Imagine there’s no draft lottery
It’s easy if you try
No need to curse at Wes
Above us only playoff teams
Imagine all the Wolves fans living life in peace
Hey, it’s two in the morning and that’s all I’ve got. But I did find myself saying throughout tonight’s game, Geez imagine if Wes played like this on a regular basis. Imagine if Derrick Williams gave us 30+ quality minutes each night, grabbing rebounds and hitting threes and creating mayhem around the rim. Imagine if Rubio comes out of this slump. Forget the playoffs. Could this team win a playoff series? Will it happen? Likely not, but we can dream, right? Who had this team competing for a playoff spot back in December? The Minnesota Timberwolves are currently in the 8th playoff spot. Read that sentence again. Recently it was all we could ask just to get to .500. Now they've reached the 8th position. What is next?
"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."
On to the grades. First, let’s define what these grades mean.
A = Exceeds expectations. A player playing above what you would normally expect and winning ballgames.
B = Meets expectations. Competent. Just what you’d expect from a bona fide professional basketball player.
C = Below expectations. Did some things well, others not-so-well and needs improvement if we expect to win NBA basketball games on a regular basis.
D = We don't give D's. What's the point?
F = Well below expectations and needs serious intervention.
Wes Johnson: A
Take a picture, people.
What was the most impressive stat from the first quarter?
A) Wolves score on 13 of their last 15 possessions.
B) 0 turnovers for Wolves.
C) Wes Johnson played the entire quarter.
Look, expectations are everything when you are evaluating. They can wildly skew grades and ignite endless debate over what you expect from Michael Beasley and $8 million. How do you grade Wes when we’ve come to expect sooooooooooooo little from him? Look at Wes’ grades from several past report cards on Canis Hoopus, with the most recent grades being at the top:
B (In 9 minutes?!)
F for F*** you wes Johnson you trrrrrible
Eh – didn’t even merit getting graded
A on January 26 for 5 pts and 4 reb. Do you think we have lowered our expectations for Wes?
A+ first half, NG 2nd half
Tonight the Invisible Man, so well-known for filling the box score with zeros, gets a legitimate A, regardless of whatever scale you are using. As and Bs help you win games (unless you’re getting a B for 9 minutes work and you require a nice pat-on-the-head adjusted grade on account of your special needs). Now imagine if Wes was earning legitimate As or Bs on a regular basis. What does that do for the dynamic of our team?
A couple of other Wes notes:
“I’m so happy for Wes Johnson right now.”
“What in the world has gotten into Wes?”
When Jim Peterson is saying things like this, you know the game is going your way. It got to the point that when Wes re-entered the game in the second quarter, I suddenly felt this odd sensations. I had to pause the TV do a quick self-diagnosis. What was going on?
Excitement. I was honest-to-Aunt Bess excited that Wes was coming back into the game. As I write this I glance back at my game notes and there it is – “Wes back in!” Keep it up, Wes.
Kevin Love: A
What can I possible say about Love that hasn’t already been covered by Hammond, Peterson, Anthony LaOhhhhhhMyGodWhatIsGoingOnWithYourHair and everyone else in the local and national media? Remember that little shooting slump Love was going through post All-Star game? Yeah, neither do I. Kevin Love is a bona fide SuperStud at the top of his game and he’s ours and is it too soon to sign him to another extension? I’m also glad to see our guy getting some MVP buzz. He’s not winning it, but he damn well belongs in the conversation.
Pretty anemic offensive production, but the defense keeps him from failing. Darko got his butt back on defense tonight and knocked away Portland passes on three separate occasions. And he continues to make life tough on inside scorers. How nice would it be to play the Clippers in the post-season given the trouble Darko causes Blake Griffin?
Luke Ridnour: A
Borrowing a term from Cynical Jason, how many Ridnovers did we see tonight? I thought I counted one, but then Love got the put-back, so does that still count? I digress. Luke shot 50-50-100 tonight, tallied 5 assists to 2 turnovers, and smoothly chatted up the Snooki look-a-like sitting behind the scorer’s table*. Not a bad night, for sure. Yes, per usual Luke got traumatized on defense, but he clearly exceeded expectations.
*I made that last one up. But she was there.
Ricky Rubio: C
You know things are rough for our favorite magical unicorn when you see 3 for 8 and think, Hey, not so bad tonight. Ricky’s shooting has been atrocious of late. My notes contain things like, “Ricky misses ugly” and “Ricky 3-footer oops.” Ricky doesn’t fail this one, though (he scored an F on my last report card) mainly because I watched him disrupt passing lanes and he seemed to be our only guard not trying to help convince the Blazers that Raymond Felton is the answer.
Derrick Williams: C+
Solid job grabbing those 11 rebounds. And he logged 33 minutes, so we know that Adelman is continuing to like what he sees. On those alone he might get an A. But C-Lion gets docked for two reasons. One: increased expectations. Fair or not, 4-12 with only 3 FTA in 33 minutes is hard to ignore. Two: some regression on defense. Seemed befuddled at times trying to defend the pick and pop. Gerald Wallace thanks you, Derrick.
J.J. Barea: B-
JJ passed the eye test tonight. I’m watching him and loving his energy and control of the offense (7 assists). He drew two charges. For maybe the second or third time this year, I found myself thinking, we’re a better team right now with JJ on the court instead of Rubio. The shooting stats are poor and the defense was even worse, but JJ did just about what we can expect from him.
10 pts in 20 minutes on 66-100-100 shooting. Yeah, I’ll take that.
Michael Beasley: F
The Bease is in the dawwwwwwwg house. He shoots 2 for 3, providing some instant offense and grabs a couple of rebounds, but only plays 7 minutes. How bad is your defense when you are that gifted on offense and cannot get more than 7 minutes playing time? Seriously, what did you all see? Good news is the Lakers are in town Friday so I supposed we can expect a breakout Bease performance followed by two weeks of tepid mediocre bench play. For the love of God, can we please trade B-Easy immediately after his next 27 pt performance?
Wayne Ellington: INC
Whoa. Did somebody make it Wayne tonight? Really? I’ll have to go back and review the tape. I missed it, but he’s in the box score with a solid line of zeros. Not to be outdone, however, by . . .
Joel Przybilla the Vanilla Gorilla: F
3 min. 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0-0 0
It took me longer to correctly type “Przybilla” than it did to type that stat line.
Jim Peterson: A
Jim P is on top of his game right now. Whether it’s predicting the keys to the game or expressing exasperation at Wes’ horrible shot form or explaining how to defend the pick and roll during the postgame, I’m enjoying my Jim P right now. I’d only rate Hubie Brown’s performance during the 1st Clippers game above him right now.
Rich Adelman: A
I’m liking the tightened rotation (though I’m sure I’ll see Miller, Tolliver, and Randolph check in during Saturday’s game). I’m awed by Adelman’s ability to find combinations that work on a nightly basis. And I like how he awards minutes based on how you are playing on a given night.
- Blazers had won 20 of last 23 meetings. Wolves hadn’t beaten Portland at home since 2007.
- This is the first time the Wolves have been two games over .500 this late in season since 04-05 season. Speaking of late in the season . . .
- The Wolves have just 11 home games left – nine after this weekend. This speaks to both the brevity of this condensed season as well as the daunting number of road games left on the schedule. The Wolves will need to be road warriors in the truest sense if they hope to cling to this playoff position.
- My wife and I will be in attendance Saturday night against New Orleans. Normally my wife would place attending a basketball game somewhere between getting audited by the IRS and being the 31st person line at the DMV. I’ve tried explaining that there exists within the Target Center an energy like no other when the Wolves are on a roll. You’d like it, I tell her. Trust me. She remains dubious. But then I scored some saweeet tickets at a charity auction and told her that we’d be enjoying the rarefied air amongst the beautiful people. Show me, she said. I pause a recent game and point them out. Her eyebrows perk up. She pauses. Impressed? Indifferent? Well? “I’m gonna need to do some shopping and something to wear . . . “ Now you’re talkin’.
- Saturday's game isn't on FSN.
Well, thanks for reading. Go Wolves.
You can reach me on Twitter @mattleisen