Kevin Love – PF | A
Love added yet another feather to his cap by winning this past Saturday’s 3-point shootout in Orlando. His status continues to grow as he continues to put up massive scoring and rebounding numbers for the second year in a row. Now that the team is finally winning games, Love is starting to get some real attention around the league. As of right now based on his pay, Love is this team’s franchise player and his play does not have anyone disagreeing with that notion, he is even starting to get some MVP steam too.
Key Stat: Among players with at least 30 shot attempts in the “clutch” situations (last five minutes of the game with the score margin within five points) this season, Love’s 45% effective field goal percentage (eFG%) ranks behind Kevin Durant (46%) and ahead of Carmelo Anthony (43%).
Rick Adelman – Head Coach | A
Making a quite run for Coach of Year, Rick Adelman has changed a once reprobate product into a contender for the playoffs in just 34 games. Not only has he brought instant creditability to the team, but he has gotten guys who seemly could not play defense last year to buy into his system. Giving up 12.1 fewer points and playing at almost the same pace as last year shows either how good a coach Adelman is or how bad Kurt Rambis actually was. Maybe it is a little bit of both? However, having Adelman on the sidelines for the Wolves final 32 games gives them a “been there done that” kind of guy that knows what it takes to make the playoffs.
Ricky Rubio – PG | B+
Expectations could not have been any higher for Ricky Rubio to start the season and up to this point he has not disappointed. Rubio has displayed the court vision and leadership that Wolves have been looking for from the point guard spot in years. His passing ability, toughness, and will to win has certainly rubbed off on his teammates too. At just 21 years of age, Rubio certainly has the skill, desire, and guts to be a special player down the road. He has been well worth wait.
Key Stat: Based on the numbers, Rubio has been the most clutch player for the Wolves this season posting a 54% eFG% in the “clutch”, ranking top-15 in entire league among players with at least 20 shot attempts in those situations.
Nikola Pekovic – C | B+
To start the season everyone had low expectations for or had no idea who he was. So now that Pekovic has spent the last month shattering those expectation he has become the red-headed stepchild to the Jeremy Lin story currently taking place in New York. Slowly but surely he has pushed Darko out of the center spot and given the team production on a nightly basis. Something good ‘ol Darko never seemed capable of. Although he is not the long and athletic center that would best fit alongside Kevin Love, he is center with a pulse, which is something the Wolves have not had in a longtime.
Read more about Pek’s rise here
Michael Beasley – SF | C+
The discussion of many trade rumors as of late, Michael Beasley has performed somewhat better than he did in the beginning of the season. The fact is that Beasley has been markedly more efficient since coming of the bench this year. The Wolves were 2-5 in the games that Beasley started and are 9-7 when he is coming off the bench. As a starter Beasley was shooting 39.4%/40%/44.4% and averaging 14.6 points (per 36) with a 0.35 Ast/TO ratio. Since coming off the bench his shooting and scoring has improved to 44%/43.2%/ 76.5% and 18.7 points (per 36) with a 0.79 Ast/TO ratio. In all fairness, Beasley was starting games at the beginning of this lockout season, so his shot may have still been rusty. If the Wolves decide to keep Beasley past the March 15th trade deadline, they might have a nice scoring option off the bench for the stretch run.
Key Stat: Beasley is shooting just 18.2% (4-22) in “clutch” situations this season. Last year he shot 44.1% in those same situations, which was one of the 15-best marks last year.
Luke Ridnour – PG | C+
Since Rubio insertion into the starting lineup, Ridnour has seen most of his time on the floor in mismatch situations more often than not up against the teams opposing two-guard. Ridnour has played 70% of his minutes at the off-guard this season getting outscored by his opposition by almost five points per 36 minutes. Rick Adleman has stated that he continues to play Ridnour there because he is one of the few players on the team that can handle the ball and make plays, which is something Adelman looks for in his shooting guards.
Derrick Williams – SF/PF | C+
Derrick Williams has really struggled during the first half of his rookie season. Struggling with his outside shot (25.8% on jump shots) and constantly taking it to the basket without any awareness at times has caused Adelman to sit the rookie at key moments. Of the 34 games in the first half, Williams played more than 20 minutes in only 15 of them. However in those games he scored 10 or more points in 11 of them shooting a better 47%. When playing 20 more minutes, Williams is putting up 16.8 points per 36 minutes, where as when he plays less than 20 minutes he averages just 11.9 points per 36. Looking towards the second half, it would be nice to see Williams play more for two reasons. (1) See what kind of player the Wolves actually have and (2) take the load off of Kevin Love, who is among the league leaders in minutes played. Williams could be a major factor that determines whether this team gets into the playoffs.
J.J. Barea – PG | C
Barea missed 16 of the Wolves 34 games during the first half and has taken advantage of his time on the court by shooting a lot. His 15.5 shot attempts per 36 minutes (a career high) ranks third on the team behind Kevin Love and Michael Beasley at the moment. It is not necessarily a bad thing but when you are shooting just a measly 38.8% from field like Barea it definitely is a problem. During his last three seasons in Dallas, Barea averaged 44% from the field and took fewer shots. He has had a tough season up to this point due to injury and even he has stated that sometime he just “tries to hard out there sometime”.
Key State: Barea is currently one of six players who averages more than 15 shots per 36 while shooting below 40% for the season. — Kemba Walker, Jamal Crawford, Jordan Crawford, Toney Douglas, and Jerryd Bayless are the other five on that list.
Martell Webster – SG | D+
Besides his boneheaded play to end the Denver game, Webster has struggled to make a basket all season. Missing the first month of the season due to back surgery has really put Webster behind the curve. The time off has definitely affected his shot somewhat as he is shooting just 28% from deep. Martell has played 60% of minutes at shooting guard, but has performed better playing and defending the small forward spot this season. He is really struggling guarding shooting guards this season, allowing 21.8 points per 36 while only scoring 9.7 points per 36 when playing the two.
Key Stat: For what it’s worth, Webster has the fourth highest +/- rating on the team (behind, Love, Rubio, and Pekovic) with a plus-45 rating in just 266 minutes of court time.
Wes Johnson – SF/SG | D-
Started the season as the team’s starting shooting guard, then struggled to hit any form of an outside shot, shooting just 21.7% from three. It really seems like it is a confidence thing with Johnson, that can sometimes be hard to correct. He gives the Wolves decent defense on the perimeter, but otherwise he has not done much in the way of making plays this year. There is not much to say about Wes Johnson’s first half, because well he hasn’t done much at all. He is sort of just a body that exists on the floor at the moment.
Key Stat: Johnson is the only player on the Wolves with a negative win shares (a metric that estimates a player’s contributions to team wins, based on his production) rating. Everyone’s favorite, Jonny Flynn was the only member on last year’s 17-65 team that ended with a negative win shares rating.
What Lies Ahead
The Wolves have a rough stretch ahead of them for the remainder of the season. This includes a seven-game west coast road trip in 11 days later this month. However, only three of those seven games are against current playoff teams. They play over half of their games against teams with +.500 records and play the fewest amount of home games (13) in the season’s second half. The Wolves only get four more games against the inferior Eastern Conference too – at Charolette, vs. Boston, at Indiana, at Detroit. To make matters worse, of their 32 remaining games, they play nine back-to-back games. The Wolves are just 3-8 in those games this season, while they are 14-8 in games when they get a day or more of rest in between. The Wolves are already on the outside looking in and as it looks right now they may never get a chance to feel what it is like on the other side of the fence.