Welcome to the Thursday edition of The Cooler, where it’s OK to disagree. Let’s get to it:
*An interesting side note to the Wolves’ roster reshuffling and decision not to match Tyus Jones’ three-year, $28 million offer in Memphis: Based on a new metric introduced this week by FiveThirtyEight, Minnesota might have a defensive upgrade at point guard already on its roster.
The new metric, which tracks shot data, defensive positioning and opponent field goal percentage, says that last season Shabazz Napier — acquired by the Wolves from the Warriors after playing in Brooklyn last season — was worth plus-1.92 points per 100 possessions based on his scoring defense.
That was the best mark of ANY point guard in the NBA last season who played at least 2,000 possessions and put Napier in the top-30 of an overall list dominated by seven-footers with long wing spans.
Jones, meanwhile, was in the bottom 25 of all players at minus-1.79 points per 100 possessions last season.
Neither player, it should be noted, qualified for the larger sample size of 10,000+ possessions played since 2013-14. Also keep in mind this only accounts for shooting defense; Jones clearly has other valuable defensive skills and instincts.
But it is interesting to see that Napier, by the reckoning of this new metric, was worth almost 4 points more per 100 possessions than Jones last year based solely on shooting defense. It likely speaks to more quickness and ability to contest a shot.
Those are valuable traits, and they form part of the framework of what might be an unpopular opinion: Napier, whose one-year, $1.88 million contract became fully guaranteed Wednesday, might offer equal (or more) production than Jones next season for a fraction of the cost of Jones’ deal at $9.3 million per year.
The Wolves were pushed into that business decision in large part because of a philosophical shift under Gersson Rosas and because of other bloated contracts clogging up their salary cap. If they want to be nimble next offseason, they don’t want more salary on the books.
But as they say, necessity is the mother of invention.
When it’s easier to simply pay Jones, you probably do it without thinking as hard about it. And as much as I like Tyus as a person and appreciate his skills on the court, he’s not an ideal fit as a backup point guard because he isn’t a great shooter nor a great creator of his own high-percentage looks. His skill set is better suited for a starting role, but I’m not sure his overall skill warrants that.
In a similar number of career minutes as Jones, Napier has attempted twice as many three-pointers and made them at a higher rate (35.4 vs. 33.3). Their offensive efficiency numbers the last two seasons, when playing time increased for both players, are similar.
The downside for the Wolves is this: Jones just turned 23, while Napier will be 28 in three days. Napier pretty much is what he is, while Jones could still get better.
As a backup point guard fit, though, Napier might be better and more productive.
*Three Twins minor league players made Keith Law’s revised list of the top 50 prospects in MLB, led by Alex Kirilloff at No. 15 (Insider required). You have to imagine Kirilloff is the player teams are asking about when the Twins go sniffing for pitching help at the deadline. With Max Kepler, Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario already on the major league roster, it seems like a natural move.
*Odyssey Sims has been on a roll for the Lynx, including the game winning jumper in a 73-72 win over Chicago on Wednesday. Here’s a look at her night, including the winning play: