Minnesota '11-12 Production by Position
Opponent Production by Position
Net Production by Position
Two of these things aren't like the others.
Now granted, the way in which 82games assigns players positions is a little weird at times. So add a few grains of salt. Also, analyzing players through the lens of how their competition produced is not without error as well - it is necessarily incomplete as teams run different systems, rely on different positions (that is, emphasize or de-emphasize positions based on their players and systems), etc etc. Not to mention the previously noted sometimes wonkiness of 82games minute distribution at various positions for players.
I believe, however, that this kind of analysis is useful for revealing and describing broad trends. And that is what this offseason has been about for the Wolves - rectifying broad trends. Defense is in. Production is in. Attitude is in. Promise and potential is out. More below the jump.Let's get the obvious out of the way - Love and Pek. Dudes played well last year.
Center position = strength
Darko? Not so much. 18% of the team's minutes at the 5, horrible production. Gave up to his opponents -9 PER, nearly -6 points and -6 rebounds per 48 minutes, and -.062 in efg. 82games has these three players as logging nearly all of our minutes at the 5 last year, so think about how good the other two were to offset this amount of suckitude.
Now I know a lot of people are high on this guy, but the proof is in the pudding. Stiemsma still has a lot to prove - let's not get ahead of ourselves. Subtracting Darko's mindset and adding Steamers is also a plus. Most people think Steamers is going to be a huge upgrade, but I will believe it after 20 games. I rate this as a modest upgrade to replacement level, which is fine.
How about the four?
Power forward = strength (health dependent)
Love is good. Everyone else? Not really. Did you see the first overall team charts? Opposing fours averaged a 17+ PER against us. Have clicked on the link for Love at the start of this paragraph? This dude is really, really, really good. Beasley, Williams, Randolph, and Tolliver? Not at all.
A quick perusal of what went wrong suggests that 1) outside of Love, none of these guys shot very well. They all shot terribly compared to their opponents. Love's three point game certainly helps elevate his efg%, but these guys couldn't make it work. Beasley and Williams were the only two who still managed to outscore their opponents as 4's overall, although Beasley required 5.2 more FGA/48 than Williams to do it. In fact, Williams held his PF opponent to fewer FGAs than Beasley, and fewer FTAs than Beasley, as a trend throughout the season - all while attempting himself 2.2 more FTAs than Beasley. In fact, Williams outrebounded Beasley as a 4, essentially dished the same number of assists, fouled less, blocked shots at 80% of Beasley's modest rates BUT turned the ball over fully 1 fewer TO per48 than Beasley. In other words, despite his struggles to be a star last year, Williams was arguably the best backup four we had.
Cunningham is a role player, but a useful one I think. He's similar to Pek in the sense that he does what he does, and has learned to not do what he shouldn't do. Oh, and he hustles on D. He should provide Williams with some competition at the backup 4 spot, but Williams still has an opportunity to carve out time on this team as a PF. Who else are we going to play there? Well, perhaps this guy. But let's be honest - Kirilenko is best as a SF. His skillset is that of a do everything SF. His defensive brilliance is best utilized as a SF/PF, not a PF/SF. And he's older, we just added Budinger, and Adelman wants to win. Put me down as believing that Derrick Williams will log more minutes as our backup PF than as a SF on this team, with Love logging more minutes at C than Stiemsma. That's just talent and mismatches talking.
I'll outline more of why this makes sense to me below, but at the heart of it, the subtractions of one dimensional players with defensive liabilities (Beasley, Ellington, Tolliver, Randolph, and Darko) for productive players (both starters and bit characters) with clearer defensive roles and abilities (Kirilenko, Budinger, Stiemsma, and Cunningham) allows Adelman to recast the guys who are left over in much better ways, and perhaps no player may benefit more from this than Derrick Williams. He has a clear role no matter who he's playing with. He'll either be playing with a strong low post presence (Pek offensively, Steamer defensively), or legit three point options (Bud, Love, Ridnour). He'll have a creative PG to work with (Rubio, Shved, or Luke). I keep running through Derrick Williams' role on this team, and I keep coming up with interesting and creative ways in which he could really, really do well. But, I also can see him middling around, trying to be something that's not quite fitting - like putting your right foot in your left shoe. It works, sort of, but not really, actually.
Alright, enough about the PFs.
PGs - strength (potentially)
Now, according to 82games, Ricky was a pretty good SG last year. But he also was a decent PG. The thing I think we can all agree about Ricky is that offensively he's never going to be great. Outside of dishing out assists and keeping opposing defenses off balance because of that, Ricky's greatest impact is through his defense. JJ Barea, on the other hand, is pretty good at scoring, not as good at defending. Ridnour is great for flexibility and reliability, but Alexey Shved I think is the long term prospect at backup PG. Another playmaker and disher whose offense is more likely to outweigh his defensive liabilities against second string guys. Keeps the pressure on defenses. We'll see.
Here's what you really need to know about the PG play last year and moving forward: the prior two season before Rubio.
Net Production by Position
Net Production by Position
Everyone else - greatly improved.
You know who took the bulk of the minutes at SG and SF last year? Players that are no longer on the roster. The only real carry over is Luke Ridnour, who actually held his own pretty well last year through leveraging his two advantages as a SG: his ability to hit pick and pop shots and his knowledge of what everyone else was supposed to be doing (because he's actually a PG). He gave great effort on D, used technique as best he could to funnel guys to his help defenders. Certainly not ideal in the long run, but something I think that may have endeared him to Adelman.
I'll repost what I think is the most pertinent chart regarding what the Wolves did this off-season:
Timberwolves 2011-12 Net Production by Position
SG and SF just didn't get it done. Result?
Along with DWill and Ridnour, these are the guys who played the meaningful minutes at the 2 and 3. Bravo to Kahn and Adelman for finding guys who fit the system (Adelman) and finding ways to make it work under the CBA this year (Kahn).
Kirilenko is going to greatly improve the team. Roy will hopefully add smart scoring at worst, however I don't think he's going to be as good as everyone thinks. I'm hoping for 8-10 ppg with smart shot selection. Shved is a work in progress. Budinger is also a terrific pickup because he's a legit backup on the wing. Hummel...we'll see if he makes it.
The talent is definitely upgraded, but the depth is still questionable. The ball handling and passing all around should be much improved, and this should allow the team to make best use of the guys who can create offensive mismatches: Love, Pek, with Kirilenko, Roy, Williams, Budinger, Frodo, and others either knocking down kick outs, drawing fouls, or draining threes.
And below is the stupid table I can't figure out how to delete.