Timberwolves Basketball: Simple Stats and Yeats?

Dec 22, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio (9) drives to the basket during the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 22, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio (9) drives to the basket during the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

 

At the creative writing wing of Minnesota Timberwolves blog coverage that is A Wolf Among Wolves, William Butler Yeats’ 1919 poem “The Second Coming” was used by William Bohl to articulate disgust with the average Vikings Twins Minnesota sports fan simple reactionary stances concerning a single statistic to evaluate a player’s performance as well as glorify the brilliance of a certain power forward (and hint at the looming disaster ahead).

And everywhere, the ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Twitter was an interesting (read also: maddening) place to be after the final buzzer sounded. The main topic of conversation wasn’t Love’s lack of touches on key offensive possessions, late in the game. Nor was it lamentation that Pekovic’s failures in the clutch marred an otherwise impressive game. Even Kevin Martin (somehow) avoided the brunt of the wrath despite his costly turnovers. No, the main source of bellyache was the fact that Ricky Rubio had zero points. It’s convenient to look at a box score and point to that as a significant factor in the loss, and by convenient, I mean simple-minded, and let me explain why.

An individual’s points don’t necessarily reflect his offensive value. It sounds counter-intuitive, but hear me out. Ricky Rubio took four shots last night – three of them were wide open looks. Two were above the break threes (where he’s a 40% shooter) two were midrange jumpers (where he’s had mixed success). None of them were particularly bad shots, but none of them fell, either. He failed to get to the free throw line, but he had very few drives to the hoop (the most likely source of a trip to the stripe) and when he did attack the rim, he instead facilitated, to the tune of 12 assists. He ran the point for a team that had an O-Rating of 112. He deserves some credit for aiding in that success.

That doesn’t even take into account his efforts on the defensive end, which is half the game, mind you. Chris Paul finished 6-of-19 from the floor and was hounded by Ricky for much of the night. Rubio doesn’t defy box score analysis, but he does challenge it. There’s more to his game than columns of numbers can tell you – he passes and defends and sets his teammates up for success, areas of the sport which await adequate statistical description.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming!

Ricky Rubio’s merits are up in the air, but this much is certain: Kevin Love is the Second Coming of the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise. Last night was almost as much fun as I’ve ever had watching someone play basketball. It was a shame to see such a transcendent effort wasted in a loss – 45 points on 23 shots, with 19 rebounds and 6 assists. What else is there to say?

Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand. Will he leave?

 

Topics: Kevin Love, Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Ricky Rubio

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