D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards vs Timberwolves, Game 10
Stan Love’s child will face and possibly torment the Washington Wizards tonight. Kevin Love is second in the NBA in rebounds per game, third in points per game, third in PER, first in Win Shares Per 48 Minutes, and is amongst the league’s best in a slew of other regular and advanced statistical categories. Plus, Love has made the same amount of 3-pointers on the season, 25, as Bradley Beal. To stop the 7-4 Timberwolves, the 2-7 Wizards must first concentrate on squashing Love.
Joining us for today’s preview is Zach Harper (@TalkHoops) of a place known as the Internet. Harper knows a ton about the NBA but even more about the franchise in Minnesota, as he contributes to the Timberwolves TrueHoop blog, A Wolf Among Wolves. Come for the insight, stay for the advice on wearing slacks (or not).
Teams: Wizards vs. Timberwolves
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, Washington, D.C.
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/THE FAN-FM 106.7
Spread: Wolves favored by 4 points.
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
Q #1: You, Zach Harper, have been found to be in violation of the NBA’s dress code policy. The strange and unusual punishment is that the Timberwolves will immediately have to waive one of the players mentioned below. Half of their salary will still count toward the cap for the duration of their contract. So who will it be? Corey Brewer, Derrick Williams, or Shabazz Muhammed?
@TalkHoops: Look, some of us don’t believe in pants and therefore don’t believe in a dress code policy that would require said pants to be worn. If I have to get rid of one of those three players, I’ll go with Shabazz Muhammad. I think he’ll end up being the worse of the three players and he won’t have trade value down the road in order to make keeping him around worth it. Although he ideally fits in much better than Derrick Williams does, I think the Wolves can definitely trade Williams in the next year for a rotation wing. I’ll miss you, Shabazz. Say no to pants.
Q #2: Those in Wizards Nation are well-versed in Flip Saunders, gold coins, and sad trips to Subway. What’s your overall assessment of the Flipper’s reign in Minny so far? Any particular thoughts about him being on Twitter? And do you see him ever returning to the sidelines? (Which I guess would come with a ‘How long do you see Adelman being the HC of the Wolves?’ question.)
@TalkHoops: Not a lot of people were crazy about Flip Saunders’ execution of his first offseason back with the Wolves. While I didn’t necessarily believe it was a great plan, I understood the direction he was going with a team that struggled to score consistently. The bench needs a little work, but I think the rotation and the core of this team are really good, and he has the best shot at keeping Kevin Love around when he opts out in 2015. I’m in on what Flip is doing, even if it doesn’t seem totally like a plan that will bring a title to Minnesota. The Twitter presence is weird. Some GMs do it in a great, well-measured way that understands the medium and how they should act on it (i.e. – Daryl Morey). Flip doesn’t totally seem to get that and it would probably be best if he jettisoned the idea.
As for returning to the sidelines, I would be shocked if Adelman is here more than four more years (he has two left on his contract including this current season). I think Flip has every intention of returning to the coaching position while keeping his current duties when Rick’s time as coach is up. He was a fantastic coach in his first stint with the organization, but it seems pretty clear his style and ideals were surpassed by the league with the rule changes. We didn’t see a great adjustment in Washington and that worries me long-term.
Q #3: What has most surprised you about Minnesota’s strong start and where are the Wolves weak?
@TalkHoops: The defense has been a huge surprise so far. They’re a top 10 defense right now, and I was hoping they’d find their way into the top 20. It’s early but I think they can at least remain in the upper half of the league if injuries don’t hit them. The Wolves are pretty weak in the backcourt off the bench. Alexey Shved simply can’t play, and they need a secondary ball handler to take the defensive focus off of J.J. Barea. If Chase Budinger can come back and be that wing player to help balance things out off the bench, I won’t be so worried about it.
Q #4: Can the Wizards stop Kevin Love?
@Truth_About_It: Via mySynergySports.com, 25.3 percent of Love’s offensive possessions (which end in a FGA, FTA or TO) come on post-ups. And believe it or not, it’s essentially his most inefficient shot. Although, the 0.9 points per possession (PPP) that Love scores on post-ups ranks 13th in the NBA. He’s better in isolation (1.0 PPP), as the P&R roll man (1.06 PPP), on spot-ups (1.08 PPP), off screens (1.0 PPP), and via cuts (1.16 PPP). In theory, Nene is very well equipped to guard Love one-on-one (Love is third on the Wolves in assists per 36 minutes, by the way (4.6)). But we know it won’t be that simple, especially since Love’s shooting will likely pull Nene out to the perimeter, leaving the unreliable Marcin Gortat as essentially the lone defender at the basket.
Watching several of Love’s spot-up attempts via Synergy, it’s really amazing how much space he’s given on a nightly basis. Understandably, defenses get sucked into the paint on guard penetration, or Love is lost by opposing defenses in the confusion of transition. Randy Wittman’s defense must start with the guards stopping the dribble, which seems cliché to say at this point, but it really is an issue for Wall and anyone else. Other times, opposing bigs simply give Love too much space when they have plenty of chances to close out. Sixty-seven of Love’s 70 3-point attempts on the season have come above the break (and 24 of his 25 makes), for what it’s worth.
Seems simple: respect Love’s jumper and don’t lose track of one of the league’s top shooters. For the Wizards, “simple” has often been the hardest thing to do. Nene won’t be able to guard Love for the entire game, likely leaving Wittman turning to Jan Vesely and/or Trevor Booker, which is a scary proposition—those two have nowhere near the skills and wherewithal of Love. Candy, meet baby. Love can also rebound the shit out of the ball, and there’s not much the Wizards can do to stop him. Part of me also wonders if Love’s man should guard him more on outlet passes after Love’s defensive rebounds—doing so could be a lost cause/backfire anyway. If the Wizards can keep Love from going off from the perimeter, they’ll have a better chance. But again, better defensive play will start with guard play. Otherwise, Washington’s best hope might be to take the Nene route and pray.