Tag Archives: Kevin Love

East vs. West Week 22: Comparing the West’s dominance with point differential

With another week of non-conference play in  the books, it was the same soup just reheated for the West as they went 12-7, a win rate similar to the season overall.

Every one of their playoff teams now has 20 wins against the East, something I brought up in previous posts about never being done before. Four teams out West are still in contention for the best non-conference record, but Milwaukee clinched the worst at 3-27. Two of those wins come from a sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers. Also worth noting is half the league finishing up non-conference play for the season. Gone are the West’s chances to build winning streaks against the middle and bottom of the East, which could mean movement in lottery balls.

Below is the updated week-by-week breakdown. I also included point differential for each week which I’ll then expand on by looking at how it stacks up against every other season since 1997. That’s as far back as NBA.com goes and, as far as I can tell, Basketball-Reference doesn’t yet have those splits to sort through. 1997 is a decent stopping point, though, because of expansion the season prior.

The West’s margin of victory month-by-month can be found here, for anyone curious.

Winning percentage shouldn’t be the only measuring stick for how dominant the West has been against the East. In fact, 2014 currently tops 2004 – the season with the West’s highest non-conference win rate ever – in average margin of victory:

That record-breaking point differential isn’t going to change much since there are only 11 non-conference games left. Neither are the complaints that Minnesota and one of Phoenix, Dallas, Memphis, and Golden State will miss the playoffs all while Atlanta is limping to the finish line.

I’ll have another blog post today regarding home/road, east/west splits. It’s actually something I kind of, sort of looked at six weeks ago but this time will be much more simple, hopefully less complicated and hopefully less ridiculous.

Edit: Maybe not, since Google Sheets doesn’t seem to be working for me.

All stats are according to NBA.com.

Throwback Thursday: When Danny Fortson was unconscious from the stripe

Once in a while I’ll remember what day it is and post something related to Throwback Thursday. This week’s post goes back 10 seasons and then some in regards to a bruiser in the middle.

The 2005 SuperSonics had Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis both in the primes of their careers and knocking down three-pointer after three-pointer. Vladimir Radmanovic and Luke Ridnour were others  who also had accurate range. All of them helped make that squad one of the 20 most efficient offenses in the last 10 seasons, according to Basketball-Reference.

What’s easy to forget, though, is their free throw shooting was also elite. If not for Reggie Evans, the ’05 Sonics were one of the five most accurate shooters from the line. Evans could board, averaging 14 rebounds per 36 minutes, but making free throws was quite a weakness as he finished the season at 53 percent on three attempts per game.

Enter Danny Fortson, a bruiser off the bench who could rebound nearly as well (20.3 percent of available rebounds compared to Evans’ 23.9), foul over twice as often (yay?), but was as accurate from the free throw line as Allen and Ridnour that season. He finished the year at 88 percent, 10th best in the league and a mark higher than the current ones of Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry, though Fortson’s skill set is nowhere near as glamorous as those three sharks.

A player like Fortson is normally a liability at the line, much like Evans still is. Since 2000, a player to snag more than 20 percent of rebounds in play for a season (accomplished 79 times) has on average made only 63.2 percent of their free throws. Players like Dwight Howard and (soon) Andre Drummond drag that percentage down but a few big men like Fortson and Kevin Love balance things out somewhat.

The table below should help show how weird of company Fortson is both included and tops in. The filters: 500 minutes played, 20 percent of available rebounds, and 80 percent free throw shooting:

For the fantasy basketball players out there: Fortson’s combination of rebounding and free throw shooting wasn’t enough to make him a valuable player overall except during 2002. Durability, lack of major minutes, and a lack of stocks – steals + blocks – all played a factor in that. Still, he could’ve been a nice piece for free throw percentage and rebounds as long as a team was punting blocks or steals.

As for the table, the filters might be a little loose so Fortson is included with the rest of the players listed above, but I had to make some kind of requirement so Quentin Richardson wouldn’t be included. Also, Zaid Abdul-Aziz just became one of my favorite NBA names ever. I even “liked” his Basketball-Reference page.

Anyway, in between the extremes of free throwers like Howard and Fortson are a bunch of players like Zach Randolph and Joakim Noah.

But while Fortson could joust for position under the rim with the best of them, he could also rack up fouls in a hurry. He’s only one of two players to log over 500 minutes and average nine fouls per-36. During his 2004-05 stint, he averaged over four fouls per game all while playing over 1,000 minutes, which is kind of impressive in itself. Since 2000, only eight players have averaged four fouls and even logged 500 minutes of play. The average free throw percentage for those guys is actually quite good, balancing out to 75.2 percent. DeMarcus Cousins is one of the worst free throwers of that group with Fortson as the best, thanks to that unusual 88 percent shooting.

Below is a table of those eight players and their free throw percentages:

It’s an interesting mix of players (not just on the court, but in general). For Jason Collins and Fortson, I’m not sure foul accumulation mattered that much since they’re rarely playing significant time anyway, but for someone like Shawn Kemp to average 4.5 fouls? Good grief.

Looking back, I’m not sure what Fortson’s best remembered for. Was it his fouling, rebounding, technical fouls, his time as a Cincinnati Bearcat, and/or even the dreadlocks that could’ve made him a solid teammate with Latrell Sprewell and Michael Beasley? It’s unlikely his free throw percentage can topple all of those traits, but his touch from the line was and continues to be so rare for a player like himself.

Below are some players who could join him in some rare company with the combo of free throw shooting and high-volume rebounding. As far as I’m concerned, especially after some searches on Basketball-Reference, nobody this season is within reach of his hot hand from the line and high-volume fouling.

That table isn’t meant to compare those players to Fortson; just listing a couple similar, basic stats they all thrive in. As for the 2005 playoffs, the Sonic forward/center shot 80 percent from the stripe on 15 attempts. A drop-off, sure, but still an impressive percentage nonetheless.

As usual, any other thoughts are welcome. Happy Thursday, but also happy Friday when that time arrives (if it hasn’t already).

All stats are according to Basketball-Reference unless noted otherwise.

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?

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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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