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Dec 18, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love (42) dribbles past Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) during the fourth quarter at Target Center. The Timberwolves defeated the Trail Blazers 120-109. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Timberwolves' Complete Guide to Insufficiency

Gotta start out by saying this headline is also a great 2005 album by David Thomas Broughton. In “Unmarked Grave” you can actually hear his soldier being buried (around the 4:00 mark, kinda gimmicky) before his soul ascends (around 5:00, not gimmicky). It is worth more to me than a thousand Bon Ivers, but maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, I’ve followed Brit Robson since his days with City Pages. His ability to sort through the boring jock-speak and dig out the comments that provide a kernel of insight to the lack of method to the madness, combined with his persistence to follow them with accompanying statistical evidence to ground his incredulity makes him beyond worth a read.

Quick example. Robson starts with this gem.

In the press conference after yesterday’s shellacking by the Lakers, I asked Wolves’ coach Flip Saunders if it was reasonable to give Wally Szczerbiak primary responsibility for guarding Kobe Bryantand expect him to be a focal point of Minnesota’s offense. “Kobe’s doing the same thing on the other side,” Saunders replied.

 

That’s not a good answer.

You can imagine where it goes from there.

In his latest run at the Wolves, Brit complains about their dependence on free throws and getting calls from the refs before ramping up the tension alluding to the imminent departures of both Rick Adelman and Kevin Love — should the Wolves fail to make the playoffs this year.

Complaints about Adelman’s substitutions and apparent lack of interest in using or developing his bench, the lack of a quality win against an opponent with it’s full compliment of stars, and the less than charming smugness they display while doing it all give a nice grinding of the gears before Robson lets up on the doom and gloom a bit, debunking the Wolves’ need for the classic rim protector fans have been clamoring especially hard for after Tony Parker did what Tony Parker does and led a Spurs parade to the rim.

I should note this Brit piece was written before the Wolves win against Portland Wednesday night — which included an array of shots made *not* at the rim by Damian Lillard. So… get it? The shots were made from everywhere… yeah… the rim still could have been protected better…

The clincher Robson’s letting up and praising the Wolves “underrated” and effective defense set up was this very good point I will end this exercise with. Never mentioned in his piece is the return of Chase Budinger or Rony Turiaf, both players who will help the offensive and defensive blights Robson chewed on and on — but the point stands… the pace and sloppiness of the Wolves’ offense is their ultimate undoing.

Minnesota plays at the second-quickest pace in the NBA and jacks up more shots per game than any other team. Yes, some of this rapid pace is related to how many steals they generate on offense, and the long outlet passes Love is able to deliver right after a rebound in transition. But those two factors would tend to inflate a team’s shooting percentage by offering easier looks at the basket. And it is slightly counterbalanced by the fact that Minnesota is among the top teams in offensive rebounds, which extends possessions and retards pace, while also improving a team’s shooting percentage by offering more putback attempts right at the rim.

Even so, Minnesota’s shooting percentages are dreadful. They are making 45.4 percent of their two-point shots, well below the NBA average of 48 percent and 26th overall. On three-pointers, they rank 20th, making 33.9 percent versus the league average of 35.9 percent.

To say the Wolves offense is hurrying to fail would be an overstatement. But Adelman’s offense is designed to generate ball movement and easy looks at the hoop. Too often Minnesota is short-circuiting those sets for isolated dribble-penetration and crowded pick-and-rolls. Yes, they rank high in assists — 8th in the NBA at 23 assists per game — but that’s a function of volume shooting, not smart, accurate, disciplined shooting.

Put it this way: A team anchored by Clydesdales like Love and Pek shouldn’t be playing at the second-fastest pace. They should be maximizing Adelman’s strategic acumen, the ability of Love and Pek to establish position in the paint, the talents of Martin and Love from long range, and the court vision and passing prowess of Rubio. To fully exploit those skill sets, they need to settle down and start dissecting. Otherwise, they run the risk of shooting themselves into oblivion.

Tags: Chase Budinger Kevin Love Kevin Martin Minnesota Timberwolves Nikola Pekovic Rick Adelman Ricky Rubio Rony Turiaf

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