Posted on: April 6, 2010 8:37 pm
Ten Moves to Remake the Minnesota Timberwolves (to get them on the right track) and Inspire Fans to Want to Buy Tickets (and support the team again).
It’s not that I have too much free time on my hands or that my life is simply lacking in quality. Rather, I’m sort of an insomniac and can think of nothing better to do at really early hours than stay up and scheme out the Wolves hypothetical future because frankly, at this
point the hypothetical is so much more fun than the actual. So behold, ten moves I would make this offseason if I were running the Timberwolves.
I read a lot of these best case offseason scenarios and they typically lose me when the equivalent of Kevin Durant ends up getting traded for the equivalent of Corey Brewer and a bag of Funyons. Where I am clearly so much better than those other people is that if anything, I handicap the Wolves side a bit in order to emphasize the plausibility of the deal. I wanted to explain that incase you were thinking that the Wolves could have squeezed and extra 2nd round pick out of Philly, or something to that effect.
There’s also one other assumption you have to operate under: the Wolves win the lottery and secure the #1 pick. They have the second best odds of doing so with about a 20% chance. Of course, this requires you adhere to basic probability and not their epic lottery curse history, which is much easier said than done. Anywho, you’ll figure the rest out as you read.
1. Draft John Wall with the #1 pick. Pretty self-explanatory. Wall is the top talent in the draft. Some say Turner is better. I agree that he is better right now but also believe that Wall has barely begun to scratch the surface of his talent, whereas Turner probably has less room for growth.
2. Trade Al Jefferson and Ricky Rubio for #2 pick and salary filler. Suspend your disbelief for a second and consider this possibility. At the time of the draft Rubio will only be one year away from the NBA. That’s a lot easier to stomach than at this time last year. Sure, Turner could be very good but what you get in Jefferson is a known quantity and what you get in Rubio is a ceiling far higher than Turner’s. Jefferson is a well above average rebounder and an absolutely elite low post scorer. His contract isn’t too bad either
considering his talent level and youth. Rubio has the potential to be a transcendent star, who the Wolves can now part with due to the drafting of Wall. Given their respective roster make up, I believe other likely top pick candidates New Jersey, Golden State, Sacramento, Washington and Detroit would jump all over this.
3. Draft Evan Turner #2. Can a Wolves fan dare to dream? Pairing Wall with Turner would fortify the team’s backcourt for the next decade and instantaneously make this team relevant again. Just dream on it for a second. If you happen to disagree with the trade scenario in #2 at least acknowledge that if the resources were shuffled around the right way the deal would still be possible. I believe fully that if the Wolves made any combo of Love, Jefferson, Flynn, Rubio, picks, etc… available they could get it done.
4. Draft Ekpe Udoh #16. I loved watching this dude play for Baylor (Youtube him if you don’t know). He’s probably not a center in the
NBA but his athleticism and shot blocking ability will definitely transfer. He’d be exactly the kind of player to spell Love. He may not last this long in the draft (2 of 4 major mock draft sites have him going before this). If he were to go before this pick Paul George or
Hassan Whiteside would be solid secondary options.
5. Draft Manny Harris in 2nd Round. He’ll definitely fall into the deep 2nd round meaning the Wolves could take him with one of their
three 2nd round picks. He’s limited in potential but would add another scoring option for the end of the bench. That, or he’d be a great addition to the Sioux Falls Skyforce. I like Kyle Singler out of Duke as a secondary option.
6. Resign Darko Milicic. With this fictional crew being assembled in mind, Darko would have the luxury of sitting back, making savvy passes, playing intelligent defense and scoring when the situation is ideal, all while meeting his “request” for heavy minutes in the
rotation. Fortunately, this is the sort of role I think would suit him best at this point.
7. Trade Jonny Flynn, Corey Brewer, Ryan Gomes, Ryan Hollins and the #25 pick to Philadelphia for Andre Igoudala. The 76ers were almost willing to salary dump Igoudala at the trade deadline this year so I’m inclined to believe that they would do this trade. Some wouldn’t even like Brewer for Iggy straight up, given their vast salary differences, Brewer’s much improved play this year, conversely Iggy’s plateaud play and now proven inability to be a #1 team option. Iggy gives the Wolves a much needed athletic defensive presence on the wing. I also tend to believe that his shooting percentages would go back up a bit if he wasn’t the focal point of the offense any more. The 76ers get rebuilding assets in Flynn, Brewer and #25 as well as the expiring contracts of Gomes and Hollins.
8. Sign Matt Bonner in free agency. Bonner is an unrestricted free agent and would help patch the one whole on this team: long range
shooting. He also seems like he could add a nice veteran presence on what would be a really young team. Plus, I’m trying to build a real team here. Not all the moves can be sexy.
9. Sign Kyle Korver in free agency. A few of my friends will probably disown me for condoning the signing of Kyle Korver but like I said
with Bonner, shooting is a need. They could throw this guy out there as a zone buster or simply to space the floor. I can live with all his other bullshiz for 10-15 minutes a game.
10. Bring Nicola Pekovic over from Europe. By all accounts, he’s already confirmed he’s coming. Incase you’re in the 98% of NBA fans
who have never heard of him, he’s the #1 rated Euro center. Scouting reports label him as a hard nosed defensive standout with a mean streak and a lethal scorer anywhere around the basket. The Wolves drafted him in the 2nd round a couple of years ago and it looks like he’s finally ready to play with the big boys. Perhaps backing up another Eastern Euro in Darko would help ease the transition.
So there you have it. Ten moves. Dramatic moves, but arguably realistic I believe. The 12 man rotation would look something like this.
PG – John Wall, Ramon Sessions
SG – Evan Turner, Wayne Ellington, Manny Harris
SF – Andre Igoudala, Kyle Korver
PF – Kevin Love, Ekpe Udoh, Matt Bonner
C – Darko Milicic, Nicola Pekovic
A good balance of youth and experience. Scoring and defense. Fundamentals and electricity.
Most importantly, what do you think?
Posted on: March 31, 2010 5:01 pm
In a few days the Timberwovles will play the final game of their 2009-10 campaign. It will officially mark the third consecutive season of virtually unwatchable Wolves basketball to anyone other than the hardest of core fans. This season holds the distinction as perhaps the worst full season performance by any Timberwolves squad in team history. Yes, this assemblage of “talent” could very well be worse than the early 90s teams that showcased Felton Spencer, Gerald Glass and Doug West. Of course, one could argue that this particular outcome was intentional. That in order to truly rebuild the team had to abandon the ‘one foot in, one foot out’ approach that McHale had attempted and instead fully hit rock bottom before they could rebuild the right way. To that I say mission accomplished, Mr. Kahn. Mission most definitely accomplished.
There is, fortunately, reason for hope. Optimism can be found in the team’s considerable assets. Three 1st round picks. Ample cap room. Youth. Blah. Blah. Blah. That may all be so, but when reviewing this god forsaken season there can be no sense of hope. No silver linings. No glimmering instances of good to hang your foam finger on. There’s no way around it, this was ugly in it's purest form. Turnovers upon turnovers. Ill advised pass after ill advised pass. Missed dunks and missed free throws. NBDL bench players masquerading as NBA athletes. More 15-0 runs than I ever care to remember. Yes it was so very, very ugly. On that note, I present my 2009-10 team grades.
(I should warn you, this is going to be a bit negative. I’ll probably even say some things I don’t really mean out of anger. Such, I feel, is my right, my allowance if you will, for enduring yet another year of basketball by the loosest of definitions and yet surely pulling myself off the mat to do it all again next year.)
The Roster: F
The worst team in the Western Conference deserves no better a grade. Honestly, there is no one on this team that played well enough to make me declare them vital to the team’s long term plans. The closest thing they have to that is Kevin Love but even he showed his flaws. Most notably, his tendency to become obviously shaken by a lack of minutes or cold shooting streak or some other slight that anyone with an appropriate level mental toughness would have overcome. Also, he was used in a reserve role most of the season and is yet to show that he can still put up the ridiculous rebounding numbers against frontline starters.
Al Jefferson, the most dominant player they have, actually had his most unselfish season but never seemed to fully recover from the torn ACL that ended his previous season early. As with pre-injury Jefferson, post-injury Jefferson continues to look a little lost when the offense isn’t running through him.
Jonny Flynn showed glimpses of both good and bad extremes. Regrettably, more bad than good. I can say that he might be the victim of being the most miscast player I’ve ever seen as far as style of play and type of offensive system go. In an up tempo offense I could see him thriving through a persistent fast break attack. In the triangle hybrid offense the Wolves run he was reduced to an undersized guard who cant shoot. His well advertised on ball lock down defense was either an outright lie or the result of criminally inept scouting.
Ramon Sessions had his moments but it was hard to appreciate his game when every minute he was on the court was a minute that Jonny Flynn wasn’t. And Jonny Flynn, as I have already highlighted, needed the minutes.
Corey Brewer was the most improved Timberwolf, probably one of the top five most improved players in the league, but he still can’t shoot well enough to warrant the lion’s share of the minutes at the two guard.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Ryan Gomes needs to be the 8th man on a contending team. Read into that however you like.
At any given time on any given day at any given YMCA in any given pick up game there are no fewer than three guys running full court that are more athletic than Damien Wilkins.
I actually felt disrespected as a fan every time Ryan Hollins, Sasha Pavlovic or Nathan Jawai were on the court.
Oleksiy Pecherov had two good games all season.
Wayne Ellington: a young guy with room to develop, who plays a position of need and unlike the rest of the guards on roster – can shoot. So naturally, he hardly ever plays. I’ll get back to this in the coaching section.
Darko Milicic. I like his game and think he could eventually be solid contributor to a winning team if given the chance. There has been a lot of talk about convincing him that he should stay in the NBA and specifically, with the Timberwolves. How about we flip that and ask ourselves the question, has he done enough to convince the Timberwolves to keep him? I'm not sure that he has.
And finally, the Wolves traded Brian Cardinal to the Knicks. The Knicks cut him. Then the Wolves resigned him. Kind of like when the Cavs traded Zydrunas Ilgauskus and then resigned him a month after he was cut by Washington, except for in the Cardinal instance the player is worthless and the team is irrelevant.
Your 2009-10 Minnesota Timberwolves, ladies and gentlemen!
The Coach: C
The hiring of Kurt Rambis was unusual because at the time he was the highest profile candidate out there. Whereas the Wolves previous few head coach hires had been straight from the bargain bin, Rambis was top shelf, and they paid for it. So far, they’re yet to get their money’s worth.
On the plus side, Rambis kept the team together. Over in an equally pathetic situation, New Jersey, there was all kinds of player drama. Guys were demanding trades or to be outright released. Signaling the onset of female puberty, some Nets players even Tweeted their disgruntled feelings. The Wolves didn’t have any of that and it showed Rambis has their ear. That’s a good thing and a positive sign to move forward with.
On the downside, Rambis failed to achieve what this season was about: player development. I didn’t sense or see that Jonny Flynn was ever getting consistently better. Wayne Ellington regularly and inexplicably took a back seat to the likes of Sasha Pavlovic. Kevin Love and Al Jefferson were given very little opportunity to play together before it was declared a failure. Similarly, Flynn and Ramon Sessions rarely took the court together. I realize these situations created mismatches for the Wolves but in the end, who cares? Instead of going with a non-traditional lineup and trying to create a mismatch for their opponents as well as themselves, Rambis quickly resorted to a safe and formulaic rotation which went on to produce an embarrassingly few amount of wins and a bountiful number of blowout losses. Could it have really been all that much worse had a lineup of Flynn-Sessions-Ellington-Love-Jeffe
rson took the court together? Would they have ended up with the worst record in the league instead of the second worst? Oh no, that would have sucked.
In fairness, Rambis needs more talent. Phil Jackson would have maybe squeezed twenty wins out this group. Beyond that, he needs to develop an identity as a coach. He’s attempting to run some sort of triangle-fast break cross breed offense. Typically, players that thrive within one of those aren’t really suited for the other. The thing is, and I really think Rambis needs to consider this, the only two successful triangle offenses in NBA history have included guys named Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, neither of which have anything to do with the current Timberwolves makeup.
The Front Office: C
David Kahn inherited a tricky situation. His predecessor, Kevin McHale, had acquired just enough talent to not be amongst the league's worst and to give the semblance of a team on the rise, but at its core, was limited in growth potential. So Kahn’s inevitable dilemma was that he was going to have to blow the whole thing up and start over. To a fanbase that had already felt like they were blowing things up when they traded Garnett, the notion of doing it all over again wasn’t in the slightest bit appealing.
The 2009-10 season is ultimately what it needed to be and at heart, what we all knew it would be: a disaster. This season was a series of painful losses followed up by a series of slightly less painful losses, sprinkled with the occasional win. This is what rock bottom is. Rock bottom is somewhat acceptable when you know that your stay on the bottom is merely a pit stop on your eventual way back up to the top. It is in this way that David Kahn will eventually be judged. A little lottery luck and a Ricky Rubio sighting in Target Center within the next year or so will dramatically help that cause.
Other than that, what Kahn does this offseason will be extremely vital. All those afore mentioned assets need to materialize into
positive growth. One thing Kahn said before this season that stuck with me was, and I’m paraphrasing here, that the Wolves wouldn’t
realistically win a lot of games this year but they would always play hard and with tireless effort. They would never lose for a lack of trying. They would be the gritty, gut it out sort of team that other veteran teams don’t like to play for the high level of effort they would need to exert in order to beat one of the league’s supposed bottom feeders. If the players didn’t do that, Kahn promised, he’d find ones who will. Unfortunately, this team rolled over far too many times this season. It led to the disgust I felt, which I’ve never had for this organization before. I hoped it would never come to this, but Kahn will need to live up to his promise on this one.
Up Next: my 2010 mock offseason, in which I speculate on things that will almost certainly not happen!
Posted on: February 22, 2010 11:38 am
The title should read "Let's trade Big Al just because Darko had one good game and immediately demonstrated how much better Kevin Love is with a defensive shot blocker backing him up than an offensively oriented big man" but that wouldn't fit in the title space. Reactionary, yes, but who gives a dip?
In this instance, the Wolves land the #1 pick and New Jersey ends up #2. Ignoring the Wolves lottery curse, this is a plausible scenario given the team records.
Wolves Future Lineup
Posted on: January 26, 2010 2:39 pm
If you follow NBA trade rumors at all, you are well aware of the published reports, both out of Arizona and nationally, that the Suns are likely to deal Amare Stoudamire before the trade deadline, which is nearly three weeks away. Why? There’s a few reasons but the main one is because he wants a max contract and with the sun beginning to set on the Suns Steve Nash induced run, Phoenix doesn’t want to lock him up much beyond when they expect Nash to retire, which is in two years. From reading around it appears that much of the fanbase won’t exactly be sad to see him go either.
OKC Post-Trade Lineup:
Minnesota Post-Trade Lineup:
Phoenix Post-Trade Lineup:
Posted on: January 15, 2010 12:25 pm
Minnesota - Chicago - New Orleans
New Orleans Rationale:
New Orleans Outcome:
Posted on: November 13, 2009 2:08 pm
The Timberwolves are sucking hard right now but no one with honest expectations should be all that surprised by it. Rookie head coach, rookie point guard, two key players coming off devastating injuries, second best player currently injured, a completely overhauled roster with very little chemistry, and of course, a low level of overall talent.
So to pass the time until this team can improve I thought about three REALISTIC trades that could be done in order to reshape the Wolves outlook.
You can play, too! Here's how. Pick any NBA team, even the Wolves, and come up with three or fewer trades that could improve the team substantially. YOU MUST BE ABLE TO JUSTIFY THE TRADES, although your explanations don't need to be nearly as detailed as mine. For a challenge, make the trades work under the cap. You can do that under the Trade Checker at www.realgm.com.
I know it's non-traditional with Love and Smith at the two big spots but I do think their playing styles compliment each other really well. Plus, Love, though not as tall as you'd like, has demonstrated the ability and bulk to guard bigger players.
This roster also isn't exactly a powerhouse as is. But there aren't any realistic scenarios in which the Wolves could add the talent necessary to do that. It is, however, a plausible start and puts several young and talented pieces in place that could truly shine in a run-and-gun/triangle hybrid offense.
Finally, this scenario leaves the Wolves with plenty of assets to improve further. They'll still have their high 2010 lottery pick, Utah's 2010 1st Round Pick and either Charlotte's 2010 or 2011 1st Round Pick. They have several expiring contracts, which they could throw into another trade or let expire and use in free agency. Another wildcard is Euro center extraordinaire, Nicola Pekovic, universally regarded as top 3 European prospect. He should be over next season.
Posted on: May 11, 2009 10:59 am
Are we in the final days of the McHale era? Anyone who has even casually observed the situation would think so but we’re talking about a guy who has survived more trials than most executives are allowed to endure. Some liken him to a cockroach that just won’t die. Some think that’s too insulting to cockroaches. I’m on record as saying I don’t think he is as bad as is often made out to be. I understand the frustration for losing has to go somewhere and the very nature of his job means he takes the brunt of that frustration from the media and fanbase. But if I’m being fair, I’ll admit that he has taken a lot of Heat for things that are out of his control. That being said, I think he should be fired yesterday. In case we are in the final throws of Mac’s reign, I tried, as objectively as possible, to formulate a list of both his sins and successes, as well as those things he just couldn’t control. This is my opinion, of course, so feel free to add things I forgot in the comments below or challenge one of my rulings.
The Not His Fault But He Still Eats The Blame For the Fallout
Posted on: May 4, 2009 4:31 pm
All of these scenarios are…
Main Factor: Two years ago Oden is untradeable and Portland is the luckiest team in the league for winning that lottery. However, since then it’s been all down hill for him. A season ending injury before his rookie season even began and an eventual underwhelming rookie campaign that saw him battle numerous nagging injuries and other rookie centers, Brook Lopez and Marc Gasol, outwork and outclass him.
Why Minnesota does it: They land a young talent with star-potential in Oden, who also happens to be a direct need as a shot blocking rebounder. They also pick up a young point guard in either Bayless or Rodriguez, with not quite the upside of Oden but upside nonetheless, and the potential to contribute immediately. From an injury stand point it’s somewhat of a risk for Minnesota but it could also be a homerun. The fans are thirsty for a homerun.
Why Portland does it: It’s rumored that many within the organization already regret the Oden pick and are having visions of Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan all over again. Through injuries and uninspired play, Oden has destroyed much of his allure. Plus, he doesn’t fit their style of play. Joel Pryzbilla has been a much more effective center for them. Portland is also mired in salary cap hell (thank you, Darius Miles). Cardinal and Brown are both expiring contracts, which is what they covet. Bayless doesn’t play and Rodriguez gets minimal minutes. They get paid too much money to do nothing, they’re expendable. Lastly, Portland loves to acquire picks and could use the #5/6 pick on a post presence like Jordan Hill from Arizona.
Main Factor: Washington is absolutely up against the cap. There’s even talk of them not using their high lottery pick because they don’t want to pay the money. Anyone who doesn’t think expiring contracts are worth ten times their weight right now wasn’t paying attention to any trades that went down over the past two years in the NBA. Pau Gasol was given away for a pack of Chiklets and cash. Tyson Chandler was handed over for a bag of balls and some cash. Joe Smith, Stephon Marbury, Mikki Moore and Drew Gooden were all paid money mid-season to go away. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but it is what it is.
Why Minnesota does it: Pretty much a no brainer from a talent stand point. Butler is an underrated player and perpetually on the verge of stardom. He can do everything Miller can but with twice the athleticism and he’s a better overall scorer. At 29 years of age, he’s the same age as Miller and should at least have three years of peak productivity left. Smith is a nice player but with Jefferson, Love and Oden on roster he just doesn’t have a place here. They’d have to eat Songalia’s contract but they have the flexibility to do so. What was the point of clearing cap if they weren’t willing to eventually add it?
Why Washington does it: Money. If they draft in the top 3, which is where they are slated, they should pick up an immediate contributor but also a semi-hefty contract. Miller gives them a talent inferior to Butler but theoretically someone who could at least contribute the same approximate scoring value. Craig Smith would give them an offensive post presence, which they lack, and even better, another expiring contract.
Main Factor: This scenario is dependant on Chicago wanting to dump Hinrich’s salary, which I believe is likely the case. The word out of Chicago is that the reason a Bulls/Wolves Hinrich trade didn’t happen before the deadline this year was because Minnesota was unwilling to include all expiring deals for him. Maybe that changes now. Make no bones, Hinrich is a good player but he is overpaid. This is the deal, above all, I would be most hesitant to do. But if the Wolves aren't sold on Foye as a starter then why not turn him into one?
Why Minnesota does it: They get a franchise point guard. Hinrich isn’t on the Chris Paul/Deron Williams/Derrick Rose level but he’s a good distributor, shooter and defender and still relatively young at age 28. A lot of people would be opposed to giving up Foye, who at this point admittedly has more upside than Hinrich, but that’s the gamble. This team needs a point guard. Foye hasn’t proven he can be that.
#4. Minnesota trades their #18 pick and one or both of their second round picks to any of the teams drafting #9 - #14 in order to move up and draft Tyreke Evans, DeMar DeRozan or Stephen Curry.
Main Factor: It comes down to money again. Several GMs are on record as saying they will look to move out of the lottery or out of the draft entirely. They simply don’t want to pay for such a pick in what’s viewed as a weak draft class, especially lottery teams with vet rosters such as Washington, Toronto, Golden State and Charlotte.
Why Minnesota does it: They need guard help and it’s unlikely that any of the top shooting guards will make it to #18. Most reputable mock drafts have any combo of Evans, DeRozan and Curry (I rank them in that order) going sometime between picks #6-14. Evans is a slashing-scorer type with well above average passing skills and great size at 6’6” but is held out of the top 5 due to an underdeveloped jump shot and raw overall game. DeRozan’s athletic ability draws comparisons to Vince Carter in this prime but he’s most definitely a project. Curry is not and will not be an NBA starter but his shot is the truth and will be a factor in the NBA, if used properly. There are solid point guards like Ty Lawson, Jonny Flynn and Eric Maynor but they can wait for pick #18 if that’s who they are interested in.
Why other teams would do it: Mostly for the reasons listed under Main Factor. Second round picks and their non-guaranteed status are desirable in this economic state and if it only means moving down to #18 a team could be compelled.
Main Factor: Mullens is a 7 foot center with big time upside but also very much a long-term project. Based on upside he may end up going long before this pick but as of now he is projected to go around this point. If he’s not available, use this pick for either the best available player or to help facilitate any of the above trades.
Main Factor: He’s a solid young player with world class athleticism and a developing three point shot. That being said, I would only re-sign him for a very modest fee. The contract would have to be low in both money and years.
2009-2010 Final Roster
PG - Kirk Hinrich - Sergio Rodriguez/Jerryd Bayless
Overall, I think that’s a pretty formidable squad with plenty of room left to grow. I’d also be open to involving Gomes in any potential deal, but for the sake of these scenarios I opted for guys with expiring deals instead. I think this team would be versatile. They’d be able to pound the paint with Jefferson, Love and Oden. They’d also be able to push the tempo with Butler, Brewer, Evans and Carney. Jump shooting could be a problem, but Hinrich, Butler, Gomes, Love and Carney are all above average.
Of course, all of this goes out the window if the Wolves get lucky and land a top 2 pick in the draft, but if not I say pull the trigger, future Wolves GM. Pull the trigger.