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In 2012, the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted Robbie Hummel with the 58th pick of the draft. He was a low second round pick, not guaranteed to make the team. This blog, those many years ago, was unhappy with the selection. He has had horrendous injury struggles, tearing his ACL twice in college and, almost immediately on entering the league, tearing his meniscus while playing in Spain. He beat out Othyus Jeffers, Lorenzo Brown and Chris Johnson to make the full roster in 2013, and hasn't looked back since. A quote from Rick Adelman early that year tells a lot:
"He's a solid player, he just a solid player, he's been that way since the first day of camp. I've said it before, he's always in the right spot, he understands really how to play the game. He doesn't force any kind of thing, kind of stays within himself. He does what he can do and doesn't do anything else, that's why he's effective."
Hummel's understanding of how to play the game has been tested this year by the sheer volume of injuries. He's played point guard, he's played center, and everything in between, and he has flourished. Via basketball-reference, he gets 10.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists and only 0.8 turnovers per 36 minutes, while playing so many different roles and positions. His .072 WS/48 is fifth on the team, ahead of Thaddeus Young and Ricky Rubio. This while with a lower usage (12.0%) than anyone on the team except for Lorenzo Brown. He's one of only two current Wolves (Gorgui) with a positive net rating. He recorded his first career double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds in a win over Denver.
The quotes from his teammates and coaches show how much his work has meant to the team this year. In this article from the Indianapolis Star, Chase Budinger talked about Robbie's role on the team:
"We trust him and coach has trusted him in putting him at any position, and for him to do the job and do the job well," said Timberwolves forward Chase Budinger, a five-year NBA veteran. "It's been very impressive that he's been able to play one through five. It just shows you what type of player he is and how smart he is and how he knows how to play the game."
And Flip Saunders had similar comments, describing Hummel as "unselfish, cares more about the team than he cares about himself - that's kind of what he is." The intelligence, work ethic, and unselfishness set Robbie apart as a player. I may be wrong, but I don't think there are very many players both willing and able to play every position one through five, let alone do it on a pretty awful basketball team, and continue to do it with a smile.
After winning the starting small forward job in January, Hummel suffered a broken wrist and has been out since, which, among all of the injuries this year, was probably the one that made me the most sad (yes, even Ricky). He's been playing so well this year through all of the pressure the team has put on him, and was one of the brightest spots of this dark season. The team has been better on the court with the return of the rest of the starters, but I can't wait to have the Swiss Army Knife back to fill whatever gaps we have. He may not be the best player on the court, and he likely never will be, but the abilities he does have are unique and should be celebrated. We miss you, Robbie. Get back soon!
(P.S.: We're still waiting on that mixtape.)