The Wolves are a basketball team figuring out who they are, and more importantly, who they aren’t. All is not right with the Wolves. Through the first week and a half of the season the Wolves have given us monster first quarters, mid-game lulls and even a comeback, well, almost. What sticks out is what’s lacking most with this team. Am I a greedy fan? Or somebody that’s been around long enough to remember when this team was a consistent playoff team? It’s teams like the Orlando Magic and Dallas Mavericks, hanging around until the end of games, and forcing Kevin Love to hit last second three-pointers to force overtime — I am just not satisfied, and to be quite frank, neither should you. The Wolves have amassed a roster wealthy with talent, perhaps the best team we’ve seen in almost a decade; however, my concern is that maybe some of that talent is just smoke and mirrors.
Nikola Pekovic, and I love the guy, is a beast but right he’s not giving the Wolves a consistent low post presence. Zachary Bennett at Timberpups.com did a great job at looking at the numbers on how Pek is struggling, but why is he struggling? Is he is out of basketball shape? Is he being used differently? Is it something else? From what I’m seeing he’s not catching the ball, nor is he handling it cleanly. Pek seems is getting hacked, but rather than drawing fouls, he’s getting stripped of possession more often. When the Wolves are struggling to shoot from the outside their opponent can fall back and really clog up the lane, this results in the struggles we’ve seen from Pek thus far, it’s due to the extra hands collapsing on him in the lane. Pek needs to be a better finisher around the rim, period. When he’s able to get the ball down low, the offense has better spacing, something this team needs, however; the rest of the team needs to help create space for Pek.
The second issue we see affecting this team is, as frequently noted, Ricky Rubio’s shooting. Maybe I just need to change my face on this topic or perhaps it will be the Spaniard’s achilles heel his entire career. Rubio looks just fine pulling up and shooting off-the-dribble but it’s catch-and-shoot situations that render me stumped. Why would a young and athletic basketball player have a distinctly slow and deliberate shooting motion on attempts from behind the arc? His form is so different on those shots, it doesn’t look comfortable. Another note: Can somebody please tell him to get more arc on those shots!? His failure to use enough arch isn’t giving the ball a chance so drop through, let alone bounce around and ultimately fall in. But, let’s not get started on a topic we could spend days, weeks or even months discussing.
Last, and most importantly, that of production from the Wolves bench. I am really, really concerned about this, why? Because the second unit isn’t producing much of anything so far this season. The offense doesn’t flow with these guys in the game and Rick Adelman is forced to play the starters extended minutes trying to maintain a lead or close out games. If the starters continue playing extended, unnecessary minutes, this could come back to hurt this team in the long run.. The reserves need to come in, maintain leads and, I don’t think it’s too much to ask, occasionally spark a run to get this team going but as of now none of those things appear to be happening. Rookie Gorgui Dieng is have issues adjusting to the NBA, Dante Cunningham’s jump shot has been off, Derek Williams, though he shows flashes, can’t create off the dribble and Alexey Shved is a mess right now. Leaving JJ Barea desperately trying to create for himself, as well as all the others. Barea needs teammates who can make a shot and at least make a defender pause before they go to double team Barea. He’s great at getting his own shot but his talent is really driving and scoring in the lane amongst the trees of the NBA. He’s not normally a facilitator and looks to score more on his own.
The starters are scoring just a hair over 81 percent of the teams points. Kevin Love, Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer account for over 61 percent of the team’s output. The remaining 19 percent is the bench producing, primarily in the form of Barea, D-Will and even Cunningham is good for a couple of buckets a game. My concern is that on off nights when the Kevin’s (Love and Martin) aren’t filling up the stat sheet with 30 points apiece, the team does not have enough people that can help shoulder the load. It will help when Chase Budinger comes back from injury, but he’ll only be able to account for the lack of production Shved is providing right now. D-Will is young, has a ton of talent and is a nice boost off the bench, when he plays, but can we count on him consistently?
I am open to trading Shved and/or D-Will for a more consistent shooting guard or small forward. Someone like Evan Turner of the Philadelphia 76ers may be available later on in the season, maybe even Aaron Afflalo of the Orlando Magic, although the way these two are playing right now, the price tag could inflate out of the Wolves price range.
It’s the beginning of the season I am in Midseason fan form; I want to win and win now. I see this team improving and a potential playoff contender, but why not aim to be this years Golden State Warriors? Rather than settling to be merely an team that’s improving.
Will Flip Saunders make a move to strengthen the reserves? Do we hope D-Will finds consistency? Maybe Shved regains his form from the early parts of last season form and Chase returns sooner rather than later, but it’s too soon to tell — every team in the league is still trying to find their identity. I like this season’s Wolves, things are definitely looking better. But they are far from picture perfect. Exciting times are ahead of us, but after waiting nine years to make the playoffs, I hope this doesn’t end as a wasted opportunity.