October 22, 2010
SI.com's NBA Enemy Lines
Minnesota Timberwolves
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Timberwolves

They're the king of overpromoting and then discarding. The guy they had to have in free agency one year ago was Milwaukee's Ramon Sessions. Now Sessions is gone and they've gone out and taken another guy from Milwaukee in Luke Ridnour. Last year they were so high on getting Ryan Hollins from Dallas, and now Hollins is in Cleveland.

Kevin Love is a good player, but he's not a back-to-the-basket guy at all. He's a face-up shooter. He's getting better at finishing inside because of his strength, he holds his ground and he fights for position. He rebounds well, but he's not a guy who goes up and gets it above the rim -- he's a position rebounder. A lot is going to depend on who is playing center alongside him.

Darko Milicic has a center's size but plays like another perimeter guy. He's really not much of an offensive player and he doesn't play in the low post. If you had him with someone who was a low-post bull at power forward, then Milicic could go to the high post for screen-and-roll. They had that low-post scorer in Al Jefferson, but he was the one they traded in order to hold on to Love. Defensively, Milicic can get out and show on the pick, he can move and challenge shots and he shows some effort.

The triangle offense creates a different dynamic for them in some ways. They have a lot of shooters to help spread the floor. Unless you have Shaquille O'Neal, you really don't see big-time, low-post scorers in the triangle. You play out of the mid-post and run cuts to either side, and the center is just an outlet to throw the ball to and move it from side to side. The center scores when he sees an opening, but you don't throw it to him simply for him to score. You need somebody who isn't a black hole in the triangle -- and that's what Jefferson was, because he didn't pass it back out. In that sense, Love is more compatible because he can see the scheme and understand what has to be done.

I don't know how you can trust Michael Beasley. In college he was amazing, and then he had an opportunity to play with one of the best NBA players in Dwyane Wade. But it sure looks like Beasley doesn't know how to play with anybody. He's in between the big- and small-forward positions, and he doesn't defend. He wants to play on the perimeter, but he's not a ball-handler. He likes to shoot jump shots and he has the talent to make them, but he doesn't make a lot of them. He's not a back-to-the-basket player. He takes the ball one-on-one and forces shots. Then he disappears for long stretches. He'll have a big rebounding game one night, and then the next night he'll be nonexistent. He gets in foul trouble and he commits bad turnovers, the kind where he goes one-on-one and kicks the ball or throws it away.

It's just exasperating to watch a guy with so much talent do so little with it. You'd think a Pat Riley organization [the Heat] could have harnessed that talent, but it couldn't. So now I look at him coming to the loose-ship Timberwolves and I can't help but think this will be bad. The fans will not be gracious: They want the blue-collar guy fighting for them and doing the right things, and that's not what they're going to get from Beasley.

Jonny Flynn is at his best getting the ball from one end to the other in high gear and pushing it to the rim. But it's hard to run and run and run when you're in the triangle. The good triangle teams -- the Lakers and the old Bulls -- would pitch the ball ahead on the break with multiple ball-handlers and big men who could run the floor, and it wasn't solely the job of the point guard to handle the ball on the break. But Flynn is a guy who puts his head down and drives it all the way, which means that a lot of times the defense can be sitting back waiting for him, and when Flynn finds he doesn't have anywhere to go, he has to bring it back out and set up a play.

They do have a lot of shooting from several wings. That creates the potential for some to be unhappy for not getting enough minutes. I'm thinking about a guy like Martell Webster, who has been in the league a long time without making an impact, and is coming to this team that gives him that opportunity. I've always liked Webster's athleticism and his beautiful-looking jump shot. A lot of times the success of a guy like Webster will depend on who is delivering the ball, whether it's a post player or somebody who can turn the corner on a pick-and-roll and draw another defender. But Flynn is not a good half-court playmaker.

Rookie Wesley Johnson is a slim, athletic jump shooter and a hell of a player. The other rookie wing, Lazar Hayward, is another good shooter, as is Wayne Ellington. Then there is Corey Brewer, who is not a shooter. He has a very slight body, long and thin and unable to hold his ground. Is he a 2 or a 3? As a 3, he gets manhandled trying to guard the Carmelo Anthonys of the world.

Ridnour redeemed himself with the good year he had in Milwaukee. Can he do the same things with a lesser team? A lot will depend on whether he can play off the ball as more of a jump shooter. The other backup point guard is Sebastian Telfair, and if you take him off the ball, he doesn't have a role.

Kurt Rambis should worry as coach of this team. When Rambis was an assistant with the Lakers and Phil Jackson, they had a lot of players who policed themselves. Phil didn't have to be a strong-arm; he just expected everybody to perform well. But when you have the young guys Kurt has in Minnesota and you don't have a goal of winning, that means somebody has to be the policeman and set the rules. You can't expect Beasley to come in and be a professional every day. Somebody needs to set down the rules for players like him.


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