First blog of the year. I know it’s been a while but I’m certain for my handful of loyal readers the old saying, absence makes the heart grow fonder, is entirely true in this case.
The Wolves are 4-12 but their level of player is far better than that record suggests. In the last week alone they’ve let double digit second half leads against Charlotte and San Antonio slip away through a lack of discipline and a series of mistakes that quite truthfully wouldn’t be tolerated on a high school level. For a veteran team accustomed to winning these errors would be intolerable. For a ‘rising from the ashes of a giant shit storm’ type team like the Wolves the late game breakdowns are no less frustrating but at least show progress.
A dude I know (shout out to Jake Rosch of England) recently asked the following questions of me and a group of other dedicated NBA followers.
“Who is the Wolves best player now? What needs to happen for the Wolves to take the next step?”
Great questions, Jake. Let me answer those now.
Right now the Wolves best player is Kevin Love. As is the case with all young teams, that could completely change by this time next week but right now it's Love.
Beasley has been their biggest assassin but Love is bringing it most consistently.
Case in point, last night vs. the Spurs. The Wolves led by 20 at one point and ended up losing in overtime. Gut wrenching. Heart breaking. Soul crushing. All of that to us diehards. Lots of profanity and dejected looks by me to be seen by no one in the lonely depths of my basement.
Beasley was decent. 15 points on 5 of 12 shooting with 9 rebs. A good game but there were at least two definite points late in the game in which he tried to force his offense and it resulted in a turnover to easy Spurs bucket on the other end.
Love is straight balling right now. 32 points and 22 rebs last night, a lot of which was head to head on Tim Duncan. His jumper is falling, his post game has evolved to the point where he can get his shot off against more athletic bigs, and his near mythical rebounding projections are finally coming to fruition because his defense has improved to the point where Rambis can afford to leave him on the court for heavy minutes.
The third DARKhorse (oh yes I did just do that) in this conversation is Darko. For anyone who hasn't been following, Darko is playing his best stretch of basketball in seven years. That’s not just on the maladapted Darko scale either. He is playing legitimately high caliber basketball. In fact, recently some of the Wolves most productive stretches of play have been when they’re running their offense through Darko and allowing him to either work in the post of utilize his Vlade-like big man passing (Trivia Question: What does Darko have that Chris Webber does not? A: An NBA championship ring).
***Allow me to briefly interject to apologize for that last little thing there. I realize many of you will not get it but yet I made the decision to go ahead with it regardless.***
The current overall Wolves player rankings, as I see them, are as follows.
1. Kevin Love. 19 pts and 14.5 rebs a game on the season. Both of those numbers are climbing, too. He’ll be the first Wolves All-Star since KG if he keeps this up.
2. Darko Milicic. 18 pts, 8.6 rebs, 3.6 assists and 4.2 blocks a game over the past five contests. His confidence level is sky high right now and you can actually see it on his face. Gotta feel good for the kid that he’s finally beginning to show what he can do.
3. Michael Beasley. 26 pts and 7.1 rebs over the past 8 games. The talent level is obvious. The question that remains is if he can sustain this sort of production and become the go-to scorer the Wolves so desperately need.
4. Wesley Johnson. Pretty much a one dimensional offensive player right now with his jump shooting. His one dimension happens to be what the Wolves are most in need of, which slightly inflates his overall value right now. What also stands out is his surprisingly polished defensive play, which is something his critics were sure would be terrible at this level.
5. Anthony Tolliver. Not doing much stat-wise but he takes at least one huge charge a game and has proven able to knock down and open three, which is a huge weapon for a guy who can guard the 3-5 positions depending on the match up. He’s a great dirty work guy. The guy a team like Miami is sorely missing right now.
6. Corey Brewer. Some less spastic defense, mildly improved jump shooting and sparkplug energy off the bench are still being overshadowed by mind numbing lapses in judgment and dribbling gaffes, the likes of which you might see in pee wee rec league
They technically have six other active players but I’m not ranking any of them because none of them are playing consistently good enough ball to do so without some major clarification, which I’m just not willing to commit to. Sebastian Telfair and Luke Ridnour seemingly flip a coin before each game to see which one of them should be terrible that night. What I don’t understand is how sometimes they both seem to lose that flip. When guys like Wayne Ellington, Lazar Heyward and Kosta Koufos come into the game things tend to unravel quickly, which makes sense because they’re best suited as third stringers or more prominent roles in the D League.
The good news, in a messed up Timberwolves sorta way, is that they have three injured players in Martell Webster, Jonny Flynn and Nikola Pekovic, who should all eventually resume prominent roles on the team and push the likes of Tolliver and Brewer further down that list to around 10 or 11.
Ok, gotta go. Have a great Thanksgiving peoples of the United States (and Americans at heart living abroad).