MVP: Andrei Kirilenko.
Yes, he missed a number of games, he can't really create his own offense, and he's not a very good outside shooter, but it's pretty hard to ignore the overall impact that AK had on this squad. In a nutshell, he approximated the overall production of a middle class Kevin Love. With AK in the lineup, the Wolves were 26-38 (.406). Last year, with Kevin Love in the lineup, the Wolves were 24-31 (.436).
First of all, Kevin Love is absurdly good. Secondly, AK was able to fill 2000+ minutes at the 3 and 4 with above average production. This production was one of the primary reasons why the Wolves were able to get to 30 wins. Just imagine what could happen if he were playing next to a healthy and fully-functional Kevin Love.
Here is how he stacked up against this year's competition:
There is a bunch of noise in some of these stats (especially when compared to net on/off, which shows his greatest impact to be on the offensive end of the court), but you can get the overall impression that AK was able to perform at an above-average level of production and that whenever he was on the court the Wolves had a pretty decent shot of playing even ball. He also didn't have decent-sized chunks of poor play like Ricky and Pek, so there's that, too. Bottom line: AK played the 2nd most minutes on the team (seriously: look it up) and he produced better than anyone else. His signing should be an A+ priority in the offseason, right up there with making sure Pek stays in a Minny uniform.
Runner up: Ricky Rubio. I'm going to give the nod to Ricky over Pek simply by way of the level he performed at during the last month or so of the season. It was some top-notch action that transcended his awful (truly awful) shot. He is a swirl of motion on both ends of the court who is always looking for a way to a) get his team the ball and b) get the ball in the bucket. His egalitarian approach to this endeavor is, I think, his greatest appeal....at least until the concept of an assist chucker is developed.
League (I'll throw in a single league-wide award): LeBron. Just look at it:
He is having one of the best seasons in the history of professional basketball. He is the unanimous MVP and it's really not even close. Anyone who doesn't put him as the #1 choice on their ballot is an attention-seeking nitwit.
BEST NEWCOMER: See above.
Runner up: Chris Johnson. We all know how the cards have been dealt to Our Beloved Puppies. They are not a premier free agency destination, they have a terrible owner, they have a (relatively) old building with aging facilities (so what, I know), they draft worse than pretty much any other franchise, and they don't seem capable of utilizing the D-League for end-of-the-bench roster spots. Along comes Chris Johnson. Yes, he needs to hit the weight room and he's never going to produce at 25 mpg. However, he's everything you can get (and probably more) with Greg Stiemsma for a fraction of the cost. He's exactly the type of player the Wolves should be signing for roster spots 12-15: 1 year deals on the cheap. Hopefully the Wolves can wiggle their way into Glen's pocket books to get the guaranteed deals on the roster down to 11-13 before filling the rest up with Johnson, Gelebale, and a draft pick or two. Johnson is a shining example of how cheap but useful players can be found without burning through a Kahntract.
MOST OVERBLOWN MEME: Ricky's leadership.
Never mind measuring it, can someone simply explain what this means and how it can be studied from TV and radio broadcasts?
What we can measure is his relative impact on how well the team plays. What we can measure is his shot, how well the team scores per 100 possessions while he is on the court vs. when he is on the bench, and so on and so forth. Yes, it appears that losing bugs him. I'm not sure how this is different than Kevin Love's distaste for checks in the loss column, but it certainly does, for some reason, seem more fan friendly. I'll give it that much. We'll see how Ricky's leadership fares when he is asked to take the same non-max deal that Kevin Love had to swallow a year ago.
Winning cures a lot of things. Worrying about leadership on a sub .400 team will be one of them.
Runners up: Kevin Love not sitting on the end of the bench, Chris Johnson not getting enough playing time.
MOST OVERLOOKED STORY: Arena financing and ownership.
Remember way back when the Vikings duped a bunch of star struck state legislators with inane and shallow threats of moving to LA? Remember when they decided to fund a chunk of the public portion of the costs with something that nobody uses? Remember when the City of Minneapolis was able to sneak in a $100 million (originally $150 million) renovation of Target Center? Remember when that project was supposed to start happening in May?
Well, it looks like things have slowed down considerably.
“There is absolutely no clock on this. We’d obviously love to get it done for this construction season, but I think I have been telling you since the beginning, that this isn’t about getting it done fast. It’s about getting it right, and I think as we proved with negotiations with the football stadium, with the financial projection that is proving to be strong, that getting it right is more important.”
With the state coming up short for the Vikings
stadium boondoggle, it remains to be seen who picks up the tab. Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis do not want to pay any additional money that could go to Target Field or Target Center. We'll see what happens. Zygi needs his palace and parking lots.
Meanwhile, either Seattle or Sacramento will be without a professional basketball team and both location will likely be able to offer the league a better arena situation than Target Center, with or without the renovation that maybe might possibly sometime happen this year or the next if the state can't figure out a way to wiggle out of its Vikings obligations.
Also, remember way back in May of last year when Glen started to rumble about wanting to sell the team? Remember in July when Sid reported that Glen had found his successor? Well, like anything else basketball-related that Papa Glen gets his mitts on, this too has been slowed down to a crawl. A lucky guess as to the reason why might have to do with deranged billionaire dreams about selling a several hundred million dollar plaything to another insanely rich person and then wanting to still have a say in how that several hundred million dollar plaything is played with.
Glen Taylor, who has owned the Timberwolves for 18 seasons and the Lynx for 13, has found the successor he has been looking for. In the near future, Taylor will close a deal to sell 25 percent of the franchises, and eventually the new owner will own the majority.
Unfortunately, the buyer is from outside the Twin Cities, but Taylor insists he will continue to own a share of the two teams and will make sure that they don't move out of the state.
"Yes, I have [found a buyer], and we're working on trying to put a deal together, and it would be a deal that would leave me involved for a number of years yet, but it would be a good transition," Taylor said Sunday.
"I will be an owner for a number of years but gradually bring in a partner, if this would work out. I'd bring in a partner and ... we'd work together. In the initial years, he would have less than 50 percent and then in the later years he would have more than 50 percent and would have the ownership."
Hey there, insanely rich person who is interested in dipping your toe into professional sports ownership. Do YOU want to own an NBA franchise and share control with a guy who has proven over and over again that he is one of the worst owners in all of professional sports? Do you want to sit next to him at the end of the Wolves bench? Do you want to inherit a screwy arena situation with the 2nd oldest facility in the league without being able to threaten the dwindling fanbase with a move to Seattle and/or Sacramento? Does this sound like a TOTALLY awesome plan?
And somehow, the team remains unsold. I, for one, will welcome the opportunity to watch all of their games on League Pass.
BIGGEST REASON FOR OPTIMISM: Keeping a core of (a healthy) Kevin Love , Ricky Rubio, AK, and Pek = playoffs next year.
Despite a long and often torturous season, and despite the awful ownership and kind-of-sort-of ominous arena situations, the Wolves still have a group of players that, when healthy, can make a lot of noise in the Western Conference. They're better than a Kobe-less Lakers, they're better than the Warriors, they're better than Utah, Portland, Sacramento, Dallas, New Orleans, and Houston....if they're healthy. There's also no good reason for the salary cap to get in the way as they can resign all of their current core without hitting the luxury mark. The only thing that could get in their way is having too many guaranteed deals and/or misinformation about the cap situation (or Glen simply not wanting to pay the bill).
Runner up: 2 picks in a draft relatively deep with backup big and wing talent. There is zero reason they shouldn't walk away with 2 decent pieces to the puzzle.
BIGGEST REASON FOR PESSIMISM: See above ownership/arena situation.
Runner up: Pek and AK's contract situation.
BIGGEST REASON THIS TEAM IS WHERE IT IS: Glen Taylor.
The fish has been rotting from the head for quite some time. While most non-playoff teams are busily preparing for the draft with a cohesive and state-of-the-art player personnel operations, Glen is off in New York helping decide the fate of the Sacramento Kings while waiting precious day after precious day to make a decision on whether or not to keep the time-worn incompetent David Kahn in the front office. This team cannot be sold quickly enough, even it it means that we have to deal with relocation rumors. It's the nature of
modern pro sports public financing rent seeking and it's not something people should be too worked up about. We've created a sports market where there is no federal oversight to keep bad acting leagues and owners in check. Until that sticky wicket is addressed...well, as mentioned above, at least we'll finally be able to watch all of the games without shelling out thousands for cable bills.
MOST ENTERTAINING GAME: Houston, March 15.
Yes, it was a loss. It was also something of a collapse. It was also the most entertaining, up-and-down, hard fought, sloppyish beautiful mess of a game that was a blast to watch. 55 combined 3 pointers, 50 combined assists, both teams with TS above .550...it was a glorious mess of two glorious weirdo teams and the only other tilt that really came close in intensity was the loss in Utah on Aprili 12.
WORST GAME: Knicks, December 23.
In the bag of evidence to show that Carmelo Anthony is a fake superstar, this game should be somewhere near the top of the 2012/13 evidence. On a 10-25 performance where he couldn't be bothered to pass or hit the offensive glass, Melo bullied and hacked his way to 11 FTA while getting away with man-handling whoever he guarded on defense. Melo ended the game with a 37.8% usage rate and a negative Ortg/Drtg. 0 offensive rebounds, 1 block, 4 turnovers, and only 7 defensive rebounds on 52 Wolves missed shots and free throws. Despite ending the tilt with a negative +/- and ortg/drtg, doing nothing on the offensive glass, not passing, missing 60% of his shots from the field, and needing hugely complicit refs to get him to the line by ignoring him being able to treat defensive players like rag dolls, MSG fans were treated to a post game interview with Mike Woodson where he called Melo's game a MVP performance. This, even more than the Kobe bulls**t nonsense later in the season, is the reason why your casual sports fan friend hates the NBA.
BEST WIN: Brooklyn Nets, November 5.
A 32-10 4th quarter to win going away at the new Barclays Rust Center in Brooklyn. This was a total team effort in the absence of Ricky and Kevin and while it was something of a goofball victory, it really fed into the early-season idea that this team could hold it together until the two big injuries got back into the lineup.
WORST LOSS: Lakers, March 27.
I know, I know. This should go to something like game 2 vs. the Raptors or that bulls**t nonsense against the Warriors late in the season, but this L**er loss was absolutely gutting. The Wolves haven't beat LA in a long, long time and Rick Adelman played this tilt to win: slowing down the game with hack-a-Dwight to get within striking distance only to have the refs look away on a last-second hack by Kobe Bryant. Absolutely gutting.
BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE: Kevin Love v. Cleveland, December 7
36 points, 13 rebounds, .669 TS, +51 ortg/drtg, 0 fouls, and only 3 turnovers in 35 minutes of play. This gigantic performance was followed up by the Woj article on December 11.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: Alexy's collapse.
He was in the Rising Stars game. He had a bunch of early season high scoring outputs with solid rookie d. Then...oi.
Well, the Russian connection wasn't exactly the best from beyond the arc. However, what makes Shved especially interesting is his number of attempts: 150 more than last year's D-Will. It's pretty hard to play a guy who can't shoot next to Ricky. Unless he steps up his defense or develops a dominant rebounding streak, he's going to find limited minutes without an outside shot.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: All of it.
This year was supposed to be the payoff. It wasn't. It was a non-stop string of injuries and bad news. It was easily the most disappointing season in franchise history. Hopefully it will be a blip on the way to next year's playoffs. However, knowing this franchise...
Until later. Next up in the season recap series: Grades.