Minnesota Timberwolves overpaid for Corey Brewer in attempt to find defense


The Timberwolves signed Corey Brewer to provide perimeter defense, but in the process, they overpaid for him and will have to live with his errant shot selection.

The Minnesota Timberwolves prioritized outside shooting all summer, but that left them deficient on the other end. To address that issue, new Timberwolves president Flip Saunders made some moves to retain the full mid-level exception, then handed it to former Timberwolves wing Corey Brewer, giving him a three-year, $15 million contract.

Brewer definitely gives Minnesota a quality it lacked, but this is an overpay for a player who has only been mildly successful in one idiosyncratic system. The Timberwolves also offloaded Luke Ridnour and his expiring contract to Milwaukee to create space to sign Brewer, making this even worse.

Brewer is a wing player who can't really shoot or handle the ball well, which doomed him to lottery disappointment in his first Timberwolves tenure. After bouncing around the league, he found a home in Denver, where George Karl ran a system that allowed Brewer to be a useful player without dribbling or shooting. Almost nobody in the entire league runs the lane as doggedly as Brewer does on the fast break. The Nuggets' high-octane transition attack, as well as their fast-paced, attacking half-court offense, proved to be a perfect fit for maximizing Brewer's strengths and limiting his weakness.

Can the Timberwolves replicate that kind of environment? Doubtful. Even though they should be a fast-paced team with Ricky Rubio's wizardry and Kevin Love's outlet passing, they won't run like George Karl's Nuggets ran last year, especially as long as they have Nikola Pekovic. It's more likely that the Timberwolves will attempt to carve teams up in half-court situations using the deadly shooting of Love, Kevin Martin and Chase Budinger to go with Rubio's pick-and-roll play and Pekovic's ability to score in the paint.

But in those settings, Brewer loses a lot of his value. He thinks he can shoot, but ... he can't. His three-point percentages the last two years: 26 percent, 30 percent. His three-point attempts per game the last two years: 2.2, 3.7. A player who hits under 30 percent of his three-pointers should not be launching 3.7 per game in just 24.4 minutes. Here's a closer look at his shot chart last season.


Brewer is decent from the left corner, but horrendous elsewhere. Take away the left corner, and Brewer hoisted 178 threes while making just 23 percent of them. That's really bad.

It is true that Brewer's calling card is defense, not shooting, but his impact on that end isn't tremendous. The Nuggets were 1.1 points better defensively per 100 possessions with Brewer on the court last year, per NBA.com, but that was negated by a 1.2-point difference offensively. Two years ago, the Nuggets allowed 103.4 points per 100 possessions with Brewer in ... and 103.4 points per 100 possessions with him out. This isn't to say Brewer is a bad defender, nor is it to say he wasn't valuable in different ways for Denver. It's just that his strong defense wasn't transcendent in any way.

That's why I think the Timberwolves overpaid here. If you're building a fantasy roster, you could say you have shooting (Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger) and defense (Brewer) covered. Problem is, you can only play two of those three at once, and Brewer is just as limited offensively as Martin is defensively.

Throw in the fact that, barring a massive stylistic change, the Timberwolves won't be able to take advantage of Brewer's best skill (transition play) like the Nuggets did, and this feels like wasted money. Finding a cheaper wing, exploring the trade market or simply pushing harder to re-sign Andrei Kirilenko would have been better plays.


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