The NBA Season is ready to start on Christmas Day, the last couple of preseason games are being played as I write this up, and it's time for me to cater to every serious NBA fans love of season previews! The 2011 Geektastic Preview is going to be way too large for one article, so I'm dividing it up into divisions (and even so, it's going to be long, so get a cup of coffee!). In this article I'm going to tackle my hometown team, the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The 2011-12 Minnesota Timberwolves
Players Gone: Corey Brewer, Johnny Flynn, Lazar Hayward, Kosta Koufos
Players Added: Ricky Rubio (R), Derrick Williams (R), Malcom Lee (R), Bonzi Wells (FA), JJ Barea (FA), Brad Miller (FA)
Predicted Finish: Last in the Northwest
Outlook: Lottery team. Some potential, and there are pieces to build from if they dump some of the bad players, but well...you know....KAAAAAAAAAAAAHN!
2010 - 2011 PER-48 stats
|Jose juan Barea||81||1655||.033||22.3||4.6||9.2||0.1||0.9||3.9||3.9|
The good news is, the Timberwolves have shipped off a lot of very bad players, together with arguably the worst coach in the league. Flynn, Brewer, Hayward, Telfair and Koufos produced a combined -1.9 wins. Yes, if they just hadn't ever played, the Wolves would have probably won an extra couple of games. The bad news is that there are equally bad players left on the roster, and they haven't added any real win producers. Furthermore, the new wins produced metric is showing us what I have long suspected: that Michael Beasley, not Darko Milicis, is the worst player on this team; the main reason for this is that the diminishing return effects of rebounds are now incorporated into the metric, which means that shooting efficiency, which was already the primary factor in WP, is an even bigger factor. Basically: if you are terrible at shooting and you shoot a lot, the WP metric is going to say that you are a very poor player. And this is very true of Beasley:
As you can see above, Beasley does not shoot as well as the average small forward, but he likes to shoot a lot. This is compounded by the fact that the shots he likes to take are the ones he's bad at: long twos. Only 3.3 of his 25.3 FGAs per 48 minutes are threes. This is also why he rarely gets to the line: an average SF would get to the line about 6.8 times per 48 if he took 25.3 shots! Finally, Beasley is a turnover waiting to happen and commits a lot of fouls. In short, although most Timberwolves fans have figured out that Beasley isn't a great player, I doubt that many have realized just how bad he is. This is a big problem for the wolves because a) he plays a lot of minutes and b) unlike with Darko Milicic, where everyone has kind of figured out by now that he's terrible, management doesn't seem to realize how bad Beasley is.
The wolves are further plagued by the fact that all the centers on the roster are terrible; Love will probably play a lot out of position, and it's not likely that Miller will see any playing time given his injury. It shouldn't surprise anyone that the Wolves were the team to overpay JJ Barea (an average shooting point guard who brings nothing else to the table).
Then there is Rubio. RUUUUUBIO! RUBI-OOPS! I really want Ricky Rubio to be good, because he's a lot of fun to watch. I suspect, however, on the spectrum from Jason Williams to Jason Kidd he's closer to the wrong Jason. Meaning more like Rubi-oops-shit-I-didn't-mean-that than Rubi-alley-oops.
Derrick Williams is a further mystery. The man shot the hell out of the ball last year, and his stroke certainly passes the "eye test", but then, so does Beasley's. The real question is: can he hit 40% from the NBA three? If he cannot, it's hard to see how he will produce; he doesn't appear to have a quick step to the basket and he's not a great rebounder. There are only so many alley-oops Rubio can throw you before the defense catches on that this is all they have to worry about.
Still, I'd like to optimistically pencil in both rookies for a WP48 of 0.050 and about 1200 minutes each, then they'll combine to add 2.5 wins. The effect might be bigger because if Williams plays well, he might keep Beasley off the floor or (dare I hope) the Wolves might even trade him.
The other thing the Wolves have going for them is that Wes Johnson is likely to improve (from god-awful to just bad, but still), Pekovic might improve (again, from horrific to just pretty bad), and it's going to be hard for Love's teammates to put up a season as historically bad as they did last year. And no, Darko will not improve. You're kidding, right? It's been, what, 8 years you've been waiting on that? You're really going to stick with that argument?
In the end, the Wolves will likely improve from a 17-win team to a 25-win team, which gives them about 19-20 wins in 66 games. Of course, If Rubioops surprises us, they have more room for improvement, but if this team wins more than 25 this year I will be stupified (but hey, I'd love to be wrong). What they really need to do is trade Beasley (he has $8m coming off the books, this has to interest someone), try to find buyers for Wes, amnesty Darko and sign a quality free agent next year.
In the meantime, even if he isn't producing tons of wins, I think it's going to be fun to watch Rubio play, right?