Josh Howard Signs With Timberwolves

ImageThe Timberwolves make another splash!

Fresh off of a loss to the Charlotte Bobcats, the Timberwolves have inked a deal with longtime Maverick forward Josh Howard. The deal, one year-minimum contract, will bring in another veteran presence to this young Wolves team while providing them with a great quality player and former all-star. 

Howard, once a 19, 7, and 5 guy, will look to provide the Wolves with some scoring and a potential late game go-to option. While his scoring has decreased substantially (8.7 ppg last season), he should still be able to provide a spark off the bench for a depleted Wolves team. While I don’t see him having a major impact on the Wolves, I feel as though with the recent injury to Chase Budinger (out 3 months – knee surgery), Howard really has the prime opportunity to shine and make maybe one last playoff run. 

Will he be effective?

This is the big question. Can a 32 year old who only played 43 games last season step up in place of 24 year old sharpshooter who seemed to be finding his game. The answer is simple, no. But the Wolves weren’t planning on finding another Budinger in free agency. All the Wolves need is a guy who can come off the bench and provide the team with a spark, which Howard can definitely do. If the Wolves can get 8 ppg out of Howard without major setbacks on defense, I feel as though this was a great signing. The Wolves have the chemistry and unselfishness to integrate Howard right into the offense and make him a threat. Looking at the recent injury woes, depleted scoring (~90 ppg), and struggles in late game situations, I feel as though this was an excellent experiment by the Wolves. 

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Mike D’Antoni – Right Fit?

ImageIn case you haven’t heard, the Los Angeles Lakers have signed ex-Knicks/Suns coach Mike D’Antoni to a 4-year deal. This coming days after firing head coach Mike Brown who started the season off with a pitiful 1-4 record. The reason this is a huge headline is due to the fact that the Lakers were quoted saying they were “95%” sure that former coach Phil Jackson was getting the job. Phil, and his 11 rings, had the Laker nation buzzing in hope that he would bring the team back to the promise land. Kobe endorsed it, Phil was ready, the Laker fans were surely ready, but apparently the organization heads were not.

But why D’Antoni?

Some reasons are obvious: D’Antoni was Nash’s coach during his MVP runs, led the Suns to multiple 60 win seasons, and even snuck in some playoff wins while with the Suns. Along with this, he has definitely been in the spotlight, coaching the New York Knicks for four years.

But there are some noticeable question marks: He doesn’t teach defense. His 60 win Suns teams would lead the league in scoring, shooting, and assists, only to be dead last in defense and opponents points per game, a major problem. Also, his recent stint with the Knicks did not turn out so great (18-24 before being fired). Most importantly, he has a whopping 0 rings compared to Phil’s 11.

This leads to the main question: does he fit?

In my opinion, this will work. Although D’Antoni has a track record of terrible defensive teams, having Dwight, Metta, and Kobe will definitely be a defensive upgrade from Amare, Joe Johnson, and Barbosa. On the flip side, while they might be poor defensively, I can be sure in saying that this Laker team will definitely be near the top in almost every offensive category. Secondly, if D’Antoni can get Nash back to his old pick and roll ways, this team will flourish. Dwight Howard will be unstoppable and Nash will, once again, go back to his old days of 12+ assists per game. Along with this, I feel the players will be motivated and love playing for a “players coach” in D’Antoni who has been known to spoil his players and have great relationships with them.

All in all, he might not be the greatest fit, but D’Antoni was definitely not a bad hire in my opinion. As a matter of fact, I feel as though we will be seeing a lot of the Lakers come mid-April.

 

NBA Rankings Through Two Weeks

East:

1. Miami (5-1) – Still the team to beat in my opinion.

2. NY Knicks (4-0) – Looking really good this year, but regular season means nothing, right Spurs?

3. Philadelphia (4-2) – Great young team, with Andrew Bynum, will be even better.

4. Boston (2-3) – Still think they have it, just need some time to figure things out.

5. Chicago (4-2) – If/When D Rose comes back, the East better watch out…

West:

1. L.A. Lakers (2-4) – If Phil rumors are true, how can you not rank them 1?

2. Thunder (4-2) – Loss of Harden was huge, but KD and Westbrook are still around.

3. Clippers (4-2) – They added some nice pieces, lets see if they can get somewhere in the playoffs.

4. Spurs (5-1) – Yeah they’re 5-1, but when have they not been good during the regular season?

5. Memphis (4-1) – Wanted to put the Wolves up here, but love what this Memphis team is doing.

Alexey Shved – Bright Future

ImageIn every sport, a major challenge to organizations is evaluating youth. We always hear of the “flop” or “bust” players as well as the late round superstars or sleepers that come out of no where. In the past, the Minnesota Timberwolves have had their fair share of criticism regarding the NBA draft and free agency. From the days of simply forfeiting picks, to the recent past of making no big offseason moves, the Wolves have never had a good reputation when it comes to off seasons. But this past season, the Wolves took a gamble on one guy that I feel is going to become a great player for years to come. 

Alexey Shved is a 6’6 guard out of Russia that was signed by the Timberwolves to a 3 year, $10 million dollar contract this past offseason. At first, I knew little about Alexey and his game and simply looked past this signing. Almost four months later, I am just now realizing that this could become one of the best signing the Wolves made this off season and maybe in the last few off seasons. 

The numbers don’t jump out at you, 6 points per game, 2 assist, 3 rebounds in about 18 minutes per game, but watching him on the court, I can see that there is some something special about this player. At 23 years old, he seems to already have calmness and composure of a veteran. I watched him check in last night and payed close attention to his body motion and how he reacts to certain situations. From what I saw, he seems to already have the mentality of a player who is in his sixth or seventh season rather then his rookie year, which was great to see. 

Along with this, he doesn’t seem to be shy to take shots and make dangerous passes. Plenty of times last night I saw him throw careless underhanded and no-look passes, some resulting in turnovers, but most resulting in easy lay-ups and shots for his teammates.

There is work that needs to be done though.

Just like any player, he needs to develop. His shot is a little unorthodox and he might have to restrain on some of his dangerous passes, but nothing about Shved seems like a problem that can’t be fixed. His split numbers are great. According to NBA Reference, he is averaging about 13ppg, 5 reb, and 5ast, per 36 minutes. Along with this, in fourth quarters, he is shooting 43% from the field and 44% from three, which is superb. 

Overall, the Timberwolves have made a very underrated signing in my opinion. Shved, when developed, will be a quality starter in this league. At worst, I can see him as a Vladamir Radmanovic type of player, who, in his prime, was actually a decent contributor to NBA teams. At best, I can see him as a similar caliber player to Penny Hardaway. While I’m not saying he will be anything close to what Penny was, he definitely fits that mold of player. So for now, good job Wolves, you seem to be figuring this offseason thing out. 

 

Opening Weekend: Minnesota Timberwolves

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Through weekend one, the Timberwolves have managed to land at 1-1, with a win over the Kings and loss to the Raptors. While only two games into the season, a lot can be drawn from these games, mostly negative.

Positives: Kirilenko looks good, great pickup, defensive hustler, still has it. Pekovic looks good too. Slightly less productive than I expected with Love out though, maybe teams are putting more emphasis on him with the Love injury, but I haven’t watched enough to see that, wasn’t the case against the Kings. Barea looks significantly better then last year. Suffered a mild concussion tonight, but looked great in game one and was very productive pre-injury in game two. 

Negatives: Can’t score. Through two games, against fairly light competition, the Wolves are averaging 89 points per game. Last season: about 98. Huge drop. While this again is only through two games, I don’t really see how this team is going to amp it up without Love back, which is a huge problem. Secondly, Roy seems to be a flop. He is a shadow of his old self and seems to be significantly slower and less productive. While not a huge gamble, I don’t see him becoming the player the Wolves had hoped to get. Lastly, TURNOVERS! 24 turnovers in a game, are you kidding me! I don’t know the stats, but I would say a team has close to zero percent chance of winning a game with 20+ turnovers. Twelve of those came from the 3 guards (Roy, Ridnour and Shved), which should be noted as well.

Overall, this is a rough looking start for the Wolves squad. Most would say this team should have won both of these games, but a 1-1 record through two games is no sign for alarm. Getting blown out by the Raptors was bad… But it is early. In my opinion, this team still looks like a playoff team they just need to figure out some sort chemistry or strategy while Love and Rubio sit. It’s going to be hard, and someone needs to step up, but it’s definitely do-able.

Coming up: @Nets, vs Magic, vs Pacers

Prediction: 2-1, loss @Nets  

Preview: Wolves vs Kings

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Nikola Pekovic

The NBA is finally back! Along with that, the Minnesota Timberwolves (0-0) are also back, making their home debut tomorrow night against the Sacramento Kings (0-1).

Not an intriguing matchup to most, but Timberwolves fans have plenty to look forward to tomorrow night. A new look roster has Wolves fans talking playoffs, and their mix of young and veteran talent have the potential to live up to that hype.

After starting off the season great last year, the Timberwolves (26-40) ended the year in typical Wolves fashion, losing. Failing once again to make the playoffs, the Wolves were forced to make some moves, leading to the departure of players such as Michael Beasley, Darko Milicic, and Martell Webster.

But unlike recent years, management really revamped the team this offseason. The Wolves made huge splashes by signing potential star Brandon Roy, three point sniper Chase Budinger, big man Greg Stiemsma, and longtime vet Andrei Kirilenko. Slowly but surely, the Wolves seem to be making their climb back to the postseason and back to relevancy in the NBA.

While it won’t be easy, the Wolves can get off to a great start Friday in a game against a similarly sub-par Sacramento Kings team. Last season, the Kings (22-44) struggled throughout the year and never really played up to their potential as their young stars, Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins, continually struggled with consistency issues.

Throughout the year, Tyreke had flashes of being a top point guard in this league but never really found that consistency that defines great players. Although, he might have a hay day against this depleted Wolves guards. Being guarded by defenders such as JJ Barea and Luke Ridnour will surely not scare the former Rookie of the Year. He should get his 20-30 points, but the Wolves must focus on containing the rest of the team rather than trying to stop Evans.

Offensively, the Wolves must come out and make a low-post presence immediately. Nikola Pekovic can have his way with Cousins if he really focuses and demands the ball. Along with this, the Wolves need to get Brandon Roy going early in the game. Without Love, the Wolves will need to find someone that will demand the ball in key situations, and this player needs to be Roy. He has show that leadership in the preseason and will have to continue to lead as long as Love and Rubio are out.

If the Wolves can dominate the low-post, along with containing Tyreke and Cousins, they should win this game. Although, expect a gritty game with quite a few turnovers, and one team to pulling away late in the fourth.