Nothing magical came home from the Wolves’ apparent mid-Fall vacation. An all-too-expected and deserved bully act from arguably the top 2 NBA teams have placed the Wolves right where we should have expected them to be, but never hoped for all along: the bottom of the barrel. A bone-crushing, embarrassing franchise worst 42-point shit-storm of a loss from a team who didn’t even play their starters 2 full quarters has left fan (omitting the plurality from this word as my last attempt at keeping this joke alive) wondering just what is going on. We were 6-2 in the pre-season against decent competition, but we have been crapped on now 3 games in a row with no end in sight as the Hawks soar into town this Friday ready to embarrass further.
The Wolves have gotten off to a dreadful start the past 3 seasons. This year is no different. However, it seems the pre-season may have been a bad thing fan-wise as it raised expectations to an unrealistic level. But it is really interesting to see how much this, and perhaps last years’ teams have underachieved. Taking a step back, let’s use the horrible 24-win 2008-2009 roster (a nightmarish season to watch for all) as an example: Randy Foye (missed 12 games) and Telfair ran the point, non-shooting Mike Miller (missed 9 games), Brewer (missed 70 games) Brian Cardinal and Rodney Carney on the wings. Al Jefferson(missed 32 games), a rookie Kevin Love, Mark Madsen, Shelden Williams and Jason Collins up front. Not to mention a mid-season Wittman spanking and the slew of injuries you just read parenthetically. This team won 24 games with the aforementioned, largely turned over and re-tooled might I add, roster. ~65% more wins than last season despite the talent upgrade. Just compare that lineup to this year, factoring the injuries into your thinking. Is the 2008-2009 win total not some sort of minor miracle by comparison? CLICK READ MORE TO CONTINUE
This begs the question: Are the 2009-present Wolves underachieving, or did the 2008 squad overachieve under McHale’s coaching? A definite dose of both. The current team, however, has a considerably higher talent pool to work with and yet look to be heading for a 20 win season, which is still an improvement over last season. Rotations aside, I am really questioning whether Rambis’ offense scheme will work long term. It is unorganized and ugly out there, with the team awkwardly and robotically forcing sets and ignoring the often-times-necessary free-flowing ball-movement aspect of any effective offense. Look no further than Jonny Flynn last season making comments about how the triangle “doesn’t fit his game.” Does it fit any player on the roster’s game? Has anything positive about the triangle been said by a player since Rambis arrived? Wouldn’t adapting McHales simple drive and kick offense be fantastic with all of our shooters? I guess not. If it doesn’t work, then why keep going after it? A wise man once told me: the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This just isn’t working and it benefits noone. At all.
I am not calling for Rambis’ head by any means yet. His pedigree is worthwhile and I think the players respect him. That is 50% of the coaching battle. But he has to devise sets that fit his players. Right now, there isn’t any player on our roster who could possibly overachieve this season (playing time aside). And with Love as our best player, I guess we should have thought harder before getting overly giddy about a potential 25-win season. Especially after 2008-2009, which was almost as depressing as last year.
Speaking of Love, I want to pause and tangent here. I understand his value to the team in terms of efficiency, rebounding, shooting, ending possessions, using audible methane gas as his primary method of 1-on-1 defense, productivity, put-backs and the like. Good, solid player and I still think he deserves 35 minutes a night but that subject is just a nuisance at this point, so I won’t get into the playing time issue. Love is great for our team, but is he our “best” player? Stats give Love the love due to his rebounding rate and his ability to finish the ball immediately after. The main problem is, since the Wolves have nothing resembling an NBA offense, Love’s productivity is purely circumstantial. He has no real “will” to decide his own fate within the flow of the game, which gets dangerous during crucial situations. He can’t create his own shot (thus far, but his post game could improve), nor ever prove to be a factor in crunch time unless he is open for an 18-23 footer. Now, take Blake Griffin. 9 games out of 10, his stats will reflect a lesser degree of on-court productivity from a statistical standpoint. But just watching how this young man handles the ball, spins in the post, muscles into the lane like a shooting guard, eats the rim on dunks, rebounds. It is an incredible spectacle. Just miles ahead of what Kevin Love is capable of on the basketball court, and thus he is simply the better player. Stat-heads will say Love is better. He is, statistically, but not in terms of the intangible things that make up a 5-man rotation. You can’t quantify
The team will look better fast. No way around it. These guys are embarrassed from their Florida trip and they should be. Back to backs happen all the time in the NBA and we should not have been crushed by such a large margin under any circumstance. Hopefully things look a little better when our guys are off the mend and playing a little better.