Up until their loss to the Charlotte Bobcats Wednesday night, the Timberwolves and Rick Adelman had done a ridiculously admirable job of finding able-bodied contributors in the midst of their early-season injury-apocalypse.
The difficulty with being an undermanned team in the NBA is finding personnel with the skills to fill a specific team need. The difficulty with finding a role on an NBA team is having a skill worth contributing. To put it simply, becoming employable.
For instance, on offense, Dante Cunningham has proven a
surprisingly deadly more than serviceable mid-range jump shooter. A definable skill, which is most useful when paired with an existing offensive presence, drawing enough attention to allow for space.
Absent of such a presence last night, Dante’s largest contributions were on the defensive end, where he had 3 of the 11 Wolves blocks. You could argue his larger contributions were intangible, but (to hammer it home), although Dante went 4-9 from the field, he took his foot off the gas and didn’t further contribute to the detriment of the team’s horrific field goal percentage (38%) — he put on his hard hat and went to work on the defensive end.
The Wolves most recent 2nd rounder to show he can contribute is Malcolm Lee. Last night against the Charlotte Bobcats Lee made as many field goals (3) and free throws (4) as last year’s #2 overall pick, Derrick Williams. To be fair, Lee had as many turnovers as he did made 3s (0), and many of those misses were as good as turnovers, but most came when he was wide open in the corner, where he had little choice but to fire them up. Lee’s perimeter defense would be a strong enough trait to mask his other shortcomings, if he could hit the occasional jumper or harness his quickness to do this more often…
It was Williams third 3-12 game of the season and it came as every passing minute extended an offensive drought that rang out loud, making it increasingly, painfully obvious to every pair of eyes watching that the Wolves had a clear and desperate need for an offensive threat somewhere, preferably near the painted area, where options to make a positive impact are greater…
Andrei Kirilenko’s sustained brilliance, combined with the efforts of Luke Ridnour and Alexey Shved would usually require one solid, low post effort to get a team over the hump.
Proving incapable of contributing specific skills to a team with such glaring need and big opportunity as Williams has had early this season and late in the last? Lesser picks than the second overall have been let go.