Robbie Hummel didn't expect to make five starts. Nor was he planning on playing as big of a role as he did among the Minnesota Timberwolves' second unit. But when injury afforded Hummel opportunity, the good-natured small forward seized it.
In his rookie season, Timberwolves forward Robbie Hummel shot 37.9 percent from the field, 36 percent on 3-pointers and averaged 3.4 points per 48 minutes played.
Steve Yeater / Associated Press
By Phil Ervin
This is the third in a 14-part series evaluating each Timberwolves player's performance during the 2013-14 season. The entire series can be found here.
Easily the most approachable guy in the Timberwolves locker room, Robbie Hummel is the first to point out his rookie season didn't go as he thought it would.
The 2012 second-round draft pick who spent last season in Spain didn't expect to make five starts. Nor was he planning on playing as big of a role as he did among Minnesota's second unit.
And when he did get his chance, the strongest areas of his game were lacking, while he surprised even himself with his ability to match up athletically with some proven NBA players.
But when injury afforded Hummel opportunity, the good-natured small forward from Indiana seized it.
After tearing his right ACL twice during college, Hummel left Purdue as the program's ninth all-time scorer. A pure shooter with textbook form cultivated at his boyhood home in Valparaiso, Ind., Hummel entered the league expecting to connect with similar ease. Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman believed it could happen, too. But the adjustment to NBA defenses and court dimensions proved a little tougher than expected for Hummel; he shot 37.9 percent from the field and scored 3.4 points per 48 minutes played. His 3-point percentage of 36, though, bodes well for the future.
Hummel was no slouch as a rebounder in his pre-NBA years, averaging 6.8 per game during college and 7.2 last season in the Spanish League. But his maligned knee -- he also tore the meniscus in it before last season, requiring surgery -- raised questions about his ability to muck it up in the post and scrap for rebounds against bigger, stronger foes. Hummel answered them, averaging 9.7 boards per 48 minutes played -- a better barometer given that he averaged just 12.4 minutes a contest.
Even in the five games he started on the wing in place of Kevin Martin, Hummel was rarely asked to match up with elite-level scorers. Given his lack of otherworldly quickness and ability to change direction, he simply couldn't. But Hummel could be seen displaying sound defensive principles and as a result didn't get beat one-on-one as often as one might think. He also was one of the few Timberwolves players who consistently closed out on opposing teams' 3-point attempts. The numbers -- 1.2 steals and 0.1 blocks per 48 minutes -- weren't there, but the effort was.
If Hummel were being graded on a traditional scale alongside Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, his mark wouldn't be this high. But coaches tend to evaluate more on a curve, especially in the case of a player like Hummel, who they know has limits. But the 6-foot-8, 220-pounder exceeded expectations with his fundamentally sound play. His congruence with Adelman's systems and philosophies helped; whoever replaces the now-retired Timberwolves coach may see Hummel's skill set in a different light. Hummel received only a one-year deal for his first season in the league, meaning he'll have to prove himself all over again when training camp rolls around this fall.