Ricky Rubio's Timberwolves Arrival Means Team Could Play Faster, Says David Kahn

The Minnesota Timberwolves have yet to make a formal decision regarding Kurt Rambis' future with the club--and you can stay tuned to this StoryStream for more updates on that story--but, according to Jerry Zgoda of the Star-Tribune, if he does return, he needs to adjust his gameplan. Zgoda reports GM David Kahn wants Rambis to encourage his squad to play at a faster pace in order to exploit the passing gifts of point guard Ricky Rubio.

This idea makes sense on the surface: Rubio, who's drawn comparisons to Pete Maravich in the past, is at his best when blazing full speed ahead.

Yet the Timberwolves already play at one of the league's fastest paces. Indeed, only the Golden State Warriors have averaged more possessions per game than the Timberwolves over the last two seasons, which coincides with Rambis' hire. Does Kahn want them to play at warp speed? Surely he recognizes the sheer impossibility of his suggestion.

But I gave Kahn the benefit of the doubt, so I looked at another way to evaluate speed, namely the percentage of a given team's offense that comes in transition situations. These data are available via the scouting service Synergy Sports Technology, and in the Wolves' case, they are illuminating. Last season, only 10.7 percent of Minnesota's possessions ended in a transition shot attempt, free-throw attempt, or turnover, ranking it 23rd in the league.

How is one to reconcile the difference between the Wolves' pace and their fast-break opportunities? SB Nation's Rohan Cruff has the answer. In a January post, Cruyff outlined a new way to measure speed, and found the Wolves' fast pace is due almost entirely to how early in the 24-second clock they tend to attempt a field goal.

Kahn isn't wrong, then, to want the Wolves to run more. They don't get many of the sorts of fast-break chances Rubio's best at exploiting, as their tendency to shoot early in the half-court is what skews their pace. A more patient halfcourt approach, coupled with more frequent transition opportunities, should yield the results Kahn wants to see. Whether Rambis will still be around to implement that plan is uncertain.

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