Tag:Timberwolves
Posted on: May 18, 2009 1:52 pm
 

Berg’s NBA Mockery V1.0

I’m a lover of non-war related drafts. The NBA draft is my Superbowl, if you can wrap your mind around that. This is my current First Round mock with analysis for the top 14 talents. Why 14? Because the lottery is the first 14 picks, silly. In about 24 hours we’ll know the actual draft order and things can get a bit more team specific. Until then, it's more of a best overall sort of affair. Feast…     


1. Ricky Rubio PG EUROPE - Yep, I put him ahead of Blake Griffin. On a prospect scale of 1-100 I’d rank Griffin as a 93 and Rubio as a 90. That difference is negligible when you consider the Wolves dire need for a playmaker, a point guard and star personality. I am Morpheus-like in my belief/hope that Rubio is The One. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Steve Nash/Jose Calderon.

2. Blake Griffin PF OKLAHOMA - He’s a star in wait. I’m much higher on him than I was Michael Beasley and I was high on Beasley. His main knock is that he doesn’t have a jump shot, which not many bigs do when they enter the Association. His athleticism is first class for his size and his 'team first' attitude is what you need out of a leader. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Tim Duncan/Carlos Boozer.

3. James Harden SG ARIZONA STATE - He doesn’t look flashy or particularly quick but he’s highly creative and efficient when it comes to putting the ball in the basket from anywhere inside of 24 feet. His defense and positive attitude are right on, too. His criticisms are exactly like the ones Brandon Roy was subject to when he was drafted and we’ve all seen how that played out. Gamers game and ballers ball. It’s that simple. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Brandon Roy/James Posey.

4. Ty Lawson PG UNC - I might be the only person without the last name “Lawson” that ranks him this high but I’ve looked closely at his game and beyond being somewhat undersized at 6’0” I just don’t see many flaws. His strengths, on the other hand, are plentiful. His speed is elite, great court vision, a tenacious defender, strong, great at slashing to the rim, fiery competitor, clutch performer and stood out at a major college program.  His major knock coming into last season was that he was a poor jump shooter. All he did to answer that was shoot 53% from the field and 47% from 3 point land. I love him. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Chris Paul/TJ Ford.

5. Tyreke Evans SG MEMPHIS - This guy is both a big time talent and a need position for the Wolves. At 6’5” he can play the wing, yet has PG skills. Memphis used him at point last year during a stretch where the team went 27-1. He’s a great scorer but not necessarily a great shooter. He gets to the rim with ease and is prone to drawing fouls. His perimeter defense is outstanding, which comes from his great quickness and sneaky reach. All that being said, he is a bit of a raw talent and does have some boom or bust potential. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Latrell Sprewell/Ronnie Brewer.

6. Brandon Jennings PG EUROPE - A pure point guard. Everything you’d want in one, to boot. Great speed, vision and passing ability with a very high ceiling (star potential). Character concerns arose with his decision to play in Europe instead of go to college but that was due more to poor grades and test scores than personal choice. Apparently he showed a lot of maturity and humility overseas playing with veterans. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Gilbert Arenas/Sebastian Telfair.

7. Hasheem Thabeet C UCONN - You can’t teach height and in a draft deprived of it Thabeet’s 7’3” frame is at a premium. No one can question his elite shot blocking ability, which is a major need for the Wolves, but in my opinion he failed to show enough progression in other areas this year to warrant a top 5 pick. He too often looks soft and passive when rebounding. I’d rather throw an expiring contract out for a guy like Tyson Chandler, which is all it would take, and draft any of the above players instead. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Dikembe Mutumbo/Michael Olowokandi.

8. Jonny Flynn PG SYRACUSE - This is a bit of a reach but I am enamored with his A+ intangibles and leadership. He’s got the overall skill set and demeanor you’d want from a point guard, although his jumper needs some work. He's sort of like Lawson, but slightly less good at everything. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Jameer Nelson/Antonio Daniels.

9. DeMar DeRozan SG USC - Based on athleticism and natural born talent this kid has more upside than anyone in the draft. On that along he should be a top 3 pick. Of course, that won’t happen because he’s a major project. So much so that he could fall out of the top 10. Flashes of greatness last season will keep him in the lottery and depending on how his workouts go he could approach as high as #5. Regardless, he’ll be in the dunk contest next year. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Vince Carter/Gerald Green.

10. Earl Clark SF LOUISVILLE - Another guy with freakish tools and notable question marks. He has the quickness and slashing ability of a wing along with the strength and power game of a post player. The problem is he rarely put it all together last season and often appeared to mentally check out of the game. The “Lack of Aggression” label is a tough one to shake. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Lamar Odom/Marvin Williams.

11. Jordan Hill PF ARIZONA - Next to Griffin, he’s the only other true power forward worthy of a first round pick. As a result, he’ll actually go much higher than this, perhaps as high as #3, but since my rankings are skewed towards the needs of the Wolves this is where he goes. He’s a very solid big man with a fast motor and all around skills. I just don’t see much star potential. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Al Horford/Chris Wilcox.

12. Stephen Curry SG DAVIDSON - I think anything beyond expectations as a role player, and a good one at that, are a bit unrealistic. He was extremely effective against double and triple teams all throughout his college career, has great intangibles and his shot will definitely translate to the NBA but other than that, he has as a lot of factors working against him. He’s short with a small frame, not particularly fast or athletic, comes from a small school/conference and cannot run as an effective point. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Mike Bibby/JJ Reddick.

13. Eric Maynor PG VCU - Not many people saw him play but he’s both talented and skilled. There’s a difference. Things that stand out: high basketball IQ, great on court leader, effective shot creator, clutch performer, all around offensive game. I like that he had a lot of big games against big teams. His defensive abilities are in question. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Mo Williams/Rafer Alston.

14. Jrue Holliday PG UCLA - He had huge buzz heading into last season and did nothing but underwhelm everyone who cared to watch, averaging 8 PPG and 3 APG. Still, he’s got a ton of talent and a lot of “experts” claim he was terribly mismanaged within the UCLA system. The only thing that stood out was his great skills as a defender, which is nice but not enough. He’s an upside pick. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Rodney Stuckey/Shaun Livingston.

15. Gerald Henderson SG DUKE

16. Jeff Teague PG WAKE FOREST

17. Terrance Williams SG LOUISVILLE

18. Sam Young SG PITTSBURGH

19. Nick Calathes PG FLORIDA

20. Chase Budinger SF ARIZONA

21. James Johnson SF WAKE FOREST

22. Patrick Mills PG ST. MARYS

23. Marcus Thornton SG LSU

24. DeJuan Blair PF PITTSBURGH

25. Dionte Christmas SG TEMPLE

26. BJ Mullens C OHIO STATE

27. Taj Gibson PF USC

28. Austin Daye SF GONZAGA

29. Wayne Ellington SG UNC

30. DeJuan Summers SF GEORGETOWN

Category: NBA
Posted on: April 27, 2009 9:09 pm
Edited on: April 27, 2009 9:26 pm
 

Seven Criteria for a Successful Wolves Offseason

1. Hire a gm

  • Too long this franchise has operated under a committee approach, which has thoroughly proven itself ineffective. A series of erratic personnel moves and fly-by-night changes in team philosophy support this. Differing opinions can be helpful but in the end you need one lead voice. Glen Taylor doesn’t know enough about modern day basketball to be that voice.
  • Lead candidates include Spurs Assistant GM, Dennis Lindsey, Cavaliers Assistant GM, Lance Blanks, and in-house executive, Fred Hoiberg.  My favored and semi-realistic scenario: Dennis Lindsey is the new Wolves GM. The Spurs front office track record is impeccable.

 

2. Fire a bunch of people

  • Kevin McHale is the first to go. I don’t possess the venom for him that many fans do. I actually think he was a solid coach and made some pretty good draft picks and trades that are conveniently overlooked by the critics. I also respect him as a local and national basketball legend. That being said, he is the embodiment of the Wolves recent struggles and before this team can truly rebuild he must be purged. Some said the rebuild began with the Garnett trade. It may have begun then but it has been stalled ever since. How can you stage a coup but leave the King in charge? Mac’s firing can get the rebuild back on track. Plus, you’ve got to let the new GM choose the coach, even if it’s just a change for change’s sake.
  • Front office cogs, Jim Stack and Rob Babcock, must also be let go. They’re too much on the inside and were probably instrumental in a lot of the team’s blunders, yet shielded from the criticism. They can thank McHale for that. Get rid of them and the cleansing of past sins continues.
  • Fred Hoiberg can stay. He’s new enough that he probably hasn’t been corrupted by past dealings with the aforementioned. He also earned a lot of favor amongst the fanbase when it leaked out that he was heavily in favor of drafting and keeping OJ Mayo. He’s a stand up guy and an honorary mayor so I’d keep him on staff, but not as the GM. he’s not quite ready for that.

 

3. Hire a coach

  • They need both a proven winner in the NBA and someone who has a history of successfully developing young talent. The latter need is obvious given the team’s youthful makeup. The need for a guy who they know can win is important beyond the obvious reasons. Choosing an up and coming assistant would be flashier and potentially have a higher ceiling, but it could also prove to be a disastrous setback to a rebuilding project that’s already a couple of years old if the up and comer turns out to be a bust.
  • Commonly mentioned coaches include Sam Mitchell, Jeff Van Gundy and Avery Johnson. Boston assistant, Tom Thibodeau, who is credited with being the architect of the Celtic’s defensive transformation, and Spurs assistant, Mike Budenholzer, who is thought to be the Popovich-replacement in waiting, are also mentioned. Mitchell bores me. Van Gundy would be great but I think he’s too into TV. Avery Johnson got somewhat of a bad wrap in Dallas, I’d be cool with him as well. I know too little about Thibodeau and Budenholzer to comment, although I have a hard time being too enamored with any Boston coach given that Doc Rivers went from garbage to genius in the span of a week. My suspicion is that their turnaround had more to due with additions of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, James Posey and company.

 

4. Evaluate the roster…honestly

  • The Wolves front office people often speak of reserve type talents as though they are integral pieces to the puzzle. I hope they’re just stroking egos and building trade value when they do so but with the current crew in charge, you never really know. Before this team can decide who to add, they need to decide who to get rid.

Absolute Keepers

Al Jefferson - Star. There is no one in the NBA within 5 years of him that is as good as he is in the post. Early reports of rehab are good.

Kevin Love - Elite rebounder with potential for much, much more. His game cannot be generalized. A+ intangibles.

 

Probably Keep (but trade for the right price)

Mike Miller - Fans were frustrated with lack of shooting but he was a very solid all-around player this year. He’s the kind of guy winning teams have. No better than a #3 scoring option. Expiring contract + talent level may make him too valuable in a trade.

Randy Foye - Good player but not a starter for a winning team at this point in his career.  Has the potential to prove me wrong. Perfect for sixth man all-purpose guard type, like Jason Terry .

Corey Brewer - Showed major improvement before ACL tear this year. Great defender and athlete but must calm down on offense. Perpetual smile is infectiously stupid.

 

Wheel and Deal

Ryan Gomes - Good at everything, great at nothing. High character, can play the 2-4 in right situation. With low contract and solid game he’s probably the type of player they’ll need to include to make any kind of decent trade happen.

Craig Smith - Flashes of good play but that’s all they are, flashes. Too short to guard anyone over 6’9”+. Too offensively oriented. Expiring contract.

Sebastian Telfair - Nice player but best case role is as a push the tempo-type backup.

 

Afterthought

Brian Cardinal - Better than I thought but still ultimately pointless to the cause. Big expiring contract is very valuable.

Mark Madsen - Expiring contract. Get him to retire and immediately hire as a bench coach.

Bobby Brown - Expiring contract. No purpose. Salary so low they could just cut him and not really notice.

 

Current Free Agents

Rodney Carney - Played really well at times last year. Was the team’s best 3 point shooter. He’d be nice to have back for an affordable fee, but I wouldn’t overpay at all.

Shelden Williams - Peace out.

Jason Collins - Holla!

Kevin Ollie - Good bye, old friend.

 

5. For once, dominate the draft

  • The Wolves have three 1st round draft picks (#5?, #18, #28) and two 2nd round picks. Combine that glut of picks with the six expiring contracts they have on roster, which are worth a ridiculous amount in today’s NBA economy, and they can be a serious force on draft day, should they so choose.
  • They are currently seeded in the #5 draft slot but have about a 25% chance of landing a top 3 pick in the lottery. A top 2 pick will get them Blake Griffin or Ricky Rubio, which would be tremendous. Anything else will still net a solid player but less of a “sure thing” shot at a star. Regardless of the outcome of the lottery, Lindsey or whoever should do everything he can, including trading any combo picks and players not named Love or Jefferson, to move up and get Rubio.
  • Ricky Rubio must be a Timberwolf for three reasons. 1) He’s got the star potential that a top 2 pick should deliver. 2) He fills the most dire need of the team, Point Guard, which is also the most important position in the NBA. 3) He’s got the high-energy game that would excite the fanbase into once again buying tickets. Al Jefferson and Kevin Love are/will be great players but a guy like Rubio is the dual threat that can be both great and make basketball really fun to watch. It is, after all, entertainment.
  • On a side note, many friends and associates believe I am crazy for saying I would draft Rubio over Griffin, especially since I declared that Griffin, in my opinion, is a lock to be a star. My direct forecast is that he will have a Tim Duncan -esque career. Clearly then, to say that I like Rubio more implies some fairly grand things.  I stand by it, despite the fact that I will surely hear about it if either part proves untrue. I accept that. Bold people make bold statements. No fence riding here. Rubio is that good.

 

6. Don’t be afraid to add talent via trades

  • Say what you will about McHale but recognize that the one time in his tenure here that he had the green light to build a contender he did. That was the 2003-04 offseason, in which he acquired Sam Cassell, Latrell Sprewell, Trenton Hassell , Fred Hoiberg, Mark Madsen, Ervin Johnson and Michael Olowokandi. Obviously, not all of those guys were stars (or close to it) but each of them was a key player in the Western Conference Finals run of that year. The Wolves had been clearing contracts for the better part of two seasons in order to make a legitimate impact that offseason. Like 03-04, the Wolves are in a similar position now. 
  • I could invent a hundred different trade scenarios, all of which I’d be able to justify from a roster stand point and make work under the salary cap.  As fun as that’d be, it would also be exhausting and pointless, as 99.9% of rumored trades never end up happening. The team needs, however, that they should address via trade, draft or free agency are…
  1.  A true point guard. Whether by trade or free agency, the available PG market is fairly ample this offseason. Kirk Hinrich , Ramon Sessions , Andre Miller , Raymond Felton, Mike Bibby , Jason Kidd , T.J. Ford and Kyle Lowry are all out there. I’m not saying all of them make sense, but they are at least out there bolstering the market. In addition to Rubio, Brandon Jennings (Europe) is another star-potential PG in the draft. Ty Lawson (UNC), Jonny Flynn (Syracuse) and Eric Maynor (VCU) are good secondary prospects.
  2. A prototypical shooting guard. Ben Gordon and Allen Iverson are free agents but neither of those seem to be likely acquisitions or fit the bill as prototypical. There are, however, several quality shooting guards in this years draft class. I’m a big fan of the upside in guys like James Harden (Arizona State), Tyreke Evans (Memphis) and DeMar DeRozan. (USC). Other players like Terrance Williams (Louisville), Stephen Curry (Davidson) and Gerald Henderson (Duke) would be solid back up options.
  3. A Shot Blocking/altering presence. The obvious guy in the draft is Hasheem Thabeet (UConn). He’s pretty much exactly what you’d want in a shot blocking, rim protecting center. However, I might shy away from him because he seems to be somewhat soft and more importantly, the Wolves have a beast of a defensive/shot blocking big in Europe right now by the name of Nikola Pekovic . There is a possibility he could be over as soon as next season. NBA vets Tyson Chandler and Sam Dalembert also make sense and seem to be annually mentioned in trade rumors.
  • Ultimately, if the free agent class proves weak and overpaid or the lottery doesn't treat them well, the best option for the Wolves will be to take the players and picks they have and get aggressive through trades. Upgrading talent is what matters, and that needs to be done at almost any cost.

7. Players get better

The Wolves have eight players under contract that are 26 or younger. That means they should still be improving their respective games. The impatience of fans too often causes professional athletes are deemed stars or busts before they turn 25. The development of Foye and Brewer, in particular, will be essential. Love, at the ripe age of 20, needs to stay the course. Al Jefferson will be 24 at the start of next season. Some people forget that because he looks like he’s 45. He should continue to expand his game, as well.

 

Conclusion

This offseason should net no fewer than three key long-term members of the MinnesotaTimberwolves. Phoenix, Dallas and San Antonio are aging rapidly. New Orleans is mired in salary cap hell and prepared to give away talent for cap space. Utah is suddenly in disarray with a potential nine free agents this year. A good offseason and a healthy 2009-10 will have the Timberwolves reaching for a .500 record next year and potentially a playoff spot, depending on what other teams do. By 2010-11 they should be firmly entrenched in a Western Conference playoff group that also includes the Lakers , Blazers, Nuggets , Mavericks , Rockets and Thunder , with the Spurs and Hornets battling for the #8 seed.





Category: NBA
Posted on: April 27, 2009 9:00 pm
Edited on: April 27, 2009 9:01 pm
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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com