Category Archives: Minnesota Timberwolves

When Did Kevin Garnett Play Center For Minnesota?

I’m going to note right away that I loved Jonathan Tjarks’ article published two days ago about Kevin Garnett. Once in a while, I tweet that Chris Webber’s best years came in the early-2000s, the most boring era possible for a player like him. It’s a shame, but Garnett is another player who would’ve been even better had his career started 10 years later. Tjarks’ article (you can follow him on Twitter here) covers Garnett and his versatile skill set, a seven-footer who could guard every position and thanks to his shooting, handles, speed, and passing, he could use up offensive possessions from any position if his team was decimated at one.

Unfortunately, the prime of Garnett’s career was often spent playing alongside disappointing centers such as Rasho Nesterovic, Michael Olowokandi, or Mark Blount. This also happened in Boston as he started with a solid, pre-injury Kendrick Perkins but also the final days of Rasheed Wallace and Shaquille O’Neal. The Celtics’ core was strong enough and the NBA was slow enough with their transition to the pace-and-space era that it was fine. Damning because Garnett never played with a Lamar Odom-type player like Tjarks noted, but it was fine.

Garnett’s positional versatility after his first stint in Minnesota narrowed. It’s debatable, but by the time he came back to Minnesota he was (or still is?) playing like a full-time center. In his first 12 seasons, he played small forward through center, though the ranking in memories of each probably goes:

  1. Power Forward: Where he mostly played from 2004 to 2007 with a space-eating big.
  2. Small Forward: Paired with Tom Gugliotta and a space-eating big from 1996 to 1998, then with Joe Smith and a space-eating big from 1999 to 2003.
  3. Point Guard: Because of the 2003-04 playoffs when Minnesota held on for dear life as the backcourt dropped like flies.
  4. Center: This happened in moments spread out across all 12 seasons, but still happened nonetheless.

In this post, I listed some notable times when Garnett played at center during his youth and prime. It isn’t meant to #WellActually Tjarks. I’m all for any column that goes over how Garnett’s career, while amazing, should’ve been so much more enjoyable for so many reasons. I also appreciate any column that helps remember his peak since it’s been so long since it happened. Garnett’s been in the league since 1995. His prime happened when over 10 years ago. In one game during his rookie season, he played against Magic Johnson.

This post was just out of curiosity, a long time in the making, but Tjarks reminded me to get that done while it’s still the off-season. The moments with Garnett at center were fascinating upon discovering them because it had been so long since they happened. For other fans of Garnett’s career, maybe this will refresh their memories, too.

All lineup statistics were from Basketball-Reference.com. I love you (or them, or it) but this also went against your (or their, or its) positional estimates that don’t make a ton of sense for several players. All I’ve heard is that there’s a preference to height when determining positions. Garnett played 99 percent of his minutes at power forward last season, according to those estimates, but that doesn’t seem true when watching who he’s guarding and his overall skill set.

The 1998 Playoffs (available on YouTube

I noted earlier that at Garnett’s best, he could play any position if his team was decimated at one. This is remembered best in the 2003-04 postseason, when the Wolves’ point guards turned to dust as they were eliminated in the Conference Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The first-round series of the 1997-98 playoffs against the Seattle SuperSonics was another example, this one being the postseason Garnett played primarily center. The Wolves were without Tom Gugliotta, Dean Garrett, Cherokee Parks, and Stanley Roberts. Tom Hammonds was the only other option left, and during that season Minnesota went as far to keep Garnett from guarding centers as to start Hammonds and Roberts alongside him. Against Seattle, Flip Saunders instead rolled a starting lineup of Garnett-Sam Mitchell-Anthony Peeler-Terry Porter-Stephon Marbury

The results were unfamiliar with even today’s Wolves. During the 1997-98 season, they took 12.8 percent of their field goal attempts from three-point range, but that jumped to 24.6 in the five games against Seattle. The 2015-16 Wolves finished the season with a three-point rate of 20.2 percent. Sam Mitchell, the coach of last season’s squad, recorded 43 three-point attempts in 81 games during the 1997-98 season. In the five playoff games, he attempted 14.

Most shooters for Minnesota saw increases in their shots from beyond the arc.

gaph

Possibly because of injuries, possibly because the SuperSonics were one of the stretchiest teams in the regular season with shooting bigs like Detlef Schrempf and Sam Perkins, the Wolves rolled with only a seven-player rotation. They also routinely doubled off the strong side shooter and gave up open threes, though that may have been because of the illegal defense rules. Double-teaming was pretty straight-forward. Going to double-team, then stopping halfway to run back to a defender might result in an illegal defense technical. Simply put, defenses these days are far more advanced. Also, Stephon Marbury looked out of control 99 percent of the time. It was maddening to watch him.

Minnesota held a 2-1 lead over Seattle at one point, but lost narrowly in Game 4 at home and lost by 13 at Seattle. 1997 probably would’ve been a similar result with small ball lineups , but it would’ve at least been interesting to watch them against Houston a year earlier, a roster of players in their mid-30s.

Unfortunately, lineups that small rarely appeared again.

1999 and 2000: The occasional frontline with just Kevin Garnett and Joe Smith

With the acquisition of Joe Smith, Minnesota routinely started both he and Garnett, but also Garrett or Rasho Nesterovic.

Doing some quick math of available minutes at the center position in each season, most of 1999’s went to Garrett, Tom Hammonds, Bill Curley, and a few bigs with tiny minute totals, leaving little room for Garnett to be placed there unless the Wolves somehow rolled with a Garrett/Hammonds combo or whatever.

2000 was a little different. With 3,936 available minutes at center over 82 games, Rasho Nesterovic, Dean Garrett, and Tom Hammonds took up only 2,699, leaving plenty of room for Garnett and Smith, the latter who came off the bench, to take up minutes there.

Basically, this comes down to when it’s just Smith and Garnett on the floor as the bigs, who would you peg as the center? Garnett has the height, but also the versatility.

2001 (0/45/55 SF/PF/C position percentages, via Basketball-Reference’s estimates) 

Not a fun year for Minnesota for multiple reasons, but in this post we’ll note that they lost Joe Smith and three first-round picks thanks to the procedure of his free agent deal. At this point, Nesterovic, Garrett, and Reggie Slater were the Wolves’ centers alongside Garnett with Wally Szczerbiak playing small forward.

Depending on where you position LaPhonso Ellis, the second-most common lineup from the Wolves in 2001 featured Ellis and Garnett together and the fourth-most common lineup had them with both Chauncey Billups and Terrell Brandonand Szczerbiak. Unfortunately, that lineup had a net rating of -11.8 points per 100 possessions, but the Garnett-Ellis combo played 1284 minutes with a net rating of +2.6.

Looking back, a Brandon/Billups/Szczerbiak/Garnett combo could’ve done some damage, but Brandon’s injuries ended his career during the 2001-02 season.

Definitely not 2002 to 2004 (2/84/14, 6/81/13, 0/95/5)

With Joe Smith back, the 2002 Wolves played the three-man combo of Garnett/Smith/Nesterovic a little over 1,000 minutes, but with great success at +12.6 points per 100 possessions. A lineup with Billups and Szczerbiak at the backcourt gave them good size at each position, and Minnesota placed second in defensive rebounding percentage and sixth in offensive rebounding percentage. Gary Trent also played a few minutes alongside Smith and Garnett, but with break-even success.

In 2003, the Garnett/Smith/Nesterovic trio logged only 446 minutes, but Smith had missed a lot of action this season. A lineup replacing Smith with Trent logged 480 minutes. Both were small net positives. There were actually 11 games where Garnett started with Nesterovic and Loren Woods.

Despite those awkward lineups and a horrific three-point rate, Minnesota was in the top five in offensive efficiency both seasons. They even had the Lakers on the ropes in 2003, but ultimately fell in the first round in both playoff appearances.

2004 was Minnesota’s breakout season, and they had plenty of bigs in case they went up against Shaquille O’Neal again. Mark Madsen, Gary Trent, Ervin Johnson, Michael Olowokandi, and Oliver Miller combined for over 4,600 minutes. It is almost sad that the Wolves didn’t find a single big who traded considerable beef for floor spacing. A team like the Dallas Mavericks, who were terrible defensively but gave Dirk Nowitzki minutes at center, would’ve been a fascinating matchup for Minnesota, or even the Los Angeles Lakers with their shooting. The Mavericks torched the Timberwolves with it a couple seasons earlier.

The 2004 Wolves crushed a lot of teams despite frontcourt combos like Madsen/Trent, which was -10 points per 100 possessions over 218 minutes. Five of their seven most frequent lineups, all with a stiff at center to go with Garnett, Sam Cassell, and Latrell Sprewell, had a net rating of +10 to +20 points per 100 possessions.

The small ball lineups from the 1998 playoffs could’ve came back, though. A healthy 2004 Wolves squad had enough depth to deploy a Garnett/Szczerbiak/Sprewell/Cassell combo with a choice of Trenton Hassell for defense or Fred Hoiberg for shooting.

2005? (0/54/46)

The main thing to note from 2005 was Garnett with Eddie Griffin. Only 22 when he arrived in Minnesota, a healthy Griffin could’ve been a great long-term fit with Garnett. Griffin shot the three with break-even success, 4.9 attempts per 36 minutes on 33 percent, and averaged 2.8 blocks and just 1.3 turnovers per 36. The duo was +8.8 points per 100 possessions while the best lineups over 50 minutes featured them and at least one of Sprewell/Szczerbiak. The Garnett-Griffin-Spree-Wally-Cassell lineup was +27 points per 100 possessions, but only over 123 minutes.

There were also a few lineups with Garnett as the lone big and either Hassell or Szczerbiak playing as the power forward that yielded success over small samples. The small ball lineups finally came back.

2006 and 2007, if only (0/83/17, 0/71/29)

The dark ages, but the best lineups of 2006 featured Garnett as the center and Hassell or Justin Reed at power forward. However, the minute totals for each are between 30 and 60. In 2007, Garnett played most, if not all of his minutes with Mark Blount, Craig Smith, or Madsen. Sigh.

Though entering the slight downtick of his career at this point, Garnett at center during 2006 and 2007 could’ve been the best choice of attack. The Wolves were never going to be completely terrible with Garnett on the floor, but there was finally risk to pair him with a flawed center. The draft picks lost from the Joe Smith deal and the blown draft picks they kept caught up to them. They also lost the offense they typically got at point guard. There was no more Stephon Marbury, Terrell Brandon, Chauncey Billups, or Sam Cassell. There was only Marko Jaric, Marcus Banks, and Mike James.

Minnesota struggled on the boards despite their size. Going smaller may have forced a few more turnovers and led to jacking a couple more threes on offense. Still, Garnett carried these teams to near-.500 records going into February of each season. Eventually, they would fade, and sometimes they obviously tanked. With Garnett at center, maybe it would’ve only worsened their lottery odds, but it would’ve been more enjoyable to watch.

In Garnett’s second time around with Minnesota, he’s debatably played center with the starting lineup and would likely to do the same if he came back for the 2016-17 season. Garnett playing with Tyus Jones would be mindblowing, though.

Other Wolvesy notes from Garnett’s peak

  • The Gary Payton for Terrell Brandon, Wally Szczerbiak, and Rasho Nesterovic trade rumor in 2001. Minnesota’s depth, factoring in the effects of the Joe Smith deal, would’ve been cooked with that trade, but the defensive potential of Garnett and Payton before the latter aged would’ve been something. Especially if Garnett played center.
  • Speaking of defensive potential, switch Garnett and Tim Duncan with their teams and you get Garnett with an aging David Robinson, but the All-Defensive seasons from Bruce Bowen.

Other PFs playing SF or C during Garnett’s peak

  • It wasn’t just Garnett who started his career at small forward. During his rookie season, Duncan routinely started alongside both David Robinson and Will Perdue. Meanwhile with the Washington Bullets, one of Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, and, in 1996, Rasheed Wallace started at small forward alongside bigs like Gheorge Muresan, Terry Davis, and a young Ben Wallace.
  • Webber did not like playing center at Golden State, which might’ve been a lesson for teams with other franchise-changing bigs. It’s also worth noting that while Webber had some amazing years in Sacramento, he couldn’t stay healthy. Rick Adelman routinely played a young, frosted-tips Hedo Turkoglu in his place.
  • One example of power forwards playing one position up was in 1998 when Antonio McDyess played center for his one season in Phoenix. The Suns won 56 games that season but the statistics do not exactly match what you’d expect with McDyess at center with Jason Kidd, Kevin Johnson, Rex Chapman, and a stretchy power forward in Clifford Robinson. They were 10th in pace, 12th in offensive efficiency, and sixth in defensive efficiency.
  • As for McDyess, he averaged 6.7 attempts around the rim per 36 minutes, the highest of his career according to available data going back to 1998 on NBA.com. He made 69% of his attempts, one of his highest, nicest marks.
  • In 2004, Dirk Nowitzki logged time at center for the Dallas Mavericks. Dallas ended up having the most efficient offense ever, relative to league averages, but their defense fell off a cliff, from ninth in 2003 to 26th. It wasn’t just Nowitzki’s fault. Most of the roster was heavy on scoring and light on perimeter defense or rim protection. The following off-season was an overhaul, most notably losing Steve Nash, but the Mavericks bounced back to ninth in defensive efficiency and went from 52 wins to 58.
  • There are plenty of more examples scattered across the last 20 seasons, but the amount of space-eating centers who made a great deal of money to guard players like Shaquille O’Neal was too much to ignore. It wasn’t just Garnett who was held back by bad centers. Because of O’Neal, Greg Ostertag and Jim McIlvaine will live forever. So, too, will draft prospects compared to O’Neal like DeSagana Diop and Eddy Curry.

Adding to the unlikeliness of Corey Brewer’s 51 points

Shortly after Corey Brewer’s 51-point outing against the Houston Rockets, Ryan Feldman at ESPN Stats & Info published a post about if the Timberwolves wing is the most unlikely 50-point scorer ever.

Here are some cool tidbits from that column that I suggest giving a read:

What do Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Rick Barry and Corey Brewer have in common?

They’re the only players in NBA history with at least 50 points and six steals in a game (steals became official in 1973-74).

More:

Brewer is the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 50 points in a game without having previously scored 30 points in a game.

And lastly:

Brewer, in his seventh NBA season, is the most experienced player ever to score 50 points without having previously scored 30.

The only other players to score 50 before ever scoring 30 among players with at least two full seasons of NBA experience were Delk (fifth season in 2000-01) and Willie Burton (1994-95 season with the Philadelphia 76ers was his fifth season).

I’d like to add onto those interesting stats, though, after looking through 50-point scorers dating back to the 1978 season. It seems like that’s the first year Basketball-Reference started adding usage rating, among other statistics to their player pages. Here’s what I found:

For seasons when a player has scored 50 points in one game, Brewer’s usage rating is comfortably in last place. Below are the bottom 10 out of 150:

In the last 10 games prior to his explosion versus Houston, Brewer was using 18 percent of the team’s possessions while on the floor. Adding his career night (32.6 usage) hikes that recent uptick to 20.

Brewer also holds the second-worst PER (bottom 10 here) of the 50-point club, one that increased .5 points overnight. He also squeaks into the bottom 20 percent when it comes to offensive rebound percentage, something that could aid in scoring. He’s also on the list of the 25 worst three-point shooting seasons ever, at least for players taking over 200 attempts, and a below-average free throw shooter at 72 percent. The Timberwolves were also without one-half of their “outlet mall” in Kevin Love while Brewer often makes up the receiving end of the fast break points.

None of these obstacles got in the way of Brewer, who scored 32 points in the restricted area alone while going 2-of-6 from three-point range. As for three throws, he was 73 percent but off 15 attempts, good for 11 points from the stripe.

It’s safe to say he’s one of the more unlikely 50-point scorers and hopefully those stats contribute to the discussion. Just for fun, I wanted to compare his shooting that game to his averages in his first 77 outings so I fiddled around with a variety of graphs I’ve recently used for the highest scorers and teams, among other related posts.

Below are his attempted and made shots per game. The last graph is Brewer’s first 77 games with the same axis used for his 51-point outing:

Brewer attempts together

Click to enlarge.

Lastly, points per location:

brewer points

Click to enlarge.

Edit: Percentage of points by location and shooting percentages can be found in those links. I just couldn’t help myself when it came to including yet another batch of those charts in a post. I should probably turn it down a notch.

As someone in Minnesota, though, this has been quite an entertaining last month or so of the season despite the Timberwolves either basically out of playoff contention or officially eliminated. They travel to Sacramento on Sunday where they’ll play former-teammate Derrick Williams, who always seems to show up to play them, but how Brewer will bounce back from 51 points (I still can’t believe it) will obviously be exciting as well. Given how he plays, it’s possible those were the happiest 51 points ever.

All stats are according to Basketball-Reference.com, save for the shooting charts. Those are according to NBA.com’s numbers.

LeBron James and the Heat look young again while I age myself

Sometimes aging is smooth and graceful, like realizing I’m only 24 and have plenty of life left in me. Other times it’s a rude awakening, like stressing out over crazy things like responsibilities while being reminded of more enjoyable times, like the first time I watched a basketball team chasing a three-peat make their stop in Minneapolis.

There’s very little I remember about the time the 1998 Bulls came to Minnesota, likely because I was playing basketball with a five-foot hoop, one with an oval-shaped cardboard backboard and an Orlando Magic logo slapped on it my dad squeezed into the basement a couple years earlier. The space to chuck bricks at it to the point it looked like I was trying to mash a hole was something like 10 feet wide and 15 feet long. To the left of the hoop were the house’s furnace and firewood which represented out of bounds along with wherever the carpet near it ended. The right right side of the basement featured a couple steps leading to a worn out couch and a television I watched basketball from when I wasn’t bouncing off the walls with energy, which was basically never.  

That’s probably why I remember very little from that game 16 years ago between the Bulls and Timberwolves. Outside of watching basketball, roughly 99% of my freezing Minnesota winters from 1996 to 1999 – first grade through fourth for me – were spent shooting hoops in the basement or playing NBA Live 95, 97, or 98 after school. Having the flu didn’t stop me from any of those hobbies, and especially not after Michael Jordan’s ‘Flu Game’ during the ’97 Finals. I still remember the times I labored from my bed to the basement, humming the theme song of NBA on NBC only for my legs to feel like Jell-O a few minutes later. It was never a good idea to create my own flu game, but I couldn’t help it.

The little I remember from the time the Timberwolves beat the Bulls, though, like Stephon Marbury celebrating by heaving the ball into the stands, will stick with me for as long as I’ll live. Marbury and the fans acted like they won the NBA Finals that night, but I can’t blame them. After that game, Eight-Year-Old Me thought Minnesota escaped the cellar of the West for good and became a contender.

Here are some highlights of that game:

Even though this season’s Wolves and the one of ’98 were looking to put years of rebuilding behind them, not much was alike in regards to what actually happened during their games. The crowd last night was mostly dead and so was I. The gravitational pull of recliner left me with no urge whatsoever to stand up and pass time between dull moments by exercising. I chose instead to stare blankly at what appeared to be a payment plan for college loans, while other times I scrolled Twitter and online discussion forums about visual snow. It even took me midway through the second quarter to realize the last time I saw Minnesota host a team chasing its third championship was when I was four feet tall. In 2002 I was glued to the PlayStation 2 when the Lakers paid themselves a visit, and I was playing online poker both times the 2011 Lakers won at the Target Center.

Like the enthusiasm, the result of the game wasn’t close to what it was like in ’98. A youthful Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury had the luck of playing a Bulls squad missing Scottie Pippen while last night’s Heat were at full strength and Minnesota was missing Kevin Love. If that sounds like a recipe for a blowout, you would be right. LeBron and Dwyane Wade ended the Heat’s two-game losing streak by doing LeBron and Wade things. After their 21-point victory, Wade video bombed LeBron, giving an accurate summary of the game:

That’s what I’ll remember most about last night. Neither lasting memory from the Timberwolves playing host to the ’98 Bulls or ’14 Heat were highlights from the actual games.

After watching Stephon Marbury celebrate Minnesota’s victory over Chicago by heaving the ball into the stands, I celebrated by shooting hoops in my basement and pretended I was Kevin Garnett with my newfound energy, banging a ball against my head and pretending to be a seven-foot freak of nature. 16 years later, 24 Year-Old Me lounged in the recliner long after the Heat mopped the floor with the Love-less Timberwolves. The time I should’ve spent trying to get back into shape, or anything really, was instead wasted wondering if Wade would ever videobomb LeBron while dressed as an elf. I dozed off shortly after, waking up four hours later and tweeting in my foggy, half-asleep daze about the need for an all-you-can-eat French fry buffet.

For more Timberwolves memories, check this out.

The rise and fall of Derrick Williams through trade rumors

May 17, 2011

Despite having the most lottery balls, Minnesota ends up with the second overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. It all but leads to the Timberwolves either drafting Derrick Williams or trading the pick.

May 19, 2011

The Pacers are making seriously play for the No. 2 pick with Danny Granger, Michael Beasley, and Ricky Rubio also being involved.

Royce Young of CBS’ Eye on Basketball with a nice take on why Rubio and Beasley were involved:

I can’t say that I quite understand why Rubio and Beasley were also included in the deal, but hey, it’s David Kahn and I’m not going to start posing questions that have no answers.

However, Kahn all but laughed off the rumors:

Talks between the two teams would continue though. Oh, yes, they would.

June 21, 2011

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! reports more discussions between the Pacers and Timberwolves:

With an eye on drafting Arizona’s Derrick Williams, the Indiana Pacers have discussed a package including center Roy Hibbert (notes) and the 15th pick for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ second overall pick, league sources said. Nevertheless, the overture hasn’t gained traction in Minnesota.

Thinking results-oriented leaves me dizzy. 2011 Roy Hibbert really wasn’t the same defensive monster he is today.

Larry Bird squashed any rumors of a trade centered around Hibbert anyway, according to Jeff Rabjohns.

That same day, though, Taylor Zarzour of the CBS Charlotte wrote about how the Bobcats should trade everyone for Derrick Williams.

June 23, 2011

Adrian Wojnarowski reports the Hawks’ interest in the No. 2 pick, dangling Josh Smith as bait.

In a lust to draft center Enes Kanter, the Atlanta Hawks are trying to engage the Minnesota Timberwolves in discussions to trade Josh Smith(notes) for the No. 2 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

So far, the Wolves haven’t been forthcoming on a potential deal, but sources say Atlanta was still trying to discuss a deal in the hours leading up to the draft.

The same key components of the trade pop up later in Bill Simmons’ 2012 NBA Trade Value column.

February 15, 2012

Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports on Minnesota pursuing Pau Gasol:

In other news involving NBA big men, a source said Wednesday that Minnesota continues to pursue a possible trade for Lakers forward Pau Gasol, dangling rookie Derrick Williams, who is from the Los Angeles area, and draft choices. The only players considered untouchable by the Timberwolves, who are seeking to add a veteran by the trade deadline, are Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. The Timberwolves believe it could be enticing for Gasol to play on the same team as fellow Spaniard Rubio.

I can’t say I remember that trade rumor from the 2011-12 season, but it would come back ten months later.

June 28, 2012

This seemed like Kahn being Kahn more than anything else.

July 5, 2012

But Kahn would stop at nothing for Nicolas Batum.

July 6, 2012

Darren Wolfson reports about a different sign-and-trade scenario, this one involving Philadelphia:

According to the source, the way to get Batum here is still via a sign-and-trade. David Kahn, the Wolves’ president of basketball operations, will continue to talk with the Portland Trail Blazers throughout the weekend.

One scenario involves a three-way trade with Philadelphia. Andre Iguodala would go to Portland, Derrick Williams would go as part of a package to the Sixers and Batum would come to Minnesota. So far, Portland is balking.

December 6, 2012

We’re into Derrick Williams’ second season now. I’ll always remember his rookie campaign when he slammed home alley-oops from Ricky Rubio, who was also a rookie. They both sent the Target Center into a frenzy I hadn’t seen since Game 7 of the Western Semis back in 200-fricken-4. It was exciting as hell.

But everything else about Williams’ game was inconsistent including what position he would play. You could see the confusion when he was on the floor, and, as a result, his stock start to plummet. He was becoming just a trade piece to something involving bigger names.

From Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press:

The Los Angeles Lakers recently rejected a Timberwolves trade offer for forward Pau Gasol that would revolve around Minnesota center Nikola Pekovic and forward Derrick Williams, according to an ESPN.com report citing sources with knowledge of the Lakers’ thinking.

The report claimed that the Lakers also turned down an offer from the Toronto Raptors.

It seemed like the biggest piece the Lakers would’ve taken back was Nikola Pekovic, versus Derrick Williams. That would’ve been flip-flopped ten months earlier.

February 20, 2013

Paul Millsap would’ve been a terrific rent for Minnesota, but by then it would’ve been a lopsided trade if no other players or draft picks were involved.

June 26, 2013

Chad Ford brings back memories of two years ago, when Indiana was rumored to have baited Danny Granger, then Roy Hibbert to move up to No. 2 to get Derrick Williams:

The Wolves continue to try to move up higher in the draft to land either Victor Oladipo or Ben McLemore. The latest rumbles have them reaching out to the Magic, Bobcats and Suns offering Derrick Williams and the No. 9 and No. 26 picks in return for Orlando’s No. 2 pick, Charlotte’s No. 4 pick or Phoenix’s No. 5 pick.

November 12, 2013

One tidbit from Adrian Wojnarowski’s column about the Knicks chasing Kevin Love:

Kevin Love is on deck to be recruited to New York in 2015, and that’s among the reasons the Timberwolves are so determined to make deals to climb deep into the playoffs these next two years. Young Minnesota players Derrick Williams and Alexey Shved are available in deals for veterans to help these T’wolves now, league executives told Yahoo Sports.

By now, Williams’ trade value is at an all time low, with returns ranging from Iman Shumpert to…

November 25, 2013

At last, the real trade that would end Derrick Williams’ campaign in Minnesota:

The Timberwolves now have a dream starting five of Lucs and Kevins: Kevin Martin, Luc Mbah a MouteKevin Garnett, Kevin Love, and Luc Longley. Or something like that.

November 26, 2013

And it’s official, from the Wolves press release:

The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced the team has acquired forward Luc Mbah a Moute (BAH-ah MOO-tay) from the Sacramento Kings in exchange for forward Derrick Williams.

“We are excited to acquire a solid veteran player in Luc Mbah a Moute,” said Flip Saunders, Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations. “Luc is known as one of the premier defensive players in the league with an ability to guard multiple positions. He adds a lot of energy, grit and a high basketball IQ to our team. We thank Derrick for his contributions to our organization and wish him well in Sacramento.”

Best of luck to Derrick Williams. Minnesota never felt like the best fit for him.

What in Kevin’s name is going on here?

1383535854000-USP-NBA-Minnesota-Timberwolves-at-New-York-Knicks

Kevin Love and Kevin Martin, two-fifths of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ starting lineup, scored 64 of the team’s 109 points in a nine-point victory at New York last night, giving the team a 3-0 start to the season. What was even more impressive from Martin and Love were the 64 points coming from only 31 field goal attempts, including Martin’s 30 points on only 12 shots party thanks to sinking all five of his three-point attempts.

Ricky Rubio, Corey Brewer, and Nikola Pekovic round out the rest of Minnesota’s starting lineup that’s blitzed the opposition in the first halves of each of their first three games, outscoring opposing lineups by 34.3 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com. For the most part, they were responsible last night for putting the Knicks in a 21-point hole after the first quarter.

When taking the last 24 minutes of the game into account though, the scoring of Minnesota’s starting unit takes a steep drop thanks to sloppiness we saw against the Knicks who, down 15 to start the fourth quarter, got within two with 4:48 left. That’s when the two Kevins carried the Wolves offense from there, scoring eight of the last nine points and 24 of the last 27. That two-man combination, along with the Love-Rubio duo, has all sorts of potential as a versatile one-two bunch to give defenders problems all season.

There’s one set I’ve noticed over the first three games though that’s especially intriguing when involving specifically Love and Martin. Love, a step above either elbow, will get the ball from Martin and have the opportunity to hand the ball back as Martin goes around him and to the baseline. Handing it off gives Martin a good look at a baseline jumper or Love can wait a little longer and allow him to post up, particularly against a smaller guard like last night when he was effective against Raymond Felton. This all happens with an entire side of the court initially spaced out for just those two to operate.

But Love can also fake the handoff to Martin and take a dribble behind the arc for a shot of his own. If that isn’t there –and if a pump faked three by Love somehow fails to draw a defender in the air– Pekovic will come sweeping across the lane, like in a few other plays that run through Love, for a post up near the rim.

The most notable Martin-Love variation of that play actually came last night when it nearly caused a turnover. Unfortunately for Spike Lee, it still led to two points:

Letting Love operate above either elbow has been a staple in the Wolves offense since Rick Adelman came to Minnesota. The last two seasons had Luke Ridnourgiven his effectiveness with shots along the baselineas the guy best for working off him (in my couch potato opinion). There’s also been variations to the play over the years such as a guard setting a pick on Love’s defender, allowing a cleaner look at a Love step-back three-point attempt, or Love setting a screen and allowing a Wolves guard to dribble into a mid-range jumper.

Let’s see how that all works with Martin now, who was due last night for some solid shooting after going 10-of-30 from the field in the first two games.

For Love (29.7 points, 14.7 rebounds, 13 free throw attempts per game), it looks like he’s back to his pre-2013 self, the one that made Second Team All-NBA as a 23-year-old. Having that version for an entire season should put Minnesota back in the playoffs.

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