As I do every Wednesday, I’ll be grading a few notable Wolves (& the team as a whole) on their past week of play.
Before we begin, let’s look at the grading scale:
A = Excellent
B = Above Average
C = Average
D = Below Average
F = This kid should take your roster spot
Overall Team Grade: C- (Last week: B-)
Ladies and gentleman, it is officially crunch time for the Wolves. 1-3 is not the kind of record you want to have when you’re attempting to make a playoff push. This week the Wolves lost to Utah 111-105, The Lakers 97-92, The Kings 115-99, but won against Golden State 97-93. The moral of the story is this: Good teams win against teams they are supposed to beat. Losing to Utah and Sacramento is simply unacceptable if you want to make the playoffs. The Wolves are currently two games out of the 8th playoff spot in the West. The playoffs are still within reach, but only if they get it together soon.
Out of the 4 games they have this week, the team needs to win at least 2, if not 3. They’ve proven they can beat San Antonio (29-14), as they’ve won both their games against the Spurs this season. I expect a loss at Oklahoma City (34-12), but they could bounce back for wins against Denver (25-21) and Memphis (25-19). Without Pekovic (out vs. both Spurs and Thunder), this will be their biggest test of the season. This week is their most important of the season, as all their opponents have a record above .500. A poor week from the squad could easily knock them out of playoff contention for good.
Wes Johnson – Grade: D+ (Last week: N/A)
Wes Johnson continues have a few bad games, then one game that makes you think “Hmm, maybe he CAN be a productive player one day”. Here is the truth: Wes Johnson is a tease. For every good game (9 PTS on 50% FG and 67% 3PT vs. Golden State), there are two or three games with only 2 points on fewer than 25% shooting (Kings/Lakers). I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a million times: Why Wes Johnson continues to start is the one Adelman decision I just can’t bring myself to understand. A D+ (below average) grade, for a decidedly below-average player.
JJ Barea – Grade: D (Last week: C)
Nothing new this week from Barea, except that we now know he and Kevin Love aren’t necessarily best friends. He continues to simply look like a bad fit for this team. The Wolves need someone who can distribute the ball well, and knock down open shots from distance. Barea seems more content to dribble around in the lane until he gets an open layup. He reminds me of a pinball: bouncing around until he scores or fails. He had 10 assists Tuesday vs. Golden State, which is exactly what the Wolves need. In wins this season Barea has averaged 8.0 PPG & 4.7 APG as opposed to losses, averaging 9.4 PPG & 2.8 APG. He must become less of a scorer and more or a distributor out of necessity. When you’re shooting 18% from distance over the past 5 games, passing is the obvious answer. Yet another bad week for Barea.
**Make sure to check out the tweets of the week at the end of the article for some entertaining tweets about Barea**
Derrick Williams (Rookie) – Grade: C (Last week: B+)
Last week I said Williams was showing signs of becoming a consistent player. I think I jinxed him. His scoring this week ranged from 3 points vs. Utah to 16 points vs. the Kings. With Pek out, Love will be playing much more center, which will allow more minutes for Williams at the PF position. He needs to be the aggressive offensive threat we’ve seen flashes of this season. A low grade this week for Derrick, mainly because of lack of consistency.
Michael Beasley – Grade: C+ (Last week B+)
Beasley is still a Wolf, albeit an injured one. He played only 10 minutes vs. Golden State (8 PTS 50% shooting). He also had only a so-so game against the Kings (13 PTS on 38% shooting). His injury could not come at a worse time, as the Wolves desperately need his scoring with Pek out this week. He played OK over the 2 games this week, particularly if you take into account his injury. The Wolves will need big production from Beasley if they have any kind of a chance at the playoffs the rest of the season.
Martell Webster – Grade: B (Last week: D-)
Martell had a solid week overall, but like Ridnour, needs to be more aggressive on the offensive end. He averaged just over 10 PPG this week, and shoots a high percentage. What makes me scratch my head is the 2 shot attempts in 26 minutes vs. Golden State. He seems completely content to fade into the background at times, which is not what you want from a player with his offensive talent level.
Luke Ridnour – Grade: B+ (Last week: B)
Luke continues to play fairly good basketball. My biggest complaint is that while he has the ability to score, he isn’t nearly aggressive enough. The majority of his points have come in the waning minutes when the Wolves are trying to make a comeback. If he can establish himself early, this will open up more opportunities for other players. Not a bad week statistically for Luke (13.5 PPG, 9 APG, 47% FG, 36% 3PT), but he can step up offensively and do more.
Nikola Pekovic – Grade: B+ (Last week: A)
Pek had a productive 2 games before re-injuring his ankle. He averaged 20 PPG & 10.5 RPG against Utah & the Lakers. He had to leave early in the game against the Warriors, and will not be joining the team against the Spurs or Thunder. It is integral for him to get healthy quickly, as his rebounding and scoring are needed to take some of the pressure off Love. A very solid pre-injury week for Pek. The main reason for the B+? 33% shooting vs the Lakers. His production will be missed, and I hope to see The Godfather back soon.
Kevin Love – Grade: A+ (Last week: A+)
Kevin Love is an amazing basketball player. This week we saw a few new things from Love, including the ability to ball on the floor, and a couple of Tim Duncan-esque bank shots. For the 3rd week in a row Love earns an A+, because he simply carrying the team. Other players desperately need to step up, as at some point Love is going to wear down. It’s impossible to keep his kind of production up for the remainder of the season, particularly with the amount of minutes he plays (44 vs. Golden State). He averaged 27.3 PPG on 44% FG this past week, as well as 14.8 RPG. If that isn’t A+ worthy play, I don’t know what is.
- 2 candidates for tweet of the week this week, both Barea-centric.
- First up is from @stephenlitel(NBA writer for HoopsWorld): -
- Dribble…dribble…dribble…drive…take contested shot. Who am I describing?
- A few tweets from @collinlove (Kevin Love’s brother) which have since been deleted:
- Derrick Williams >>Wes Johnson>>>>>>>JJ Barea
- Barea throwing up garbage
- OMG JJ Barea!!!! “Shot people got no reason!” (An obvious reference to this)
- I hope he gets gang green and they amputate JJ Barea’s right arm. He shouldn’t be in the league.
- Expect Love to play the majority of minutes at C with Pek out. It’s become obvious Adelman doesn’t like Darko (one appearance for 6 minutes last week vs. Sacramento). Darko may start, but if he gets many minutes, it’s out of sheer necessity.
That will do it for this week. Make sure to check back next Wed for more grades. If things go well for the Wolves this week, expect a love-fest (pun intended). If not, expect some no-holds barred grading paired with much sarcasm. Feel free to post your comments below or follow me on twitter (@StevenShega) to continue the fun throughout the week.
Steven Shega is a Speech Communications: Radio/TV Major at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, MN & is the host of Sports Roundup for KSSU TV. You can follow Steven on Twitter: @StevenShega.