I hate EPSN's obsession with the Miami Heat. I hate how Heat stories become headlines that take precedence over everything else. I hate seeing a string of 20 straight Tweets from Michael Wallace and Tom Haberstroh on ESPN's RSS feed every night the Heat play. I hate that the Heat have a whole page (called the Heat Index) that does nothing but exclusively pimp the Heat, rain or shine. And I hate that a staple feature of the Heat Index is grades for the Heat after every Heat game.
And it's not that I hate the Heat, or Wallace or Haberstroh, or ESPN in general. I understand why they have it set up the way they do. It's smart business, it's smart promotion and advertisement. It's just an overload, and it gets obnoxious after a while.
Still, there is an elegance of simplicity in the grades idea. So let's steal it and apply it do our dear Pups. And, uh...don't expect this one to go up on the fridge, kids...
Michael Beasley: B-
Beasley was essentially the player he's always been this season. He's a gunner. He's an enigma. He's obviously extremely talented and able to do incredible things on the court, but he doesn't do them consistently.
Beas did battle nagging hip and ankle injuries throughout most of the season, so he gets a little leeway for that. He also came on strong at the end of the season, averaging 21-6-3 in April. Was it because Love was out? Was it because he got healthy? Was it because Rambis gave up and let him do his own thing? Was it just a fluke? Hard to say, but I do feel that the team could have gotten that kind of play from him for most of the year with a smarter coach and a more stable environment.
Ultimately, more than anyone else on the team, Beasley "hit the marks". Not overwhelmingly good, not overwhelmingly bad. He had a lot of really bad turnovers, but otherwise was decent...aka bland...across the board. One of the Wolves' better players for the season, but middling in a league-wide sense.
Wayne Ellington: C-
Ellington was probably the hardest player for me to try and summarize.
On one hand, he does some really good things on the court, and looks like a very solid player. He's got a high BBIQ, he hustles, he makes shots. He made some big improvements on his ability to put the ball on the deck this year (although he struggled to capitalize on that in a big way) But he seems to be one of the Wolves more competent players, and a guy that would be most likely to play a role on a really good team.
But looking at some of the comparison statistics, Ellington was really bad. His FG% dropped to a mere 40% this season, and both his PER and WS/48 declined as well. He finished with a negative on court/off court total and one of the team's worst simple ratings. And his production by position comparison seems to indicate he's a major defensive liability.
It's puzzling to me, because he's a guy who should be able to play well in just about any circumstance. And I don't see that as him being a "he looks the part" type of thing. I feel that if you were to put him on a team like the Celtics, Spurs or Magic, his numbers would tell a radically different story....one that I feel would be much more accurate to the player he actually is.
Jonny Flynn: D-
I'm giving him a break for coming off major surgery. I fully expect this to cause a firestorm in the comments section. That's fine.
More than anything, I wonder what went on in Jonny's head this year. We know he can play better than he did. Last season wasn't a beacon of hope, by any means, but it was still much, much better than this season. It seems like there was more than the injury at play here, and knowing what a disaster the coaching was and how much of a circus the team was in general, I don't know if I'd put everything on Jonny's shoulders.
Lazar Hayward: Incomplete
I don't think he played enough to make a judgement. He saw the court in just 42 of 82 games, and only played more than 10 minutes in 17 of those 42. He's a tough kid with some talent and a scoring touch that seems likely to improve with time. But he spent 9/10ths of the season on the bench, and the times he was able to get off it were more about Rambis' inexplicable decision making than anything else.
At the very least, he would have needed to play in 20 more games for me to feel comfortable saying "we knew who Lazar was this year", and even then, making that sort of statement about a guy getting bits and pieces of playing time still seems unfair.
Wesley Johnson: C-
This could have been a 'D', but eh...it was his rookie year. I don't want to grade him like he's an experienced hand, nor without acknowledgment of the situation he was put it (read: who his first NBA coach was), nor in comparison to someone on a different team. He didn't draft himself.
I think Wes was put in a bad situation, being asked to create shots rather than just make shots. More than anyone on the team, I think Wes would benefit simply from playing a different role. Get him moving off the ball. Get him running of screens and cutting to the hoop. I feel like Wes was asked to be Kobe when he's built to be Rip Hamilton.
In terms of his game, the major, major weakness is he doesn't get to the free throw line. A lot gets made about his lack of handles, but there are ways to do without that. Again, Rip Hamilton. Or Reggie Miller. Two guys who create(d) shots for themselves by moving without the ball (and two guys who excel(ed) at getting to the line without needing to pound the deck). Get to the line, young man.
Kevin Love: A+
I have to say, Love completely changed my outlook on his potential with that three point shot he added this year. Maybe it didn't impact his PER or per/36 that much, but it definitely impacted what kind of player he became. Instead of trying to get his looks in a 12 foot box under the hoop where he'd always be battling guys taller and longer than himself, he can now make the towers play his game, drawing them 20+ feet out from the paint (and out of their comfort zones). That's huge.
Love had a historic season in a number of different ways, be it his combination of rebounds and 3ptsMade, his 31-31 game, his consecutive double-double streak...everything. Is he an 'A' player...a guy who can go iso against anyone in crunch time and get buckets? No. But S-n-P nailed it on the head last year....Love is revolutionary as an A1. His skillset is truly unique...no one in the league can do everything he can as a single player.
Darko Milicic: D
Again, I don't want to grade a player based on someone else's decision making.
And....well, it was Rambis' decision to run the offense through him. Darko needs to dunk more. He needs to box out more. He needs to secure the ball, not tap at it, and make his layups. But he's not putting the ball in his own hands.
The Wolves are 19-89 since Darko arrived. He is who he always was, which isn't bad for a 25mpg defensive presence, but is terrible as a 25mpg offensive linchpin.
Nikola Pekovic: D
Pekovic scores really well in the low post....and that's pretty much it. He's a one trick pony. And while that one trick is pretty damn good, the lack of range in his game makes it really really hard to see how he'll make any sort of appreciable impact in the league.
Like Darko, Pek struggled mightily with turnovers, although his were largely of the 3 second/offensive foul variety. He also struggled with fouls in general (to put it mildly...) leading the entire league in fouls/48 (9.8), and more troubling still, not showing any improvement on cutting them down as the year went on. He also tallied just 27 assists the whole season (I mean, c'mon dude...you got out-assisted by Shelden Williams...)
By my eye, Pek's biggest problem seemed to thought he was taller than he really was, had longer arms than he really did, and can jump a lot higher than he actually could. He's a traditional, heavyweight post player who seemed to have problems understanding how much of an athlete's league the NBA is and adjust to it. He's a likable guy, but the team was getting the same thing and more from Craig Smith.
Anthony Randolph: A
I'm going on record here as saying I really disagree with S-n-P's assessment of Anthony Randolph as a guy who "has some redeeming qualities". Is that all that's going to be said about him? C'mon....
The only think keeping this grade from being of the '+' variety is the short amount of time Randolph has been here. But in that short amount of time, he tore it up. Any way you slice it, Randolph excelled: he averaged 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds in 20 minutes a night post-trade, which translates to 21-9 per36.
Or, for those more real-time oriented, in games he played at least 20 minutes (13 games, 27mpg), he averaged 18-7. Also in those 13 games, he collected at least 10 rebounds in 5 of them, got to the FT line at least 5 times in 6 of them, shot at least 50% in 10 of them, and scored at least 10 points in 12 of them. So not only was he productive, he was consistent....when he got on the court for real playing time, he produced.
A player who nearly puts up 20-10 in less than 30 minutes isn't someone with "some redeeming qualities". He's a player with a bright future ahead of him. An impact player. A potential All Star. The sad end to the season unfortunately relegated him to an afterthought when he should be talked about as a future building block. He's talented, versatile, athletic, and 20 lbs shy of being exactly the kind of player you'd want opposite of Love in the paint.
Luke Ridnour: B
Ridnour, sadly, flew as far under the radar as possible for as well as he actually played. There was legitimate concern heading into the season that he was signed due to a fluke 09-10 season, but Ridnour proved the critics wrong with a near-repeat performance.
Ridnour kept his FG% within distance of last year's career-high mark, and set a new career high in 3pt% by a vast, vast margin (44%, compared to his previous high of 38%) He also kept his assist numbers up, despite the silly system he was asked to "facilitate", and although he had trouble with turnovers, the whole team had problems with that. Ridnour hasn't historically been turnover-prone, so I'm willing to pass that off as mostly not his fault.
He had some questionable shot selection and didn't exactly stand anyone up defensively. But overall, Ridnour was one of the few players on the team that played fairly consistent professional-level basketball. In a season as disasterous as this one, that goes a long, long way in my book.
Sebastian Telfair: Incomplete
For whatever reason, Bassy played in just 37 games this year. Even stranger, most of that apparently was because Flynn was injured to start the season. Rambis and Flynn don't like each other and Telfair was a better choice as a backup anyway....and yet when Flynn returns, Bassy disappears. If I were to guess, I'd say Kahn was making some command decisions here, but ultimately who knows? It'll give me a headache to try and figure it out, so...
If I were to give Telfair a grade, it'd probably be a B- or C+. Like Beasley, Bassy basically hit his marks. But again....37 games. We haven't seen him on the court since February, and that was only because Jonny was "tired"....or something....
Anthony Tolliver: B+
Mplax is going to hate me for this, but I stick by what I said earlier: Anthony Tolliver was the second-best Wolf this season. His combination of productiveness, efficiency, teamwork, demeanor, and impact was exceeded only by Kevin Love, and no one came even close to his level of energy and passion.
4th on the team in PER, 2nd in WS/48, 4th in 3pt% (I guess you could say 2nd in this too, since he, Love and Webster are all separated by less than 1%), third in simple rating, and first in net on court/off court. And he left it all on the floor every night. He had a crazy April, averaging 11-8 on 56% shooting. It was almost painful watching him completely sell out for a team that clearly didn't care.
AT is just flat out a pro basketball player. The kind of guy that people go nuts for on contending teams. He's the poster boy for what a player can do when he plays to his strengths and accepts his limitations. Imagine him alongside Tim Duncan. Or KG. Or Dwight Howard. The Wolves were absolutely gifted one when he signed here, and I can only hope the team can turn it around with him still on board.
Martell Webster: C
I was considering calling this one an incomplete as well, because Webs only played in 46 games. But I decided that he averaged enough minutes in those games that we could call it with some degree of certainty.
For the most part, Webster was another player who was who he's always been. He's a good defender, a great athlete, and a fantastic catch-and-shoot player. Where he struggles is putting the ball on the deck, creating his own shot, and finishing in heavy traffic. I do believe that he can and will improve on those things.
The upside is that he set career highs in both FG% and 3pt%. Early in the year we talked about the oddness of how he historically shot about the same percentage from 2 and 3, and what that indicated about the shots he was taking. This year, not only did he convert on more of his jumpers, but he took more shots from in close, which I think is definitely a big part of his better FG%.
Webster is definitely worth having on the roster. He's a rotation player on a good team, possibly a starter under the right circumstances. Like Wes, I think he could benefit a lot from a system that moves him off the ball and lets him be more of a shot maker.
Kurt Rambis: F
What else is there to say that hasn't already been said? The system makes no sense. The substitutions make no sense. The press conferences make no sense. He throws his guys under the bus, defends players on other teams, seems to have in inverted sense of who deserves playing time....etc etc etc.
I firmly believe Rambis artificially held this team down this season. Is the roster great? No. But this guy just made everything so much worse. I absolutely believe a competent coach for this team would have meant better individual play and more wins.
David Kahn: D-
There was one thing that saved Kahn from getting and 'F' - he did make some nice trades. As S-n-P said, the Darko and Webster trades were average, the Beasley and Randolph ones were home runs. And you can probably cite Ridnour-for-Sessions (not a straight up trade, but same effect) as a pretty solid deal too.
What drags Kahn down into the basement is he didn't/couldn't get rid of Rambis, and he doesn't get basketball in general. His player assessment technique is questionable, at best. It seems like he makes moves simply to make them, at times. I doubt he holds much respect among other executives in the league, his own team put him on a budget and won't trust him with the roster and....well, let's not kid ourselves. Fred Hoiberg didn't move back to Iowa for the scenery.
Kahn says his job is safe. I'm not so sure. Consider:
1) How can anyone take the Wolves seriously with Kahn in charge?
2) How can anyone take Taylor seriously when he let's Kahn be in charge?
3) How can you keep a guy you don't trust to manage the roster in charge of the roster?
If you don't trust the guy to run the team, it makes absolutely no sense for him to keep running the team. Even in a restricted sense. At best, that's McHale v2.0, where every decision has to be crowd-sourced and debated by committee. It's needlessly complicated and counter-productive.
I'll repeat what I said earlier: Glen Taylor, spend the money to get a legit basketball operation. It will pay for itself.