Timberwolves' Corey Brewer on the rise

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Photo by 917press

This week, the Timberwolves began a media campaign to get Corey Brewer voted the NBA's most improved player. To that end, they've produced a little chuckler of a video. The whole thing, you'll notice, is just an extended pun on his name. Although this isn't the most supremely clever thing I've ever seen, I do enjoy the heated action shots of Brewer behind the coffee bar.  Check it after the jump: 




But, so the hilarity notwithstanding; is this award a realistic expectation for the Wolves?

There's no doubt that Brewer's improvement this year has been astonishing. His true shooting percentage has gone up from 47.3% in his injury-shortened '08-'09 season to 50.2% this year (true shooting, remember, factors free throws and threes into shooting percentage). He's also a much more significant facet of the Wolves offense this year: his usage rate (basically the percentage of his team's offensive possessions that he uses) is up from 16.3 to 21.5 and his scoring has improved from 10.9 to 15.5 points per 36 minutes.

All of these improvements are plainly visible on the court. Brewer is much more in control of his gangly body, and his jumper is more balanced and less hurried. He's also making much more poised decisions, responding more patiently to the defense, playing within the flow of the offense. The improvement is especially striking if we consider his early season pratfalls: the blown layups, the high, awkward dribbling, the epic spills. If all of this has come at the cost of some of that incredibly endearing, zany energy, not to mention some defensive consistency, well, everything comes with a price, I guess.

So let's compare Corey to some of the other candidates.  In points per game, the category most likely to draw the attention of voters, the Rockets' Aaron Brooks has seen an even more dramatic upsurge than has Brewer, improving from 11.2 to 19.6 this year. But although Brooks's true shooting percentage has improved somewhat (from 52.1% to 54.3%), this scoring is as much a result of increased minutes (his scoring per 36 minutes has improved from 16.1 to 19.7--not as significant right?) and a greater role within the Rockets' offense than of any dramatic improvement in play.

The Bucks' Andrew Bogut has also seen his scoring average go up, from 13.6 to 17.6 per 36 minutes. But his true shooting percentage has actually significantly decreased this season, from 57.7% to 53.9%. Bogut's real improvement has been defensive; according to Basketball Reference, Milwaukee's opponents can be expected to score 98 points per 100 possessions while Bogut is on the floor this season, as opposed to 106 points/100 possessions last year. And according to 82games.com, Milwaukee's defense is 5.3 points/100 possessions better when Bogut is on the floor.

But the Spurs' George Hill probably takes the statistical cake. His true shooting (50.2% to 57.3%) and scoring (5.7  to 12.7 points/36 mins) have both skyrocketed in his second season. Maybe most importantly, he's ably filled in for Tony Parker on a team that does not suffer gladly the inconstancy of youth.

So, statistically at least, Brewer deserves some serious consideration. And its certain that nobody in the league has come so far, so fast in terms of developing his game. But the sad fact is that Andrew Bogut and George Hill will both be playing in the playoffs. Aaron Brooks's Rockets have won 37 games and for a while were the semi-darlings of the league for their plucky play in the absence of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. Corey Brewer plays on a team that has won 15 games this year, hasn't once been seen on national TV, and is seen as a strange joke by most of the rest of the league. Hate to say it, but it probably ain't gonna happen. 

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