By: Matt Groschen—Follow me on Twitter @MeloMattGreezy
The Minnesota Timberwolves have doubled their win total in the first 34 games compared to last season. Despite the many things that this team can fix to get better. The first half of the season has been a resounding success. The players have great chemistry, the national media is taking notice and the team is performing relatively well. Fans are going to the games and even watching them on TV. As a life long fan (that’s a lie the Timberwolves were formed two years after my birth) I rarely remember this team captivating the city of Minneapolis. In this season they are doing exactly that, last season no one was talking about the T-Wolves in casual conversation. Now when I hear people share their opinions of the Timberwolves, I don’t even tell them how wrong they are, because at least they have an opinion!
Everyone is talking T-Wolves and boy is it sweet for someone who has lived through all their losses in the last seven years. Introducing myself as a fan always came with a disclaimer like “I’m a Timberwolves fan and yes I know they suck”. This is how things were, but now everyone is telling me how right I was about this team! The game against the Miami Heat on Dec. 30th was the culmination of my “I told you, so”. Rookie phenom Ricky Rubio went for 12 points, 12 assists and 6 rebounds and my phone was vibrating off the hook. With a smile on my face, I watched the exclamation points add up from my friends’ texts. They were all fulled with excitement and awe. My told you so was done by not replying to any of them. Instead I just sat back and watched the T-Pups come within a mid-range jumper of taking the best team in the league to overtime.
To Celebrate a great first half of the season let’s delve into who has been good and who has been bad.NIKOLA PEKOVIC: Simply put he has been Pektacular. He is a peksecussioner. The Pekstravaganza, started on January 25th and has been a joy to watch since. His story only surpassed by THE Jeremy Lin. Although I haven’t given Lin the Most Improved Player award just yet, if both players continue at their current rate it’ll be a close call. Also, I heard he was starring as “Beast” in the next Peks-Men movie (sorry I had to throw an original Pekovic pun in there, the first three I stole!) A+++
LUKE RIDNOUR: The Timberwolves clearly know how good this guy is. They haven’t made a trade this season due to the luxury of this man’s play. He is routinely out-matched on defense by size, speed and usually both. It doesn’t matter to him that he is playing out of position. When other players would make excuses for their poor play, Luke just adjusted and made himself an amazingly valuable player that even Ricky Rubio could not run out of town. And Rubio is glad, because he know the value of all those floaters and mid-range jumpers. What a great guy. A++
KEVIN LOVE: The fact that Love has the third best grade on his team shows how special this season has been so far. Kevin Love has become a true superstar in his own way. An MVP candidate with two game-winning scoring plays so far to prove it. He is old school and new school in the perfect blend. Obviously he shed the weight, but he has still maintained the rebounds, the toughness and added a whole list of agility skills that he didn’t have last season. Never have I thought someone could replace Kevin Garnett, but this kid is giving it his best shot. Kevin Garnett is arguably the best power forward ever, and statistically Kevin Love is better! That’s the best compliment I can give. A+
RICKY RUBIO: This is where my article is gonna be a little different than most. I expected all the things this kid is doing. No seriously. None of it has come as a surprise to me. Even his shooting I figured would be better than everyone was talking about before the season. The way I grade Ricky Rubio is the way his High School coach probably does. I know how good he is, but I want more. He is my favorite player on the team, but I expect him to be Rookie of the Year. If he isn’t it’s a disappointment to me. However, him not having any let-down games has been very impressive. So he still gets an A-, only this season on this team makes the curve pretty tough.
J.J. BAREA: His first 5 games were exceptional, as if he thought he was still playing in the finals from last season. After coming back from his injury he has been a turnover machine. It has been frustrating to watch his poor passes get intercepted for a lay-up the other way. He is also very poor at running the offense as Jim Peterson (wolves announcer) always points out. Overall he is a pain in the butt for the other team, making veteran plays and slashing for lay-ups or drive-and-kicks with repetition. I like this kid and am glad Kahn signed him away from the Mavs, even though at first it seemed strange. He is a good player, who’ll make you shake your head for the good and bad. B
DARKO MILICIC: Personally I was a fan of his last year, his presence was a positive influence on defense. Now that our players actually listen to our coach, his defense is not as noticeable. What is noticeable is his inability to take contact, his passive nature and the fact that his name is Darko. I am glad to have him still, he has developed a great relationship with Nikola and together they are both happy. Having Darko as a back-up center is where he belongs and he is a player we can keep without worry. Although, I could also easily foresee Kahn amnesty his ass. Maybe we try to develop him through threats…Something like a “Dunk the ball or get amnestied” sign hung up in his locker. C
MARTELL WEBSTER: I’ll admit he is my savior on this team, because I’m a firm believer in having players not play out of position for a long stretch of time. New flash: this kid is the only true shooting guard on our team (so quit making fun of him on his twitter about accidentally dunking in a three point game). Barring a trade, the full potential of this team sits on Martell’s shoulders. His shooting ability, athleticism paired with a semi-decent handle is the true “mana from heaven” combination. His play thus far is irrelevant, so far he has been getting to know the system and getting in basketball shape. The true question is what will he provide in the second half, if the Wolves have any chance for the playoffs it has better be something special. INCOMPLETE
MICHAEL BEASLEY: I’m over it. New project, maybe we’ll find a new guy to pin all our hopes of getting a #1 option. He is immature and takes terrible shots. The 6th man role is appropriate and we could keep him, because right now when Rubio sits we need someone to stop the bleeding. F+ (shout out to Tenacious D)
DERRICK WILLIAMS: I had high hopes for his ability to play Small Forward and make a big impact coming into the season. However, Adelman could not trust him in that role and told him to focus on being a power forward for now. This decision doomed his production the second it was made. Not his fault, however I am not a fan of his whining on Twitter. This kid is the proverbial “gym rat” and has a mean mid range jumper that reminds me a lot of Carlos Boozer. I think this kid will be good regardless of what happens this season. I just don’t really believe it should be on the Minnesota Timberwolves team. The way this team craves wing players with ball handling skills and the emergence of the monster in the middle (Pek) Kahn should consolidate the pieces into puzzle pieces that fit together. A.K.A. get a shooting guard!!!!! B-
WESLEY JOHNSON: The brunt of most Timberwolves jokes and the headache of most fans. Adelman has been a saint when it comes to patients with this kid. From the outside perspective he is far too aloof and does not focus when he is in the game. In the season past, it was not as noticeable, because he was making those open jumpers and there were more important problems. This could be a side effect of playing on a team that won 20% of their games. The professional nature of the NBA was a mystery to this kid last year. The urgency to win was not present outside of our fearless leader, Kevin Love. It seemed in February, Johnson took a very subtle step forward. He started taking less shots, shooting a better percentage, and defending like an animal. Comparing his stats from January to February:
- FG% went up by 2%.
- His shots per game went below the 6 per game mark, a first for him this season. His 3-point attempts also went down.
- And his effort on defense went up 234.3% (actual statistical proof show his fouls per game went up from 1.5 to 2.2).
- Grade: C- (but not hopeless)
WAYNE ELLINGTON: This kid has spunk. He has to have it, because he is undersized. He is a tweener in the mold of Jamal Crawford without the same explosiveness. His ceiling is not very high, but he is a very good defender and is a positive player out on the court. Many people ask for him to be more involved and given more minutes, but the reality is we’re better off playing two pure point guards. There is no room for Wayne on this team, and the sad reality is the not many teams could find rotation minutes for him. Wayne is useful though, especially with this intense lock-out schedule and with injuries that can occur at anytime. Wayne is a great player to keep on this team as a bench guy. He is a little more streaky of a shooter than I wish, but he is a great shooter has a GREAT handle for a shooting guard. C+
ANTHONY TOLLIVER: I’m a little too hard on this kid. I know he tries extremely hard and makes a lot of really important plays when he is on the court. However, he can not shoot and when he is in the game that’s what the Wolves need him to do! His shooting percentage is 34.7%, WORSE THAN WES JOHNSON?!?!?!?!? I don’t think he has much room to develop as a shooter, he is a bench player playing way too many minutes. I can’t forgive him for it… D
ANTHONY RANDOLPH: This kid kills me, because I remember back in the early part of his career when he had all the Golden State fans calling him untouchable. He definitely has times where it’s obvious that he was worth the gamble as a lottery pick. For me the story on Randolph can be summed up in watching his facial expression when he plays. ( -_-) <——That’s exactly how he looks. There is no way to be good at this mentally challenging game when you’re apathetic. So despite his; amazing shot blocks, his ball handling, his ability to match-up as a center due to his height and all the other things working in his favor, he is trade fodder… D-
BRAD MILLER: The only way one can truly evaluate his impact on the team is to actually be closely involved with the team. Sadly, that is not me. However, he does know the offensive traits of Adelman and in this compacted lock-out season. The extra help is needed and valued. His play on the court has been very forgettable and he has been injured a lot. Overall, I’m sure he is worth the roster spot and seems to be having a good time with his teammates… C-
Enjoy the All-Star break everyone! Go KLove! Rubio! and DWill!