Category:NBA
Posted on: May 4, 2009 4:31 pm
 

Specifically, Things The Wolves Should Do

All of these scenarios are…

  • Based on the Wolves lottery pick being #5 or #6, which is mostly likely to happen
  • Compliant under the NBA salary cap
  • Realistic

 
#1. Minnesota trades pick #5/6, Brian Cardinal and Bobby Brown to Portland for Greg Oden and Sergio Rodriguez/Jerry Bayless

Main Factor: Two years ago Oden is untradeable and Portland is the luckiest team in the league for winning that lottery. However, since then it’s been all down hill for him. A season ending injury before his rookie season even began and an eventual underwhelming rookie campaign that saw him battle numerous nagging injuries and other rookie centers, Brook Lopez and Marc Gasol, outwork and outclass him.

Why Minnesota does it: They land a young talent with star-potential in Oden, who also happens to be a direct need as a shot blocking rebounder. They also pick up a young point guard in either Bayless or Rodriguez, with not quite the upside of Oden but upside nonetheless, and the potential to contribute immediately. From an injury stand point it’s somewhat of a risk for Minnesota but it could also be a homerun. The fans are thirsty for a homerun.

Why Portland does it: It’s rumored that many within the organization already regret the Oden pick and are having visions of Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan all over again. Through injuries and uninspired play, Oden has destroyed much of his allure. Plus, he doesn’t fit their style of play. Joel Pryzbilla has been a much more effective center for them. Portland is also mired in salary cap hell (thank you, Darius Miles). Cardinal and Brown are both expiring contracts, which is what they covet. Bayless doesn’t play and Rodriguez gets minimal minutes. They get paid too much money to do nothing, they’re expendable. Lastly, Portland loves to acquire picks and could use the #5/6 pick on a post presence like Jordan Hill from Arizona.

 
#2. Minnesota trades Mike Miller and Craig Smith to Washington for Caron Butler and Darius Songalia

Main Factor: Washington is absolutely up against the cap. There’s even talk of them not using their high lottery pick because they don’t want to pay the money. Anyone who doesn’t think expiring contracts are worth ten times their weight right now wasn’t paying attention to any trades that went down over the past two years in the NBA. Pau Gasol was given away for a pack of Chiklets and cash. Tyson Chandler was handed over for a bag of balls and some cash.  Joe Smith, Stephon Marbury, Mikki Moore and Drew Gooden were all paid money mid-season to go away. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but it is what it is.

Why Minnesota does it: Pretty much a no brainer from a talent stand point. Butler is an underrated player and perpetually on the verge of stardom. He can do everything Miller can but with twice the athleticism and he’s a better overall scorer. At 29 years of age, he’s the same age as Miller and should at least have three years of peak productivity left. Smith is a nice player but with Jefferson, Love and Oden on roster he just doesn’t have a place here. They’d have to eat Songalia’s contract but they have the flexibility to do so. What was the point of clearing cap if they weren’t willing to eventually add it?

Why Washington does it: Money. If they draft in the top 3, which is where they are slated, they should pick up an immediate contributor but also a semi-hefty contract. Miller gives them a talent inferior to Butler but theoretically someone who could at least contribute the same approximate scoring value. Craig Smith would give them an offensive post presence, which they lack, and even better, another expiring contract.

 
#3. Minnesota trades Randy Foye, Mark Madsen, Sebastian Telfair and Bobby Brown to Chicago for Kirk Hinrich.

Main Factor: This scenario is dependant on Chicago wanting to dump Hinrich’s salary, which I believe is likely the case. The word out of Chicago is that the reason a Bulls/Wolves Hinrich trade didn’t happen before the deadline this year was because Minnesota was unwilling to include all expiring deals for him. Maybe that changes now. Make no bones, Hinrich is a good player but he is overpaid. This is the deal, above all, I would be most hesitant to do. But if the Wolves aren't sold on Foye as a starter then why not turn him into one?

Why Minnesota does it: They get a franchise point guard. Hinrich isn’t on the Chris Paul/Deron Williams/Derrick Rose level but he’s a good distributor, shooter and defender and still relatively young at age 28. A lot of people would be opposed to giving up Foye, who at this point admittedly has more upside than Hinrich, but that’s the gamble. This team needs a point guard. Foye hasn’t proven he can be that.

Why Chicago does it:
They pick up expiring contracts in Foye, Madsen and Brown and a relatively small two year contract in Telfair. My guess is they’ll pay Ben Gordon, in which case Hinrich will have to go. Foye makes a lot less moneyand would be a pretty nice consolation prize, with the potential to be much more some day.

 

#4. Minnesota trades their #18 pick and one or both of their second round picks to any of the teams drafting #9 - #14 in order to move up and draft Tyreke Evans, DeMar DeRozan or Stephen Curry.

Main Factor: It comes down to money again. Several GMs are on record as saying they will look to move out of the lottery or out of the draft entirely. They simply don’t want to pay for such a pick in what’s viewed as a weak draft class, especially lottery teams with vet rosters such as Washington, Toronto, Golden State and Charlotte.

Why Minnesota does it: They need guard help and it’s unlikely that any of the top shooting guards will make it to #18. Most reputable mock drafts have any combo of Evans, DeRozan and Curry (I rank them in that order) going sometime between picks #6-14. Evans is a slashing-scorer type with well above average passing skills and great size at 6’6” but is held out of the top 5 due to an underdeveloped jump shot and raw overall game. DeRozan’s athletic ability draws comparisons to Vince Carter in this prime but he’s most definitely a project. Curry is not and will not be an NBA starter but his shot is the truth and will be a factor in the NBA, if used properly. There are solid point guards like Ty Lawson, Jonny Flynn and Eric Maynor but they can wait for pick #18 if that’s who they are interested in.

Why other teams would do it: Mostly for the reasons listed under Main Factor. Second round picks and their non-guaranteed status are desirable in this economic state and if it only means moving down to #18 a team could be compelled.

 
#5. Draft BJ Mullens with the 28 pick overall

Main Factor: Mullens is a 7 foot center with big time upside but also very much a long-term project. Based on upside he may end up going long before this pick but as of now he is projected to go around this point. If he’s not available, use this pick for either the best available player or to help facilitate any of the above trades.

 
#6. Re-sign Rodney Carney

Main Factor: He’s a solid young player with world class athleticism and a developing three point shot. That being said, I would only re-sign him for a very modest fee. The contract would have to be low in both money and years.

 

2009-2010 Final Roster

PG - Kirk Hinrich - Sergio Rodriguez/Jerryd Bayless
SG - Tyreke Evans - Corey Brewer - Rodney Carney
SF - Caron Butler - Ryan Gomes
PF- Al Jefferson - Kevin Love
C - Greg Oden - BJ Mullens - Nikola Pekovic

Overall, I think that’s a pretty formidable squad with plenty of room left to grow. I’d also be open to involving Gomes in any potential deal, but for the sake of these scenarios I opted for guys with expiring deals instead. I think this team would be versatile. They’d be able to pound the paint with Jefferson, Love and Oden. They’d also be able to push the tempo with Butler, Brewer, Evans and Carney. Jump shooting could be a problem, but Hinrich, Butler, Gomes, Love and Carney are all above average.

Of course, all of this goes out the window if the Wolves get lucky and land a top 2 pick in the draft, but if not I say pull the trigger, future Wolves GM. Pull the trigger.

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