Final Regular-Season Grades for Every Minnesota Timberwolves Player

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIApril 20, 2014

Final Regular-Season Grades for Every Minnesota Timberwolves Player

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    Another season, another search for a silver lining.

    The 2013-14 NBA regular season ended with the Minnesota Timberwolves missing the playoffs by 9.0 games. Minnesota did secure its first 40-win season in close to a decade, but its absence from the postseason is something that fans are now accustomed to.

    As a result of this continued failure, changes have been made. According to Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune, the Timberwolves will not retain head coach Rick Adelman.

    The question is, how did the T-Wolves' individual players fare, and what does that mean for the future?

J.J. Barea

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    Grade: C+

    Position: Point Guard

    Age: 29

    Experience: 8th Season

    2013-14 Season Averages: 11.68 PER, 18.6 MPG, 8.4 PPG, 3.8 APG, 1.9 RPG

    It's hard to overestimate the pressure that J.J. Barea faced on a nightly basis. While he may not have posted very impressive numbers, his role within the Minnesota Timberwolves' offense was unmatched.

    Barea is the only reserve on the entire roster to average at least 8.0 points per game.

    That was the story throughout the season, as Chase Budinger battled injuries and inconsistency. Even as players such as Ronny Turiaf and Gorgui Dieng came on strong at different points in the season, there was no form of bench scoring.

    Nothing but Barea's output.

    It's hard to give Barea too high of a grade when he shot below 40 percent from the field. Weighing all factors, however, he's given something of a pass for the lack of help he received.

    Either way, Minnesota has to be looking for answers at sixth man.

Corey Brewer

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    Grade: C+

    Position: Small Forward

    Age: 28

    Experience: 7th Season

    2013-14 Season Averages: 12.71 PER, 32.2 MPG, 12.3 PPG,  2.6 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.9 SPG

    If only every night were Apr. 11.

    Corey Brewer went off for a career-high and extremely improbable 51 points on Apr. 11, and that does help him a bit. Before getting too caught up in that one performance, however, it's important to judge his entire season.

    There were some hits. There were some misses.

    Brewer was brought in to be a defensive force along the perimeter, which Minnesota otherwise lacks. Unfortunately, Brewer was anything but a menace on defense and instead served as a transition scorer.

    That's welcomed for a team that relied heavily on his offense, but Brewer's shortcomings on defense were disappointing. Shooting 48.1 percent from the field helps to ease the pain.

Chase Budinger

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    Grade: C-

    Position: Small Forward

    Age: 25

    Experience: 5th Season

    2013-14 Season Averages: 9.73 PER, 18.3 MPG, 6.7 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 35.0% 3PT

    There was a time in which Chase Budinger was viewed as a player with significant potential. As an explosive leaper with a smooth three-point stroke, Budinger had the combination of athleticism and skill to make his mark.

    In two seasons with Minnesota, Budinger has played a grand total of 64 games. Enough said.

    Budinger posted career-worst numbers in minutes, points, rebounds and assists per game. Most significantly, he posted the lowest field-goal percentage of his career at 39.4 percent.

    Even as he made improvements after the All-Star break, Budinger's efforts were too little, too late. This was nothing short of a disappointing season from the 25-year-old.

    For what it's worth, he made $5,000,000.

Dante Cunningham

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    Grade: C

    Position: Power Forward

    Age: 26th

    Experience: 5th Season

    2013-14 Season Averages: 12.67 PER, 20.2 MPG, 6.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.0 APG

    Let's try to ignore the off-the-court drama and focus on what he did on the hardwood.

    At one point during the season, Dante Cunningham looked like he could be the answer to the Minnesota Timberwolves' bench woes. He was strong in February with 8.9 points and 6.3 rebounds in fluctuating minutes.

    Cunningham even scored in double figures in six of nine appearances between Feb. 5 and Feb. 25.

    Since February, Cunningham has been nothing but underwhelming on both ends of the floor. He's struggled to carve out a role within the rotation, despite receiving generally consistent minutes.

    There have been flashes of strength, but Cunningham has been weak on the boards and a liability at the free-throw line. In turn, he's been unable to capitalize on a hot February.

Gorgui Dieng

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    Grade: B+

    Position: Center

    Age: 24

    Experience: Rookie

    2013-14 Season Averages: 16.58 PER, 13.6 MPG, 4.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 0.8 BPG

    Easily the most disappointing decision of the 2013-14 NBA regular season was hiding Gorgui Dieng until mid-March. Once he received quality minutes, Dieng put up Rookie of the Year-type numbers.

    Unfortunately, that small sample size leaves him without a paddle in the voting process.

    In 27 games after the All-Star break, Dieng posted averages of 8.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 22.7 minutes. In his final 18 appearances, those numbers were even more impressive.

    From Mar. 16 to the end of the regular season, Dieng averaged 12.0 points, 11.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.1 steals in 30.3 minutes.

    What more is there to say but "Wow"?

    Without jumping to too many conclusions, one has to wonder what Dieng's emergence means for Nikola Pekovic's long-term future with the team. He's a superior defensive force and a similar menace on the glass, albeit with less polish offensively.

    For a team that has the offense to make a postseason run and a terrible enough defense to miss the playoffs altogether, Dieng could be the answer.

Robbie Hummel

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    David Sherman/Getty Images

    Grade: C

    Position: Small Forward

    Age: 25

    Experience: Rookie (Drafted in 2012)

    2013-14 Season Averages: 9.67 PER, 12.4 MPG, 3.4 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 36.0% 3PT

    We should all take a moment to thank modern medicine and undying determination for the fact that Robbie Hummel even made it to the NBA. Once a potential lottery pick, Hummel battled a series of serious knee injuries at Purdue.

    While Hummel came on strong during the final shortened month of the season, his production and playing time were far from substantial.

    The 25-year-old played in 53 games and averaged 12.4 minutes. His minutes often fluctuated, making it difficult to numerically define his impact on the T-Wolves.

    What's clear is that Hummel provided energy and became an intriguing offensive weapon toward the end of the season. He shot 36.8 percent from distance in April and 36.0 percent for the season.

    How far his role expands in future campaigns is up for debate, but there's one thing Hummel can continue to do to keep himself on the floor: shoot.

    That's valuable to any team.

Kevin Love

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    Grade: A+

    Position: Power Forward

    Age: 25

    Experience: 6th Season

    2013-14 Season Averages: 26.97 PER, 36.3 MPG, 26.1 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 4.4 APG

    Kevin Love is the single most difficult player in the NBA to evaluate.

    As an individual player, a case could be made that Love has made his way into the ranks of the elite. His production is top tier and his quality of play on a nightly basis is some of the best we've seen in recent memory.

    If only that production led to team success.

    For the sixth consecutive season, Love has been impressive as an individual, but he's been unable to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to a winning season. While the other elite players are making their way into the playoffs, Love is on the outside looking in.

    Nevertheless, it's impossible to fault him for steadily posting dominant numbers.

    Love finished with a league-best and career-high 65 double-doubles. He also scored a career-high 26.1 points per game and grabbed 12.5 rebounds to lead Minnesota to its first 40-win season since 2004-05.

    Progress?

Kevin Martin

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    Grade: A-

    Position: Shooting Guard

    Age: 31

    Experience: 10th Season

    2013-14 Season Averages: 16.37 PER, 32.0 MPG, 19.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.0 SPG, 38.7% 3PT

    I've heard people complain that Kevin Martin hasn't given the Minnesota Timberwolves many assists. I've also heard that Martin isn't a strong enough defender.

    Did anyone actually expect Martin to do anything but what he's done throughout his entire career? If not, then why complain about him doing what he's done throughout his career?

    Martin served his purpose as well as Minnesota could've asked him to.

    Martin gave the Timberwolves a very strong 19.1 points per game on 38.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc. That's actually better production than any T-Wolves shooting guard in close to a decade.

    According to Basketball-Reference, Martin is the first Timberwolves perimeter player to average at least 19.0 points per game since Ricky Davis in 2005-06. He's the first to score at least 15.0 since Randy Foye in 2008-09, per Basketball-Reference.

    It was a successful season for the 31-year-old shooter.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

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    Grade: D+

    Position: Forward

    Age: 27

    Experience: 6th Season

    2013-14 Season Averages: 8.42 PER, 15.7 MPG, 3.5 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.5 SPG, 0.2 BPG

    In late November, the Minnesota Timberwolves swapped former No. 2 overall draft choice Derrick Williams for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute in a trade with the Sacramento Kings. The hope was that Mbah a Moute would provide elite defense.

    That didn't happen.

    Mbah a Moute received 14.7 minutes per contest as a member of the Timberwolves. He wasn't a terrible addition, but the hope of him padding Minnesota's perimeter and interior defense was not to be.

    While he did defend the rim in a relatively strong fashion, he never seemed to develop a comfort on the court. While Williams wasn't comfortable, in his own right, this can only be evaluated as an underwhelming return.

Shabazz Muhammad

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    Grade: C

    Position: Small Forward

    Age: 21

    Experience: Rookie

    2013-14 Season Averages: 13.20 PER, 7.8 MPG, 3.9 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 46.0 FG%

    This is another example of questionable player development by head coach Rick Adelman.

    Even when Shabazz Muhammad began to show flashes of a solid rotational player, his minutes were limited or altogether stripped. That includes a period in which he went from 20 points in 24 minutes to just 14 minutes played in a span of two games.

    For my Captain Obvious statement of the day, rookies gain their greatest NBA experience by playing in NBA games. Muhammad rarely received that opportunity.

    There were moments of inconsistency, but that's to be expected with a first-year player. One can only hope that, in his second season, Muhammad will receive the opportunities that he deserves.

    Seeing as no one at small forward played too well, it's quite puzzling as to why Muhammad had such a difficult time carving out minutes.

Nikola Pekovic

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    Grade: A-

    Position: Center

    Age: 28

    Experience: 4th Season

    2013-14 Season Averages: 20.72 PER, 30.8 MPG, 17.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 54.0% FG

    Offensive production certainly isn't a problem for the Minnesota Timberwolves' defensively inept interior.

    Nikola Pekovic complemented Kevin Love by posting season averages of 17.4 points and 8.7 rebounds on 54.0 percent shooting from the field. He also shot a strong 74.7 percent from the free throw-line to round out what was a very good offensive season for the 28-year-old.

    Through all of that production, the Timberwolves' $61 million investment underwhelmed on the most important end: defense.

    According to NBA.com, Pekovic allowed opponents to shoot 55.2 percent when he met them at the rim. That's not only a disappointing number, but it's so far below average that it qualifies as bad.

    Paired with Love's defensive struggles, that led to Minnesota ranking 29th in opponent points in the paint per game, per NBA.com.

    Pekovic has earned a reputation as one of the best offensive big men in the league, but his defense needs to improve if Minnesota is to get over the hump.

Ricky Rubio

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    Grade: B

    Position: Point Guard

    Age: 23

    Experience: 3rd Season

    2013-14 Season Averages: 15.35 PER, 32.2 MPG, 9.5 PPG, 8.6 APG, 4.2 RPG, 2.3 SPG

    A few weeks ago, I wrote that this offseason will be the most critical of Ricky Rubio's career. While the Spaniard has earned himself the distinction of being one of the best ball hawks and facilitators in the league, he has a glaring weakness that nearly offsets it all.

    Rubio is an atrocious scorer.

    Rubio averaged 8.6 assists, fourth in the NBA, and 2.3 steals, second, to carve out a generally strong season. By shooting 38.1 percent from the field with minimal defense being focused on his shooting, however, Rubio opened himself up to criticism.

    Rubio's shot chart features a total of 14 areas. According to NBA.com, he's in the red, meaning below average, in 10 of those 14 sections and in the yellow in three of the remaining four.

    Rubio's even in the red in the restricted area. Plain and simple, the man can't shoot.

    That needs to change if he's going to be Minnesota's franchise point guard.

Alexey Shved

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    Grade: D

    Position: Guard

    Age: 25

    Experience: 2nd Season

    2013-14 Season Averages: 10.27 PER, 10.5 MPG, 4.0 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 29.4% 3PT

    Talk about a sophomore regression.

    After an encouraging rookie season, Russian combo guard Alexey Shved was downright dreadful in year two. He couldn't shoot, failed to set his teammates up and, despite standing at 6'6", didn't capitalize on his height advantage.

    All in all, this was a season to forget.

    Shved shot 32.1 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from beyond the arc in 10.5 minutes. While he wasn't very efficient as a rookie, he did a solid job of creating scoring opportunities.

    Not this year.

Ronny Turiaf

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    Grade: B-

    Position: Center

    Age: 31

    Experience: 9th Season

    2013-14 Season Averages: 13.84 PER, 19.5 MPG, 4.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 59.8% FG

    One has to imagine that a healthy Ronny Turiaf would've made a major difference in the outcome of the Minnesota Timberwolves' season. Not only was he a reliable player, but Turiaf was a powerful force as a rim protector.

    That's something that Minnesota otherwise lacked.

    Turiaf averaged 4.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and a team-best 1.6 blocks in 19.5 minutes. Unfortunately, he only played in 31 games and struggled to stay healthy for any extended period of time.

    When he was healthy, he was the star of the roster in terms of protecting the basket.

    According to NBA.com, Turiaf faced 6.1 attempts and held opponents to 47.1 percent shooting when he met them at the rim. Outside of Alexey Shved, who faced an unqualified 0.7 attempts per game, which was the best mark on the roster.

    Turiaf's injury opened the door for Gorgui Dieng to play, but it's still a shame that he wasn't available for the entire season.