The Wolves plan, in pictures

This post is a reposting of a comment I made here. It is my response to the following quote from NorthDakotaTwinsFan. Enjoy!

What this is...

It occurs to me that Wes is a nice fit…but only if one of three things happen offensively: 1) someone penetrates, forcing a double team which opens Wes for an outside shot. 2) The other team doubles Darko (or whoever is running the triangle at that time) which opens up Wes…or 3) he gets a pass on a cut. a prelude to Ricky. The way this team is being built, in my mind, is by overlapping skill sets and deficiencies across players. It’s why this team looks awfully disjointed sometimes and why Rambis keeps saying it will take time and experience. Follow me here on the metaphor and see if this doesn’t seem to be the blueprint (and for the record, I’m going to abstain from making the judgment call as to whether this is the right or wrong way to build a team.)

This is, for better or worse, the defining archetype of what we think basketball players should aspire to be.

The thing is, it’s really, really, like insanely difficult to find these guys. In my metaphor, this archetype looks something like this:

The pinnacle of technology – a do-it all projectile stopping vest that is light and breathable. It is what people have wanted on the battlefield for a very long time, and the economics of mass production notwithstanding, it is a very difficult to realize ideal of protection. Taking it back in time a step, it is kind of the modern equivalent of this:

Heavy, bulky, but very effective in certain scenarios but less effective (or utterly useless) in other scenarios. If the Jordan type player represents Kevlar vest of staying alive in battle (comfortable and effective in most scenarios, very few weaknesses), then the shield is what passes for most stars on NBA teams. Think Big Al, or Kevin Love, or Gerald Wallace or Josh Smith or any number of guys who are really quite effective at what they do but just not quite to the level of a Kevlar vest. Maybe some of these guys are closer to this type of shield than the round, wooden one:

Anyways, the point is that if, when building a team, you can assemble enough of these guys it can be very effective.

However, in the NBA it can be hard to assemble a whole team of guys fit to do this. You get some teams like Atlanta (athletes) or Utah and San Antonio or Boston of late (system), or defensively like the Bucks and Bobcats, who can do this (the offensive example would be the Suns) – where you get enough guys of the same ilk that run a system perfectly (like a phalanx) that the sum is more than the individual parts. In this metaphor, then, what I’m trying to illustrate is that ninjas in kevlar vests are hard to come by, and it’s even harder to surround said kevlar clad ninjas with the A-Team or TMNT or just a plain old SWAT team to back ‘em up. By my reckoning there’s really only one team trying to do that right now – Miami, and maybe Orlando to a lesser extent. The other top teams – Boston and LAL – are more in the mold of the 300 crew. Strong leaders, strong individual soldiers, but guys who all know that if they play together they can hold off an army of hundreds of thousands.

For the rest of the league, though, players aren’t born and raised in Sparta, they come from places like Racine, WI. Remember, there were only 300 guys at Thermopylae. The rest of the league plays for Xerxes. Anyways, to get back to how I see this team being built, this is the best most other teams can hope for if they build around the idea of the shield type player – players who are as close to the kevlar vest without actually being one. That means they’re damn good most of the time but still have weaknesses. The end result, though, is more often this:

This is the problem the TWolves have run into the past 5 years. We got a bunch of amateurs running around with wooden swords and plywood shields trying to play basketball against the boys from 300. In other words, we’re screwed before we even enter the Hot Gates, I mean Target Center. Because Rambis and Kahn recognize the difficulty of kidnapping a true Spartan (that is, the number one overall pick), they are doing the next best thing – creating a pseudo kevlar vest of a team, also known as:


Take a bunch of guys who are somewhere between the plywood shield guys and the SWAT shield guys and instead of lining them up (figuratively speaking) as individual ‘bricks’ in the wall, instead overlap them. In basketball terms, then, it’s the idea of playing to these guys strengths while allowing others/scheme to cover up for their weaknesses. So (and this is off the top of my head), the idea with a guy like Wes is that he doesn’t have to be a great ball handler. If he’s a great shooter, you effectively cover up that weakness by having so many guys who can get him the ball that it doesn’t matter what the other team does. In a sense, following the metaphor, you aren’t so much taking away weaknesses (individual or team) as you are trying to spread them around. That is, and this is the crux of what I’m trying to get at, you concede that there’s weakness(es) on the team or with a given player. What you don’t do is say – ’We’ve have this weakness or deficiency – and it’s right here (the gap between two guys).’

Instead of leaving a relatively large and easy to spot gap, let’s say Wes’ poor ball handling or our lack of a go-to scorer or whatever it may be, you build a team with the same weaknesses but just spread out. That is, teams can only attack a weakness but never a huge fissure – does that make sense? Instead of the riot team above, the Wolves are trying to play like this:

Getting back to what I initially said at the beginning of this post,


The way this team is being built, in my mind, is by overlapping skill sets and deficiencies across players. It’s why this team looks awfully disjointed sometimes and why Rambis keeps saying it will take time and experience.

I predict that we will, in two year’s time, have a collection of players who are all good at one or two things but with significant deficiencies as well. Love can rebound and score well but will always be a bit undersized and unathletic. Beasley will score but will always be a bit inefficient and suspect defensively. Wes will be able to defend and shoot but shaky at creating his own shot. Ricky will defend and distribute well but be suspect finishing and shooting, and so on and so on. If this is what Rambis and Kahn are buying into and believing can work at high level, then (in my mind) the only way I see it working is that Rambis is accepting the deficiencies and simply spreading them out. So surround Love with athletes and defenders and shooters to keep the paint open for him. Surround Beasley with a terrific rebounder and great off the ball shooters to let him focus on scoring. Give Wes numerous options on the court who can get him the ball when Wes finds the open spot – something he’s good at doing. Give Ricky plenty of great shooters and guys who can finish if they’re set up. If all goes well, teams may dare Ricky to shoot but at what point are there simply too many options for him to pass to? Too many guys who cut and finish well? Teams may key on shutting down Beasley’s scoring but then who accounts for Ricky being free? Or Love? Again, I’m not saying whether this is the right or the wrong way of doing it, but rather I think this is what Rambis is trying to do. If they all work together it could be fantastic. If they don’t, they get blown out by 30 points four games in a row.

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