Out of Range: The Minnesota Timberwolves Need an Upgrade At Shooting Guard

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Out of Range: The Minnesota Timberwolves Need an Upgrade At Shooting Guard
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This is the second post in a five-part series looking at the past season, and the off-season ahead, as it pertains to each of the five positions for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Part 1, a look at the point guards, is here:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/396995-missing-the-point-flynn-sessions-fizzle-in-2009

According to 82games.com, the 09-10 Timberwolves shooting guards had an aggregate 12.2 player efficiency rating (PER). Wolves opponents at that position racked up a PER of 17.3. Minnesota was outplayed and out-produced at the off-guard position in just about every game last year.

And when you consider the two players who spent the bulk of the time at that position are generally considered two bright spots in the Wolves' dismal season, you start to get a true sense of the talent shortage on this roster.

The Wolves played two recent Final Four Most Oustanding Players at shooting guard. Corey Brewer and Wayne Ellington come from championship programs. Both were valuable niche role players for their programs. Yet, both have found, unfortunately, that filling a specialized role (defense and energy for Brewer, outside shooting for Ellington) is more helpful on a championship-caliber team than on a cellar-dweller.

Corey Brewer started every game at shooting guard, and earned some Most Improved Player love. While he was drastically better than the useless, rookie-version of himself, Brewer essentially improved from "not worthy of NBA minutes" to "serviceable back-up wing player."

The new wing-based triangle offense ran through Brewer much more than any NBA offense ever had before (his usage rate rose 6%). And while that move upped his statistical output, it was also a big part of the team's 15-67 record.

Corey is still a turnover prone, usually inefficient offensive player. He's just less those things than he used to be. Combine that with an increased role in an offense devoid of any other passable wing scorers, and voila! You've got yourself an MIP candidate.

His defense, however, is fun to watch, and the real source of Corey's value. He's a whirling dervish whose length and quickness allows him to disrupt passing lanes. His frantic style generates transition opportunities.

It was certainly fun watching Brewer's progress this year. But that progress doesn't mean the Wolves have one less starting position to fill. They simply have a nice backup ready when they finally fill the spot.

Wayne Ellington provided some serviceable bench minutes , and was generally more polished than you'd expect from a 28th pick. He shot over 39 percent from three, and almost 50 percent from February on. As far as knocking down outside shots, Ellington contributed what he'll need to provide with the Wolves.

That said, for a low-usage player, he turned the ball over at an annoyingly high rate. And he didn't provide much in terms of ball movement or playmaking.

In essence, if Wayne wasn't spotting up for three, he wasn't helping that much. If the Wolves are going to be contenders, Ellington is going to have to grow into the designated-floor-spacer role, or else be replaced by a better one.

 

Potential Future Wolves?

Evan Turner: We lost out on the ability to draft him straight up when the lottery boned us hard. But rumors are flying around about Minnesota moving up to get the National Player of the Year. Turner's awesome would-be fit in Minnesota is well-documented. But I would caution David Kahn against shedding too much blood to get him.

If the price isn't too steep, or he falls to 4, though, Turner would instantly become the face of the franchise.

P.S.: I hate the lottery. (Other draft options with the 16th pick: Xavier Henry and James Anderson, both nice spot-up shooters.)

Rudy Fernandez: After his rookie season, I would have loved to have added Rudy. The Wolves' wing players lack athleticism. Rudy was a dunk contest candidate.

They lack outside shooting. He was a 40 percent three-point shooter with a .588 True Shooting percentage. The guy's rookie year was everything the Wolves needed. 

But he regressed this season. Unhappy with his role, rumors swirled about his wanting to return to Spain. His three-point percentage dropped to 36 percent. His efficiency fell across the board, and his turnovers increased.

He's likely available via trade this offseason, and probably for pretty cheap. If the Wolves brain-trust thinks his poor performance was just a result of his situation, it could be a good move to go get Fernandez.

J.J. Redick: I've grown more and more a fan of the Wolves pursuing Redick in free agency this summer. He's a restricted free-agent, and I have no knowledge of how willing the Magic will be to match an offer.

Redick is a guy who produces without using many possessions (his usage rate is about equivalent to Ellington's, and his True Shooting percentage is .606, elite for a jumpshooter), who turns it over very little while also being a useful ball-handler and playmaker.

Redick essentially represents a realistic ceiling for Wayne Ellington's career. I'd like to see Kahn make a move to pry him from Orlando.

Ideally, JJ would replace Ellington as the (more effective) floor-spacer off the bench. But if a ball-handling, shot-creating small forward (like Danny Granger or Andre Iguodala—more on that in the next post) is added, he could start alongside them.

 

 

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