Early Report Card Grades for Every Minnesota Timberwolves Player
A few weeks into the 2012-13 season, and even with several injured players, the scrappy Minnesota Timberwolves are hanging in there and winning games. Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Chase Budinger are all sidelined with significant injuries, and JJ Barea and Nikola Pekovic struggle with ankle injuries, but the Wolves are 5-2 and continuing to move forward.
Each and every player on Minny's roster is playing a part in this effort. Let's take a look at their performances thus far.
Note: Injured players Love and Rubio will not be included in the grade reports, as they have not participated in a 2012-13 regular season game.
Andrei Kirilenko was, without a doubt, the best pickup Minnesota made over the 2012 offseason.
The veteran demonstrates a defensive prowess Minnesota has been searching for. He hasn't even played in the NBA in over a year, and yet Kirilenko is making the most significant impact on the Wolves roster thus far.
Over the first seven games, Kirilenko is shooting 57 percent from the field and averaging 11.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. The last stat is even more impressive coming from a guy playing the power forward position. The veteran is also tallying two blocks per night.
Without Kirilenko, the Timberwolves probably wouldn't hold the winning record they currently do.
Derrick Williams fell far behind expectations while playing his 2011-12 rookie season in Minnesota. While fans hoped that he would kick off this year with a new momentum, it hasn't happened yet.
While the 21-year-old isn't a totally hopeless case, his biggest problem is how inconsistent he is. In his best offensive game, Williams shot 67 percent from the field and tallied 15 points. He also committed three turnovers and only grabbed a single rebound on the evening.
In the following game, in a loss against Chicago, Williams attempted 10 shots and didn't get a single one to fall.Thus far, he is averaging only 34 percent shooting.
He may be a No. 2 draft pick, but Williams is continuing to prove unreliable and mediocre at best.
Grade: C -
It's unfortunate for Minnesota that Nikola Pekovic left Monday night's game with a sprained ankle because he's one of the strongest players on the Wolves' current roster.
Pek started out the 2012-13 season a bit slow in the rebounding column, but the big man's stats are steadily on the upswing. In fact, his numbers have improved with almost every contest. So far, the native of Montenegro is averaging 15.3 points, six rebounds and one block per game.
Pekovic is the leading big man on the floor in Love's absence, and Timberwolves fans can only hope that the ankle injury isn't serious and he returns to action sooner rather than later.
While it may not be a huge shocker to most NBA fans, its a disappointment to Minnesota that Brandon Roy is sidelined with a knee injury.
Roy's knees were a concern when the Wolves offered him a second chance in the league, and Adelman pushed him pretty hard in the first several games of the 2012-13 season.
It's hard to evaluate Roy in so few games, especially considering his physical struggles, but overall, he was an asset on the floor. Roy's capability to dish out assists and read the floor is invaluable to a team. However, Minnesota will be looking for some higher point totals when Roy returns.
Veteran Luke Ridnour is delivering a satisfactory performance thus far, especially during a critical time such as this in which fellow point guards Rubio (and now Barea) are out due to injuries.
Ridnour averages 11.1 points and 3.6 assists per game, and he's light on his feet and the owner of his signature floating jumper. My biggest concern here is his actual shot percentage. Ridnour scored double-digit points in two of his last three games, but he's only averaged 33 percent from the floor in these games as well.
Ridnour has big shoes to fill, and he's doing a decent job filling them. The grade would be higher, however, if his accuracy improved.
Grade: B -
Minnesota would love to see a bit more shooting accuracy out of Alexey Shved, but after only seven games in the NBA, the 23-year-old is showing a ton of potential.
Shved started the 2012-13 NBA after putting up big numbers for Russia in the 2012 London Olympics. He's not a huge scorer, but he's nimble on the court and has stepped up and grabbed points when needed.
So far, Shved is averaging 8.4 points and 4.1 assists per game. With Barea and Rubio both being sidelined, the young guard will earn more minutes and have an opportunity to really prove himself as a professional.
He has some things to work on, but I expect his grades to improve quickly.
Chase Budinger has been just the energetic and constant scorer the Timberwolves need, and they suffered a huge setback when he suffered a meniscus tear in Saturday's game against Chicago.
Over the first six games, Budinger shot 48 percent from the field and averaged 11.8 points per night. The forward struggled a bit from the perimeter in Game 1, but he nailed two three-point buckets in the second and third games, living up to his long-ball reputation.
Budinger is quick and aggressive, and he's also an asset where rebounding is concerned. Over the first three games, the 24-year-old tallied 13 boards. That's a pretty solid number for a guy who spends a large portion of his minutes shooting from the outside.
The Wolves will miss their new addition, as Budinger will be out three to four months after undergoing knee surgery Nov. 13.
Grade: A -
JJ Barea started the 2012-13 season off with a bang. In Game 1 against Sacramento, the 6'0" (and even that's pushing it) guard exploded off the bench for 21 points and five assists when they were most needed.
After the first night, though, Barea's numbers declined over the next few games. He continued to dish out an average of five assists per night, an impressive stat, but his point totals were much smaller.
Barea suffered an ankle sprain on Nov. 7, and the guard has been sidelined since. If he's able to return and play a larger stretch of games, Barea's impact on the team will be more obvious.
New addition Dante Cunningham has been a huge asset to the Minnesota Timberwolves, most significantly in Love's absence.
The 25-year-old forward is shooting an impressive 53 percent from the field, and he's averaging nine points per game. Over the past three games, while Minnesota has been missing a large portion of its roster due to injury, Cunningham shot 83, 58 and 67 percent respectively. He scored double-digit points each night.
The only thing left to be desired from Cunningham is in the rebound department. Without Love and Pekovic, the Wolves will need a few more boards per game from the 6'8" PF.
Going forward, Cunningham will find himself relied on even more, and he looks to be up to the job.
Grade: B +
I've been criticized by this before, but I'm just not impressed with Greg Stiemsma's performance thus far. Granted, the center was never intended to be a starter, and the expectations aren't huge.
Stiemsma's biggest issue is a level of inconsistency, especially where rebounding is concerned. A team has to be able to count on its big men for cleaning the boards, and the 27-year-old has had anywhere from zero to seven rebounds per game since opening night.
He has been known to tally a few blocks per game, but again—inconsistency. He has a long way to go to prove his overall worth to the squad.
Grade: C -
Up until the last three games, Malcolm Lee earned almost no playing time. He's at the bottom of the totem pole of guards on the Timberwolves roster.
With so many players already sidelined with injuries, however, Adelman has recently called Lee onto the floor for up to 23 minutes per game. It's too early to make confident judgements, but so far, the young guard is playing as best as can be expected.
Last season, Lee played a majority of the season with the D-League squad, and he's made significant strides since that point. Time will tell how much he can bring to Minnesota in its greatest time of need.
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