Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Things That Concern Me About the 2015-16 Timberwolves

The Wolves continue to give me (a 26 year season ticket holder) the giant middle finger by playing so awfully at home (2-8 versus 6-3 on the road).  But their apparent hatred for their home court/home fans is not what troubles me.  Here are some things that trouble me:

1) The failure of Sam Mitchell to find a rotation and 5 go-to guys.  Look, it is a basic element of any good NBA team that they have guys whom they can turn to at key times, including end of game, and say, "Go get em."  Now, the 5 guys may vary slightly (maybe you choose 5 of 6 or 5 of 7 depending upon who plays well) but it cannot just be a horrible jumble or grab bag where you go "Well, I guess Towns won't play at all in the 4th tonight....for some reason...."

As George Karl once screamed at Marcus Camby as he sulked off the floor at Target Center, "It is called a player rotation.  Get used to it."  The Wolves' players never have to worry about hearing that from Sam, as he appears to pick names out of hat throughout the game.

2)   Andrew Wiggins' Game Is Less Efficient and Overall Less Productive --  His shooting has actually gotten worse.  He percentage is down across the board, but he is taking more 3s.  His jumper is all kinds of crazy looking and he is squeezing off shots with absolutely no rhythm.  As a rookie he had a beautiful release and perfect rotation.  He now shoots the ball as if it were aflame when he receives it, often resulting in wild side spin efforts that clank harshly.

Add to this the fact that Wiggins (already sort of a Jeb Bush-ian "low energy" player away from the ball) has had his numbers in assists, rebounds, steals+blocks ALL go down this year.  How is that possible?  The guy to whom I most often compare Wiggy's upside is Paul George.  Paul George's rebounds and assists numbers are DOUBLE those of Wiggins.  It isn't like the Wolves are so awesome that there are just not enough stats to go around.  If Shabazz Muhammed can play 20 minutes and get 9 rebounds, certainly Wiggins could get his overall rebounding up to 6 a game.

3) The Tyus Jones Fiasco -- Look, the Wolves traded to get Tyus.  They obviously felt they had a player who could play in the NBA.  Now I realize that Flip (who loved Tyus) died, but the the situation in Minnesota just seems to scream out for Tyus to play the backup point guard.  LaVine is far more productive and happy playing off guard.  One of Rubio's best attributes is he can play 36-44 minutes a game.  So you play Rubio and you play Jones 4 to 12 minutes off the bench. 

The rap on Jones is that he is small and cannot defend.  The Wolves last year played Zach LaVine almost 2,000 minutes, often at starting PG.  He had negative Win Shares for the year.  His Offensive Rating was 19 points worse than his Defensive Rating, for the year.  Now, you take Tyus and you actually play him and you don't make him play out of position and you play him 6 minutes when he is awful and 15 when he is good.  How much worse could he be than LaVine was last year? 

Instead, what the Wolves have done is use LaVine at PG, a position where he will never be happy or particularly great, and send Tyus to the D League to languish in Boise.    All for.....what?  So they can solidify LaVine as Rubio's backup?  So they can get time for Tayshaun Prince? 

4) Kevin Martin May Have Just Straight Out "Lost It."  Not including his rookie year, when he played only 455 minutes, Kevin Martin's worst PER has been 14.8.  His PER this year is 10.8.  If Kevin Martin is a sub-par offensive player, you may as well release him, because he is a poor defender, he won't rebound, and he never gets an assist.  If you play him with Wiggins, you have two guys who may very well combine for fewer than 5 rebounds and 5 assists in 70 minutes of combined play.  That sucks. 

If Martin has "lost it" then you need to move him and get what you can.  But if you came into the season (as I did) thinking you have an above average off guard and now you have a terrible off guard, that is a huge problem.

5) End of Game Substitutions -- as a general rule, Kevin Garnett and Tayshaun Prince cannot score.  They should NEVER be in the game at the end when you need a basket to catch up or go ahead.  Yet Sam Mitchell, oddly, doesn't go offense-defense in late game situations and the ball will end up with one of these oldsters, who is often (wisely) left all alone by opponents.  Similarly confusing is Sam's insistence that Tayshaun Prince can still stop good offensive players.  If you look at his "Per 100" stats, Tayshaun Prince stopped being a good defensive player around 2008:  http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/p/princta01.html which was the last full season where he posted a Defensive Rating of 106 or lower.

Prince will be 36 this coming year, so it really isn't his fault.  But why Sam consistently refers to him as "our best defender" is a mystery, as he ranks 10th on the Wolves in Defensive Rating, one spot behind Zach LaVine.

6)  History  If I know anything from watching sports for probably 47 of my 51 years it is that it is very easy to be a loser, and very hard to change a losing atmosphere/history.  When you are 8-11, it is far easier to drop to 8-15 than it is to rise to 12-11.

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