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Why can't the Wolves find a decent shooting guard?

A look at the Wolves' inexplicable failure to find a 2 guard

Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Ok. I don't know what Nate was planning for most of the remaining season-ending recaps, but there is one left on the list that is pretty obvious and certainly worth looking at: why the Timberwolves couldn't get a functioning shooting guard this season.

Start at the beginning. The Wolves ended the 2011-2012 season with three actual shooting guard options (actual, as in not not out-of-position point guards or small forwards.

  1. Martell Webster
  2. Wayne Ellington
  3. Malcolm Lee

Of those three (I refuse to consider Wes Johnson a shooting guard, despite him starting almost all the games that year at that position) Webster and Ellington were both sent to new addresses (Webster's contract was not extended, Wayne was traded to Memphis) and Lee played in the 19 games all year. All garbage minutes, all at the end of the year. And at any rate, none of those three were exactly burning the nets down that year.

2011-2012 PTSoPAR/48 PER WS/48 Wins
Martell Webster -0.1 10 0.064 2.3
Wayne Ellington -1.8 9.4 0.041 0.9
Malcolm Lee -1.7 9.3 0.024 0.2

So obviously, this is a position the Wolves needed quite a bit of help at. But, in classic Wolves fashion, they went about solving the problem in the most quizzical way possible.

Brandon Roy: He wasn't technically the first big guard signed during the offseason (the Nic Batum chase muddled up a lot of stuff in late June/early July) but he was basically the first one we learned was going to join the team. The reaction was....mixed. For good reason. Roy had been forced into retirement two years earlier due to a medical condition plainly called I-have-no-cartilage-in-my-kees-itis. He had undergone some experimental procedures (reportedly, the same ones Kobe got) and gone though pro-level workout drills, and felt he was able to make a comeback.

He also worked very closely with Wolves assistant Bill Bayno, who's recommendation had a big part in Roy choosing the Wolves and getting a contract offer (I wonder if Saunders may have been taking a subtle dig at this situation with his 'keep the players healthy' comment at the presser)

Most pointedly, it was revealed that Adelman and Taylor had a conversation that basically went,

"Glen, I don't know if he can play."

"Well Rick, I don't know if he can play either."

"Did David tell you he was signing him?"%%%%

"No, i thought he told you..."%%%%

Roy ultimately played just 5 games the whole season. He moved the ball to the tune of 4.6ast/game, but shot just 31%, missed all of his threes, and didn't do much on the defensive end. He shut it down in mid-November, in what was supposed to be a quick breather that became missing the rest of the season.

Roy's contract is not guaranteed for this coming season, and before his departure, Kahn stated "Don't expect him to be with us next season." No reason to think that will change. My guess is the only reason he's still technically on the roster at all is that non-guaranteed deal is fantastic trade bait.

Alexey Shved: Kirilenko's Russian Nationals teammate came here as an unheralded but high-potential signing. With a versatile, clever game that held shades of Ginobili, hopes were high that Shved could provide some immediate help on the perimeter, particularly from three and in iso situations.

And for a little while, he did. During the first two months of the season, Shved averaged 11 points and 4 assists a game (playing less than 30 minutes per), shooting a 34% from three and leading a couple fantastic fourth-quarter charges.

Then....the wall. Or in Shved's case, the Resident Evil electro-laser security web. (You know the one...)

CJ renamed Alexey 'The Walking Shved'. Very very apt.

Shved missed 5 games at the end of January, and never returned to form. His scoring dropped to just 7 ppg on just 36% shooting. His 3pt% dropped to under 30%, and his minutes progressively decreased, despite the team having fewer and fewer options at the 2.

Even Rubio's best efforts were not enough to revive our beloved Russian Zombiecorn

If that's not enough of a pick-me up, then nothing will be. Ever. Go home season, you're drunk.

Although Shved played, more or less, the entire season, he was only an effective player for the first two months. After that, well....

2012 PTSoPar/48 PER WS/48 Wins
Alexey Shved -2.6 8.3 0.018 0.72

Not good.

Malcolm Lee: The lone shooting guard not voted off the island over the summer has a long leach from Adelman, which I suspect is a combination of his athleticism, versatility, and ability to play within the sets of Rick's playbook.

It wouldn't be, I imagine, because of his overwhelming effectiveness.

Lee, like Roy, played a very shortened season which can really only be properly described as bi-polar. For one, he started the year playing basically never...only 22 minutes in the first 5 games of the year. Then Roy went down, then Budinger went down, and by the Dallas game Lee was starting, a position he would hold until he was shut down himself December 14th.

Further, the performance the team got from him had a sharp line down the middle of it. For the first 6 games as a starter, Lee was pretty outright terrible, averaging just 4ppg while shooting 26% (9-35) from the floor. He connected on just a single three in that span, and had 2 games where he went completely scoreless.

Then for the next 6 games, Lee's FG% suddenly jumped to 47%, had 3 double-digit scoring outings (all in less than 25 mpg) and hit over 50% from the great beyond.

The total sum of his season still works out to be a pretty low average....

2012-2013 PTSoPar/48 PER WS/48 Wins
Malcolm Lee -1.3 9.8 0.059 0.5

....but it's still a shame his knees gave out just as he was getting on a roll. Somewhere in there is the real Malcolm Lee. It's worth finding out just what level he can reach.

That said...The fact that Lee, such as he was, was arguably the best real shooting guard on the roster the entire season is a very sharp indictment on the team as a whole. The initial 'fix' to the problem was a guy who was medically forced to retire, a guy who had never played a single NBA game, and a sophomore who played almost never as a rookie. Then Roy was out after 5 games, Lee out after a month, and Shved clearly snowballing down the hill by the end of January (not to mention the loss of other non-shooting guard players who could have been emergency substitutes....Budinger and Josh Howard) it all raises a couple questions:

  1. Why didn't the team find more help?
  2. Why can't they ever seem to do it the right way?

By the time Rubio stepped back onto the court, the Wolves were resorting to using Luke Ridnour at the 2 (I think because he can handle a similar role to Doug Christie in the Adelsystem (much like how I think Barea gets rope because he's similar to Bobby Jackson)) which Luke handled admirably, but is far, far from an ideal situation. Ridnour is undersized and not a great defender, and 32 years old to boot.

But since this situation came about before the trade deadline, it's not like the team didn't have time to find an alternative elsewhere. Right? True, you're not going to get a James Harden type of player, but as we discussed at the start of the year, there's no shortage of relatively-cheaply available Wes Matthews/Marcus Thornton/Aaron Afflolo types.

Among the shooting guards who changed addresses during the season were Anthony Morrow, Dahntay Jones, Ronnie Brewer, Jordon Crawford, Dequan Cook, Josh Childress, Shaun Livingston, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Tracy McGrady, and JJ Redick. Marcus Thornton, Kyle Korver, and Jared Dudley all were taken out of the starting lineups for their teams (usually a strong indication they're on the trading block)

Yet the Wolves only attempts to fix the situation was bringing back Lazar Hayward for 10 days, then signing Mickael Gelebale...not a true shooting guard, and a guy who hasn't played NBA ball since 2008.

Certainly there were financial....ummm....restrictions that played a part in this. And with Kahn marginalized and clearly on the way out, it's possible he and Adelman simply decided to not play nice. But all things considered, it seems pretty inexcusable that the team was unable to find a decent player to man the position, even as a temporary solution.

(And let's not even try to figure out why no calls were made to the Birdman)

And more so, set up the kind of organization that can consistently find the right guys. The Wolves, historically, have not been able to get awesome production out of the 2 guard spot. Most of the time it's been guys like Isaiah Rider and Anthony Peeler and Randy Foye, band-aid fixes like Chris Carr and Dennis Scott, and shoe-horning in small forwards like Sam Mitchell and Wally. None of which worked out all that well. The team's successes seem to always come by accident when they get something unexpected out of a Malik Sealy, Trenton Hassell, or Mayor Hoiberg. That's the opposite of how it should be, and it's been going on long enough that someone should have learned the lesson by now.

All this is to say there's no reason the team can't find one this summer. The great thing about NBA basketball is there's always next season to try and fix the mistakes (granted the Wolves have a very poor track record of this...) Call JJ Redick. Call Kyle Korver. Call Phoenix and try and get Jared Dudley. Bring back Rudy Fernandez's ridiculous 3pt goggles.

Don't leave this up to chance anymore. Don't man the spot with out-of-position point guards or non-shooters. Get someone steady and reliable, who fits the system and can provide some scoring punch.

It's not asking a lot. It shouldn't be this hard.