10 Timberwolves observations at grim mid-season

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As a player, Kurt Rambis went to the playoffs nine times. Getting the Timberwolves there is a different monster.
The Timberwolves (10-31) have now reached the mid-pole of their 2010-11 campaign, and are pacing for just five more wins than last year. Entering Monday, they owned the NBA's third-worst record.

To be sure, Kevin Love is having an All-Star worthy and historic season. Along with some Love lauding, here are 10 observation of the Wolves' season to date:

 - Kurt Rambis owns the second-worst winning percentage of the nine head coaches in Timberwolves history. With an overall mark of 25-98, his .203 win clip betters only that of Jimmy Williams's .189 percentage (1992-93). Of course, of the nine men, only Flip Saunders has a winning career mark here (.558). Given the Wolves' youth and roster turnover, I see a long leash for a guy that signed a four-year deal in '09. But the grumbles will only grow louder if he can't eventually muster more late-game success.

- The Northwest Division is just a crappy place for the Wolves to be. The 2004-05 realignment that put Minnesota with Denver, Oklahoma City (then Seattle), Portland, and Utah isn't just a bum spot for the Wolves from a geographical vantage--it doesn't help the win clip much, either.  Truly, these guys should have been placed in the Central Division over in the East, which is made up of Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Indiana, and Milwaukee. That the Wolves are 4-1 versus those Central clubs is to view subjectively, but there's no denying that the West Coast travel for these guys is ridiculous.

- Gaudy rebounding numbers don't mean much if a team can't shoot.

- A more entertaining product hasn't translated to improved attendance marks at Target Center. The Wolves are averaging 14,661 fans per home game, ranking 23rd of the NBA's 30 teams. That's about 500 fewer fans than they averaged last season and on par with what they averaged two years back. The team hasn't averaged more than 17,000 fans since the 2004-05 campaign, which was their last winning season.

- Two of these three guys may be gone in a month: Sebastian Telfair, Jonny Flynn, Corey Brewer. Telfair has been a good soldier, and hasn't bitched about a dearth of playing time in the last five weeks (just a lone double-digit minute appearance since 12/11; injuries considered). It's been well-reported that he'll very likely be moved before the 2/24 trade deadline. Flynn is shooting at a mere .329 clip this season, has never had a 10 assist game and is running out of excuses as Ricky Rubio's (potential) arrival nears by the month. Brewer is the toughest call. He's a restricted free agent after the season, has established himself as one of the more potent defenders in the conference, and has offered a run of more steady play of late--all of which could make him an attractive piece for a contender. But there's some cluster at his position, making minutes tough to come by when he hits one of his bad streaks.

- The Michael Beasley trade was a steal, and surely charts among the finest transactions in Wolves history. For just a pair of future second-round draft picks and cash considerations, the organization acquired a guy who's averaging over 20 points per game and shooting almost 44 percent from beyond the arc. Off the court, he's proven just as entertaining. If you've yet to watch this vid, don't deprive yourself of a great laugh.

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Image via Wiki
- Kevin Love has joined Joe Mauer and Adrian Peterson on the top shelf of Twin Cities sporting celebrity. After recording the league's first 30/30 effort in nearly 30 years, Love has become a deservedly national figure. His 15.7 boards per game lead the league (by far), as do his 36 double doubles. Love now has 27 consecutive double doubles and is creeping up on the franchise record of 37 straight, set by Kevin Garnett in 2006. On a larger scope: The NBA record for career doubles doubles (from stats dating to 1986-87) is 779 by Karl Malone. Excluding Malone's marks from his rookie year of 1985-86 (81 games), the "Mailman" charted double doubles in 56 percent of his career games. Through 182 career games, Love has 101 double doubles--that's good for 55 percent.  Oh, and he's also shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc.

- Luke Ridnour really is a nice player. I admittedly didn't think much when he came here, but the tough little dude has turned heads by firing at a .452 rate from three (7th in the NBA) and a .920 clip (2nd in the league) from the free throw stripe. His assist-to-turnover ratio (2.97) is also 9th best in the NBA. As the team's elder statesman (in both age and experience) more late-game composure should be expected--but just think where the Wolves would be without this guy.

- Taking Wes Johnson over DeMarcus Cousins remains a matter of debate. I've waffled on this since the draft, first disliking the move, then flip-flopping when Cousins proved the putz many felt he would be while Johnson has proven solid both on and off the court. Yet, in recent weeks, Cousins has been playing at a really high level, and has now up his rebounding average to 7.7 per while also scoring nearly 13 points a night. Both numbers are far superior to those of Johnson, who's no doubt showing signs of being a fine marksman, but needs to improve his handle and defense. If Darko Milicic weren't having a solid year, the Johnson/Cousins debate would be louder right now.

- Looking ahead, the Wolves won't finish the year with 30 wins; however, don't be surprised if they make a sound late-season run. In March and April, the Wolves' final 22 games of the season come against just 11 teams that currently own winning marks. In addition, as the league's youngest team by average-age, the Wolves should find some success in that stretch via fresh legs: Seven of those 22 opponents chart among the NBA's 10-oldest clubs.


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17 comments
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Hank5
Hank5

A good list but i think you couldve expanded on Darko more. Did you see his move last night against the Blazers?

Drew
Drew

They've had some highlights; it appears we have turned the corner.

Smartin
Smartin

With the addition of Rubio next year and a good draft, I see a promising future for this team. It''s been too long and too frustrating - Minnesotans are ready for a competitive team on the court.

Judd
Judd

"Ready" puts it mildly. Without a winning season since 2004-05 (and lacking a playoff appearance since the year prior to that), I think we're a little closer to "desperate" on the spectrum. Yet as the above attendance numbers show, they'll be butts in the seats if/when they can win again. I don't know if Rubio will be the guard that can truly compliment the big talent (or if he'll even play here when he does come stateside), but his appearance will no doubt keep the interest-level up.

duke
duke

brewer has to go, who needs a shooting guard that can' shoot...one more good draft and rubio and they could get 40 wins next season.

Electro
Electro

Didn't "king James" let us know how the wolves are doing and what should be done with them? that guy's a selfish jerk.....

Judd
Judd

Well, like many of LeBron's comments in the last year, he tried to take that one bac, too. And I don't think youe dislike of him is rare. If you subscribe to "Q Score" rankings (not sure I do), he's the 6th-most disliked athlete (above him: Vick, Tiger, T.O., Ochocinco, Kobe).

Judd
Judd

Well, like he's done multiple times in the last year, LeBron had something to say and then flip-flopped on his words when they were met with pubic dissaproval. You may find this list interesting:

http://www.cnbc.com/id/3917078...

jemihami
jemihami

Best thing that can happen to this team would be to set a solid starting five and that starts with the PG. Had I been drafting two years ago Jrue Holiday and DeMar DeRozan would have been amongst my picks. That being said, they're not here so we have to do what's best. Ridnour is a "nice" player, but he lacks the physical tools to be really effective. Once we get a really good "1," this team's ability to play Rambis' style increase two-fold.

Judd
Judd

Or maybe we should have just kept Ty Lawson, whose putting up 11 and 4 this year. I agree on the point guard situation. This is hyperbole, but put, say, Steve Nash on this team, and they're up to 40 wins.

jemihami
jemihami

Never liked Lawson ... still don't. Regarding Flynn and WesJ, they both came out of Syracuse as being decent defenders. Unfortunately, because Boeheim's team all play a "team first" defensive style (on the perimeter) it's so difficult to judge the talent.

Bobby Knight did a fabulous break-down of how Syracuse defends and he pointed out how Boeheim was a strict old-school defensive coach and that all of the fundamentals learned (foot movement, hand and arm coverage, etc.) allowed the team to be so vexing ... even for their offensively gifted opponents.

Flynn and Johnson both have the capability to defend, but neither has shown the ability to create shots, for themselves or others, and that is especially disturbing. Another thing that really bothers me is the constant brain-blips that Flynn and Brewer have. Whether it's a dumb reach, and errant pass or a low percentage shot, both are rally killers.

I'm not sure if moving Brewer or Johnson makes sense, but make no mistake, the team wants Rubio to run Rambis' version of "The Triangle." Flynn will not be happy as a backup, but I don't know if he has the physical or mental skills to start for any NBA team.

Judd
Judd

Well stated. It really is notable how many top college players have come from Syracuse, only to offer measured/disapointing production in the NBA. Among them in the Boeheim era (1976-present): Seikaly, Sherman Douglas, Derrick Coleman, Billy Owens, Lawrence Moten, Hakim Warrick, and Flynn. Carmelo, of course, serves as the rare exception, and he was just there one year.

myles
myles

Sorry Judd, changing divisions is lipstick on a pig. I agree, we have a couple of "nice" players who are still young. In fact, the LA Times recently called Love and Beasley on of the best front court tandems in the business. Maybe the Wolves are only a few players from being competitive; but the front office has not shown much ability to put the pieces together. Doesn't feel real good for progress.

Judd
Judd

Well, I think it does feel good for some degree of "progress" in that they're more entertaining and have assembled some real talent all over the roster. And I think the front office has presented a mixed bag of results: the Darko move looks acceptable, the Beasley move was a steal, and Tolliver, Webster, and Ridnour are legit complimentary players. But of course said talent hasn't translated to wins, and the other pile in that mixed bag contains Flynn, Rubio/Brewer decisions to come, and where these guys will ultimately go under Rambis.

Malone
Malone

I think you summed it up perfectly by saying '...rebounds don't mean much when your team can't shoot...'That's a great point and should be a focus come the draft.

Pittsburgh Norm
Pittsburgh Norm

Good observations. What makes you think Rubio will come to Minnesota?

Judd
Judd

Well, I note it as Rubio's "potential" arrival, although I do think he'll be here -- or somewhere in the NBA -- next season. If, of course, there is a next season. He can buyout of his Spanish contract for $1 mil after the season, and would truly begin to appear both foolish and afriad if he stayed in Europe any longer. He may prove trade bait or the Wolves backup point guard next season; either way, the kid will be big news.

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