Washington Wizards, Minnesota Timberwolves… on a Sunday afternoon when you will likely be watching playoff football, the Wizards will be trying to secure their first win of the season. For today’s 3-on-3, we have Benjamin Polk from the ESPN TrueHoop Network T-Wolves blog, A Wolf Among Wolves, along with TAI’s Sam Permutt and yours truly, Kyle Weidie. Three questions, three answers starts now…
#1) That David Kahn fellow… Can the future of the franchise be trusted in his hands? And with Ricky Rubio playing well, how much credit does he get for taking advantage of Ernie Grunfeld by sending him the always underachieving Mike Miller and Randy Foye for the pick that brought Rubio to Minnesota?
PERMUTT: I don’t pretend to know whether Kahn can be trusted… and that’s what makes him such an entertaining GM. He’s like the guy in your fantasy league who you secretly admire because he picks with no regard for predicted rank—except he has a real team! As for Grunfeld flipping the fifth pick into Miller and Foye, I still say that was a solid move for both teams. The fact that it turned into Rubio two years later is good for the T-Wolves (and Kahn), but Grunfeld shouldn’t be blamed.
POLK: You know, I really have no idea. Although Kahn has certainly made more than his share of personnel mistakes, I do feel like his rep as a bumbler has been exaggerated by his abrasive personality and the weird things he says. That said, the Rubio/Miller-Foye trade is, in my opinion, the best thing he’s ever done. Now if he’d just found some way to avoid taking Jonny Flynn at six…
WEIDIE: It’s a game of odds, and odds are that at least one NBA GM will be a bumbling quotable in the spirit of any press is good press. Plus, Kahn used to be a sportswriter, so you know with fairly reasonable certainty that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about on frequent occasions. Wizards fans should really get over Grunfeld sending Kahn the 5th pick in 2009 draft (Rubio) for Randy Foye and Mike Miller. Abe Pollin’s dying wish was another championship, regardless of if it cost a high draft pick. Maybe there were better moves, but Miller and Foye were worth the risk.
#2) Kevin Love averaged 27.5 points and 16 rebounds in two games against the Wizards last season (35 and 11 in a win against the Wiz in D.C. on Jan. 13, and 20 and 21 in a loss against the Wizards in Minnesota), what are the chances he tops those averages on Sunday?
PERMUTT: Taking the over on 27.5 points and 16 rebounds may seem ridiculous, but it’s a testament to Kevin Love’s work ethic and skill. The way he positions himself for rebounds one, two, three seconds before the shot goes up, the way he trails the ball on drives, and the way Andray Blatche defends players who do the dirty work (see Humphries, Kris) all leads me to believe that Love will do some serious damage on Sunday.
POLK: I think that the chances are pretty good. His offensive game is more refined–softer touch around the rim, nimbler post footwork, a little step-back jumper–and because of his slimmer, more muscular frame he is much more athletic on the boards. Dude is slaying right now.
WEIDIE: There’s a fair air of certainty around the Verizon Center that Love will kill the Wizards on the boards today, at least as long as JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche are trying to contain him. Trevor Booker might do better, but still… Before the game I asked Love if there’s anything the Wizards could do to keep him off the boards. He said, “There’s a lot of missed shots out there, so, not really.” The Wizards shoot a league-worst eFG% of .429, so probably enough said from Mr. Love.
#3) Minnesota is dead last in the NBA in turnover percentage at .171 per Basketball-Reference.com (an estimate of turnovers per 100 plays — the Wizards are surprisingly ranked 11th at .138)… Are turnovers the biggest issue holding the T-Wolves back (and that which is most responsible for their 2-5 record)?
PERMUTT: Turnovers hurt, but Minnesota is suffering from an even more obvious problem. They have people who aren’t making shots. Out of their top seven players, three are shooting below 40% from the field (Beasley, Tolliver, & Wes Johnson). The Wizards are worse, with four out out of their top six shooting under 40% (Wall, Young, Lewis, Crawford) and Blatche missing the cut by a fraction. If you can’t make shots, keeping the ball safe doesn’t matter that much.
POLK: I think if you had to point to one thing, turnovers would be it. They still show their inexperience late in close games, which has led to four of those losses. And they still don’t have any consistent wing scoring. But for my money, turnovers are still their biggest conern.
WEIDIE:Turnovers is a big problem with your main players give the ball away at the following rates per 36 minutes: Rubio (3.9), Love (3.4), Beasley (3.2), Wesley Johnson (2.9). Now, the Wizards and John Wall (3.6 turnovers per 36) certainly have their own issues with turnovers. But I asked Wall before the game what was the key to going against Rubio. He said, “Just watch him, put pressure on him.” So, expect the super-athletic second year guard to try to get up in the Spanish rookie’s stuff. If Wall can keep his own unforced turnovers in check, the Wizards might have a chance to win this one.