I admit it; this season is likely over for the Wolves. Yet I’m still watching with that very small glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, they make a run for that 8th seed (Kurt Rambis said they could, so why the hell not?). I know it isn’t happening, but let me dream. While watching the Wolves come up short almost every single night I’ve noticed that we are so overmatched at the shooting guard position when the opposing team has any size at all. It’s truly disgusting and it brings me to a debate that has been going pretty much since Rubio returned from his ACL, “Barea or Ridnour?”
For once, this really isn’t management’s issue. They tried this offseason to get experienced and talented wings (not point guards) via free agency. Budinger, Roy and Shved were brought in. Issue is, Chase Budinger surprisingly injured his knee and Brandon Roy predictably re-injured his. Then there is the emergence of Alexey Shved, a great pickup who looks like he could be the starting shooting guard for the future.
While Shved looks to have a future at the two, he currently lacks strength to guard bigger opposing two guards and then also he is coming off an injury. For some reason Adelman seems to have decided that starting Ridnour over Shved makes more sense, maybe due to the injury, or some other reason. Either way, after Shved, we have nothing other than a 10 day contract Gelabale that actually fits the mold of a NBA shooting guard until Chase Budinger returns.
Chase is scheduled to get back with the Wolves in early March, with a possibility of an earlier return. Chase was off to a great start and would help fill the Wolves gaping hole at the two spot behind Shved. Yet, Chase is actually be more of a small forward and over the course of his career has been more productive at the three than then two.
Until Chase is back, Luke Ridnour is starting at the shooting guard (so far this year has played 20% of his time at shooting guard) spot it seems over Shved and JJ Barea is spending a lot of time there off the bench and that is an issue. See Wesley Matthews last night or last week Kobe Bryant posting up a helpless Luke Ridnour until Adelman realized the forced double teams equaled wide open threes for LA and switched to a 2-3 zone.
Here is the bigger issue and why the question I posed in paragraph one is being posed, once Chase is back and ready to either start (if ever) or fill in behind Shved at the shooting guard spot, then the value of having both Barea and Ridnour is even lower. There is definitely no reason to have both back up points when you have Rubio returning to his near ROY form and Chase Budinger with Shved at the shooting guard spot.
The trade deadline is February 21 and to me, the Wolves have no reason to wait until then. Utah had a scout in town at a recent game, and maybe looking for a point guard at the deadline. I’m not going to start throwing out names of people we can get in return because who the hell knows? I've heard the bigger trade deadline ideas of trading Derrick Williams, but that is a riskier proposition. Williams has undenaible potential, and dumping that midseason is risky and may hurt the Wolves in the future. Dumping either Ridnour or Barea likely doesn't hurt the future and just maybe helps the present.
The main question is who do you deal and who do you keep for the rest of this year between Luke and JJ? If you’re talking next year, I could hear an argument for keeping neither, but for some reason I’m still referring to this year (remember I’m hanging on to that glimmer…twinkle twinkle baby…twinkle twinkle).
Argument for dealing Ridnour:
Barea’s skill set is more of a change from Rubio’s. When the Wolves offense gets stagnant and is struggling to create points in the half court offense, Barea (at times) can step in and create offense by himself. He may in fact be the one TPup, outside of Pek’s baby hook, that can claim to be able to create his own offense more often than not. On a team that is so utterly lacking in the three-point shooting, hanging onto Ridnour may not be the right choice. Luke has shot 32% the past two seasons with the Wolves, under his career average of 35%. Ridnour has been much better in the midrange and therefore is again not filling a need for the Wolves.
In the end, though a solid player and contributor for the Wolves, Ridnour’s skills aren’t fitting into the Wolves needs like a Lego piece. For teams looking to acquire him, Ridnour is a great teammate, solid midrange shooter, who can run a team from the point as a backup more than capably. Though lacking in playoff experience (18 career playoff games total compared to JJ’s 40), he is a veteran who could handle the big spots for a contender.
Now for my own personal feelings not based in any sort of fact, but more of an irrational fan’s take. I like Luke, seems like a good dude, but good God man hit the wide open looks from three you get multiple times a game! Also, although you only are averaging 1.7 turnovers per game, it seems like more, maybe because they seem to come at important parts of the game.
Argument for dealing Barea:
I don’t think there is a fan of Barea, that isn’t in a “love/hate” relationship with him. Even his mom, or Miss Universe wife roll their eyes at him some nights for his in-game decisions.
There are the games where JJ can’t miss, jacking up nearly impossible shots under great defensive pressure, and still knocking them down. After a couple fall, he gets even more aggressive and can take over a game. You love his fearlessness and aggressiveness.
There are the games when JJ can’t hit anything, jacking up nearly impossible shots under great defensive pressure, and either turning it over or missing. After a couple misses, he remains aggressive and can throw away possession after possession. You hate his fearlessness and aggressiveness.
Teams looking to make a deal know this and as we all saw with Dallas, on a good team, Barea is perfect off the bench. He can come in, and you can see if he is hot that night or not. If not, bench him quickly and move on with your good team that doesn’t rely on him nightly as a big minute backup. But if he is on, it’s a monster bonus for your team as he can then take the scoring pressure off others by taking over the scoring load for chunks of time.
Throw in his ability to drive opposing point guards nuts with his flopping and “crafty” defense (aka pissing you off by forcing you to push him off slightly with your off-hand, but he’ll make it look like that slight push was more of a 12 gauge shotgun shot point-blank to the temple). He has defensive liabilities, but he can get you some extra possessions with these techniques.
Personally, I think JJ has a more specific skill set than Ridnour, and one that though different from Rubio, may not be the best for a middle of the road team. He is boom or bust and his unpredictability can be a liability when relied upon as the main backup point.
Take the deal that gets you the most. Boring answer, I know. Yet, it’s the right answer. I go back and forth with every game I watch. Ridnour and Barea are very different players and because of that the decision on who the Wolves deal should come down to who each team looking for a deal values more.
Miami maybe would be willing to give more for Barea, but Utah may like Ridnour more. The big thing is, get something for one of them. Don’t take both into the offseason; their value will be higher at the deadline when someone is desperate to add a missing piece to a playoff team than in the offseason just looking to add a backup point guard. Teams are more desperate at the deadline and have much fewer options than in the offseason.
Maybe this move doesn’t help the Wolves stop this slide they're currently on but it can’t hurt. 6.5 games out of the 8th spot is not out of it at near the All Star break. Why not make a run for it with a safe deal that can help in the short-term and not hurt anything in the future as the Wolves look to hopefully get healthy?