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Do or Die: The 2011 Timberwolves Offseason

Posted on: May 14, 2011 8:30 pm
 
This is it. The upcoming offseason is a do or die offseason for the Minnesota Timberwolves organization.  There is a nuclear scenario taking shape that isn’t so improbable as it first appeared three seasons ago. If these various scenarios all come together and are allowed to play out the Wolves will waste what few gains they have made throughout this rebuilding effort and be once again left at square 1. No one, and I mean no one, has the stomach for another relaunch. This is it.

 

The Clipper Effect

One final parting gift from McHale’s wonder years is yet to be opened. The Christmas morning equivalent of a giant lump of coal that is an unprotected 1st round pick is destined to go to the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2012 draft. Look closer and you’ll see the lump of coal is actual a pile of dog shit when you realize that the pick was dealt for the services of one Marko Jaric. Given that the Wolves have won a combined 32 games over the past two seasons it is very plausible that the pick they eventually give away will be a very high one. Probably the 1st overall pick, if you believe the Wolves are as ironically snake bitten as they appear.

In fairness to Kevin McHale, all the Timberwolves would have had to do to avoid losing an unprotected pick in 2012 was at any point over the past five seasons finish outside of the 10 worst teams in the league. In their prolonged failure, they failed to do so.

It’s really too bad it has to go down this way. Randy Foye, Corey Brewer, and Jonny Flynn were the equivalent of forfeited picks. If only McHale could have foreseen the future. He could have said to Clippers GM Guy, “Hey, instead of that future provisional 1st round pick we’ll give you our 1st rounders in 2006, 2007 and 2009 straight up.” I suppose that would have looked extra bad, even by McHale standards.

To the average Wolves fan, an acceptable pick loss would probably be in the range of #7 and later. Don’t get me wrong, we fans don’t want to lose any pick but ending up around that #7 mark would imply a significant amount of improvement from the absolute worst record they earned in 2010 to a slightly less worse record in 2011.  Still not great, but when you’re at rock bottom even plain old non-rock bottom looks appealing.

 

The Rambis Effect

Two years into a ‘down to the studs’ rebuild and most would agree that the Wolves probably don’t have their head coach of the future under contract. On one hand, you can hardly fault David Kahn for this one. At the time of his hire, Kurt Rambis was the most high profile candidate out there. Going out and landing a big name was very unWolves like. Previous hires, Randy Wittman and Dwayne Casey were straight off the clearance racks. Rambis, on the other hand, was poached from under Phil Jackson and the Lakers. Looked good at the time. Looks like a wasted two years at the present.

Rambis defenders will cite the poor talent on roster for the poor results of the past two seasons. I'll agree that the talent isn’t great, but it’s also not as bad as it has appeared at times. There are many more reasons that suggest he’s not cut out to coach a young and inexperienced team, such as the team’s inability to improve on fundamental flaws over time (ie. Refusal to contest three point shots). But more than any one factor, it’s a lack of player development that dooms him in my eyes.

Young players should get better. To the contrary, the only guy to improve under Rambis is Kevin Love and I kinda get the feeling he was destined to improve no matter who the coach was. In fact, many players appeared to get worse under Rambis. Beasley started great and declined as the season wore on. As did Darko. Wes Johnson regressed throughout his rookie season. Jonny Flynn went from inconsistent to complete train wreck in record time.  There was no steady cohesion or improvement. There were no signature wins against superior competition that signaled this ship is headed in the right direction. Really, there was nothing to get excited about. A very young team like the Wolves, at the very least, should be exciting.

 

 

The Rubio Effect

David Kahn made the absolute correct pick in 2009 when he selected Ricky Rubio with the 5th pick. Rip the Flynn pick one spot later all you want, but Rubio was the right call. And in spite of that, Kahn will likely lose his job over it.

Rubio has been the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for the past two seasons. With every Ridnour, Sessions and Flynn unforced turnover we took solace in the fact that the savior would be here soon. The fanbase was told upon his drafting that we might need to wait two years before Rubio would play in the NBA. We were also told it would be worth the wait. Rubio was to be the transformational star that would put the Wolves back on the map. Well, it’s been two years. Where the hell is he?

The next month will be pivotal on this front. If he signs with the team, us Wolves faithful take to the streets elation at a renewed sense of hope. If he decides to stay in Spain the morale hit to a perpetually demoralized fanbase will be near apocalyptic. The mood will quickly turn to one of grief, then anger, and then complete apathy. No one will cared that they get screwed in the draft lottery. No one will care that in an effort to save a few more Bucks Glen Taylor declines to fire Rambis. No one will even care when Kevin Love starts dropping the “get me some real help or I’m outtta here” hints.  Only a major countermove, such as winning the lottery or a blockbuster trade or a legit coaching hire, will offset the utter disappointment.

Time following this organization over the years has taught us one thing: don’t hold your breath.

 

The Lock Out Effect

The grand finale to all the Wolves’ woes is the upcoming player lock out. As if the team didn’t have enough to worry about. The lock out will lessen Rubio’s likelihood of coming over this year and increase the likelihood of Rambis staying another year. It already has impacted the quality of prospect to enter the NBA draft. It will defer free agency and trades. Overall, it will deter the Wolves from having the sort of aggressive and monumental offseason they so desperately need in order to avoid total nuclear meltdown. The only real hope is that David Stern and the Player’s Association see the ugliness developing in the NFL situation and do everything they can to end this quickly.

 

Hope

In the interest of ending this on an uplifting note, there is reason for hope.  Here is a list of possibilities, any number of which would be an improvement. Maybe the fact that Rubio isn’t getting many minutes with his Spanish team which is consequently hurting his stock will cause him to want to sign with the Wolves this offseason? Maybe Rubio will want to lock in at the current NBA rookie salary rate before a new CBA can be reached? Maybe Rubio’s Spanish team will force him out because they don’t want to pay the millions they owe him next year for what amounts to a roleplayer? Maybe Rambis wants out and he’ll reach an amicable buyout? Maybe due to a lack of overall openings a quality head coach would be interested in the Wolves job? Maybe David Kahn will realize his neck is on the line and will do everything he can to make some dramatic moves to improve the team? Maybe Glen Taylor will get sick of losing money and open up the check book and add some real payroll? Maybe Michael Beasley will finally realize his star potential? Maybe Kevin Love will sign a long term deal? Maybe the Wolves will win the draft lottery? Maybe a team would be willing to trade us an established talent for a top 2 pick? Maybe they’ll draft Kyrie Irving, which will then enable them to deal Rubio?

 

Maybe, just maybe, this will be the year the Timberwolves finally turn the corner. They better, because if they don’t, the nuclear scenario I detailed above will probably unfold and this organization will slowly die, figuratively speaking. But then again, sort of literal, too.



Category: NBA
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