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Posted on: November 26, 2010 9:06 am
Edited on: November 27, 2010 5:04 pm
 

Hey, Timberwolves Stuff

First blog of the year. I know it’s been a while but I’m certain for my handful of loyal readers the old saying, absence makes the heart grow fonder, is entirely true in this case.

The Wolves are 4-12 but their level of player is far better than that record suggests. In the last week alone they’ve let double digit second half leads against Charlotte and San Antonio slip away through a lack of discipline and a series of mistakes that quite truthfully wouldn’t be tolerated on a high school level. For a veteran team accustomed to winning these errors would be intolerable. For a ‘rising from the ashes of a giant shit storm’ type team like the Wolves the late game breakdowns are no less frustrating but at least show progress.

A dude I know (shout out to Jake Rosch of England) recently asked the following questions of me and a group of other dedicated NBA followers.

“Who is the Wolves best player now? What needs to happen for the Wolves to take the next step?”

Great questions, Jake. Let me answer those now.

Right now the Wolves best player is Kevin Love. As is the case with all young teams, that could completely change by this time next week but right now it's Love.

Beasley has been their biggest assassin but Love is bringing it most consistently.

Case in point, last night vs. the Spurs. The Wolves led by 20 at one point and ended up losing in overtime. Gut wrenching. Heart breaking. Soul crushing. All of that to us diehards. Lots of profanity and dejected looks by me to be seen by no one in the lonely depths of my basement.

Beasley was decent. 15 points on 5 of 12 shooting with 9 rebs. A good game but there were at least two definite points late in the game in which he tried to force his offense and it resulted in a turnover to easy Spurs bucket on the other end.

Love is straight balling right now. 32 points and 22 rebs last night, a lot of which was head to head on Tim Duncan. His jumper is falling, his post game has evolved to the point where he can get his shot off against more athletic bigs, and his near mythical rebounding projections are finally coming to fruition because his defense has improved to the point where Rambis can afford to leave him on the court for heavy minutes.

The third DARKhorse (oh yes I did just do that) in this conversation is Darko. For anyone who hasn't been following, Darko is playing his best stretch of basketball in seven years. That’s not just on the maladapted Darko scale either. He is playing legitimately high caliber basketball. In fact, recently some of the Wolves most productive stretches of play have been when they’re running their offense through Darko and allowing him to either work in the post of utilize his Vlade-like big man passing (Trivia Question: What does Darko have that Chris Webber does not? A: An NBA championship ring).

***Allow me to briefly interject to apologize for that last little thing there. I realize many of you will not get it but yet I made the decision to go ahead with it regardless.***

 

The current overall Wolves player rankings, as I see them, are as follows.

1. Kevin Love. 19 pts and 14.5 rebs a game on the season. Both of those numbers are climbing, too. He’ll be the first Wolves All-Star since KG if he keeps this up.

2. Darko Milicic. 18 pts, 8.6 rebs, 3.6 assists and 4.2 blocks a game over the past five contests. His confidence level is sky high right now and you can actually see it on his face. Gotta feel good for the kid that he’s finally beginning to show what he can do.

3. Michael Beasley. 26 pts and 7.1 rebs over the past 8 games. The talent level is obvious. The question that remains is if he can sustain this sort of production and become the go-to scorer the Wolves so desperately need.

4. Wesley Johnson. Pretty much a one dimensional offensive player right now with his jump shooting. His one dimension happens to be what the Wolves are most in need of, which slightly inflates his overall value right now. What also stands out is his surprisingly polished defensive play, which is something his critics were sure would be terrible at this level.

5. Anthony Tolliver. Not doing much stat-wise but he takes at least one huge charge a game and has proven able to knock down and open three, which is a huge weapon for a guy who can guard the 3-5 positions depending on the match up. He’s a great dirty work guy. The guy a team like Miami is sorely missing right now.

6. Corey Brewer. Some less spastic defense, mildly improved jump shooting and sparkplug energy off the bench are still being overshadowed by mind numbing lapses in judgment and dribbling gaffes, the likes of which you might see in pee wee rec league

 

They technically have six other active players but I’m not ranking any of them because none of them are playing consistently good enough ball to do so without some major clarification, which I’m just not willing to commit to. Sebastian Telfair and Luke Ridnour seemingly flip a coin before each game to see which one of them should be terrible that night. What I don’t understand is how sometimes they both seem to lose that flip. When guys like Wayne Ellington, Lazar Heyward and Kosta Koufos come into the game things tend to unravel quickly, which makes sense because they’re best suited as third stringers or more prominent roles in the D League.

The good news, in a messed up Timberwolves sorta way, is that they have three injured players in Martell Webster, Jonny Flynn and Nikola Pekovic, who should all eventually resume prominent roles on the team and push the likes of Tolliver and Brewer further down that list to around 10 or 11.

 

Ok, gotta go. Have a great Thanksgiving peoples of the United States (and Americans at heart living abroad).




Category: NBA
Posted on: July 19, 2010 7:43 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2010 8:08 pm
 

Al Jefferson Era (7/31/07 - 7/13/10)

Al Jefferson has been traded to the Utah Jazz for two future 1st round picks, one of which originates with Memphis and the other with Utah. As is protocol with the vocal majority of disillusioned Wolves fans, the initial reaction was one of shock, terror, self-pity and rage. Now that we’ve had a few minutes to digest the deal, let me offer six reasons why dealing Jefferson in the fashion they did is not in fact the catalyst for Armageddon as it may have originally been portrayed.

 

1. If David Kahn could have got more for Jefferson, he would have. Dealing Jefferson within the division signals that Kahn was merely looking for the best return. Utah presented that. Those who complained about not trading Jefferson for someone like Andre Igoudala or Danny Granger or Josh Smith or Kevin Martin are forgetting one vital component: trading requires two willing parties. The market on a given player is only what someone is willing to pay, and clearly, the market for Jefferson wasn’t exactly booming.

2. In Al Jefferson’s three seasons as the focal point of the offense the Wolves won 22, 24 and 15 games, respectively. It’s hard to justify dedicating 25% of your cap to a guy who can’t, even by sheer force of will, get the team to 30 wins. Put any true star (in other words, someone worthy of eating a fourth of your payroll) on the worst team in the league and they still get 30 wins.

3. Al Jefferson is only 25 years old but has already run up a notable injury history. Nagging injuries in Boston were one thing, but tearing his ACL two seasons ago put him on a whole different level. I’m not saying players haven’t come back from ACL tears, but guys his size, who were already heavy footed to begin with, typically don’t get healthier with age.

4. With Kevin Love , Michael Beasley and even Nikola Pekovic on board the Wolves have several talented pieces that can replicate, if not exceed, Al Jefferson’s contribution to the team. They are younger, cheaper, possess more upside at this point and bring a more versatile game to table, or rather court.  

5. Kurt Rambis claims to utilize a system that breaks down to roughly 70% uptempo attacking style offense and 30% Triangle. The former requires big men to be agile and able to run the court. The latter requires a focus on accurate and timely ball movement and a keen sense of the overall scheme. No matter how you slice it, Al Jefferson is not a good match for this system.

6. Al Jefferson, though still young and already having demonstrated impressive skill for such a young age, has failed to improve notably on areas of weakness within his game. The same knocks he had three years ago he still has today. Poor defensive awareness, apparent unwillingness to share the basketball and/or inability to pass out of double teams, and so on. Even the most adamant defenders have to admit that he seems to have plateaued. In fairness, some of this is due to an unimpressive surrounding cast. Some of it is surely due to ineffective coaching. Without question, some of it can be attributed to the ACL tear. All of that aside, when it comes down to it a player eventually has to answer the naysayers and Jefferson has not done this. In failing to do, the crowd of naysayers has grown even more. Now go back to #1 and the part about his market value.


    Let me close by saying that I don’t mean this to be a slash and burn job on Jefferson now that he isn’t a member of the Wolves anymore. Far from it. I’m a big Al Jefferson fan and I am glad he will finally get a chance to win. What he does, he does extremely well. I challenge anyone to name five better offensive low post players in the entire league. On top of everything, he seems like a genuinely good guy and so he’s easy to cheer for.

    I’ll liken this trade to the rare instance of breaking up with a girlfriend on legitimately good terms. You know, she’s really cool and in another time and place maybe she could have been the one. But personally, emotionally and spiritually you’re headed in one direction and she’s headed in another. Neither in bad directions, just different. You’ve outgrown each other. Truthfully, you probably should have ended this awhile ago but things were cool so you rode it out, hoping the ship might right itself. In the end, you saw this coming but at least you gave it a fair shake. Many say it, few mean it. We still want to be friends.





Posted on: July 7, 2010 2:01 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2010 2:12 pm
 

In Defense of Darko

Darko Milicic is a Timberwolf!

It's a relatively minor signing in the grand scheme of things but still definitely getting its fair share of attention, most of which is negative. I don't necessarily fault all of that. After all, while his fellow draft classmen are currently seeking max contracts it's simply amazing that Darko is still in the NBA. I also don't blame the national talking pieces for not watching a lot of T-Wolves basketball last year. Who, outside of the diehard, really could stand to?  Had the critics, or anyone for that matter, cared to pay attention they would have seen Darko playing regularly and playing well.

Darko had been all but written off in New York...and Memphis...and Orlando...and Detroit. At first glance, he appears to be right up there with Kwame Brown and Michael Olowokandi as all-time busts. Dig a little deeper, look at the facts and the real picture starts to look a little different. The guy came over to the United States at the age of 18. He went to a championship caliber team and tried to earn playing time from a coach in Larry Brown who is well-known for being entirely disinterested in developing young talent. He's actually admitted since then that he never gave Darko a chance. Then factor in that while Darko was riding the bench behind Rasheed and Ben Wallace, LeBron, Carmelo, Bosh and Wade were being allowed to shine as the new faces of their franchise. There's really no telling what this sort of environment did to stunt Darko's growth as a player and a person. It certainly didn't help his rep that Detroit basically threw him under the bus in an effort to clear themselves of the crime of passing on Carmelo, Bosh and Wade.  

In the end, it's not Darko's fault that Detroit took him second in the deepest draft in NBA history. It's not his fault that Larry Brown, Joe Dumars and company had no interest in developing his game. Yet the brunt of everything is on him. He now has the opportunity to prove everyone wrong and I personally am glad he has that opportunity with the Wolves.  

Here is what we know about Darko from his time in Minnesota last season. Most notably, he has a high basketball IQ. He understands both the defensive and offensive sides of the game and that's something you can't measure in a box score. He is a tremendous passer for a 7 footer and runs the floor extremely well given his size. His strong defensive capabilities stood out on a Timberwolves team starving for such qualities. Finally, despite his long and winding road, he's only 25 years old. He could very well just now be turning into the player they thought he would become way back when.  

Above all, a lot is being made of his contract. The full length sum is for 20 million over 4 years, although only around 15 million and 3 years of that is guaranteed. Perhaps, some people are simply naive as to the scale of NBA contracts or maybe they just don't think he's worth that much. I disagree. Below is a list of true centers in the league who are not on their rookie contracts and how much they are scheduled to make next season.  

Pau Gasol 17.8 mil
Yao Ming 17.6
Dwight Howard 16.5
Andrew Bynum 13.8
Erick Dampier 13.2
Samuel Dalembert 12.2
Tyson Chandler 11.7
Emeka Okafor 11.5
Chris Kaman 11.3
Nene 11.3
Eddy Curry 11.2
Andrew Bogut 11.0
Mehmet Okur 9.4
Andres Biedrins 9.0
Marcus Camby 8.4
Andreas Bargnani 8.0
Joel Pryzbilla 7.4
Nazr Muhammed 6.8
Desagna Diop 6.4
Marcin Gortat 6.3
Nenad Kristic 5.8
Reggie Evans 5.0
Darko Milicic approximately 4-5 million

Kendrick Perkins 4.3
Zaza Pachulia 4.3


So maybe you don't like the idea of Darko getting in the range of 5 million a season but in that event you probably don't like the scale of NBA salaries in the first place. The truth is that if you are in the vicinity of 7 feel tall and can play decent basketball you're worth a lot of money. My point here isn't to say Darko was a homerun signing or certainly not that he deserves more. I mean only to convey that everyone should calm down because in the distorted world of professional sports, Darko did more than enough to prove himself worthy of the very modest contract he got.



Category: NBA
Posted on: June 24, 2010 1:11 pm
 

The Three Candidates

Wes Johnson, SF Syracuse

What’s Good
- Super athletic
- Good, clean jump shot
- Great transition player
- Has physical tools to be a solid defender
- Low maintenance, positive chemistry guy

What’s Bad
- He’ll be 23 years old when next season starts
- Troubles creating own shot
- Ability to get to free thrown line
- Played Zone D in college
- Limited upside

Why The Wolves Will Draft Him
- Wesley Johnson represents the most glaring need for the Wolves. His ability to shoot, run the floor and defend NBA wings would immediately upgrade the team significantly. Some compare his upside to Shawn Marion, but I think an unselfish version of Rudy Gay with defensive commitment is more appropriate. If that’s true I think he warrants a pick at #4. Plus, I think the criticisms of his game are overrated. Most notably, his age. Remember, he sat out an entire season due to a transfer. Take that away and he’s the same age as Evan Turner. Another overrated knock is the fact that he played in the Syracuse zone, which means he’ll struggle with man. Let’s keep it in perspective, he played one season at Syracuse. His previous two years in college and high school he played man. Given his size and athletic ability, he should be able to thrive as a defender at the next level.



Derrick Favors, PF Georgia Tech

What’s Good
- Athletic freak
- Ridiculously strong already for age (19)
- Strong defender/shot blocker
- Tons of upside, pure talent to be a superstar
- Seems like a solid character guy

What’s Bad
- Very raw, will need years to develop
- Not much offensive polish, relies on athleticism to score
- Somewhat unknown ability due to college system
- Motor and passion for the game are questionable
- Passive on the court at times

Why The Wolves Will Draft Him?
- Derrick Favors represents the most upside in this draft. If John Wall can be Chris Paul, then Favors can be Dwight Howard. Given the premium on size, I think most owners take Howard over Paul. Of course, Wall still deserves to go #1 because he’s much closer to reaching his potential, whereas Favors has a lot more room to grow or even possibly bust. Drafting Favors would initiate a roster revolution that would start with the dealing of Al Jefferson or Kevin Love and so in a way, it would be the least convenient of the three possible picks. Despite that, Favors still represents a no brainer pick at #4 because of his immense potential and the allure of eventually paring him with Ricky Rubio to form the next Steve Nash/Amare Stoudemire duo.




DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C Kentucky

What’s Good
- Refined offensive skill set
- Very young, lots of potential
- Runs floor pretty well for his size
- Plays with a mean streak
- Good passer

What’s Bad
- Poor conditioning, aka overweight
- On and off court attitude concerns
- Immaturity, even considering his age
- Plays below the rim
- Played against much smaller opponents in college

Why The Wolves Will Take Him
- DeMarcus Cousins averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds a game as a freshman at Kentucky last year. Most impressively, he did so in only 22 minutes a game. That projects out to some pretty gaudy numbers if prorated out. At only 19 years of age the kid has incredible potential. Less concerning than his physical liabilities are the major red flags surrounding his attitude and psyche. He’s demonstrated a notable lack of composure in the past and investing millions of dollars and the future of your franchise in someone like that is a risky proposition for a team like the Wolves who can’t afford any more draft day debacles. Consider this: what would DeMarcus Cousins had been like if he were on the Wolves last season during a 15 win campaign? Can you imagine him staying positive, cheering his teammates on and remaining optimistic about the growth of the team? I can’t either, which is why I would be surprised if Cousins goes #4 on Thursday night.

Posted on: May 20, 2010 12:08 pm
 

2nd Mock - Post Lottery

Here you go. Commentary on only the lottery for now. Endulge yourself. Comment below, make it all right.


1. Washington
Wizards - They’ll take John Wall (PG Kentucky) and not even think twice about it. Gilbert and Wall will clumsily co-exist for just as long as it takes the Wiz to find a trade partner willing to take on the old gunslinger, ala the Kevin Martin donation to Houston from a few months back. A year ago Washington was primed to contend in the Eastern Conference. A stacked veteran roster with a new playoff tested head coach set the stage. A series of escalating debacles later and they’re rewarded with the #1 pick in the draft. Rebuilding sure is easy.

2. Philadelphia 76ers - Evan Turner (SG/SF Ohio State) is the guy here. Pairing him with Andre Igoudala is a bit suspect, as neither can really shoot all that well. This suggests they might be open to moving down a spot or two if it meant adding a couple of equivalent pieces and unloading one of their terrible contracts in the process. However, unless they are wowed by an offer they’ll sit tight, take Turner and eventually unload Iggy if the duo is proved to be too flawed.

3. New Jersey Nets - One thing we have learned for sure is that having the worst record in the NBA basically guarantees you will not have the #1 pick in the draft. It’s only happened four times in the twenty five year history of the lottery, and that includes the LeBron-Cavs rigging of 2003. The Nets will take Derrick Favors (PF Georgia Tech) because he matches up well with Brook Lopez and because his ceiling is right up there with Wall. Favors is an athletic freak. The combine and workout sessions are where his gifts will truly come out, meaning from here on his stock will only rise.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves - The Wolves will do every thing in their power to trade into the top 2. Assuming that doesn’t work, because nothing every works for the Wolves, they’ll take DeMarcus Cousins (C Kentucky). His college stats were ridiculous and if the guy had a better history of intelligent decisions he’d be right up there with Turner as a toss up for the 2nd pick. He makes Al Jefferson expendable, who will be flipped into a wing or another lottery pick.

5. Sacramento Kings - Tyreke Evans and a bunch of roleplayers. That’s what the Kings have right now. They’ll give Wesley Johnson a long look but eventually decide on Greg Monroe (PF Georgetown). His stock is on the rise and he’s exactly the kind of guy to anchor the other end of the Kings starting lineup. His well-regarded passing makes for an intriguing inside-outside game with Evans.

6. Golden State Warriors - The Warriors really wanted Favors or Cousins. Instead they’ll continue to gorge on scorers when they take Wesley Johnson (SF Syracuse). He’ll probably average 20 points a game in the Golden State offense…and play no defense whatsoever.

7. Detroit Pistons - Ekpe Udoh (PF/C Baylor) might be a surprise here but I doubt that would be the case if he had played for a bigger college program. He reminds me a lot of Ben Wallace; high energy and defensively oriented, a lesser shot blocker but more offensively talented. The odds that Detroit trades out of this spot are extremely likely in my opinion.

8. Los Angeles Clippers - The one player who fills a major need for the Clippers in Al-Farouq Aminu (SF Wake Forest) actually falls to them. He’s raw but has the potential to hold down their small forward spot as a versatile defender who, unlike all their other players, doesn’t need the ball to be effective.

9. Utah Jazz - If Greg Monroe falls they’ll take him to replace Carlos Boozer. They’ll also give Ed Davis a look, but let’s be honest, Ed Davis sucks. In the end, the Jazz prepare for the eventual departure of Mehmet Okur and take Cole Aldrich (C Kansas). Greg Ostertag comparisons will be abound but they’re way off in anything other than a racial sense. Aldrich can be a strong defender immediately and pair nicely with Paul Milsap.

10. Indiana Pacers - Gordon Hayward (SF Butler) getting picked here will probably be regarded as the biggest reach of the draft, not entirely unlike their first round pick last year, Tyler Hansbrough. The hometown Goliath killer, the Larry Bird comparisons. It’s all too perfect. How he fits with Danny Granger is beyond me and whether or not he actually gets picked in this spot or later via trade down I’m not sure, but I really believe he’s a Pacer before the end of draft night.

11. New Orleans Hornets - The Hornets are in limbo right now. They have a lot of high priced veteran talent but find themselves outside the playoffs. Much of that can be attributed to Chris Paul’s chronic injuries last season. The rest of it has to do with their high priced veteran talent not being very good. I think they’ll go with the boom or bust pick in Hassan Whiteside (PF/C Marshall), hoping they get what they had in Tyson Chandler for a fraction of the cost.

12. Memphis Grizzlies - I think there’s a 90% chance that the Grizzlies trade out of this spot. Their only glaring need is point guard and no one outside of John Wall warrants a pick this high. I’ll say they lose Rudy Gay to free agency and draft Damion James (SF Texas) as his replacement. James can also play power forward in a pinch and will bring a nice element of a power game to their mix. But again, this is moot because they won’t pick here.

13. Toronto Raptors - Ed Davis (PF North Carolina) will assume the Chris Bosh mantle, which will be nearly impossible for a vastly inferior talent to live up to. I personally wouldn’t touch Davis with a Top 20 pick but the report on him is inexplicably decent and he’ll probably end up going around here.

14.  Houston Rockets - The Rockets are also a candidate to trade but I think they’ll end up using this pick on Patrick Patterson (PF Kentucky).  Even Patterson probably knows he’ll never be a star, but a fair projection is as a versatile role player who can contribute immediately in a system such as the one Houston runs. He’ll quickly establish a reputation as one of the best long distance shooting big men in the league. Think Channing Frye but stronger…and shorter.

15. Milwaukee Bucks - Xavier Henry (SG Kansas)
16. Minnesota Timberwolves - James Anderson (SG Oklahoma State)
17. Chicago Bulls - Donatas Montiejunas (PF/C Europe)
18. Miami Heat - Avery Bradley (PG/SG Texas)
19. Boston Celtics - Luke Babbitt (SF Nevada)
20. San Antonio Spurs - Daniel Orton (C Kentucky)
21. Oklahoma City Thunder - Larry Sanders PF (VCU)
22. Portland Trailblazers - Dominique Jones (PG/SG SouthFlorida)
23. Minnesota Timberwolves - Paul George (SF Fresno State)
24. Atlanta Hawks - Lance Stephenson (SG Cincinnati)
25. Memphis Grizzlies - Eric Bledsoe (PG Kentucky)
26. Oklahoma City Thunder - Soloman Alabi (C Florida State)
27. New Jersey Nets - Darrington Hobson (SG/SF New Mexico)
28. Memphis Grizzlies - Stanley Robinson (SF Connecticut)
29. Orlando Magic - Willie Warren (PG Oklahoma)
30. Washington Wizards - Gani Lawal (PF Georgia Tech)


That's it. Agree? Disagree? Thanks for your participation.

Category: NBA
Tags: mock, nba draft
 
Posted on: May 14, 2010 12:38 pm
Edited on: May 14, 2010 12:46 pm
 

FIRST MOCK (pre-lottery)!

In a few days David Stern will decide the draft order, I mean conduct the lottery. When that goes down this scenario will undoubtedly change almost completely. Until that time, here's how things will shake out according to me.


1. New Jersey
Nets - John Wall, PG Kentucky No brainer. Could be the kind of pick that would lures a big name free agent to town.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves - Evan Turner, SG Ohio State In some ways it would be better for the Wolves to land #2 instead of #1 - less drama. Turner is a perfect fit.

3. Sacramento Kings - DeMarcus Cousins, C Kentucky I’m banking on him overcoming attitude concerns in pre-draft interviews. On talent alone, he’s an easy top 3 pick.

4. Golden State Warriors - Derrick Favors, PF Georgia Tech He seems to fit their uptempo style and has as much upside as anyone in this draft.

5. Washington Wizards - Wesley Johnson, SF Syracuse The Wiz need everything and Johnson might be the most NBA ready player overall.

6. Philadelphia 76ers - Greg Monroe, PF Georgetown Stock started high this year, then dipped, now it’s back on the rise. The 76ers like Mareese Speights but he’s nothing to build around.

7. Detroit Pistons - Ekpe Udoh, PF Baylor They’ll go for Ben Wallace v2.0 here. Great intangibles and energy, plays with a noticeable fire.

8. Los Angeles Clippers - Al-Farouq Aminu, SF Wake Forest He could go as high as #5 but he’s probably 2 years away from contributing, that will make him fall. The Clips are a good fit.

9. Utah Jazz - Cole Aldrich, C Kansas Boozer is gone and Okur is fading. Aldrich fits the Utah mold and will be a good defensive match for the slightly undersized Paul Milsap.

10. Indiana Pacers - Gordon Heyward, SF Butler A big reach but so was Hansbrough (which I called weeks before the draft). Hometown kid who many compare to Larry Bird. The stars align.

11. New Orleans Hornets - Hassan Whiteside, C Marshall They’ll try to rekindle the Tyson Chandler Magic from a few years back. Enormous feast or famine type talent.

12. Memphis Grizzlies - Eric Bledsoe, PG Kentucky Another reach but the Griz are set everywhere except PG. If they intend to let Rudy Gay walk this could all change.

13. Toronto Raptors - Ed Davis PF North Carolina He falls further than he probably should but based on his play this year he deserves it. Makes sense to try and fill the inevitable Bosh void.

14. Houston Rockets - Patrick Patterson, PF Kentucky An undersized power forward who can shoot the 3? It’s as if the Rockets themselves crafted him in their own image.

15. Milwaukee Bucks - Xavier Henry, SG Kansas Michael Redd is gone and Henry, if nothing else, can shoot the 3.

16. Minnesota Timberwolves - James Anderson, SG Oklahoma State Wolves continue the backcourt overhaul. Anderson lacks elite athleticism but is an extremely skilled scorer nonetheless.

17. Chicago Bulls - Donatas Montiejunas, PF Europe No one available fills a major Bulls need so they take the kid with star potential. The Dirk Nowitzki comparisons are intriguing.

18. Miami Heat - Avery Bradley, SG  Texas He’s the perfect sort of PG to play with Wade. One who isn’t a particularly good distributor but can defend the perimeter and score with efficiency.

19. Boston Celtics - Damion James, SF Texas Celtics snag the best available talent. James is versatile, high energy and ready to contribute right away.

20. San Antonio Spurs - Dominique Jones, SG South Florida Like Avery Bradley, he’s a scoring two guard in a point guard’s body. He could thrive in a reserve roll with the Spurs. Who doesn’t?

21. Oklahoma City Thunder - Larry Sanders, PF VCU They need front court help. Enter Sanders. At this point in the draft a roleplayer is all you can hope for.

22. Portland Trailblazers - Willie Warren, PG Oklahoma Blazers have no glaring needs so they go with Warren, who will replace Jerryd Bayless on the depth chart.

23. Minnesota Timberwolves - Paul George, SF Fresno State Last year it was PGs, this year it’s wings for the Wolves. That’s okay, they need as much help as they can get there.

24. Atlanta Hawks - Daniel Orton, C Kentucky Amazingly, the 5th Kentucky player taken in the 1st round. The Magic fully exposed the Hawks’ lack of size in the playoffs this year.

25. Memphis Grizzlies - Elliot Williams, SG Memphis Added depth and hometown kid. In my opinion, a Chris Douglas-Roberts clone in every way.

26. Oklahoma City Thunder - Solomon Alabi, C Florida State He can’t be worse than Thabeet and considering he would be taken 24 spots later that probably makes him a super steal.

27. New Jersey Nets - Gani Lawal, PF Georgia Tech They’ll hope for a DeJuan Blair type return with Lawal. PF is their weakest spot, which is really saying something.

28. Memphis Grizzlies - Stanley Robinson, SF Connecticut Robinson is a decent talent who underachieved big time at UConn. Could protect them against Rudy Gay leaving.

29. Orlando Magic - Darrington Hobson, SF New Mexico I'm a huge fan of Hobson. Sort of an Evan Turner-light. He'll probably fall into the 2nd round but I think he's a 1st round talent.

30. Washington Wizards - Lance Stephenson, SG Cincinnati This guy has the talent to climb up to the late teens if his workouts go well.

 

Category: NBA
Tags: draft
 
Posted on: May 5, 2010 12:55 pm
Edited on: May 5, 2010 1:00 pm
 

Free Agency Predictor

The long awaited free agency bonanza of 2010 is not far away. Some will go, some will stay. Here you will find my predictions on where the top 20 impact free agents-to-be (in my opinion) will end up, along with a short witty blurb about stuff and things. It's important to note that currently, the New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets, Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings and Washington Wizards are all set to have ample cap room. Not all of those teams will wish to immediately purge themselves back into cap hell once they have finally dug their way out, but it is these teams that have the flexibility.

Feel free to agree, disagree and/or post your own predictions in the comments section.



LeBron James - CLEVELAND Cavaliers - He’ll make everyone sweat it out but he’ll stay. My guess is that he signs another short deal to keep pressure on the front office.

Dwayne Wade - MIAMI HEAT - He’ll stay if they get another stud, which they will. See below.

Dirk Nowitzki - DALLAS Mavericks - Frustration with another 1<sup>st</sup> round loss will compel him to look around but no one will cater to his every whim like Mark Cuban.

Chris Bosh - CHICAGO BULLS - I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a sign-and-trade. If the Bulls will part with Noah, which they should if it means landing Bosh, it’s a done deal.

Amare Stoudemire - NEW YORK KNICKS - He wants the big market and a reunion with the guy who doesn’t require him to play defense, Mike D’Antoni.

Joe Johnson - NEW YORK KNICKS - There’s a big pay day in New York. That’s what he’s looking for.

Carlos Boozer - MIAMI HEAT - Utah will settle for starting Paul Milsap. Boozer has already said he would love to play in Miami.  

David Lee - OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER - A perfect fit. OKC needs a post presence in the worst way. Lee has the lunch pale approach that won’t clash with Durant’s dominance of the ball.

Yao Ming - HOUSTON Rockets - With his debilitating injury streak no one will pay him as much as he is making in Houston.

Paul Pierce - BOSTON Celtics - If he didn’t leave back when they were a bottom feeder he certainly isn’t leaving now.

Rudy Gay - MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES - The Wolves will beat out other teams for Gay because they have plenty of trade options and they will be willing to drastically overpay. Cosmically speaking, it would also unite Kevin Love and Rudy Gay. Think of the headline possibilities.

Ray Allen - CHICAGO BULLS - Boston will want him back but Chicago will sharply outbid them. The Bulls will be nasty with a Rose - Allen - Deng - Bosh - Noah (?) lineup.

Richard Jefferson - SAN ANTONIO Spurs Above average role player at this point but he fits well with San Antonio. Why would anyone leave San Antonio?

John Salmons - ATLANTA Hawks - Desperation move in order replace JJ. Nice consolation.

Josh Howard - NEW JERSEY NETS - Nets have enough for a max contract but the Knicks have enough for two. The team not playing in Newark will win out in the East Coast battle, leaving the Nets with a couple of second tier guys.

Kenyon Martin - DENVER Nuggets - No team left with money will need him and Denver is a good fit anyways.

Al Harrington - NEW JERSEY NETS - Not an ideal power forward to go with Brook Lopez but he’s still an underrated performer and will drastically improve the Nets front court.

Tyson Chandler - SACRAMENTO KINGS - The Kings' bigs are kinda pathetic. Chandler will at least give them some great defense.

Peja Stojakovic - LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS - The Clips have plenty of cap room and Stojakovic will be far from their top priority but I can’t see any of the the top wing players, which is what they want, going there.

Shaquille O’Neal - LOS ANGELES Lakers -  He’ll sign a two year deal and close out his career as a fan favorite from where he enjoyed his glory years. Of course, backing up Andrew Bynum might be a bit of a strange role for him.



* I recognize that I didn't award a single player to the Wizards despite their ability to pay a max contract. They're unfortunately such a mess right now that I just can't see a top free agent not opting for a different team.

Category: NBA
Posted on: April 15, 2010 4:10 pm
 

Apologies to Jonny Flynn

Jonny Flynn had a productive rookie season. It was a good season. Yet listen to most Wolves fans describe it and you would probably walk away thinking it was a disaster. A flop. A total bust. Out of frustration of enduring the worst season in Wolves basketball, I, at times, have been guilty of this too. But alas, some perspective.
 
Below are the full season stat lines for various starting point guards in the league. To be more accurate, they are the stat lines from the player’s first season in which they averaged at least 28 minutes per game. I chose that number because it suggests it was the first season in which the player was given a starter’s type role.
 
See if you can predict who did what.
 
a) 7.9 points, 5.5 assists, 2.9 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 36 FG% in 31 minutes per game
b) 10.8 points, 4.5 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 42 FG% in 29 minutes per game
c) 10.6 points, 5.1 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 49 FG% in 29 minutes per game
d) 11.3 points, 3.3 assists, 2.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals 35 FG% in 32 minutes per game
e) 9.2 points, 4.3 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 42 FG% in 30 minutes per game
f) 13.5 points, 4.4 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 42 FG% in 29 minutes per game
 


 
a) Steve Nash - 3rd Season
b) Deron Williams - 1st Season
c) Rajon Rondo - 2nd Season
d) Chauncey Billups - 1st Season
e) Tony Parker - 1st Season
f) Jonny Flynn - 1st Season
 
 
So as you can see, Flynn’s rookie year compares favorably, if not flat out better, than many of the top point guards in the league. The three glaring exceptions are Jason Kidd, Derrick Rose and Chris Paul, who all had superior rookie seasons, but in the end that’s what those players are, exceptions. Otherwise, every other great point guard in the NBA clearly failed to experience a statistical breakthrough in their first, second or even third prominent season. The other thing to remember is that with Flynn’s outstanding quickness and athleticism, as well as the fact that’s he’s a mere 21 years old, he still has plenty of room to develop.
 
The next question that bears asking is why then is Flynn the subject of such harsh criticism? I can narrow it down to four primary causes.
 
1. The Systematic Maladaption of Timberwolves Fans
Very simply, the vast majority of Wolves fans believe they are cursed. They believe that no matter who they draft, who they acquire in trade or free agency, who they decide on as coach or GM or who they send to represent them at the draft lottery, they are so thoroughly cursed that it will positively end up a disaster. And so when a player, in this case Flynn, is taken the demoralized ranks of Wolves fans essentially start the countdown to when they can officially call the pick a failure without appearing completely irrational. Some skip the countdown all together and jump straight off the cliff. Note, I’m not saying some of the skittishness isn’t warranted. On the contrary, proof of an actual curse certainly would answer a lot of questions. But fans and critics alike need to calm down, step back and take a few deep breaths. Case in point: Brandon Roy. Yes, the Wolves traded Brandon Roy for Randy Foye. An epic debacle of a trade. In that same draft, the Raptors took Andreas Bargnani over Roy. The Bobcats opted for Adam Morrison. The Bulls took Tyrus Thomas and the Hawks thought Shelden Williams would be better. The truth is that several teams swung and missed big on Roy, but bitter, jaded, sky-is-perpetually-falling Wolves fans don’t see that. They just see the cliff.
 
2. That Darned Ricky Rubio
People, a lot of them, live an orderly life. They like things the way they do. Everything has to fit neatly in its place. In my highly unprofessional opinion, it is this characteristic that lies at root of the inability of Wolves fans and the draft clowns at ESPN to comprehend the logic behind the Flynn pick. The Wolves took a PG in Rubio and so the nice and neat, orderly folks of the world thought that naturally they would fill another position of need. Most, at the time, said they should have taken DeMar DeRozan because his draft card said “Shooting Guard”. That made orderly sense. Instead with Flynn, the Wolves took who they thought was the best player available (before you shout “Stephen Curry” at the computer screen please go reread the thing above about point guards in their first season). They drafted the best player available because at this stage in their progression overall talent is what matters, not filling out a roster sheet. The drafting of Rubio was the drafting of an asset more than it was a contributing player. They were drafting an incredible future possibility when they took Rubio, whereas with Flynn, they were drafting their starting point guard. Plus, there would have been an actual honest to goodness riot at Target Center if the Wolves had passed on Rubio with two consecutive picks. Things played out as they did and now, unfortunately, there is this mystical floating Rubio head that looms over Flynn every time he misses a shot or commits a silly turnover. The floating Rubio heads says things like “Flynn is garbage, luckily you have me waiting in the wings” and “Don’t get used to the smiley guy with the headband, when I get tired of Spain I’ll be over to claim my job”. Rubio, in a way, has prevented people from ever really supporting Flynn in the same way a fan base never really gets behind an interim head coach or in the way a kid never really embraces a mom’s boyfriend. They know the next one is right around the corner so why get attached?
 
3. A Bad Situation
Nothing about his rookie year was really ideal for Jonny Flynn. He was also cast onto a team that by design was supposed to fail…miserably. Known for his ability to fast break, he was surrounded with tree trunks the likes of Damien Wilkins, Sasha Pavlovic and Ryan Gomes. A master of the pick and roll at Syracuse, he was told to forget about the pick and roll and basically adopt a new philosophy and style of play in Minnesota, where on the flipside fellow rookie PGs, Brandon Jennings and Steph Curry, were placed in systems that perfectly suited their respective games. These contradictions were done in the name of making Flynn a better overall player. Flynn could have been allowed to play differently, more to his strengths, but in doing so he would have been sacrificing long-term potential and growth in favor of short-term results. Allowing Flynn to do what he does best on nightly basis, with little check or balance, would have resulted in better box scores and simultaneously put him on to the fast track to becoming the next Bobby Jackson, a serviceable and effective scoring backup point guard. Not a bad thing necessarily. However, by forcing him to harness his established talents and instead pain stakingly improve on his weaknesses the belief is that he will eventually develop into a legitimate upper tier starting point guard. This is the vision (and gamble) of David Kahn and Kurt Rambis. It sounds terrific in theory and if it works they will both look like geniuses some day. If it doesn’t pan out, see #1.
 
4. He Played Like A Rookie
I'm going to keep this one short because it's the most apparent and requires the least analysis. Possession killing shots in the first five or so seconds of the shot clock, completely avoidable turnovers at costly times in the game and occassional defense void of any awareness or teamwork were the main culprits. In other words, he played like a rookie. The problem is that the three points above combined with the state of the average Wolves fan being sick and tired of being sick and tired and it all led to the fact that there just wasn't the patience or tolerance of rookie-like play, even though there probably should have been. Flynn didn't play like a rookie of the year or even like he deserved top 5 consideration, but he also wasn't as bad as he was too often portrayed.


The point of this isn’t to make excuses for Jonny Flynn. I’m the first to admit he deserves a fair amount of criticism for some of his play this year. Really, I’m just trying to balance the overwhelming amount of criticism he has received with the credit he also deserves. A commonly held belief is that point guard is by far the toughest position to transition from college to the pros. Based on that and the past development of other guards in the league I tend to believe that maybe, given his respectable stat outputs, obvious intangibles and consistent leadership skills that just maybe, Flynn could make a lot of people eats their words and end up as the Wolves future floor general. Unless, of course, they land John Wall. In that event, ignore everything I just said.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com