The Minnesota Timberwolves in 2005-06

Posted on October 17, 2006 by


The Tragedy of Kevin Garnett is the most popular post in the history of The Wages of Wins Journal. Okay, this blog has only existed for six months, so it is not like we are talking about a lengthy history. And this post is only the most popular because Malcolm Gladwell quoted it at his blog.

For those who missed the story, and are too lazy to click on the above link and read what is says, the Tragedy of KG relates to the productivity of his teammates. Reviewing the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2005-06 reveals that KG was once again the most productive player in the NBA last season. Unfortunately his teammates were the least productive. When you combine one very productive player with a collection of unproductive talent the end result is a team watching the playoffs at home.

Obviously Minnesota has had trouble assembling a productive cast around Garnett. The list of recent efforts begins with a trade with the Boston Celtics in the middle of last season. In this trade Minnesota sent Michael Olowokandi, Wally Szczerbiak, and Dwayne Jones to the Celtics for Ricky Davis, Mark Blount, Marcus Banks, and Justin Reed (the teams also exchanged draft picks).

The primary players in this trade were Szczerbiak, Olowokandi, Davis, and Blount. The Kandi Man, a player chosen by the Clippers with the first pick in the 1998 draft, has never been a good center. So it was not clear why Minnesota acquired Olowokandi in the first place and it was a positive move to part with his talents. Unfortunately, Blount isn’t that good either and was actually less productive than Olowokandi last year.

Szczerbiak has typically been above average in his career (average WP48 is 0.100) and was second in scoring to KG. The Celtics trade resulted in Davis assuming the role of second scorer on the Timberwolves. Although Davis can score at a rate comparable to Szczerbiak, he is not quite as productive overall. In fact, Davis has typically been below average in his career.

This past summer the Timberwolves added an above average point guard in Mike James. And Minnesota drafted point guard Randy Foye, a player who could be above average his rookie season. Of course Foye plays the same position as James, which may limit his minutes. Plus, staying true to form, Minnesota gave up a shooting guard — Brandon Roy — to acquire Foye. Roy posted even better numbers in college than Foye, and would likely – although there are no guarantees with rookies – be more productive than starting shooting guard Davis.

All in all the talent in Minnesota, despite the Szczerbiak trade and potentially questionable move of trading Roy, appears to have improved. Still, beyond KG and James, this is not a very good team. The projected starting line-up includes KG and James, as well as Blount, Davis, and Trenton Hassell. These latter three were below average last year, with Blount and Hassell offering productivity some distance from the NBA mean. With below average players playing significant minutes it is hard to see how this team can contend in a very deep Western Conference.

Of course, although the T-Wolves will probably not contend for a title this season, this team is still worth watching. KG has been the most productive player in the NBA the past four seasons. Can Garnett make it five seasons in a row? Or will the losing and his age finally catch up to KG? This will be the story line in Minnesota this year, as once again, the team with the best player has trouble fielding a team that can compete with the best teams in the NBA.

– DJ

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

Wins Produced and Win Score are Discussed in the Following Posts

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say