Well folks, that about does it

In lieu of a game wrap (which would only be notable for the fact that Charlie Villanueva understands the importance of having a good time entertaining the fans and is our new favorite player), I thought it would be a good opportunity to begin our series of posts that wrap up the season.  In this post, we'll review our season preview and take the 30,000 foot view of this particular vintage of Los Wolves.

One of the things that stands out about the season preview post is this quote:

Best of all, Kahn has made the Wolves interesting again.  The process has been full of goofy quotes, funny interviews, nearly weekly roster moves, and the entire Ricky Rubio saga, but the bottom line for Kahn and the Wolves is the results:

  1. Their core is good and tremendously young. 
  2. They have drafted the 2 best Euros in the past 2 drafts and stashed them overseas.
  3. They have 3 likely 1st round picks in the 2010 draft. 
  4. They will have in the neighborhood of $15 million below the cap in 2010 free agency. 
  5. Chances are, they now have a functional point guard on their roster. 

This thing is clearly still a work in progress (the team needs help on the wing and the Rubio situation still needs to be resolved one way or another) but it is also clearly pointed in the right direction. 

Is that the big take-away from this season?  The new POBO was willing to stand directly in the line of fire, say interesting things, and amass as many resources as possible heading into the 2010 off-season.  If Kevin McHale were still at the helm of this franchise, I think a 15-win season would have been the last straw for many, many, many fans no matter how well the lotto balls land in May.  Landing a top pick, using the cap space to take a run at a young restricted free agent, and/or using it in a mid-season unbalanced trade...that's about as good as it could possibly get for the Wolves and I think Kahn gets this.

Here's what we had to say about the team's strengths:
Rebounding.  Rebounding.  Rebounding, and more rebounding. Kevin Love is one of the league's top 3 rebounders, Al Jefferson's game is built to be close to the bucket and he collects a net positive on the offensive boards, and Corey Brewer can hold his own at either the 2 or 3.  If there is a player from last year's squad to get a little chippy about his departure, it is Mike Miller.  Despite not shooting the damn ball, Miller was a verysolid defensive rebounder and it will take a well above average effort from Pavlovic, Brewer, and Gomes to match Miller's efforts on the glass at the 2/3


Looking at the lineups from the two years, it's kind of easy to see where Miller/Gomes > Gomes/Brewer in terms of rebounding at the 2/3:

08/09:

Net Production by Position
Position
FGA
eFG%
FTA
iFG
Reb
Ast
T/O
Blk
PF
Pts
PER*
PG
-0.5   -.061   -1.5   0%  -1.9   -0.7   -0.2   -0.0   -1.1   -3.8   -7.0  
SG
0.1   -.034   -0.1   4%  0.1   -0.3   -0.2   -0.0   -0.3   -1.1   -2.4  
SF
-3.5   +.001   -2.5   -1%  0.9   0.5   -0.5   0.1   -0.8   -5.5   -4.2  
PF
0.3   -.016   -0.3   8%  -0.2   0.3   -0.6   -0.9   -0.3   -0.5   -2.3  
C
6.1   -.057   2.1   4%  1.8   -0.9   0.2   -1.1   0.8   6.0   +2.4  


Net Production by Position
Position
FGA
eFG%
FTA
iFG
Reb
Ast
T/O
Blk
PF
Pts
PER*
PG
1.0   -.040   1.4   13%  -0.1   -3.2   -0.8   -0.2   0.9   0.5   -3.6  
SG
0.1   -.057   -0.8   0%  0.1   -1.9   -0.6   0.0   -0.8   -2.6   -5.3  
SF
-4.2   -.050   -1.9   -7%  0.0   -0.7   -0.1   -0.2   -0.7   -7.6   -6.5  
PF
-0.1   -.020   0.6   3%  1.5   0.3   -0.1   -0.5   0.6   -0.3   +0.8  
C
2.8   -.069   0.1   -4%  -1.8   -0.5   -0.2   -0.8   -0.3   0.7   -3.4  

Nearly a rebound a game adds up after a while.  Last year Mike Miller ended up with 7.4 reb/36 minutes.  Craig Smith was right behind him with 7/36, while Brewer went for 5.7 and Gomes 5.4.  This year, Ryan Gomes and Damien Wilkins were the leading rebounders on the wing with 5.7/36.  Last year the Wolves had 3 rotation players with Oreb% over 10.  This year they have 1.  Kevin Love is still a rebounding machine, but he had his minutes jerked around all season long while Al Jefferson wasn't really himself from the beginning through the DWI to the excused absence to the end of the year.   This year the team posted a 29/71 oreb/dreb% number compared to last year's 30/73% marks. Overall the Wolves were slightly down in the rebounding department, which is disappointing considering how poorly they shot the ball.  


In theory, the Wolves should also be a very good free throw shooting team this season.  Last year Ramon Sessions had the 25th best FT/FG rate in the league at 36. Kevin Love was 18th at 39.  Big Al was all the way down at 154 with 19.  By all accounts in college, summer league, and his small sample of preseason games, Jonny Flynn has all the makings of a high-contact guard who will draw a lot of fouls in an up-tempo system.  Last year the Wolves had one fairly legit threat of getting to the line at a high rate: Kevin Love.  This year they have 3 players who should draw a ton of contact with one guy (Jefferson) who will have a modest rate but a high volume due to his number of touches.


This one was kind of disappointing, yet still trending in the right direction.  Last year the team was AWFUL at getting to the line while keeping their opponents away from the line.  This year the Wolves attempted slightly fewer FTAs but they dropped the gap between themselves and their opponents to a somewhat respectable number: -0.6.  Last year this was -2.3.  The year before it was a mind-bending -6.9. 

Biggest weaknesses? 


Defense, wing play, turnovers, and outside shooting.  I don't really know if there is a good way to break this down in much greater detail but the Wolves are still going to have problems on defense; their 2 and 3 will be manned by a rotation of Corey Brewer, Wayne Ellington, Sasha Pavlovic, and Ryan Gomes, and their backcourt will be led by 2 point guards who will be in their first year with the team.  David Kahn has been pretty frontal in his assessment that Gomes and Brewer are both in put up or shut up years.  Pavlovic is on a 1-year contract.  Nothing is promised or owed to any of these players and if they can't figure it out this year, I think it is becoming more and more obvious that when the Wolves do cash in their draft/free agency chips, it will be for a wing player.  At media day and during camp both Gomes and Brewer said enough to make everyone well aware of the fact that they too know the score.

I don't think I need to add anything there.  This was a terrible team with terrible defenders and it was knee-capped by terrible perimeter play and terrible shooting. That paragraph probably could have been worked into a game wrap for just about 95% of the games  this year.

What were the preseason Hoopus goals for the team? 

 

1-  At least a neutral OE/DE rating.  This was an absolute failure.  The Wolves posted the worst OE/DE differential in team history, with a -10.  Let me repeat: -10.  That is absurd.  There is no way to dress that up.  There is no way this team should have been this bad.  They had the worst Ortg in team history along with the 4th worst franchise Drtg.  They also finished with the franchise-worst SRS, which is one of the things that gives them a fairly legit claim to the worst team in franchise history...which is a subject for another post in our season wrap-up series.

2- An increase in pace and shots within the first 10-15 seconds of the shot clockLast year the Wolves posted a pace of 91.6, good for 15th in the league. This year they went for 96.2, good for 3rd in the league.  The increase in pace was nice to see but it also gave a young and relatively talentless team a mountain of possessions to showcase their youth and relative lack of talent.  More possessions = more chances to suck.  The suckitude of this year's team is about as far from the Bill Musselman era of slowball suckitude as you can get.  On the shot clock side of things, the Wolves took 66% of their shots within the first 15 seconds of the shot clock for a total of 56.3 ppg.  The reason why this stat is so important is because early shots often mean a higher shooting percentage because of the nature of transition ball.  The Wolves took 40% of their shots within the first 10 seconds of the shot clock with an eFG of .530.  36 ppg were scored in this time frame.  They went for 11% of their shots with an eFG of .405 in the last 4 seconds of the shot clock.  Last year the Wolves took 60% of their shots within the first 15 seconds of the shot clock for a total of 49.2 ppg.  From within 10 seconds, they went for .538 and 30.9 points.  The biggest disappointment with the quick play this season was that Jonny Flynn seemed unable to use his natural talents to push the pace.  Flynn is a tremendously likable individual and he does seem to possess real leadership talent.  He also has elite quickness and a solid handle. Here's hoping he can figure out when to push the ball because the team really could have used it this year to push their pace/shot clock numbers in an even more up-tempo direction. 


08.09:

Shot Clock Usage

Offense

Defense
Secs.
Att.
eFG%
Ast
Pts

Att.
eFG%
Ast
Pts
0-10
35%  .538   49%  30.9 
36%  .552   55%  31.9 
11-15
25%  .449   59%  18.3 
26%  .511   58%  20.9 
16-20
25%  .483   65%  20.0 
25%  .497   60%  19.5 
21+
15%  .403   58%  10.2 
14%  .455   55%  10.1 

09/10:


Shot Clock Usage


Offense

Defense
Secs.
Att.
eFG%
Ast
Pts

Att.
eFG%
Ast
Pts
0-10
40%  .530   47%  36.0 
38%  .590   59%  38.3 
11-15
26%  .455   56%  20.3 
26%  .496   68%  21.7 
16-20
22%  .443   56%  16.7 
24%  .484   67%  19.4 
21+
11%  .405   60%  7.8 
13%  .442   62%  9.5 


3- Free throw neutrality (or more).  They came close on this one.  Really close.  (See above.) 

4- Injury free.  Kevin Love was out for a month with a broken hand and Al Jefferson wasn't himself coming off a knee injury.  I suppose Kevin Love technically broke the curse of Wolves 2nd year players losing nearly an entire season with a debilitating 2nd year leg injury.  At least the Wolves have that going for them.  


Big question for the year:

Did David Kahn screw the pooch on draft night?

Let me begin by giving a simple yes or no: No.  However, the (excellent) addition of Ramon Sessions begs the question of whether or not the Wolves could have walked away from the Draft with Rubio and, say, Demar DeRozan instead of Jonny Flynn.  Sure, it would have been a big bet to wait out for Sessions, and who knows what would have happened with Sessions' negotiations if Rubio stayed in Europe and Flynn wasn't sitting there as a sure replacement, but..well, it's pretty hard to ignore the fact that the Wolves had two big first rounders and a free agent signing over the summer and they were all at the same position.  Yes, it's at a position that has killed the Wolves since the days of Sam Cassell but isn't there a nagging little thought in the back of your head that is whispering "it could have been done better?"  I think Kahn has done a terrific job but it will ultimately depend on which point guard(s) stick around in 2-3 years and how much he can get with the one (or two) that gets sent away.  Will that equation end up being more valuable than the previously mentioned Rubio/DeRozan/Sessions combo?  Who knows?


I cannot say it enough: The 2009 Draft will 150% depend on which point guard is around in 2-3 years and what the team was able to do with the left-overs.  Kahn is all-in on Rubio.  If Rubio comes over and plays and is a good player, and if Flynn is able to accept a role as a 6th man spark plug off the bench, then the draft could be a huge success.  If Rubio doesn't come, and if Flynn turns out to be a 6th man spark plug as a starter...well, then we're talking miserable failure.  Ultimately, Kahn gets an optimistic "incomplete" from me for the following reason: He understands the superstar rule.  You need a great player to win in the NBA and, more often than not, you need to luck your way into one.  This team has been completely awful this year (it has a legit argument for the worst team in franchise history...which is, again, a subject for another wrap-up post), but the take-away is this: They maintained cap space, 3 1st rounders, and 2 stashed Euros for a big off season.  They didn't lose the Clipper pick.  They will have a legit crack at John Wall.  They can be the biggest players in the draft.  The caveat here is that this is the last year where I'm buying this approach to team building.  I'm not going to stick around for another year of hoping for a top pick and some magical cap space.  It's off to Thunderville if they hit next year's trade deadline with a ton of cap space, no new significant additions, and nothing more than a rehash of The Blueprint 2.0, I'm done.  That's not a threat.  It's just someone who is tired of seeing significant assets go to waste.  From buying out Theo Ratliff to not making any moves this year at the trade deadline to ticket pitch after ticket pitch laced with talk about millions of cap dollars, I'm going to take one more try at kicking the ball away from Lucy's hold.

Lucy-football_medium

 

Perhaps the most embarrassing part of the season preview is this:

Projected finish: 31-51

Ouch. 

Some of the better comments from our readers:

Just a Fan:

The Twolves finished 24-58 last year. Based on what I have seen in persona and on TV so far, I voted 16-20. I based this on:

1 – Our 4 best players really play just 2 positions (Flynn, Sessions, Love and Al). The ability to play all 4 at the same time is very questionable (Al can’t defend the post, Rambis seems very reluctant to play Flynn and Sessions together – I assume because of what he sees in practice).

2 – No outside shooting. Most critical need last year was to find players who could space the floor for Big Al. Our decent, though sometime madding inconsistent, shooters (Foye, Miller and dare I say McCants) are being replaced by …………….. Corey Brewer and Wayne Ellington! Before anyone starts with the Pavlovic comments, you need to consider his PER of 7.38 and 8.65 the last 2 years, playing with the Cavs – a team with a Super Star who draws tons of double teams and was not reluctant to kick the ball. If Sasha was an effective "spacer" (like he was in 2007 – his only season with a double digit PER by the way), he would still be in Cleveland. Does anyone believe that this group is an upgrade that will keep defenses from sagging on Al?

3 – A team filled with players that possess below average athletic ability. I was far more favorable on McHale’s performance as GM than most around here. But the 1 criticism that I had was McHale’s stubbornness in always favoring/more highly valuing a players basketball skills/ IQ over their athleticism. I know – he played on Celtics teams that won championships with high basketball IQ and skills guys with lower athleticism (Parrish, Bird, Ange, himself) but this is not the 1980’s. It does not work that way today. It has left us with a roster of guys that know how to play, but without the athleticism to use the knowledge. Even though he radically turned over roster, Kahn added only 1 player (Sessions) through FA and 1 player (Flynn) through the draft with above average athleticism. On most nights, we will match up with equal/better athletes at only 2 of the 5 starting positions. Of our top 4 reserves, only 1 (Sessions) will likely have a favorable athleticism match up. Being this badly outmatched athletically is not going to lead to more victories.

4 – Growing pains for our coaching staff as they install a new system, recovery from injury (Al, Brewer) plus now Love’s injury, a rookie PG, and a cast of new players as they learn each others game is not going to result in a fast start. In our 1st 17 games (Oct/Nov), I don’t see us being favored in more than 4 games (New Jersey, Milwaukee, Phoenix at home, Memphis on the road) Yep – I expect us not even to be favored against the Clippers. If we start 4-13, we would need to finish 26-39 (2 out of every 5) to get to 30 victories. I don’t see it since our most favorable schedule is not until mid Jan through end of Feb – by then – I expect that we may see even more roster turnover.

I certainly hope that we win more. I keep my fingers crossed that Kahn will use all those assets for something better next year. But I am also expecting to watch some pretty crappy basketball this year.

Jose Cordoba:

1. Brewer is better than Gomes. I’m not really even debating this one.
2. In fact- Brewer might currently be the 3rd best player on the team behind Al and Ramon Sessions. You could make the Flynn argument- but he hasn’t exactly shown himself to be under control at the Point- saying nothing about Brewer’s D.
3. My point isn’t that Corey Brewer is a great player it’s rather they’re are still some serious talent issues on this club.
4. I actually do think the D should be quite a bit better due to better wing defenders (Although this is off-set by Potentially Historically Awful Shooting)
5. My dream for this season is still to beat the Trailblazers. Although Nov.11 isn’t looking likely.

Things I have learned from the season preview recap: I should stay away from predicting records.  I think I had the strengths, weaknesses, and big questions of this team down pretty good....but the record...oi.  Next year we'll leave that one to an open poll...where only 28 of of 554 votes thought that the Wolves would finish with only 15 wins.  

Well folks, that about does it for the season preview recap.  Here is a look at what we will be doing in our recap series:
  • Which is the big problem: offense or defense?
  • Stats overview.
  • Is this the worst team in franchise history? 
  • Individual player grades.
  • A Ricky Rubio FAQ. 
  • Hoopus Draft Board.
  • A look at free agents and possible lopsided trades.
  • A look at what could change over the summer.
What say you? 
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