Thursday, January 07, 2010

Reason for Optimism: Corey Brewer

Timberwolves forward Corey Brewer is in his 3rd year, and if this year isn't exactly a breakout year for him, there are signs that suggest he will be a benefit to whatever team he ends up with, and those signs make me want him to stay a Timberwolf.

No one was happier than I was when the Timberwolves drafted Brewer way back in 2007--he was coming off an impressive NCAA championship run, throughout which he was the most difficult match-up for the other team. Brewer was a lanky 6' 9" playing small forward (even now, he's still basically a stick figure. At that height, he still hasn't crested the 190 pound mark) with keen defensive skills, freakishly long arms, and on offense he proved himself to be a streaky but effective shooter, with a love for the quick attack to the basket.

And then he was a first year pro for a struggling/crappy
franchise, and he looked lost. And watching his rookie campaign, it was clear within the first 3 minutes of a game whether Brewer was going to have a good game or not. If he hit first shot, or made a big steal early, you could expect a better than average night. If he missed his first shot (which he often did, and badly) you could see him shaking his head, and that was it--you knew he was going to be in his own head the rest of the night.

And then the second year, when you learn so much about a
player was cut short 20 games in by injury.

This season has, almost out of necessity, become a bit of a revelation.
Brewer's stats only back it up to a small degree. You have to watch the Timberwolves play and see how Brewer handles himself this year to get a real sense of what has changed. And very few people willingly sit through Timberwolves games.

So for those folks, the stats bear some looking at--I'm not here to argue that Brewer is an All-Star--his shooting percentage is still pretty low, he's not great at the free throw line, and still has a tendency to turn the ball over trying to make the spectacular assist. But, but, but...

In Corey's rookie year, he was getting almost 23 minutes a game, and averaging just under 6 points a game with a shooting percentage under 38%. That's not great production no matter what excuses one can make (like being a rookie on a shitty team, etc.). And by "not great" I mean "bad". It was a bad rookie year for a guy that had come off a dominant run in his college career.

Looking at Corey, December 2009, you can see improvement across the board. He's playing only a few minutes more per game, but scoring more than twice as much (12.5); his shooting percentage is a not great, but not woeful 46.5%.

Also, Brewer's defense has ticked up this year, and his defense was always good. December was the first month in which he averaged less than 2 steals per game this season, which has led to his higher percentage shooting--the number of times I've seen Corey rip a ball and drive it for a dunk numbers right about a dozen. And, because of the whole "Timberwolves are going to suck" meme, the number of games available for viewing this year are way, way down compared to last year.

In short, Brewer isn't an all-star, but has been one of the bright spots for this team. He is all of 23 years old; he's a defensive ninja; he's upped his efficiency. While he's still trying a little too hard to impress, when he does impress, he's been really, really impressive. And he is, in theory, a match-up nightmare waiting to happen. I fully expect Corey Brewer to be a great 6th man for this team or for someone else. You heard it here first--Corey Brewer is going to win some awards.

(photo copyright: Copyright 2010 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

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