Timberwolves
Timberwolves

2011 NBA Analysis: Kevin Love, Kurt Rambis, Kahn and the Wolves

| by David Berri

The following post is from Andres Alvarez.  And since Dre gave us Automated Wins Produced, it is these numbers he uses to tell the story of Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

For over half the league the season is still going on. For a select few the season is over. For an even more select few the season never really began. The Minnesota Timberwolves season can be summed up as terrible. To put a positive spin on this I can say they “exceeded” my expectations. Before the season started I recall nodding my head to an article by Ty over at Courtside Analyst about how this season had to be better for the Wolves than last because it couldn’t possible get any worse. I also recall knowing Kevin Love was a very good player and somehow he blew my expectations away. Let’s take a look back at the Wolves.

Kevin Love was good but his team was terrible.

Maybe you’ve had some time to play around with the new Gadget Arturo Galletti came up with. I used it to make a pretty nice picture of how the roster of the Wolves looked this season.

2011 Minnesota Timberwolves Wins Produced vs. WP48

That’s a player’s Wins Produced vs. their Wins Produced per 48 minutes. If a player is in the top right it means they’re at least as productive as an average starter that played 2000 minutes. We notice Kevin Love is amazing by this standard, Ridnour was about spot on average and the rest of the team was terrible. Here’s the same data in table format

Table 1: 2011 Minnesota Timberwolves Wins Produced

Name Pos G MP WP48 WP
Kevin Love 4.3 73 2611 0.465 25.3
Luke Ridnour 1.0 71 2159 0.109 4.9
Anthony Tolliver 4.1 65 1362 0.081 2.3
Martell Webster 2.1 46 1094 0.077 1.8
Anthony Randolph 4.3 23 463 0.057 0.5
Lazar Hayward 2.5 42 419 -0.002 0.0
Maurice Ager 1.4 4 29 -0.016 0.0
Michael Beasley 2.9 73 2361 -0.004 -0.2
Kosta Koufos 4.4 39 336 -0.045 -0.3
Sundiata Gaines 1.1 8 65 -0.190 -0.3
Corey Brewer 2.2 56 1362 -0.018 -0.5
Sebastian Telfair 1.0 37 711 -0.055 -0.8
Wayne Ellington 2.0 62 1181 -0.042 -1.0
Wesley Johnson 3.1 79 2069 -0.034 -1.5
Jonny Flynn 1.0 53 983 -0.113 -2.3
Nikola Pekovic 5.0 65 887 -0.131 -2.4
Darko Milicic 5.0 69 1686 -0.074 -2.6
Grand Total 82 19780 0.055 22.8

They were Unclutch or Unlucky

Wins Produced is built on point differential (more specifically, efficiency differential). Essentially when we look at how much they were outscored by night in and night out we’d expect them to be a 23 win team. Yet somehow they only won 17 games. A fun stat to look at is how did the Wolves do in close games?

Table 2: 2011 Minnesota Timberwolves record in close games

Margin Wins Losses
Over Time 0 4
5 Points 0 3
4 Points 1 1
3 Points 1 5
2 Points 1 2
1 Point 1 1
Total 4 16

The Wolves managed to have an abysmal 4-16 record in games decided by 5 points or fewer (or OT). It’s not as if winning a few of those close games would have changed the Wolves season, and in fact it may be the opposite of what a lottery bound team wants. Still I hope it makes a few Wolves fans happy to know their team wasn’t that bad.

Employing — and then playing — the wrong players

When Love went down a funny thing happened. The team didn’t play amazingly worse. We can point out after Love’s injury on the 20th of March, the team did not win a game for the rest of the season. This actually helps illustrate two great problems with the Wolves

Table 3: 2011 Minnesota Timberwolves record with Kevin Love

Name Pos G MP WP48 WP
Kevin Love 4.3 73 2611 0.465 25.3
Luke Ridnour 1.0 62 1853 0.116 4.5
Anthony Tolliver 4.1 56 1063 0.070 1.6
Martell Webster 2.2 37 871 0.063 1.1
Anthony Randolph 4.2 14 218 0.001 0.0
Maurice Ager 1.4 4 29 -0.016 0.0
Lazar Hayward 2.5 37 378 -0.006 0.0
Sundiata Gaines 1.1 8 65 -0.190 -0.3
Kosta Koufos 4.4 39 336 -0.045 -0.3
Wayne Ellington 2.0 54 1042 -0.017 -0.4
Corey Brewer 2.2 56 1362 -0.018 -0.5
Michael Beasley 2.9 64 2040 -0.014 -0.6
Sebastian Telfair 1.0 37 711 -0.055 -0.8
Wesley Johnson 3.1 70 1822 -0.036 -1.4
Nikola Pekovic 5.0 57 746 -0.122 -1.9
Jonny Flynn 1.0 45 859 -0.123 -2.2
Darko Milicic 5.0 65 1590 -0.075 -2.5
Grand Total 82 17595 0.059 21.6

Table 4: 2011 Minnesota Timberwolves record with out Kevin Love

Name Pos G MP WP48 WP
Anthony Tolliver 4.3 9 300 0.118 0.7
Martell Webster 2.1 9 223 0.133 0.6
Anthony Randolph 4.4 9 245 0.106 0.5
Michael Beasley 2.9 9 321 0.062 0.4
Luke Ridnour 1.0 9 306 0.065 0.4
Lazar Hayward 2.5 5 41 0.039 0.0
Wesley Johnson 3.3 9 247 -0.019 -0.1
Jonny Flynn 1.0 8 124 -0.042 -0.1
Darko Milicic 5.0 4 96 -0.058 -0.1
Nikola Pekovic 5.0 8 142 -0.179 -0.5
Wayne Ellington 2.0 8 139 -0.227 -0.7
Grand Total 3.0 87 2185 0.027 1.2

Much of the time Love was out, so was Darko. With their best and worst players off the floor, Rambis had to play Tolliver and Randolph more minutes. These two players managed to play average in their increased time. Even with that in mind, the Wolves played less than half as well without Love than with him. With David Kahn — the team’s general manager — emphasizing players like Johnny Flynn, Michael Beasley and Darko as the future of the team, it is unlikely Love will get the support he needs.   In other words, just like we saw with Kevin Garnett, it looks like we once again see a dominant player fail to win because his supporting cast is so poor (in other words, just like the Tragedy of Kevin Garnett we now have the Tragedy of Kevin Love).

David Kahn is also not the only problem.  We can see that Rambis insisted on playing many of the poor player he was given, and left more productive players on the bench.

Rambis may be gone, and we can hope that maybe a new coach will play the right players and make the Wolves semi-respectable. If I was a Wolves fans, though, I would probably not be optimistic.  After all, Kahn would have to choose the next coach (and he hasn’t done so well in the past when he had to make a choice).

-Dre