Wolves Record This Extended Holiday "Week": 0-5
You might have been thinking we'd put off this column until the team got back on track, but I can assure you that's not the case. Due to the holiday break and the sparse schedule, I figured we might as well cram two weeks into one this time. The Wolves started off the stretch with losses against Kemba Walker and the Bobcats and the Golden State Warriors. Just when doom and gloom was starting to set in after the first two game losing streak of the season, faith was suddenly restored by Kevin Love's surprise return to the lineup against the Denver Nuggets. It was all for naught, however, as the squad promptly lost the next three games by an average of more than 8 points per game. But hey, it couldn't have all been bad, right? Well, it honestly pretty much was exactly that, but let's look at some specifics.
Wednesday Night Bobcat Block Party: F
Holy hell, where on Earth did the Bobcats come from? I realize our favorite team was without its premier big men, but the Wolves couldn't have looked more inept in the paint against the 'Cats for the larger part of the contest. The game featured 23 combined blocks between the two teams and the combined Charlotte Crew of Mullens, Haywood, Biyombo, and Tyrus Thomas weren't giving anything up easily. It was one of the better interior defensive performances that I've seen in quite some time, and -- in case you forgot -- it came from a team that only won 9 games last season. I guess you can't expect a ton of frontcourt offense from the likes of Greg Stiemsma and Lou Amundson, but they were entirely overmatched in that one.
Free Throws: D+(68.7%)
Here's a fun thing to chew on. If the Wolves were able to make all of their free throws, they would have won against every team this week other than the Golden State Warriors. I realize we don't live in that hypothetical world, but less than 70% is just not going to cut it for a professional basketball team. Points don't come easy in this league, so you might as well make the ones in which your defenders are obligated to stand away from you and are forbidden from interfering.
Kevin Love: B-
In a mostly negative week, the return of Kevin Love was a fantastic surprise. Emphasis on the word "surprise", by the way. Nobody outside of the team had any idea Love was going to be playing until just a few hours before tipoff, when our guy Jon Krawczynski(@APKrawczynski) broke the news on Twitter. Not(officially) expected to be back for another two weeks, Love's return wasn't exactly the spark the team needed to get off a losing skid, but was warmly welcomed by every Wolves fan. That said, our guy came back a little rusty. Oh sure, he's posted double-doubles in every game, but K-Love needs to be graded based on K-Love standards, and he looks a little winded at times, and not *quite* on point yet. He's shooting 40% on the season and only 18% from behind the arc. That said, it's unfair to think that it wasn't going to take some time to work out the kinks. I'm just happy to see #42 back in the starting lineup.
Third Quarter Meltdowns: F
Since the return of Kevin Love, the Wolves have held significant leads in the first half of all three games. In two of those three, the team completely melted down in the third quarter and both of them can be attributed to ill-timed technical fouls. Both Ts were total buzzkill momentum swinging plays, and the team never recovered from either.
Chase Budinger: A
I know what you're thinking, and you're right -- Chase didn't even log a single second this week as he recovers from knee surgery. So why the grade? I'm giving up an honorary grade because I think Chase meant quite a bit to this team and they're suffering by not having him out there. The team lost another three-point threat(other than the home opener against the Kings, Budinger was shooting nearly 40% from downtown ), and a pretty effective slasher. His aggressiveness led to 10 free throw attempts against Indiana, which proved to be a major factor in that game. Josh Howard's been serviceable thus far, but he hasn't quite had the impact that Budinger was having. Speaking of which...
Josh Howard: C+
Josh isn't setting the world on fire yet, just over a week into his (long overdue)Timberwolves career, but Howard has been serviceable in his primary role as backup to Andrei Kirilenko. In just over 15 minutes per game(pretty much right on point with the 7 minutes or so per half that Rick Adelman said he wanted to use him), Howard's averaged 6.5 points on 42.5% shooting. He's also contributed 3.5 rebounds per game and has made a few solid hustle plays. He's also looked a little rusty. He will probably never be back to All-Star calibur, but his best is yet to come.
Backcourt Defense: D-
A very strong reason for the 0-5 record this week was due to poor defense against opposing guards. Timberwolves starting backcourts were outscored by the opposing backcourts by an insane margin of 196-68 this week. The team played against strong backcourts all week long, but those numbers are borderline alarming. Another problem I'm having is that they were also out-assisted 42-36. Ricky Rubio can't come back fast enough. His offensive prowess and defensive length are sorely missed right now.
Malcolm Lee: C-
Malcolm Lee brings some stick-to-itiveness from a defensive perspective(even though he wasn't completely effective on the defensive end this week), but I'm honestly kind of wondering just what else there might be. Other than a highlight of the week(we'll get to that later) every now and again, his offensive consistenly comes up short. He takes too many ill-advised shots, misses too many wide open shots, gets blocked on too many drives to the basket, and doesn't really move the ball around much. I don't really mind him as an end of the bench guy, but I'm not really seeing what he's bringing to the starting lineup right now. Unfortunately, it's a numbers game, but it seems like it's only a matter of time before Shved takes his spot.
Derrick Williams: B
Unfortunately, Kevin Love came back into the mix and Derrick Williams fell into an Ozzie Smith type of abyss for a few games, but in the few games he played this week, Derrick actually looked pretty good. After a pretty shaky game against the Bobcats, ee had one of his better games as a pro in the first game against the Warriors, and after climbing out of that abyss(after two straight DNP-CDs) he contributed a very solid 11 minutes off the bench in the second game against the Warriors and hit 4 of the 6 shots he took. He managed to get 3 fouls in that game but he did look solid offensively. This week really starts to beg the question, however -- What exactly is Derrick's role on this team long-term? He's not going to win many minutes against Kevin Love, and he still isn't quick enough to defend or drive past other 3s. I'm just really not sure. I love the size and athleticism, but there are still times that he looks more like a awkward just-born calf than the dominant guy he was in college. There's definitely room in the NBA for him as he refines his game, but will it be with this team?
Dante Cunningham: A-
Still one of my favorite offseason additions, Dante Cunningham does just about everything you'd want him to and just about nothing you don't want him to. The perfect definition of a quality role player, Cunningham hits open shots, skies for rebounds, dives for loose balls, has the ability to block seemingly open fast break streakers from behind, and brings a serious effort to every single game. It's not hard to see why he stole the backup power forward spot from Derrick Williams, even though he doesn't bring as much to the offensive table.
Wolves Highlight of the Week:
Back to Malcolm Lee and about the best thing he did all week, which was to posterize the daylights out of the considerably lengthier Tyrus Thomas.
Wolves Twitter Photo of the Week:
There were a few interesting shots to choose from this week, including a pic of Ricky Rubio teaching Derrick Williams the finer aspects about Rubik's Cube of all things. However, I had to snag this photo from Dante Cunningham(@dlamarc33) in which he gives us a taste of the NBA life, riding to the game in style:
Image Courtesy of Dante Cunningham via Twitter via Instagram
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com.