With an injury epidemic currently running rampant through the Minnesota Timberwolves’ locker room, the front office went out and got a veteran presence who would keep the ship steady while the stars return from injuries.
Athleticism and Size
Both Pietrus (6'6", 215 pounds) and Howard (6'7", 210 pounds) can play either the small forward or shooting guard positions effectively. However, age and injuries have caught up to both players and robbed them of some of their athleticism.
Ever since Howard left Dallas, a slew of injuries—including a particularly nasty ACL tear—have limited his explosiveness seen earlier in his career.
Not to be outdone, Pietrus has had some scary injuries of his own. A concussion, which initially looked far worse, took him out a few games with the Celtics. Last summer, he needed surgery in his right knee to clean up fragments left over from another knee surgery. He hasn't played since the procedure, but one can infer that it must have done some serious damage to his abilities if no one signed him.
That being said, Pietrus always had more athletic talent than Howard did. This, coupled with the age factor (Pietrus is two years younger than Howard) gives the advantage to the Guadeloupe native.
There was a point in his career where Josh Howard was thought of as one of the best secondary scorers in the NBA. Coupled with Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas had a fearsome trio of scorers.
Unfortunately, he did not age very well.
A couple years later and Howard wasn't even breaking double digits for a youthful Utah team. Howard was never a great three-point shooter (career 33.3 percent), but he was an excellent slasher who went to the line approximately five times a game in his prime.
But as his explosiveness declined, his free-throw attempts dropped all the way down to 2.3 in 2011-2012. This forced him to rely more on his perimeter scoring, which in turn dropped his true shooting percentage (free throws, two-pointers and three-pointers) to 46.1 percent, down from his career average of 52.3 percent.
Couple that with a usage rate of 20.7 percent and an offensive rating of 95 and you have a player scoring on a level of inefficiency comparable to Michael Beasley.
However, his history shows a player whose creativity and aggressiveness creates opportunities for himself and others. Minnesota could definitely be a place for him turn it around.
While Howard was making a name for himself on the offensive side of the ball, Mickael Pietrus was almost always the odd man out in terms of his contributions on offense. He has always been athletic enough to finish on the break, i.e. his 17.1 PPG/36 in his second year with Golden State, but never skilled enough to play effectively in a half-court offense (career 33.5 percent shooter).
His saving grace is that Pietrus has accepted his limitations and rarely plays outside of them, making him a common favorite player of coaches. Pietrus has also proved himself to be relatively efficient when he does score, posting a 16.5 percent usage rate with an offensive rating of 94.
In the right offense, Pietrus could be a an excellent third or fourth option, but the Timberwolves don't have the playmakers ahead of him to make it so.
Pietrus always used defense as his calling card. In Orlando, he was considered to be the team’s primary defensive stopper. That’s saying something when you have reigning Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard on that team.
His defensive rating isn’t anything special (career average is 106), but that number is bloated by his days from playing with the no-defense Golden State Warriors. His DWS (defensive win shares) has always been excellent, getting 1.4 in his 2011-12 campaign with the Celtics.
One does have to wonder if the injuries have caught up to him.
Howard was a very athletic guard-forward in his youth, and used it to his advantage. He even has a higher career defensive rating (105) than Pietrus. However, he has had the benefit of playing on very good defensive teams and not necessarily having to guard the opposing team’s best player.
So far, in the tiny sample size provided, he’s given an excellent 100. I fully expect that to regress to the mean of his recent seasons (109). Another factor working against him is that he isn’t nearly as athletic as he used to be.
Mickael Pietrus has always been known as a great clubhouse guy. With displays such as this and this it’s hard to not like him. He has led by example and would be a great leader for the relative youth of this Timberwolves team. The only issue with Pietrus was his unwillingness to sign for the veteran’s minimum.
Hopefully, his lack of employment will help change his mind.
Josh Howard has been a model citizen for most of his career. However, he did have a minor (it was actually quite publicized) situation about NBA players and their marijuana usage. While he is no Michael Beasley, he does have this stain on his resume. As a veteran, he seems to have set this incident behind him.
While the jury is still out on Howard, the numbers and situation seemed to agree with Pietrus. In the long run, this decision will actually be quite small considering he is essentially the 15th man on the roster.
Once this team is back to full health, Howard should be buried in the depth chart.