Category:NBA
Posted on: April 6, 2010 8:37 pm
 

Ten Moves to Remake the Minnesota Timberwolves

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
PFKevin 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
 

Minnesota Timberwolves 2009-10 Season Review

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
 

Let's Trade Big Al!

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?


1. Timberwolves - Nets - Lakers

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.

  • The Wolves deal #1 and Al Jefferson to the Nets for #2, Brook Lopez and a future 1st.
  • The Nets take their franchise guy in John Wall.
  • The Wolves bank on Rubio/Flynn and grab the best wing in the draft and Brandon Roy clone, Evan Turner. They also have added cap space to sign up to a max contract free agent, such as Rudy Gay. Gay isn’t worth a max contract but they’ll probably have to overpay in order to get Memphis not to match the offer.
  • The Nets then deal Devin Harris to the Lakers for Andrew Bynum and Sasha Vujacic, who’s contract they’d very much like to get of.  

 

Wolves Future Lineup
PG - Ricky Rubio/Jonny Flynn
SG - Evan Turner
SF - Rudy Gay/Corey Brewer
PF - Kevin Love
C - Brook Lopez

Why the Wolves will do it: They walk away with an extremely well rounded, young and relatively inexpensive roster that will officially become their core to move forward with. A Love-Lopez front court makes a lot of sense and a couple of wings like Turner-Gay are exactly the type that would thrive in an uptempo offense, such as the one they want to initiate with Flynn-Rubio.
Why the Wolves won’t do it: This organization has waited so long to actually luck out in the lottery AND they also have a history of passing on future stars in the draft that there could be a full on mutiny if they let John Wall and the #1 overall pick slip away, regardless of how good Turner looks.

 
Nets Future Lineup:
PG - John Wall
SG - Courtney Lee/Chris Douglas-Roberts
SF - Terrence Williams/Yi Jianlin
PF - Al Jefferson
C - Andrew Bynum

Why the Nets will do it: It’s a no-brainer on their end. They’ve already made it clear that they’re willing to deal Harris so that’s no big loss. With the Knicks aiming to make a big splash and the possibility of coming off the all-time worst record ever, they’ll look to improve quickly. In this scenario they add two big time young players in Jefferson and Bynum but they also get the face of the franchise and the guy will turn attention away from whatever the Knicks do, John Wall.
Why the Nets won’t do it: They really like Brook Lopez. But seriously, they would do this deal in a second.


Lakers Future Lineup:
PG - Devin Harris/Shannon Brown
SG - Kobe Bryant
SF - Ron Artest/Luke Walton
PF - Lamar Odom
C - Pau Gasol

Why the Lakers will it: Bynum is young and talented but he just seems like the odd man out in LA. He’s also not the most healthy of guys. Mostly, however, there’s just too many other weapons for him to really get into a groove on. He also has some injury concerns. Derek Fisher is done and putting a guard like Harris on the court with Kobe would be incredible. He’d continually be left with favorable matchups and the ability to distribute to a virtual all-star team. They’d have the best starting five in basketball, hands down
Why the Lakers won’t do it: Contrary to this outsider’s opinion, they seem to really value Bynum. They wouldn’t deal him for Kidd a few year’s back but maybe now that they’ve seen his apparent ceiling they’d be willing to throw him out there, especially if he sucks in the playoffs. Also, Harris isn’t exactly Mr. Durable either.



That's it.

Posted on: January 26, 2010 2:39 pm
 

Here Is Another Trade Scenario

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.

So here is the deal. Try to read the whole thing before criticizing it. Also, approach it with the current state of the NBA in mind. A lot of people react to these trade scenarios like it’s a video game or fantasy league and anything short of LeBron for Kobe and a 2nd Round Pick is unfair. Admittedly, this is just for fun and entirely hypothetical, but getting inside a team’s true motive and circumstance, in my opinion, is what makes it worth reading.

Oklahoma City Thunder
Gives: Jeff Green, James Harden, 1st Round Pick (Lottery Protected)
Gets: Amare Stoudemire, Ryan Gomes

Minnesota Timberwolves
Gives: Ricky Rubio, Ryan Gomes, Corey Brewer, Damien Wilkins, Mark Blount
Gets: Jeff Green, James Harden

Phoenix Suns
Gives: Amare Stoudemire
Gets: Ricky Rubio, Corey Brewer, Damien Wilkins, Mark Blount, OKC 1st Pick (Lottery Protected)



OKC Rationale:
The Thunder do this because (1) Sam Presti loves to trade and (2) their glaring weakness is a quality big man. A three-headed monster of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Amare Stoudemire would be truly electric. There’s also little downside on their end. Upgrading Jeff Green to Stoudemire is an absolute no brainer. Sure, Harden was the #3 pick overall less than a year ago but I still contend that they didn’t really want to make that pick, but rather did so because there just wasn’t anyone better available, in their mind. Westbrook and Harden are redundant and besides, a player like Stoudemire is infinitely more rare than a player like Harden. They also land Gomes, who though admittedly worse, is more or less the same sort of player as Green. They have to throw in the 1st Round Pick but it is Lottery Protected, hence avoiding any serious risk. Finally, some fans may disapprove because they feel this deal leaves the team with little depth, but keep in mind that they’d still have the bulky expiring contracts of Etan Thomas and Matt Harpring on hand to make one more noteworthy move in order to shore things up.

OKC Post-Trade Lineup:
PG - Russell Westbrook
SG - Kevin Durant
SF - Ryan Gomes
PF - Amare Stoudemire
C - Nenad Kristic

Key Reserves: Nick Collison, Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka
Analysis: A dynamic young team poised to make a playoff run now with assets still available to improve the team.


Minnesota Rationale:
Whether or not you like this trade from a Minnesota perspective probably depends on how you feel about Rubio. David Kahn contends he isn’t on the table. Whether or not that’s true, he’s still potentially their biggest trade asset. This deal allows the Wolves to add two young pieces to their core in Green and Harden and still have a high lottery pick in the 2010 draft, as well as the cap flexibility to sign a big name free agent. Losing Gomes means nothing because they have an option to void his contract after this year and they’ll probably do so anyways. Blount and Wilkins and their expiring contracts are in the deal for no other reason than to balance the salaries and provide Phoenix with some cap relief. Some Minnesota fans will flinch at giving up Brewer, given how well he has played this season, but ultimately you’ve got to go with the more proven commodity in Jeff Green. In the end, this will all come down to the Rubio question. If Kahn really believes that Rubio will be part of the Wolves future then this deal never gets off the ground. On the other hand, if Kahn believes Rubio will drag his feet in Spain until he gets out of Minnesota then this may be the best deal they can get.

Minnesota Post-Trade Lineup:
PG - Jonny Flynn
SG - James Harden
SF - Jeff Green
PF - Kevin Love
C - Al Jefferson

Key Reserves: Ramon Sessions, Wayne Ellington, Ryan Hollins
Analysis: Good to great young group with plenty of flexibility to get better through the draft and free agency.

 
Phoenix Rationale:
Suns fans are most likely to dislike this trade. That’s because they’ll want a young star in return for Stoudemire, and I don’t blame them for that, but unfortunately it’s just not the reality of the NBA. Realistically, the best they’ll be able to hope for is cap relief, draft picks and some young mid-level prospects. Compounding the already difficult nature of trading a superstar is the fact that Stoudemire is in the final year of his contract, which means if he doesn’t like where he goes he won’t re-sign. He has already said that he will only re-sign with a contender. Sure, the dregs of the league could probably offer up better picks and prospects but he would never agree to sign there meaning no team that didn’t already have a handshake agreement that he’d re-sign would ever deal anything meaningful for him.  So basically, any trade in which Phoenix receives value will have to be in some round about way like this. The one thing that contradicts this theory is a recent interview in which Stoudemire implied he’d be okay with going to the Nets, who are obviously a historically bad team. The Nets aren’t giving up Brook Lopez or Devin Harris until they know if they get John Wall. They sure as hell aren’t giving up the pick that could land them John Wall, which means the best they could offer would be some combination of Chris Douglas-Roberts, Courtney Lee, Terrence Williams and Yi Jianlin. When I think honestly about it, I’d rather have a package that includes a potentially transformational star in Ricky Rubio than a couple of guys who already appeared limited to slightly above mediocre. In fact, ESPN Insider ran a report this week about how the Suns have big time interest in Rubio as the future successor to Steve Nash. Makes sense, if you think about it. The Suns also pick up what will most likely be a mid to late 1st Round Pick and an emerging player in Corey Brewer who would fit their run and gun style well. Lastly, they clear a bunch of cap space that would make them relevant players in free agency sooner rather than later.

Phoenix Post-Trade Lineup:
PG - Steve Nash
SG - Jason Richardson
SF - Grant Hill
PF - Channing Frye
C - Robin Lopez

Key Reserves: Leandro Barbosa, Corey Brewer, Goran Dragic (Suns fans love this dude)
Analysis: Probably won’t improve this year, but this trade isn’t about that. It’s about setting them up to recover in the next two years, which this trade does do.

 
Okay then, rip away.

 

Posted on: January 21, 2010 11:50 am
Edited on: January 25, 2010 11:25 am
 

I Should Probably Upload Some Rookie Rankings

Rookie Rankings! 
- 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
 

Why Not Just Propose A DetailedTrade Scenario?

Minnesota - Chicago - New Orleans
*** Note, this trade works under NBA salary rules.

New Orleans
Gives: Chris Paul, Emeka Okafor, David West
Gets: Al Jefferson, Jonny Flynn, Joakim Noah, Jerome James, Mark Blount, Chicago 1st Round Pick

Chicago
Gives: Joakim Noah, Jerome James, 1st Round Pick
Gets: David West, Emeka Okafor

Minnesota
Gives: Al Jefferson, Jonny Flynn, Mark Blount
Gets: Chris Paul

 
Think about it. Dynamic.

New Orleans Rationale: 
It's all based around the rumors that New Orleans is willing to blow everything up in order to shed money. Fans and rubes won't like this in much the same way Memphis fans probably didn't like it when they gave Pau Gasol away, but sometimes the reality of the situation is not always a pleasant reality. It's important to note, this premise isn't an obscure interweb rumor, it's fairly substantiated. The organization is hemorrhaging money. In fact, they pretty much started doing so about five minutes after arriving in New Orleans. They don't want to trade Paul but realize that he would never stand for the team trading every ounce of talent around him. So the Hornets unload the ridiculous Okafor contract, which they started regretting about five minutes after offering it, and West, who is talented but overpaid and at the ripe old age of 30 probably isn’t part of the long term rebuilding plan. After this deal the only insane contract they have left is Stojakovic and they can stomach that for a year. The silver lining in all of this is that they get some really nice young pieces in return, which is a rarity in today’s salary dump deals. Al Jefferson actually makes about the same money as West. He’s an all around upgrade over West, talent-wise, and is six years younger. It gives them a dominant low post threat to build around and a signal to fans that they aren’t just quitting. Then they get two young building blocks in Jonny Flynn and Joakim Noah, two players that resemble what they are losing in a way but for a fraction of the cost. Throw in a 1st<sup> </sup>Round Pick from Chicago and two big expiring contracts in Jerome James and Mark Blount and the Hornets can’t let this one pass. 
 
New Orleans Post Trade Line Up:
PG - Jonny Flynn
SG - Peja Stojakovic
SF - James Posey
PF - Al Jefferson
C - Joakim Noah
Key Reserves: Morris Peterson, Julian Wright, Marcus Thornton

New Orleans Outcome:
Pros - Shed big contracts, cap/free agency flexibility, three talented players under the age of 25, multiple future 1<sup>st</sup> Round Picks
Cons - lose top 3 PG in league, piss off fanbase


Chicago Rationale:
The Bulls have started this season in sucky fashion after putting up one of the best playoff series in NBA history last year. They also appear to be on the brink of firing their coach (a big mistake in my opinion). They have some nice players but are clearly feeling the loss of Ben Gordon. Derrick Rose is already publicly lamenting the absence of help around him. This is all troubling because I don’t think Chicago has any interest in rebuilding, yet they don’t have the talent on hand necessary to be a top flight team in the East. So, if they could give up some promising youth in order to add a stud or two, I believe they’d do it in a heart beat. To me, Chicago is the biggest no brainer in this three-way. They give up the skilled, yet emotionally unstable center in Noah, a sizeable expiring in James and a 1st Round Pick for two players that would give them a front court that could contend with any team in the East. Sure, they add a bunch of payroll, but what does a big market like Chicago care about payroll? Plus, they keep Brad Miller’s enormous expiring.

Chicago Post Trade Line Up:
PG - Derrick Rose
SG - John Salmons
SF - Luol Deng
PF - David West
C - Emeka Okafor
Key Reserves: Kirk Hinrich, Tyrus Thomas, James Johnson

Chicago Outcome:
Pros: add two big time front court player, both of which are better than the one they give up, make a statement that they are a legit contender.
Cons: give up some cap flexibility and potential


Minnesota 
The Wolves give up a lot. They also get a lot. Al Jefferson and Jonny Flynn are two of the team’s key features. Mark Blount’s expiring contract is going to clear the space for them to land a big time free agent in the 2010 free agency bonanza. Despite those things, they still do this deal. Chris Paul is in the elite class of point guards in the league. He’s also the star that would put fans back in Target Center. They’d probably play slightly better ball this year but would ultimately be set up better for the future. They’d still have enough money to be a player in free agency because Paul’s contract is only slightly more than Flynn and Jefferson’s combined contracts. They’d still have a lottery pick in the 2010 draft in addition to a possible two additional 1st Rounders from Charlotte and Utah. On top of everything, the Rubio card remains in play. Last but not least, I tend to believe that to potential free agents the allure of playing with Paul/Love is more enticing  than Jefferson/Love

Minnesota Post Trade Line Up:
PG - Chris Paul
SG - Corey Brewer
SF - Ryan Gomes
PF - Kevin Love
C - Ryan Hollins
Key Reserves: Wayne Ellington, Ramon Sessions, Damien Wilkins

Minnesota Outcome:
Pros: add a star point guard and franchise face, sell tickets while reinvigorating fanbase
Cons: put all of eggs in one basket, so to speak, investing much of youth and flexibility they have spent years accumulating



So basically, make this happen, executives.

Do you agree?

Posted on: November 27, 2009 11:04 pm
 

The Wolves Are So Bad... (How bad are they?)

Basketball, when played well, is poetry.

Basketball is an artful combination of speed, power and finesse, that when executed skillfully is both exciting and rhythmic.

Basketball played by two determined and united teams is constant energy, with moments of amazement and inspiration possible at any second.

To me, these statements are fact. These statements are why I love basketball. These statements are why the Timberwolves are practically unwatchable at the moment.

I'm a diehard Wolves fan, evidence by the fact that I blog regularly about a team whose second greatest player of all time might be Wally Szczerbiak. I can't help it, I'm all-Wolves til the end. That being said, I find it more difficult to watch the current assemblage of "talent" than I ever have before. There have been bad Wolves' teams in the past, as recently as last season, but not like this. The 08-09 team, though not to be mistaken with the Lakers, weren't nearly as bad as they were playing early on and were instead largely the victims of coach Randy Wittman and his "bore the shit out of the crowd" offense. Once he was dispatched the team was allowed to play up to their true slightly below average potential.

But the 09-10 Wolves? Oh boy. There is no Randy Wittman to fire, nor a Kevin McHale to throw under the bus. Glen Taylor is still around but he looks just so darned smiley sitting on the sidelines that I doubt anyone has the heart to ruin his day by telling him what exactly is going on. Nope, it's ugly out there. Sam Cassell ugly.

One can justifiably attribute their wretched play to injury and inexperience. Both are relevant factors that any realistic fan knew would be an everpresent problem this year. But knowing that doesn't make the games more enjoyable. It doesn't make playing COD: Modern Warfare 2 less of a better use of your time. It most definitely does not put fans in the seats of the cavernous tomb also known as Target Center.

How many times can you watch Corey Brewer dribble the ball of his knees and grin that unremitting grin of his in disappointment as a fan in the front row picks it up for him?

How many times can you watch Sasha Pavlovic airball a wide open three point attempt and think "Oh, so this is why the Cavs let you go, you miserable sack of Euro shit."

How many times can you watch the Ryan Gomes Special (bricking a wide open mid-range jump shot and then touch fouling a vastly superior player as they are dunking on him in two consecutive possessions) and not wonder if the Lakers would be willing to deal Adam Morrison for him.  

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.

Category: NBA
Posted on: November 13, 2009 2:08 pm
 

Fix the Wolves

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.


MY PLAN FOR THE TIMBERWOLVES: It seems there are two types of successful teams in the NBA. Those that win on star power (Boston, LA, Cleveland, Miami) and those that win on the system (Houston, Phoenix, Atlanta, Chicago). That's not to say that star powered teams don't have a good system or that good system teams don't have stars, only that there are teams like the Lakers that could play under any system and still win and teams like Phoenix that can seemingly slot any player into their run-and-gun system and still be successful.
The Wolves need to become a system team. I think that's what they are going for anyways. Sitting around and waiting for a Dwight Howard or LeBron James to fall into their laps isn't going to work, especially for this cursed franchise. So the plan becomes to get as many skilled/talented players that fit what they are going for, a primarily up-tempo team that can transition in and out of the triangle offense when needed. Behold...

Trade #1
Al Jefferson TO ATLANTA FOR Josh Smith. Before this trade could happen Al Jefferson would need to return to full strength and prove that he is who he used to be. I believe Atlanta would do the trade because when at full strength, Jefferson is one of the top three low post scorers in the league. Josh Smith, though more diverse, is a non-traditional big in that he doesn't play particularly well with his back to the basket. It was well publicized last year that they were irritated with how many threes he was taking and wanted him to get in the paint more. Also, the fact that they almost let him walk away in free agency two off-seasons ago leads me to believe that they hold other players in higher esteem. After a year in which he declined in every statistical category (in my opinion, due to a more balanced attack) I doubt his value got any higher with the team. Conversely, the "flaws" Josh Smith has in Atlanta would be pros for the Wolves and their desired up-tempo style. He's only 6'9" but plays like the 7' shot blocker that would so perfectly compliment Kevin Love. He's also a much better transition player than Jefferson and wouldn't require the ball in his hands so much in order to be effective. Contractually the players are almost identical and are both under the age of 25. Sweeteners (non-lottery picks and/or expiring contracts) could be thrown in on either end in order to make this happen.

Trade #2
Ricky Rubio AND Ryan Gomes TO NEW YORK FOR Wilson Chandler AND Jordan Hill. Before, during and immediately after the draft I would have never done this trade. But since that time Rubio has made himself unavailable to the Wolves for at least two seasons, and possibly three. I'm not a fan of waiting that long. The Knicks were more than willing to do this exact trade during the draft. Given that Jordan Hill does not play at all and that the Knicks probably regretted the pick within two minutes of making it, I think there is about a 99% chance they still would do the trade, especially considering that Donnie Walsh to this day spouts off about acquiring Rubio. My hunch is that the Knicks would believe once they acquired the rights to Rubio they could start swinging their big New York dicks around and get him over here early. I'm sure there is some kind of loop hole that would allow them to bend Barcelona over In Big Apple fashion. Losing Chandler is offset by adding Gomes, who doesn't pack the upside but is enough compensation in the meantime. The Wolves actual force Gomes into this deal in order to offset the addition of two non-expiring contracts. For the Wolves, they add a young and dynamic wing, something they desperately need. Chandler’s relatively low stat production this season is mostly due to him having to default on offense to David Lee, Al Harrington, Larry Hughes and Danilo Gallinari. In other words, he’s better than his stats show and the fact that he’s being underutilized could mean he’s undervalued.  Picking up Hill adds depth and some upside.

Trade #3
Brian Cardinal AND Sasha Pavlovic TO PORTLAND FOR Martell Webster, Jerryd Bayless AND Juwan Howard. Pound for pound this isn't a good trade for Portland. However, when you consider the cash money implications I think it becomes highly probable that Portland would accept. Cardinal and Pavlovic have expiring contracts. Cardinal would help with their only obvious weakness, big man depth. Sasha would add a short-term filler at the wing. Portland has a lot of ex-1st round picks on their team that within the next year or two those players are going to be demanding a lot of money. Then factor in that Webster/Bayless are playing in and around Brandon Roy, Travis Outlaw, Rudy Fernandez, Steve Blake, Andre Miller, Nicolas Batum and even Patrick Mills, and you realize not even Paul Allen can't afford to spend that much on backups. I think Webster is a really talented wing player. A good shooter with great 6'7" size. He just doesn't play in Portland. He would start in Minnesota. Bayless and Howard are in this deal purely to make the money work, although Bayless might one day prove some worth.

 
New Wolves Roster:
PG - Jonny Flynn, Ramon Sessions
SG - Martell Webster, Wayne Ellington
SF - Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer, Damien Wilkins
PF - Josh Smith, Jordan Hill, Oleksiy Pecherov
C - Kevin Love, Ryan Hollins, Nathan Jawai (Nicola Pekovic)

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.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com