The Minnesota Timberwolves are missing a dominant post-presence, to put it kindly. The harsh reality is Kevin Love isn’t there yet and Nikola Pekovic hasn’t been the answer, either. The Wolves miss Ronny Turiaf — plain and simple.
Pek’s averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds per game but in back-to-back losses against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors he’s struggled, in particular, scoring around the basket. Thanks to the new SportVU player tracking system on NBA.com, we’re able to find some data that may pinpoint the issue.
- Pek ranks eighth in the league in Close Shot PTS Per Game (Points that are scored by a player on any touch that starts within 12 feet of the basket, excluding drives) with 5.4 points per game. However; he’s 181st in Close Field Goal Percentage (Field Goal Percentage on shots taken by a player on any touch that starts within 12 feet of the basket, excluding drives.) shooting
- This signifies that although Pek is getting his points but isn’t finishing around the rim efficiently.
Here’s his shot chart (NBA.com)
It’s not because he’s not getting his touches, either. Pek leads the league in ‘Close Touches’ are touches that originate within 12 feet of the basket, excluding drives with 7.8 close touches per game. However; he’s not making the most of these — only averaging .42 Points Per Half Court Touch (The amount of points a player scores per half court touch.)
This isn’t all Big Pek’s fault. Prior to the season SB Nation’s Mike Prada wrote a piece explaining what makes Pek such a load offensively. On of the constants in Prada’s piece is that every time Pek is fed the ball — ball movement and spacing has been on-point. This hasn’t been the case this season. After signing such a large contract in the offseason opponents have taken notice to the type of threat he provides, making it difficult for him to score after touching the ball.
It’s this type of defense opponents are throwing at the Wolves center making it difficult for him to score. Pek is not the best passer, so far this season he’s averaging one assists per game but his NBA lifetime career assist average is less than one assist per game.
He’s going to need to learn to either spot up from the 10-12ft range and shoot over the recovering defender before the double arrives, OR, keep his composure and pass away from the double team. Pekovic is an essential part of this team’s game plan offensively.
By comparison, Love is more efficient than Pek in close shot percentage (53%) but doesn’t take many looks within the 12ft area — he’s only averaged 3.8 close shot points per game. K-Love’s strong suit is shooting facing the basket or following up an offensive rebound; not the post-game. Here’s his shot chart.
After shooting performances like Love’s 10 for 25 last night — teams are going to focus on stopping Pek first and encourage K-Love to beat them shooting jumpers. Last night against the Warriors the Wolves shot a horrid 38 percent from the field and, an even worse, 25 percent from three-point range.
There’s still no timetable for Turiaf’s return, so until then, it’s uncertain how the Wolves are going to fix the problems scoring in the post, BUT, keep in mind these are small sample sizes and Rick Adelman’s team will make adjustments accordingly to address these issues.