Minnesota Timberwolves Breakdown: Timberpuppies Lack Bite

Erick BlascoSenior Writer IDecember 6, 2008

After witnessing the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 113-84 loss in New Jersey, it doesn’t appear as if they’ve progressed much since last year. Then again, it’s hard to progress with a roster as barren as Minnesota’s.

Let’s look at the details.

Al Jefferson—6-13 FG, 12 REB, 2 AST, 3 TO, 4 BLK—is a powerful, if somewhat selfish scorer, who can score with an array of powerful drop steps, spins, hooks from various release points, and even jumpers out to 17 feet. He’ll pursue offensive rebounds, and can even block shots against the more cumbersome post players in the league, as he did against Brook Lopez.

AJ will only pass out of the staunchest double teams though, and isn’t a good passer when he does give the ball up. He also can’t handle and is slow afoot, meaning his offensive maneuvers only run north and south.

Kevin Love threw a wonderful full-court outlet pass for a layup, hit a midrange jumper, and showed beautifully on the far side of screen/rolls—a concept rookies usually struggle to understand.

However, Love is too slow to create his own shot off the dribble or in the post. He’s not overly strong (Brook Lopez flat out ripped a rebound straight out of his hands), and lacks the athleticism to excel in this league.

Defensively, he lingered too long with ball carries driving around screens and as a result, was always late closing out on Yi Jianlian’s three-pointers.

Like Jefferson, he was too slow off the ground to keep the Nets from leaping over and around him to rebounds, even when he was boxing out.

Like Jefferson, he was too slow afoot to provide adequate help defense, and was at the mercy of any defender who could face and go.

If there is any other NBA player Kevin Love’s talent level and skill-set resembles, it’s Brad Miller. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world—except when you’re the number five pick in the NBA draft.

Ryan Gomes can hit midrange jumpers, defend, rebound, and finish powerfully off the bounce, but he lacks the range (0-3 3FG) to stretch defenses.

Kevin Ollie was pressed into the starting lineup because of injuries, but aside from not making major mistakes with the ball and pressuring point guards at the timeline, doesn’t bring much talent to the table.

Randy Foye had an aggressive mindset, but did most of his damage on the break, or when New Jersey’s defense let its guard down. He made as many poor passes as good ones, tried to force passes into traffic, hesitated to shoot when open, and was repeatedly burned on defense.

Foye lacks the instincts to be a point guard, lacks the size to be a two-guard, and is at best, a sparkplug off the bench.

Sebastian Telfair also had trouble creating off the bounce, was torched defensively, and did most of his damage in transition. His hands are quick, and he was one of only two players who recorded steals, but he too isn’t a difference making starter.

Rodney Carney (0-3 FG) missed all his shots and was a non-factor.

Jason Collins played good defense and set solid screens in his limited playing time.

Craig Smith (4-5 FG, 4 REB, 2 AST, 3 TO, 12 PTS) was a bull in a china shop, but had trouble passing and defending.

Rashard McCants lit up garbage time, but he jacks up bad shots, rarely passes, and doesn’t care about defense.

As a team, the Wolves had trouble generating offense when they weren’t force feeding Jefferson in the post.

Minnesota’s three-point shooing was dreadful (2-12).

The T-Wolves were late closing out, and because of their lack of height and length, were unable to sufficiently challenge jump shots.

Their big men are pathetically slow, meaning anytime an opponent breaches Minnesota’s perimeter, it’s either a guaranteed layup, or, because the Wolves will sag down to help, an open three-pointer.

Their passing is awful.

They lack creative playmakers off the bounce.

So then, what do the Timberwolves need so that the future comes sooner rather than later?

  • An athletic shot-blocking center who can cut without the ball and erase defensive mistakes.
  • A point guard who can get into the lane, make plays, and defend.
  • Shooters, shooters, shooters.
  • A do-over of the Kevin Love for O.J. Mayo swap.
  • Backup wings.
  • More team speed.

As presently constructed, the Timberwolves play hard enough where they can upset any but the league’s elite at home. To achieve at least mediocrity though, the roster will need a wholesale upgrade and a lot more bite.