Grantland's excellent basketball writer Zach Lowe takes on the Wolves shooting guard position today, writing about the transition from Kevin Martin to Zach LaVine in the starting lineup.
Lowe is realistic about just how terrible LaVine was last season:
LaVine had no clue how to play NBA defense, or run point guard, the position into which Minnesota almost cruelly shoehorned him after Ricky Rubio's early-season ankle injury.
LaVine was dead last in ESPN's Real Plus-Minus among 83 point guards. He turned the ball over on a revolting 27 percent of pick-and-rolls he finished with a shot, drawn foul, or cough-up...Minnesota was awful regardless of who played, but it was historically awful when poor LaVine was on the floor trying to remember how he had set up the offense the day before in practice. He was objectively terrible, but he became famous because he is just as objectively the greatest dunker the league has seen since peak Vince Carter.
But highlights the areas of hope for the future: His obvious athleticism, and, as we've discussed here before, the seeds of a potentially useful catch-and-shoot game, which the one area I'm hoping he blossoms off the ball with Ricky Rubio engineering shots for him. While LaVine shot only 34% overall from three (not great, but not terrible for a rookie), Lowe points out that he shot 41% on catch-and-shoot threes, an area he could possibly learn to thrive.
Combine that with the obvious ability to blow by people when they close out to quickly, and that forms the basis of hope for LaVine going forward at the off-guard, even if his decision making and play in traffic leaves much to be desired.
It's at the defensive end where the learning curve is going to be steepest Lowe posits, with these fantastic lines thrown in along the way:
It's going to take time, especially on defense, where LaVine looked like that kid at recess chasing birds as a game unfolded around him...
...He ran smack into picks like Sideshow Bob stepping on rakes, and he was helpless in trying to divide his attention between his man and the ball.
And this is true, though of course with the incumbent being Martin, it isn't as if they are downgrading from an All-Defense guy. Still, LaVine was so hopeless at doing anything defensively when more than one player with the ball was involved that we are likely into another long year of shouting "ZACH!" at our screens when the Wolves are on defense. And maybe offense too.
The other part of the article is speculating where Kevin Martin might wind up at some point before the trade deadline this season. :Lowe suggests that there will be a real market for him among teams trying to win that need help on the wing, but bursts our bubble a little by writing that a first round pick is an unlikely return.
Still, there should be a bunch of teams who could use his scoring punch off the bench, so if the Wolves are looking to move him, they should find a taker.
That said, I would be hesitant, unless a) LaVine exceeds all expectations, and b) there is an answer to who else can play the position, whether that be Andrew Wiggins or someone else. I understand that this is yet another "development" year--and lets see some development please--but still. They need guys who can play, and moving Martin for some of the packages that Lowe engineers doesn't do anything for me. I'd rather have Martin as another option, and maybe someone pushing LaVine, even if he isn't part of the future for the Wolves.