Imagine back to a year ago. Corey Brewer played in his 15th and final game of the season and I don't think there were more than 10 or 12 fans in Minnesota who believed that he could be classified as anything other than a bust. He couldn't shoot, he couldn't really dribble, he wasn't that good of a passer, he wasn't reliable in transition, he wasn't that good of a defender, and, to top all of that off, he went down hard with a horrible season-ending knee injury.
Flash forward to the 15th game of the 2009/10 season and the former Final Four MVP is putting up his first career double-double while playing stout (and potentially game-altering, were he on a better squad) defense, showing up in transition, exhibiting a passable proficiency in the 1/2 court offense, and, most importantly, showing himself to have something of a winning attitude (which puts him in the rare company of Kevin Love on the Wolves' roster).
Let's take a look at how this year's Brewer compares to last year's pre-injury version in a few key broad areas:
OK, so he was rebounding, assisting, free throwing, and shooting at a better rate last season and he wasn't turning it over as much. But this year he looks like a different (and better) player. What gives?
For one, Brewer is a much larger part of the Wolves' offense this season, posting a usage rate 5.2% higher than it was last year at this time. He is putting up similar rates as last season but with much higher net stats. In a sense, this is a good thing. He was showing some improvement last year before his injury and it can be considered a success that he is able to maintain that trajectory this season with an increased number of possessions.
Is it a matter of him shooting better from certain spots on the court? A quick check of NBA Hot Spots shows us that he's pretty much the same type of shooter as he was last year: hitting about 1/2 his shots from in close (i.e. the crazy layups) while being best from the left side of the court and from straight away in limited attempts. His shot selection has remained very similar (he's taking a few more jumpers) to last year's effort and his time clock usage is nearly identical.
What is it then? Outside of there simply being more of Corey Brewer to go around on this, that, or the other possession, is there anything on the stat sheet that really sticks out in terms of being able to put a finger on the general sense that he is, night in and night out, the only Wolves player out there showing improvement and that he gives a damn? Is it a question of relativity? After all, Brewer does bost some of the best on/off numbers on the team. It's not his shooting (although he is shooting slightly better from 2 this year). His TS and eFG are down. Nearly all of his per/possession and facilitation numbers are down. Even his WS/40 numbers are down.
Before I go on with a post about why I think Brewer is vastly improved I'd like to hear from all of you about what you think. Is he improved? If so, what has improved? How is it that a guy who looked like he couldn't even dribble at times during his rookie season now looks like someone who could function on a winning NBA team?
What say you?