCenter Top 10 resume. Check out this awfully impressive baseline move that he put on the Mavs.
Wolves Twitter Photo of the Week:
There wasn't much to choose from in the way of fun/interesting/etc Twitter photos this week, but I enjoyed this look into the locker room that Timberwolves PR Guy(@TWolves_PR) gave us after Friday's buzzer-beating victory against the Pacers. Chase Budinger was the star attraction that night and this photo proves it:
Image Courtesy of Timberwolves PR via Twitter
Stick with me this season as we continue to look back on the Wolves Week that was. Comments, criticisms, etc? Please drop me an email at email@example.com with your thoughts. Or discuss it with me on Rube Chat here.
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This article was written by jab. You can normally find him meandering around Rube Chat. Or feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.