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Game Preview: Timberwolves @ Hornets

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Published: December 4, 2009

Matchup: Timberwolves(2-16) @ Hornets(7-11)

Off Efficiency: Timberwolves 93.5(29th), Hornets 103.5(18th)
Def Efficiency: Timberwolves 107.3(24th), Hornets 108.0(25th)

First, it’s possible Chris Paul plays tonight.  I hope he doesn’t, really.  I’d rather he skip tonight and come back on Tuesday for the Kings game.  Give the ankle another four days rest, Paul.  Don’t risk it for a game against a terrible team.

And yes, let’s make no bones about it, the Timberwolves are downright terrible.  They are ranked in the bottom five in assist rate, turnover rate, rebound rate, effective field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, and cool uniform factor.  They may posess only the second worst record in the league behind New Jersey, but their efficiency differential (points given up vs points earned per 100 posession) is a league worst -13.8, and their rather average 13th toughest schedule can’t be blamed for their struggles.

There’s just not a lot of talent on the Wolves.  Their new general manager gutted the team for future cap flexibility and draft picks, and that’s resulted in a pretty awful product. You can just look at the Wolves’ wing position to see why the struggle so badly: Corey Brewer and Ryan Gomes start, making them one of few teams with a weaker wing position than the Hornets.  Their most efficient perimeter scorer, Ramon Sessions, who puts up a pretty solid 1.29 points per shot, inexplicably only gets 24 minutes a game.

This game could be the start of a surge for the Hornets, whether Paul plays or not.  The next few games are Timberwolves, Kings, Timberwolves, Knicks.  For those of you with poor math skills, that’s four winnable games that could get the Hornets back to .500 going into an always entertaining matchup with Dallas.  It would be good to see that start tonight.

Injuries:

Timberwolves:  Kevin Love is out.  They miss him.
Hornets: Chris Paul is possible.  Peja returns.  Ike remains injured.  Sean Marks continues to struggle.  Hilton continues to struggle with petrified hands.

Positional Analysis

PG: Jonny Flynn v Darren Collison
Advantage: Hornets
Flynn has been pretty decent, but he’s a pick and roll point guard asked to run the triangle offense.  Round Peg, Square Hole.  His assist numbers are tiny, but I have a feeling that’s a function of the system he’s in, and the terrible scorers he’s surrounded by.  As a scorer, he’s pretty solid, though.  He’s got potential.  Darren Collison has potential too – and he’s been more productive in less minutes – both as a shooter, scorer, and rebounder, while being much better at holding on to the ball.

SG: Damien Wilkins v Devin Brown
Advantage: Hornets
Wilkins and Brown are similar to one another.  Neither should be starting.  Both can have a decent scoring game here and there, but in general, they should be a team’s 9th man.  Or 10th man.  However, Devin Brown has shot infinitely better than Wilkins has this season, so I’ll give Brown the edge.

SF: Corey Brewer v Peja Stojakovic
Advantage: Hornets
Look, I want to like Corey.  He’s good defensively, generating steals and blocks and doing fine as a passer and rebounder from the shooting guard position.  However, he only scores .95 points per shot.  You know how we all cringe when Bobby Brown takes a shot?  Bobby Brown scores at a mnore efficient clip than Corey.  Sure, it’s only .01 points more per shot, but Bower doesnt make us suffer through 31 minutes a game of Bobby Brown’s shooting.  Timberwolves fans get 31 minutes of Corey every night.  Peja’s not been awesome this season, but his volume shooting from three, solid percentages, and newfound willingness to move towards the basket makes him more helpful than Brewer.

PF: Ryan Gomes v David West
Advantage: Hornets
Gomes is a good shooter, firing away at 45% from three this season.  Typically, when a player is that good from deep, they are fairly efficient at scoring.  Gomes is not.  The 2 threes he hits per game at a high clip can’t make up for the fact he’s been unable to finish at a high rate inside the arc, and draws fewer free throws than Peja does – and hits fewer of them.  Gomes has always been a great fifth option on a solid team.  As a third option on a team starving for offense, he’s part of the problem, not the solution.  And he’s not a power forward – even when played as a shooting power forward used to stretch the floor.  David West hasn’t been impressive this season, but he should be able to score on Gomes – even if he will inevitably give up a couple wide open threes.

C: Al Jefferson v Emeka Okafor
Advantage: Hornets
Really.  Look, I never bought into Al Jefferson’s offensive “dominance” last year.  You can’t shoot 20 times per game, score 23 points per game, and consider yourself an offensive star.    Those aren’t great numbers.  Hell, they aren’t even GOOD numbers.  This year, however, Jefferson is reportedly still struggling with an injury and his points per shot are way down, his rebounding is nearly halved, his blocks are nearly halved, and he’s just looked awful.  Okafor isn’t going to score in buckets, but his shots will be good shots, he’ll control the boards well, and he’ll move his feet quickly on defense.

Bench
Advantage: Hornets
The Wolves throw a lot of stuff at the wall, hoping it sticks. They’ve played 7 different players an average of 12 minutes or more off the bench.  Only Ramon Sessions has been effective.  Ryan Hollins has been alright.  The rest, Jawai, Pecherov, Pavlovic, and Ellington?   Not good at all.

Wow.  I don’t think I’ve ever given the Hornets a clean sweep.  It feels wrong doing it too – particularly with how lame the Hornets have looked at times this year. Enjoy the game.