What's on the Menu? "mmmmmm . . . Basketball!!!!"

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for November: 17. Minnesota Timberwolves

Overall Win/Loss Record (as of November 30th): 6-8 ,  fourth place Northwest Division

This Month:
Team Statistics and League Rank (as of November 30th)

Points Scored: 91.7 (28th)
Points Allowed: 92.8 (4th)
Team FG%: .423 (25th)
Opponent’s FG%: .435 (6th)
Rebounds per game: 43.4 (10th)
Opponents rebounds per game: 41.2 (10th)
Turnovers per game: 15.0 (14th)
Opponents turnovers per game: 14.5 (19th)

Individual Statistical Leaders

Scoring (ppg): Kevin Love (24.3)
Rebounds per game:  Kevin Love (14.0)
Minutes per game: Andrei Kirilenko (35.9)
Assists per game: Brandon Roy (4.6)
Steals per game: Andrei Kirilenko (1.7)
Blocked Shots per game: Andrei Kirilenko (1.8)

Worst Player of the Month:  Derrick Williams

Watching how he has played thus far this season, it is sufficed to say that Derrick Williams can now be officially called “a draft day bust.” When he had an opportunity to shine starting in place for the injured Kevin Love at the start of the season, Williams was a complete embarrassment.  As a starter, he provided little if anything in terms of offensive production shooting under .350 for the start of the season and being a complete non factor on the boards.  Fortunately for the Wolves, Love was not sidelined for much longer because if he had been, it would have been a very long season for NBA fans in Minnesota.  With Williams continued bumbling play at the four spot, the fortunes of the Minnesota Timberwolves would be quite bleak indeed.

First Player of the Month: Nikola Pekovic

With Love on the mend for the start of the season, Pekovic has been a handy stalwart in the paint providing a much needed offensive boost leading the Wolves in scoring for much of the season.  Thus far Pekovic has been holding it down in the paint averaging a little over 15 points per game while shooting at a rather impressive .507 clip.  Credit Nikola for keeping Minnesota respectable until Kevin Love arrived with his consistent offensive output  scoring in every game he has played, save for two, in double figures scoring 15 or more points on six occasions so far this season.  He was certainly more reliable than his teammates that struggled on the offensive end who have been bricking shots and thus given the team ownership of one of the worst field goal percentages in the league this season.  Now with Kevin Love back, look for the Wolves to come out of the gates with one of the toughest and intimidating front court tandems in the NBA.


To say that Minnesota started the season on a sour note would be putting it lightly as the Timberwolves exemplified “Murphy’s Law” perfectly—where anything wrong that could have happened did happen.  It all started with the Wolves losing Kevin Love in a preseason game as he sprained the wrist on his shooting hand and there was a possibility that he might miss the season.  Then Brandon Roy, one of Minnesota’s high profile free agent signings, was forced to mail it in and return to retirement as his surgically repaired knees gave out on him again.  The roster’s depth that was Minnesota’s pride and joy was simply decimated as there was one injury one after the other forcing the Wolves to be manned by a skeleton crew.  Fortunately for Wolves fans, their team did not pack it in and managed to weather the storm remaining respectable even without a huge portion of their roster which included two of the team’s star players—Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio.  Credit the team’s coach, Rick Adelman for keeping his team focused and having them play hard through those tough times that allowed the Wolves, despite all the injuries, to remain in striking distance in the ultra competitive Western Conference.

Despite missing a huge chunk of their offense and rebounding, the Wolves still managed to win five of their first seven games losing just to the Toronto Raptors (11/4/2012) and Chicago Bulls on the road (11/10/2012).  During that seven game stretch, Minnesota was on point defensively holding their opponents to just 85.4 points per game in their five wins.  Unfortunately that run did not last as they would fall in their next five games and would only win two of their last eight games to finish the month of November beating the Sacramento Kings on the road (11/27/2012) and the Milwaukee Bucks on their home court (11/30/2012).  As with their five previous wins, the Wolves stifled their opponents on the defensive end allowing just 86.5 points to be scored on them.  Their stifling defense not only brought them wins, but it also compensated for the team’s lack of offensive production as the Wolves only scored just 95.3 points per game in those seven wins and only cracked the 100 point mark just once in November (11/5/2012) which was a win against the Brooklyn Nets.

Minnesota’s troubles arose when their defense fell to the waist side allowing their opponents to score 100 or more points in five of their eight losses.  The three exceptions were a seven point road loss against the Chicago Bulls where despite losing, the Wolves held the Bulls to just 87 points (11/10/2012), the heartbreaking two point loss at the hands of the Charlotte Bobcats where Minnesota held the Cats to 89 points (11/14/2012) and a tough nine point road loss to the Golden State Warriors where the Wolves allowed them to score 96 (11/24/2012).  In the cases of Chicago and Charlotte, it was not so much the defense that kept those games low scoring affairs, but more the case that the Wolves faced two equally struggling offensive teams in Chicago and Charlotte.  Chicago has struggled this season putting points on the board as well as the Bulls have been without their leading scorer Derrick Rose and has had their once mighty deep roster hollowed out due to financial reasons. And while Charlotte’s play has been much improved from last season, the Bobcats have also had their share of offensive cold spells as well.

It is important to note, however, that in those five games where Minnesota allowed their opponents to score over 100 points, the Wolves only got blown out once—in a 19 point shellacking against the Toronto Raptors.  The four others, by sharp contrast were rather close as the Wolves lost to Warriors by eight 106 to 98 (11/16/2012), by seven against the Denver Nuggets 101 to 94 (11/21/2012), eight against the Portland Trailblazers 103 to 95 (11/25/2012) and the LA Clippers by just six 101 to 95 (11/28/2012).  In all those four cases, it seems as if the Wolves, instead of doing what they did best holding their opponents defensively, chose to try matching their opponents offensively which unfortunately ended up in disaster.  Those five games blatantly exposed the Wolves’ shortcomings on the offensive end and inability to find someone to hit the big shots late in the game.   Despite the games being high scoring, Minnesota struggled from the field shooting under .400 in three of them as they tried to claw back from behind only to come up rather short.

With December well on its way, Minnesota have looked much better offensively as they had the good fortune of not only Kevin Love returning, but also the early Christmas gift of starting point guard Ricky Rubio as well.  So far the Wolves have won five of seven and they have been on quite a tear on the offensive end scoring 100 or more points in four of those seven games.  Their defense has unfortunately taken a dive as the Wolves have allowed their opponents to score 98.2 points per game against them; fortunately, however, that increase in the opponents offensive production has been offset by their improved offensive production since Love has returned.  With Ricky Rubio back in the lineup, expect the Wolves to be a well oiled scoring machine as the pace of the game will be faster and thanks to Rubio’s passing, will be more crisp and efficient.  Hopefully, this spike in offensive production will not diminish the intensity that Minnesota has shown on the defensive end because it is that defensive effort that will bring them to the top of the Western Conference.