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 21, 2010 11:50 am
Edited on: January 25, 2010 11:25 am
- as of 1/21/10
1. Tyreke Evans - Wowza. After a slow start he has exploded to the tune of 20-5-5. Those are all-star numbers in case you’re wondering. It'll be interesting to see if he maintains that pace now that Kevin Martin is back. What if Memphis had taken him, which is a plausible scenario given his Tennessee roots? They'd have passed OKC and Portland as the hottest young team in the league.
2. Brandon Jennings - Dude has cooled off a ton after a totally psychotic (and unrealistic) start, just as the Bucks have as a whole. That being said, he's still playing monster minutes and being allowed to shoot at will. At this point he's looking like the SOD at #10. The most criminal offense of all: the Knicks passed on him. The same team that coveted PG Ricky Rubio and scorer Stephen Curry, both because of their respective games and ability to fill seats, let the guy who could have filled all three roles go...for another guy who you won't see anywhere on this list.
3. Jonny Flynn - Flashes of brilliance followed up with flashes of stupidity, par for the rookie course. The talent, attitude and top flight athletic ability are there just waiting to be harnessed. His 14 pts and 4 assists, though solid, is inferior to Jennings' 18-6 but consider this: Jennings is averaging 5 more minutes a game and has taken a stunning 141 more shots! Pro-rate that out and their stats are virtually identical. Now dream big and imagine that the Wolves have a couple of wings who can hit a mid-range jumpshot and his numbers really skyrocket.
4. Stephen Curry - Like everyone else in a Don Nelson offense, his numbers are inflated beyond their actual performance level. Curry has been ok, definitely solid for a rook, but he's pretty much looking like the limited ceiling pick he was projected to be. In any other system it would be really hard to see how he would survive defensively as either a 2-guard or a point guard. Good thing he's not in any other system.
5. Omri Casspi - There's a lot of buzz around this guy and I admit he has been good, but I'm not sold yet. He has played 35+ minutes thirteen times already this year. He's played 40+ minutes five times. It's impressive and rare that a rook would yield such a heavy dose of minutes, but it also tempers the excitement around his moderately large stat outputs. Any 6'9" NBA player, when given 40 minutes a game, should be able to average 12 points and 5 rebs.
6. DeJuan Blair - He had no business falling as far as he did in the draft, bad knees or no. His play has exceeded his statistical output in every way. He's been able to contribute big minutes for a top team in the mighty Western Conference and smoothly bridge the gaps in which Tim Duncan is not on the floor. That's hard enough for a veteran to do, let alone an apparently broken down rookie.
7. James Harden - He's been pretty ho-hum so far. 9 points, 3 rebs and 2 assists is hardly what you expect out of the #3 overall pick. He's getting pretty good minutes, too. The problem is he isn't getting a lot of shots, which is largely due to the fact that Russell Westbrook is a shooting guard trapped in a point guard's body. At Arizona State, Harden showed he needs a high volume of shots to be effective, which he isn't going to get behind Durant and Westbrook. Consequently, I wouldn’t be surprised to see trade-happy OKC GM, Sam Presti, move Harden as soon as this year while his stock is still high.
8. Jonas Jerebko - I almost forgot the Pistons were playing this year given how little coverage they’ve received. Apparently, Ben Gordon and Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer don't do much for national audiences. Even still, this dude has been a good bit player for them. Averaging 9 points and 5 rebs, he's basically on pace with what Rudy Fernandez did as a rook, minus all the publicity.
9. DeMar DeRozan - DeRozan makes this list by default because basically there aren't any more rookies consistently doing anything productive. We all sort of knew this slow start would happen. DeRozan is so talented, yet so unrefined that it will take a couple of years before this guy does or does not materialize into what he is capable. He will, however, compete in this year's dunk contest. Reminds me a bit of Gerald Green in that regard. Here's hoping DeRozan turns out nothing like Gerald Green!
10. Ty Lawson - In a short (no pun initially intended, then I realized it was a pun, then I decided to leave it in. Lawson is short) amount of time Lawson has proved three things. 1) He will never be an All-Star. 2) He will have a long career as an effective backup PG. 3) He was a great value pick at #18. Good job, Denver!
And now, individual honors for the excluded…
Close But No Cigars - Tyler Hansbrough, Taj Gibson, Sam Young, Chase Budinger, Wayne Ellington. If these guys were just a little better they would have made the list. But they're not, so they must endure the humiliation of the Honorable Mention designation.
Too Bad, So Sad - Blake Griffin. What a buzzkill? With Greg Oden and now Griffin, Derrick Rose is all that stands between a #1 overall pick curse theory.
What The Fudge? - Jordan Hill. Seriously, what the fudge New York?
I Sorta Get It, But Seriously, What The Fudge - Hasheem Thabeet. I mean, I sorta get, but seriously Memphis, what the fudge?
I Was Drafted In The Lottery And You've Already Forgotten I Exist - Gerald Henderson. I'm sorry, who?
Given The Disastrous State Of My Team I Should Be Putting Up Some Pretty Good Numbers Because I Was A Lottery Pick Which Implies I Am Talented And Really, What Better Options Do They Have? But Inspite Of All Of That I'm Not Doing Shiz - Terrence Williams. This guy is a little inexplicable. And the Nets owe him millions.
Have a good life.
Posted on: January 15, 2010 12:25 pm
Minnesota - Chicago - New Orleans
New Orleans Rationale:
New Orleans Outcome:
Posted on: November 27, 2009 11:04 pm
How many times can Ryan Hollins completely disregard his 7 foot height and be manhandled on the boards in such a way that would make Earl Boykins blush, all of which leaves you longing for Bill Laimbeer to suit up and start throwing some elbows because hell, it can't get any worse, right?
Al Jefferson has been particularly brutal in this baker's dozen stretch of losses, very few of which were even competitive. First and foremost, he's clearly not back from his ACL injury. Everything that made him one of the top 3 lost post scorers in the league is missing right now. Secondly, his 30 lb. weight loss was well advertised in the offseason. Perhaps dropping all that extra weight will allow him to stay healthy over the long haul but for now I can't help but notice how he's getting pushed around in the paint on both ends of the court and think that those 30 lbs. could come in handy right about now. Thirdly, which on a sidenote, is most likely due to the first two factors but still worth highlighting, he's just not playing well. In the past I've always found the wrap that he's a defensively flawed ball hog to be blown way out of proportion and more of a generalization that lazy fans were using to pigeonhole the guy. But I call it like it is and right now he is exactly that. He's not passing unless it's to kick it out to the three point line in order to evade a double team. In other words, his passing isn't creating any kind of offense. Quicker big men are exploding past him, which is leading to the types of touch fouls you'd expect out of Ryan Gomes. Most puzzling, the ball just isn't falling through the hoop. He's doing the same types of moves he always used to embarrass opponents in the past. The shots he's taking and missing are the shots that when he used to take them you knew with 99% certainty it was going in. For the sanity of Wolves fans everywhere, he had better get it together soon or this team will be making a run at the all-time record for fewest wins in a season.
Of course, the Nets might beat them to it.
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.