Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 1/16/12

Their record stands at just 4-8, but the Minnesota Timberwolves have gotten off to a respectable start to their 2011-12 season.

The hard to watch blowouts are a thing of yesteryear, while nail biting conclusions have become a common occurrence.

The product on the court is much improved from last year’s squad. The coaching staff has proven to be an immense upgrade as well.

While Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio regularly fill up the box score; center Darko Milicic has not.

Milicic has seen significant struggles on both ends of the floor, but it has been his utter lack of motivation that has grown problematic. The same can not be said about fellow center, and backup, Anthony Randolph.

Milicic and Randolph took rather similar routes to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Darko was drafted second overall in the 2003 NBA Draft, and struggled to see the floor– let alone get regular playing time– in his 2 plus seasons with the Detroit Pistons. Darko then spent time in Orlando, Memphis, and New York before being traded to the Timberwolves.

Darko was an unwanted commodity in the league until he settled in on David Kahn’s island of misfit toys.

Randolph gave it the old college try for one season before exiting LSU and being drafted 14th overall by Golden State in the 2008 NBA Draft. Randolph played two seasons as an enigma to Don Nelson before being traded to New York as a part of a deal that landed the Warriors David Lee. In just over a half of a season in New York, Randolph played very sparingly and was traded to Minnesota as a part of the deal that landed the Knicks superstar forward Carmelo Anthony.

Randolph was an unwanted commodity in the league until he settled in on David Kahn’s island of misfit toys.

Given a chance in Minnesota, the two who had similar routes to the Twin Cities, have had vastly different seasons for the Rick Adelman coached Wolves.

It’s been Darko who has seen more minutes, and a perceived bigger role. While Randolph has been a bench player who’s playing time as varied depending on the opponent, and his performance in the previous game.

In looking at their respective stats, a conclusion seems to have manifested itself: Anthony Randolph needs to be on the court significantly more than Darko Milicic.

Lets first look at their more “traditional” stats.

Darko:

  • Started and played in all 12 games
  • 18.5 minutes per game
  • 5.2 points per game
  • 4.3 rebounds per game
  • 9 blocks and 4 assists

Randolph:

  • Played in 10 of 12 games
  • 6.7 points per game
  • 2.4 rebounds per game
  • 6 blocks and 1 assist

It’s essentially a wash when comparing the two in traditional stat form. Randolph has scored more in less time, but Darko has been a better rebounder. But in looking at advanced metric stats, the discrepancy between the two really comes to fruition.

Lets first compare the two centers by using offensive and defensive rating. (An estimate of points produced or allowed per 100 possessions.)

According to the Timberwolves’ basketball-reference page, Darko’s offensive rating is 88 to go along with adefensive rating of 100 for a net rating is -12. While Randolph’s offensive rating is 104 to go along with a defensive rating of 99 for a net rating of +5.

Randolph also trumps Darko in the shooting department. Per basketball-reference, Randolph has a true shooting percentage of 59.7 and an effective field-goal percentage of 52.2. Darko’s pitiful shooting numbers begin with his true shooting percentage of 44.0, and an effective field-goal percentage of 42.4.

(Note: In simple terms, true shooting percentage factors in that player’s free-throw numbers, while effective field-goal percentage ignores free-throws but instead takes into account the differing point value for a two or a three.)

Looking deeper into their shooting numbers, it becomes more apparent at how bad Darko is playing.

Traditional centers– which both Darko and Randolph are– take the majority of their shots at the rim. According to Hoopdata.com, the average field-goal percentage for centers at the rim is 63.2 percent.

(Worth noting, centers are skewing that number to the high side, while guards tend to bring that number down. You’d assume Rubio would have a percentage at the rim of roughly 50 percent. He’s actually at 70 percent. And you’d assume a player like Darko would be in the 70 percent range. We’ll get there in a second. No, like really, it will be seconds. Keep reading.)

At the rim, Randolph is shooting a stellar 83.3 percent. Darko, on the other hand, is an atrocious 46.2 percent; indicative of his lack luster determination in an area where he should have success. Randolph’s high percentage can be attributed to his significant playing time alongside point guard Ricky Rubio. Darko’s horrendous numbers can be attributed to him either playing drunk, being a terrible basketball player, or lacking the professionalism needed to excel in the NBA. While from a comedic sake I would prefer that it be the former, realistically, though, it’s due to the latter two.

While the advanced metrics show Randolph playing much more effectively than Darko. Just watching them play supports the assertion that Randolph needs to play significantly more minutes than Darko on a regular basis.

-Brett Cloutier

Brett is a contributor to The Sports Bank. He covers all things Minnesota sports. You can follow him on Twitter @brettcloutier.

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