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Game 64 Preview & Thread: Nuggets at T-Wolves (6pm MST)

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Brewer_medium From bust to boom Corey Brewer is enjoying a fine season for the Minnesota Timberwolves and should be considered for the NBA's Most Improved Player award.

The particulars ...

Records:
Denver:
42-21 (28-5 at home, 14-16 on the road)
Minnesota:
14-50 (9-23 at home, 5-27 on the road)
Denver current streak: Won 3. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games.
Minnesota current streak: Lost 6. They are 1-9 in their last 10 games.
Injuries:
Denver:
Ty Lawson (left shoulder contusion) and Kenyon Martin (left knee tendinitis) are both out tonight.
Minnesota: Wayne Ellington (left ankle) and Nathan Jawai (right ankle) are both listed as Questionable for tonight's game.

Opposition's Take: Canis Hoopus

The Most Improved Player award winners from the last five seasons:

  1. 2008-09: Danny Granger, Pacers
  2. 2007-08: Hedo Turkoglu, Magic
  3. 2007-06: Monta Ellis, Warriors
  4. 2005-06: Boris Diaw, Suns
  5. 2004-05: Bobby Simmons, Clippers

Brewer, the former 7th overall pick from the 2007 NBA Draft was largely considered a disappointment after his first two seasons in the league. As a rookie Brewer, a string-bean at 6'9'' and 188 pounds, averaged 5.8 points on 37% shooting in 22 minutes of action in 79 games (including just 19% from three-point land going 7-36 from deep).

The rookie struggled to find his stroke and the comparisons to Scottie Pippen began to fade away. Brewer was a very versatile player at the University of Florida and played a key role being a great defender and an athletic wonder with his wiry frame. Like so many college players coming into the league, Brewer had yet to adjust his game to the pros and needed to quickly develop an offensive game that didn't consist of just relying on his athletic ability.

In his second season, the young shooting guard/small forward tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee in the 15th game of the season against ... the Denver Nuggets. The Timberwolves vice president of basketball operations at the time, Kevin McHale, had this to say at the time of the injury:

"I personally feel very bad for the kid because I know how much time he put in," McHale said. "I know what he sacrificed to become a better player and it was really starting to come around for him."

So after averaging 6.2 points in 20 minutes a night, Brewer's season was over. He had raised his field goal percentage from 37% to 41%, but after just 15 games it was hard to tell what kind of improvements the youngster had made.

Coming into this season, questions around Brewer's health and game needed to be answered. Well, after 64 games the 24 year-old is averaging career-highs of 13.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals. He's already logged more minutes this season with 1,976 than he did in his entire rookie season of 1,803 minutes. Brewer averages just over 30 minutes a game and is shooting a career-high 42.9% from the field and he has developed a three-point shot. From beyond the arc he's shooting a mediocre 35.1%, but he's made a career-high threes going 61-174 from deep ... like Carmelo Anthony, Brewer has developed a nice long-range game to compliment his drives and keep defenses honest.

It's been a blessing for T-Wolves fans to see Brewer develop and to come back after such a major knee injury. The league will probably hand the award for Most Improved Player to a bigger name, but for my money, Brewer is in the hunt.

It's easy to say that his numbers have improved because his team needs all the scoring it can get, but with scoring threats of rookie point guard Jonny Flynn, rookie shooting guard Wayne Ellington and forwards Ryan Gomes, Kevin Love and Al Jefferson there are plenty of options in the Twin City.

In three-games against the Nuggets, Brewer is averaging 21 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in 34.7 minutes per contest. He's also shooting a red-hot 56.5% against Denver, but only 25% from deep. If I'm Adrian Dantley (who will be on the bench in George Karl's absence tonight) I throw Arron Afflalo on him and wish Brewer the best of luck trying to score the ball.

Speaking of Most Improved Players ... how about the case for Arron Afflalo? Afflalo is averaging career-highs in minutes, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, rebounds, steals, blocks, assists and points.

2009-10 AAA 2008-09 AAA (Career #'s)
Minutes 27.1 16.7 (14.8)
FG% 47.2% 43.7% (42%)
3PT% 45.5% 40.2% (30.5%)
Rebounds 2.8 1.8 (1.8)
Assists 1.7 .06 (.065)
Points 9.0 4.9 (4.3)

You can't totally measure Afflalo's defensive presence either. And we'll see tonight, hopefully against Brewer just how important Afflalo is for the Nuggets.

Additional nuggets ...

  • No official word on the Brian Cook signing as of yet ... I'm sure the Nuggets will have a nice warm spot on the bench for him. Chris Tomasson tweeted late last night, "If Nuggets want him, Brian Cook said he obviously wants a deal for rest of the season but would take a 10-day contract. "I need a job," he said."
  • Some fan thoughts on The Dream Shake regarding my Brian Cook FanPost on the Rockets site. (Good for some cheap laughs).
  • Johan Petro draws a very difficult assignment tonight as Denver's starting center will face Al Jefferson who is averaging 17.4 points and 9.4 rebounds this season. This will be Jefferson's second game back with the team since facing a two-game suspension for his drunk driving arrest. Big Al is coming off a monster game against the Mavs where he put up 36 points and grabbed 13 rebounds ... now he's going to try to Mess With the Johan ... aka the French Resistance. (Good story on Petro here from the Denver Post's Chris Dempsey.) Can we get a clip art wiz-kid to adapt this picture into Petro a themed poster?
  • In his past three-games Anthony Carter, filling in for Ty Lawson, has notched 25 assists, good for 8.3 per game ... that trumps starter Chauncey Billups' 5.9 assists per game. This is the A.C. we can all live with and even dare I say ... root for?!?!
  • More on Petro ... kid can play a little bit. Against Portland's smallish frontcourt he posted 6 points on 2-3 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds in 23 minutes. What will he do for an encore? It'll be difficult inside with Jefferson, Love and even the lanky Ryan Hollins patrolling the glass, but this will be a great test for the young Frenchie.

ntimmons73@yahoo.com
Twitter: Nate_Timmons
Photo courtesy of AP Photos: Mike Fuentes