Writers at ESPN.com gave grades to the Miami Heat players for every game they played last year. I felt it would be fun to do the same thing with the Wolves. In fact, I was hoping this could become a front page feature to supplement the phenomenal writing of TimAllen, SnP and Oceanary. Alternatively, it could simply be a daily fan post that invokes debate and discussion. To this end, I was hoping, if this idea caught on, that the fans and/or one fan in particular other than me could be responsible for writing a Wolves report card for each game. It simply cannot be me alone because there are too many people on this site who know more about basketball and/or are funnier than me. Not to mention it takes too much time, and I have no aspirations of being a sport writer. However, I will start things off by giving the Wolves players grades for the first two games.
Game 1: OKC 104 MN 100
Michael Beasley: 36 minutes, FGM-A 11-27, 3 PM-A 0-3, FTM-A 2-3, Reb 5, Ast 1, Stl 1, Blk 1, TO 2, PFs 2, -8, Pts 24
One can't help but wonder if Michael was encouraged to try to take his defender off the dribble and shoot capriciously by RA given that he played so many minutes despite doing so. Undoubtedly, Michael is a player that makes you pull your hair out because he looks tremendous at times, but appears to be detrimental to the team more often than not. Against OKC, as many CHers mentioned in the game thread, his ego appeared to adversely impact his decision making as he was trying unsuccessfully to hold his own against his best friend, Kevin Durant. Fortunately, this prompted him to play with uncharacteristic energy, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, but more often than not MIchael simply could not get out of his own way. Moreover, despite his effort which was good to see, he remains a defensive liability at this time. He gets a C for his game against Miami because he did drive to the hoop with more proclivity than in the past despite taking numerous ill advised shots. Despite his poor shooting performance he was the most viable offensive option we had in the game, and I have to credit him for that as he remains the only person on our roster who can reliably create his own shot. To this end, there have been people on this site who recently called into his question his ability to frequently generate good scoring opportunities by driving the lane (I believe it was EIM). This is a reasonable argument that I have not heard anyone make as yet that deserves attention. Indeed, it may be, that even though we all want to see Michael go to the hoop more, that he may simply be incapable of creating good scoring opportunities by doing so.
Kevin Love: 41 minutes, FGM-A 6-14, 3PM-A 1-3, FTM-A 9-12, 12 Rebounds, Ast 5, Stl 1, TO 3, PFs 3, -4, Pts 22
It speaks to Kevin's greatness that expectations are so high for him that a 22 pt, 12 rebound game earns him only a B. However, he did seem understandably rusty in this game. He bumbled passes he would not ordinarily have (the nice Ridnour pass on the fastbreak immediately comes to mind), and his outside shot is conspicuously off. In addition, a guy like Kevin should be shooting better than 75% from the free thrown line, and should not have 3 turnovers. Regardless, he gets no less than a B here because he remains the heart and soul of the Wolves, and had a great outing for most players, but only a reasonable outing for him.
Darko Milicic: 20 minutes, FGM-A 4-6, 3 PM-A 0-0, FTM-A 4-6, Rebounds 3, Ast 0, Stl 0, Blk 0, TOs 1, PFs 2, +4, Pts 12
If Kevin did what Darko did he would have received a D. This speaks to the high expectations I have for Kevin, and the low expectations I have for Darko. For me Darko will always earn an above average grade if he limits his turnovers, plays within his limits offensively and contributes greatly on the defensive end. Say what you want about Darko, but he effectively did this in game 1 against the Thunder. He was active defensively and played reasonable team defense as he compensated for many of his teammates deficiencies (this is basically everyone). He limited his turnovers and made an unexpected contribution on offense as he played within himself. However, Darko doesn't get an A because he had no blocked shots, and well.. because he may simply be incapable of getting an A (I really hope I am wrong here and Adelman can draw water from a Serbian rock).
Luke Ridnour: 18 minutes, FGM-A 1-3, 3PM-A 0-2, FTM-A 0-0, Reb 3, Ast 4, Stl 1, Blk 0, TO 0, PF 2, -5, Pts 2
Interestingly, the box score belies how detrimental I feel Luke is to the Wolves. Somehow Luke has become one of my least favorite players on this team, whereas I wasn't nearly as down on him last year as I am now. Suffice it to say it was nice to see Ridnour limited to 18 minutes. My eyes tell me the offense stagnates when he is in the game, and he is a profound defensive liability. Accordingly, if he fails to score while he is in the game (perhaps his only redeeming quality is his ability to shoot the jump shot), he becomes an absolute poison pill while he is on the floor. In addition, he has added a new element to his game to exacerbate the fan's frustration with him as he is now playing outside himself trying to make passes that he is not routinely capable of making. One can't help but notice he is looking over his shoulder as he rightfully should be. Unfortunately, the only person who doesn't know Luke is not a starting point guard in this league is Luke (and perhaps Kurt Rambis and David Kahn). With all of that said I like Luke and feel for him for the offseason he had personally. He appears to be a great guy and I wish him well, but I see him largely as trade bait at this time despite the game he had against Milwaukee (see my next post).
Wesley Johnson: 25 minutes, FGM-A 2-4, 3PM-A 1-3, FTM-A 0-0, Reb 1, Ast 3, Stl 0, Blk 0, TO 3, PFs 2, -13, Pts 5
Looking at the boxscore the numbers that jump out at you are his 3 turnovers, 1 rebound, 33% 3 Pt shooting, and 0 free throw attempts. The reason I point to these numbers is because Wes once again demonstrated that he has not acquired the ability to adequately drive to the hoop to get to the free throw line without turning the ball over. Moreover, he is not shooting a high enough percentage from 3 to compensate for this deficiency (I get that this is a small sample size). It is also problematic that a player that is supposed to have such a huge advantage in terms of length and athleticism at the 2 only obtained 1 rebound in 25 minutes. Ultimately, Wes destroyed the offensive flow and did not do enough defensively or otherwise to offset the adverse impact he had on the offensive end. He simply looks to be above his head starting at the 2 on an NBA team. Here's to hoping Adelman can make him a better player, but I don't have a lot of hope here.
Anthony Tolliver: 20 minutes, FGM-A 0-3, 3PM 0-3, FTM 0-0, Reb 2, Ast 0, Stl 0, Blk 1, TO 0, PFs 2, +2, Pts 0
Anthony is always going to be one of my favorite Wolves because he simply plays the game the right way, and I love the heart he shows. However, if not for his defensive contribution in this game, he would have received an F. The numbers speak for themselves here (0-6 overall with 0 points).
JJ Barea: 27 minutes, FGM-A 6-11, 3PM-A 1-3, FTM-A 1-1, Reb 2, Ast 2, Stl 0, Blk 0, TO 0, PFs 3, +11, Pts 14
It is hard to overstate how great a game JJ Barea had in terms of him still being a relatively unknown commodity. Yes, he had a great playoffs last year, but nobody really knew what we would get from him when we acquired him. The numbers do not prevaricate here. JJ was a stud in this game and was, along with Ricky, the main reason the Wolves had a chance to steal the game from OKC. His intensity and effort are truly refreshing and infectious. He is like a mini-Anthony Tolliver except he is white, is much quicker, etc. He is a guy that definitely plays the game the "right way" and he was tremendous in this game. I particularly enjoyed how much of a pest he was to RW. The only reason he does not get an A here is because it will take a lot to get an A from me this year, and because he did not play enough minutes to have an A worthy impact in my humble opinion (this is obviously no fault of his own).
Ricky Rubio: 26 minutes, FGM-A 2-3, 3PM-A 0-1, FTM-A 2-2, Reb 5, Ast 6, Stl 0, Blk 0, TO 0, PFs 4, -1, Pts 6
Ricky made this game the most exciting game I have seen the Wolves play in many years. His passing in this game was preternatural in numerous ways, and was worth the wait. His Ast/TO ratio speaks for itself here as he had a significant impact on this game. When he was in the game the offense flowed and the Wolves looked like an actual NBA team. When he was not in the game the Wolves looked awful. To this end, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality defense Ricky played against Westbrook. However, he still made some unnecessary gambles (he failed on numerous OKC back cuts as the player he was guarding scored easy baskets). In addition, Ricky is very simply going to have to be more of an offensive threat to realize his full potential. NBA teams will play him like Rondo except the problem is, whereas Rondo can finish at the basket, Ricky either cannot do so or doesn't have the confidence in his ability required to do so. Regardless, to realize his full "passing potential" he will have to make defenders respect his ability to drive and score the basketball and/or score from outside. This will clearly take time, and doesn't negate the great game he had against the Thunder. Indeed, Wes Johnson needs to learn from Ricky how a player can contribute in ways when they cannot score.
Derrick Williams: 24 minutes, FGM-A 6-14, 3PM 0-4, FTM 1-2, Reb 6, Ast 1, Stl 1, Blk 0, TO 2, PFs 3, -4, Pts 13
Derrick had a reasonable first game for a rookie. His decision making on both ends of the court was certainly questionable at times, but I liked his aggressiveness offensively. Unfortunately, it is going to be a big problem if he cannot hit from outside as this was one of his most touted skills. I am still not sure what to make of Derrick at this time as I am not yet convinced he can create his own shot like Michael can. In fact, the Milwaukee game further contributed to my fears in this regard. Yet, for the Thunder game I feel he earned a B- given it was his first game.
Anthony Randolph: 3 minutes, FGM-A 1-2, 3PM-A 0-0, FTM-A 0-0, Reb 1, Ast 0, Stl 0, Blk 0, TO 1, PF 1, -2, Pts 2
I was going to give AR an incomplete since he only played 3 minutes, but I couldn't get myself to do it because those 3 minutes were horrifying. Suffice it to say the "playing AR and Wes Johnson at the same time" experiment failed miserably. I just cannot overstate how incompetent the team looked when AR and WJ were in the game. I suspect RA quickly recognized this which is why AR only played 3 minutes. At least he didn't drop the nice Rubio pass that gave him his 2 pts.
Alright guys... I was going to give report cards for the first 2 games in this post, but it go to be too long. The Milwaukee-MN report card will be in a second post. Please tell me what you think about the idea of giving out Wolves grades after games because it takes a long time to do, and it would be nice to know ASAP if it is of little utility. My idea was that it would be a nice supplement to the Oceanary/SnP game summaries by taking a more player based approach to reviewing the game. Let me reiterate I am only writing the first 2 game report cards to get things kicked off. As such, I wish to know if:
1) You guys like the idea of Wolves report cards?
2) Would others be willing to contribute to Wolves report card writing if it ends up being desired by the CH community?