Timberwolves “Midterm” Report Card

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After last night’s 98-90 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Target Center, the Timberwolves enter the All Star Break with a 13-43 record, last in the Western Conference and second worst in the NBA to the hapless Cleveland Cavaliers (10-46). That’s exactly the same record the team had after 56 games last season. The Wolves won just twice more in 2009-10, including a 1-23 stretch. Let’s hope they can top that.

A week ago, it looked like the local squad had actually built up some momentum, winning back-to-back road games in New Orleans and Houston despite being woefully undermanned. The good times however, came to an abrupt halt. Since then, the Wolves have lost four straight (including three at home) by an average of 13 points. It’s not like they were playing the league’s elite either – Indiana, Philadelphia, Portland and the Clippers are a combined 104-118.

Since it’s the season’s ceremonial half way point (actually more like two-thirds), it is a good time to evaluate some of their key players and front office personnel. Let the midterms begin….

Kevin Love, PF (21.1 ppg/ 15.5 reb/ .425 3P%)
Love is a beast – he’s an All Star and the NBA’s leading rebounder by far. He’s done everything that was expected of him and much more.
Grade: A

Michael Beasley, SF (19.9 ppg/ 5.6 reb/ .462 FG%)
Was on his way to becoming an elite scorer before ankle injuries slowed him down. Beasley can create his own shot, is capable of long stretches of unstoppability and is evolving into the team’s crunch time go-to guy. He needs to be more consistent overall and become a better free throw shooter, particularly late in games.
Grade: B

Darko Milicic, C (9.4 ppg/ 5.4 reb/ 2.3 blocks)
Milicic has become a serviceable, true center - a rarity in today’s game. He still needs to develop more of a killer instinct around the hoop – i.e. dunk more, but he’s got nice touch  and is an above average passer. He’ll never justify his high draft status, but he is a good player.
Grade: C+

Luke Ridnour, PG (11.6 ppg/ 5.6 asst/ 2.0 TO)
Solid, dependable, expendable – that’s what Ridnour has been throughout his career. He’s got a good jump shot, but is not much of a playmaker. Has been the Wolves primary starting point guard, but is a back-up on a good team.
Grade: C

Wesley Johnson, SG (8.8 ppg/ .413 FG%/ 25.9 min)
Despite flashes of greatness, Johnson’s rookie year has been so-so. He’s a got a super smooth jump shot and can effortlessly glide through the air when driving to the hoop – something he’s doing with less and less regularity - but he disappears at times. I think Johnson will be a very good player and figures into the team’s future, but a strong finish to this season would make me feel a lot better.
Grade: C

Corey Brewer, SG/SF (8.6 ppg/ 1.6 steals/ 24.3 min)
Brewer has become the redheaded stepchild of the Kahn/Rambis regime. The team elected not to extend his contract and he’s been the subject of trade rumors, but he’s played pretty well when given a chance despite inconsistent minutes. While his jump shot will never be confused with Ray Allen’s, it has improved and Brewer is the kind of long, versatile, athletic defender any good team needs.
Grade: B-

Jonny Flynn, PG (5.8 ppg/ 3.3 asst/ 30 games)
A hip injury has derailed Flynn’s sophomore campaign. His future in the organization and in the league appears to be a crossroads. Everybody seems down on Flynn right now and it’d be a mistake to give him away when his value is so low. This team is headed nowhere and I’d rather see a young player like Flynn get minutes than a mediocre veteran (Ridnour).
Grade: D

Anthony Tolliver, F (5.9 ppg/ 4.3 reb/ 18.5 min)
AT has delivered about what could be expected. He’s a good back-up for Love and/or Beasley and could start in a pinch. Other than the knee injury that kept him out for 14 games in December and January, it’s been mostly positive.
Grade: C+

Martell Webster, SG/SF (10.7 ppg/ 24.5 min/ 27 games)
Like Flynn, injuries have limited Webster’s production so far. When healthy, he’s shown a nice jump shot and the ability to score in bunches - could be a prototypical, instant offense sixth man.
Grade: C+

Nikola Pekovic, C (5.2 ppg/ 3.2 reb/ 13.4 minutes)
Could develop into a solid, contributing player and provide front court depth to a good team.
Grade: C

Wayne Ellington, SG (6.8 ppg/ 17.9 min)
Has come on lately, getting extended minutes with Beasley and/or Webster out. Finally looks confident on the floor; need to see more.
Grade: I

Kurt Rambis, Head Coach
Rambis is now 28-110 as Wolves head coach. As we’ve been over before, that is beyond – as Charles Barkley would say – “turrible.” Despite an upgrade in talent, the team’s progress has been dubious at best. If there isn’t noticeable improvement by the end of this season, it’s time to move on.
Grade: F

David Kahn, General Manager
I like the acquisitions of Beasley and Webster and (so far) Wes Johnson looks like the right pick at No. 4 last year. The 2009 draft class of Flynn, the enigmatic Ricky Rubio and Ellington is another story. While much of Kahn’s legacy will hinge on how the Rubio fiasco plays out, he has cleared out cap room and stockpiled draft picks which is exactly what a rebuilding franchise needs to do. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt - for now.
Grade: B-

Misc.
I think Sebastian Telfair is getting a raw deal. He’ll never be the star many thought he would be out of high school, but he might be the Wolves best point guard. It was good to see Lazar Hayward get some minutes during the last road trip, he held his own. Don’t know what to think of Kosta Koufos.

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