Near the bottom of last night's comments a few important things were pointed out:
There are going to be a few things that we all need to keep in mind when discussing the Wolves this season:
- They are going to put up some crooked stat lines.
- +/- is going to be even more flawed than usual as a stand-alone stat used to gauge individual game performances. The Wolves are going to take it in the chin this year on more than a few occasions. That doesn't mean that individual players won't play well within any given blow-out (Brewer played decent during last night's atrocity). It also doesn't account for the roles that certain players inhabit (Ramon Sessions as a backup point; Sasha Pavlovic as a defender off the bench) or the fact that the team's two best players are either inactive or playing at 70%. +/- is a nice part of the equation but it will need to be downgraded this year as the Wolves, as a whole, are going to be going through some bumps and bruises beyond what was expected last year when they had the ability to trot out a relatively respectable and experienced lineup of Sebastian Telfair, Randy Foye, Mike Miller, Kevin Love, and Al Jefferson. Also, we're really, really, really early in the season and until we see how some of these lineups look over the course of 10-15 games, +/- is going to have some pretty hefty limitations and should be used in conjunction with other observations/stats. For instance, Jonny Flynn ended last night's game with a -23 in 25 minutes. This is a bad, bad number but it could mean that he was on the court with the team's most ineffective front court (Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, and Damien Wilkins) and LeBron James for a long period of time. It could also mean that Jonny Flynn is not an NBA point at the moment and while he can score until the cows come home, he has some fairly big issues facilitating the offense. Or, it could be a combo of the two factors. Either way, simply citing +/- isn't going to cut it with this team right now.
- Al Jefferson is not anywhere near 100%. Yes, it looks like he has no business being in the new offense and he is the last person on earth you want directing traffic out of the high post, but a serious injury is still a serious injury and the Jefferson Discount should be taken into account when discussing his overall worth to the squad.
I'm sure we can come up with a few more gentle nudges for game discussion but these are the ones that have quickly risen to the top in the first two games of the season.
Enough about the Wolves for a second. The most notable thing about last night's game, for me, was the composition of the Cavs. This team is not as good as it was last year and it is not a championship contender. The most glaring issue that they have is that even with LeBron on the squad, they are the most unathletic non-Wolves starting-5 team I have seen in a long, long time. Shaq and Ilgauskus may be the slowest and most earth-bound frontcourt duo in the league and their non-LeBron wings stand around the three point line and do not crash the boards. This team will be taken apart by any other squad with two players who are both athletic and above 6'10" Witness Toronto, Orlando, and Boston. Witness the change in the game when Ryan Hollins entered the contest. Hell, even Nathan Jawai was able to change the pace of the game for a few moments. This team will always have a decent shot at winning any single game because of LeBron James (who I firmly believe is the best player in the world). However, any team that is thinking about giving 80-90 minutes of court time to a Shaq, Varejao, Ilgauskus front court trio doesn't have the top end to compete with the Bostons, Orlandos, and yes, even the Torontos of the world over a 7 game series. They don't need a Steven Jackson; they needed a Rasheed Wallace or a Marcin Gortat. Mike Brown will eventually take the heat for what happens to this squad but it's the damn Dukie who did the damage.
Let's wrap this up with a few bullet points:
- There is no reason on God's green earth to front or double Shaq at this point in his career. This didn't stop Al Jefferson from trying the former and Damien Wilkins from attempting the latter (off of LeBron James, no less). Make them go over the top and if they beat you with Boobie Gibson, so be it.
- The FSN game was apparently brought to us by Bret Michael's November appearances at Grand Casino.
- The Wolves' starting front court (Jefferson, Gomes, and Wilkins) went 0-for-their-starting-stint. The first front court bucket was made by Ryan Hollins. Sasha Pavlovic was the next front court player to score followed by the White Hole himself, Oleksiy Pecherov. The starting FC ended the game on 9-28 shooting. This comes on the heels of their 9-30 effort against the Nets.
- My first Wolves prediction of the year: Ryan Gomes plays himself out of his team option at the end of the year. David Kahn isn't going to pick up a $4.2 million tab on a guy who can't really play the 3 or the 4 in a year where guys like Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick, and Travis Outlaw could be on the open market.
- Speaking of options, today is the day for the White Hole and Corey Brewer. Will their options be picked up by the team? I think Brewer gets his but my money is against Pech. Putting the last two points together, ESPN currently has the Wolves with between $8.9 and $12.5 million in 2010 cap space. This is with a cap projected between $50 and $53.6 million. According to the definitive Hoopus cap page, the Wolves are on the books for roughly $37.5 in pre draft pick 2010 salaries. If they decline the options on Pech and Gomes, they can reduce that number by roughly $6.5 million. In other words, by not picking up Pech and Gomes, the Wolves can be sitting at $31 mil at the start of the 2010 free agent without taking into consideration slotted 1st round draft picks. Could the Wolves be in the Mark Stein ballpark after it's all said and done with? Yes, but they also could be at the top of the heap with about $15-18 mil to spend even after all the draft picks are signed. We think Stein and ESPN underestimate the amount that the Wolves could have to spend at the end of the year, especially if Pech and Gomes are voted off the island.
- How sad is it that we're already talking offseason cap space and draft picks? Yes, it will be a long year. An entertaining one at times, but a long one nonetheless.
- There was a play in the 2nd half that really illustrated just how not-there Big Al is at times. The Wolves were about to enter the bonus when the Cavs got a fast break opportunity. Instead of making his way down the court to contest the shot, Al fouled the Cavs player at half court, conceding the foul and the trip to the line. If you are willing to give the foul and the trip to the line because of the bonus, why not contest the shot?
- To say one good thing about Al, he did blow by Shaq on one play like Shaq was a 37 year old 360 lbs oaf....oh wait.
- Corey Brewer played solid defense on LeBron when he wasn't spending time on the dangerous Anthony Parker. I know that LeBron can get his against anyone in the league but it would have been nice to see Brewer get a bigger crack against the guy.
Well, that about does it for the game wrap. What did you notice about the game? What guidelines will you have for critiquing the team's performances? Do you think Pecherov's option gets picked up? What about Gomes at the end of the year?