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Howls in My Head: Some Musings on a Monday

I spend far too much time thinking (and yammering, I'm sure you're thinking) about the Wolves. Since it's my birthday today, I decided I was justified in wasting your time by publishing some of my thoughts. Consider reading it your birthday present to me.

Derrick Williams. I've been thinking about Derrick Williams. He has been neither a disappointment nor a revelation thus far, and the positional awkwardness that we anticipated when the Wolves drafted him has indeed come to pass. He's done some things well--he draws free throws well for a rookie (but doesn't make them), he's shown some rebounding chops. He does some things not so well--his offensive efficiency has been lacking. I wanted desperately to trade the pick before the draft, and still would not be averse to moving him to help solve the positional issues the team faces. On the other hand, he's clearly a better draft pick then Wes Johnson.

In fact, I did a search. Rookies with similar MPG and WS/48 to Williams. You can find it here.

What I found is a list of 85 guys. My initial reaction was: that's a pretty salty list. Good players. Very few great ones (the great ones were playing more, and probably better, as rookies), but a bunch of guys who you say (if you are my age): oh yeah, I remember him. Good player. In fact, there's one guy on the list about whom I thought: oh yeah. He was a good player. And he's an excellent comp for Derrick Williams. And he has the same first name too: Derrick McKey. He was a pretty important cog on some good Sonics and Pacers teams. If Derrick Williams winds up having Derrick McKey's career, that's pretty good.

Free throws. I've been thinking about free throws. The Wolves are 4th in the league in FTA/G. You know the last time they were in the top 10? 1997-98. Not coincidentally, that was Steph Marbury's final year in a Wolves jersey. Rubio has replaced Flynn's minutes, Pekovic has replaced Milicic's minutes, and to an extent, Williams has replaced Beasley's minutes. All of these guys draw more free throws than their predecessors. The Wolves are also above average in limiting opponent free throws, after giving up the 3rd most last season. Pekovic limiting his fouls and replacing Milicic (who led the team in fouls last year), and Beasley not playing as much also help here.

The teams that get a lot of free throws are a combination of quality, athletic, aggressive (and/or fast paced) teams (OKC, Miami, New York, Indiana, Denver, Orlando), and a random smattering of bad teams who get to line for reasons not readily apparent (Sacramento, Cleveland). The teams that give up fewer free throws are a combination of smart, athletic, good defensive teams (Bulls, Sixers, Nuggets, Lakers, Magic) and a few teams that don't defend well (Phoenix, Sacramento, Cleveland).

This is not perfectly correlative to winning (obviously), but being among the top 2-3 teams in FT differential (with the Magic and Nuggets) doesn't hurt. And makes for a huge change from previous years. Madison Dan, for my birthday, I would love it if you would calculate the correlation coefficient (R) for FTA, or even better for FTA differential.

As an aside, this is probably not the year for Wolves fans to do much complaining about officiating.

The trade deadline. I've been thinking about the trade deadline. (As has every NBA fan). It seems likely the Wolves find a new home for Mike Beasley, thus ending the Great Beasley Experiment, which I was never in favor of. I doubt they get anything back that's particularly useful. Other than that, deals are easier to imagine than they are to execute, as every fan board around the league will show. Who knows what's actually going on, but I get the sense that the Wolves would like to add a wing player, but are looking at expiring guys (Crawford), in some hope of having "flexibility" this summer. I'm not sure what they think they can accomplish with that flexibility, but it isn't the direction I favor. I would much rather see them go after the best wing player they can get right now, even (especially) if he's under contract past this year. Stop wasting time. They have a chance to make the playoffs this year. Get the team together, make it the best you can make it, and try to win. David Kahn expressing relative disregard for whether they make the playoffs this season makes me angry.

Still, making trades in the NBA is hard. Teams tend not to want to give other teams better players than they are getting back. I am not averse to acquiring a player who is older than the core of the roster. My sense, without investigating it, is that teams can be and are often successful with players of a mix of ages. In other words, I'd take Paul Pierce if I could get him. Worry about finding younger wing players when you have to worry about it, get the best guys you can for your team right now. Teams don't give up excellent players in their early to mid 20s very easily.

The schedule. I've been thinking about the schedule. It's pretty brutal. Tough 4 game home stand starting tonight, with only 1 game against a truly bad team, then a 7 game roadie. After that, the Wolves play 3 games against Denver in the last month of the season; those matchups might determine who makes the playoffs. They will have a chance to make their move in April if they survive March. The more I look at it, the more obvious it becomes how greedy everyone was to try to get 66 games in this year. Crazy. I have no idea how guys are surviving.

Those are some of the things I've been thinking about. And mortality. What do you think? What's on your mind?

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