Posted on: July 14, 2012 12:53 pm

Wolves Offseason Update


Here’s what we know so far.

David Kahn is intolerably patient.

The Nicolas Batum saga has reached its seemingly 1,000th hour and the matter of his free agency remains unresolved. We’ve seen this superhuman patience from Kahn before. When he took over as GM three years ago he took weeks to fire Kevin McHale, something we all knew was a foregone conclusion. After dispatching Kurt Rambis a year ago he took months to hire a replacement. To Kahn’s credit, his patience resulted in the hiring of one of the all-time great NBA head coaches in Rick Adelman. So it shouldn’t be a total surprise that Kahn has stalked the Blazers in his pursuit of Batum with incredible diligence and resolve.

The Wolves want Batum. Badly. Both Rick Adelman and David Kahn believe he’s the perfect fit. From Adelman’s point of view, Batum is an athletic wing who can defend, run the open court, and knock down jumpers at a high rate. Those qualities are a combination the Wolves weren’t getting from anyone last season. From Kahn’s perspective, Batum is all of the things I just mentioned but also young enough to form an OKC-esque core with Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, and to an extent, Derrick Williams and Nikola Pekovic

The problem is Portland feels the same way. The Blazers, whether they want to admit it or not, are headed in the wrong direction.  They won’t make the playoffs next year and they know it. They’ve got a star in LaMarcus Aldridge. They’ve got someone they hope will be a star in Batum. They’ve got a good shooter in Wesley Mathews. Outside of those three they have a couple of mid-level prospects in Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard, and the crushed dreams of a franchise to be built around Greg Oden and Brandon Roy. Injuries are a bitch.

So Portland knows they can’t lose one of their two legitimate pieces in Batum for nothing. They also know that whatever the Wolves offer him is going to be more than he’s worth. Even if it’s for the bare minimum reported amount of 11 million a year, the Blazers will be over the cap with almost nothing to show for it. If the Wolves raise that, which they probably will, or include a trade kicker, which they definitely will, it will make the contract even more difficult for Portland to swallow. But they basically have to.

Of course, the other option is for Portland to let Batum walk, save the cap space, and embrace the inevitable rebuild. However, the x-factor here is that there’s a fair amount of ego and pride in play with Blazers GM, Neil Olshey, and owner, Paul Allen. This whole Batum thing has escalated into one giant pissing contest and no one wants to look like the loser in all of it.

Thankfully, there is an end in sight. On Friday the Wolves executed a flurry of moves in order to clear the cap space necessary to make an official offer to Batum, which he will accept. The Wolves need to let one of their cuts, Martell Webster, clear waivers before they can officially submit the offer. That will be at 4:00 PM central time on Sunday. From there, the Blazers have 72 hours to match the offer or let Batum walk. So by Wednesday evening at the latest this matter will be resolved…I hope. If I were forced to put odds on it I’d say there’s a 20% chance the Wolves and Blazers work out a sign and trade deal before they submit his offer sheet on Sunday, a 65% chance the Blazers match the offer sheet and keep Batum, and a 15% chance Batum is simply allowed to leave Portland for greener pastures in Minnesota.

With or without Batum, it’s been a pretty successful offseason so far. Although admittedly, losing out on Batum will make it feel like a failure given how aggressive they’ve been in trying to get him. The void of talent at the wing positions last year was the team’s glaring weakness. Kahn has answered that by acquiring Chase Budinger, Brandon Roy and Russian prospect, Alexey Shved. All three are upgrades over last year’s group. The positional depth as is looks like…


Guards – Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour, Alexey Shved, JJ Barea, Malcolm Lee

* Great PG depth. Barea and Shved can play both guard positions.


Wings – Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Wesley Johnson

* Throw Batum into this mix and their main weakness becomes a strength.

Forwards – Derrick Williams

* Williams will play both forward spots depending on the matchups.

Bigs – Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic

* The lack of depth right now beyond these two is somewhat alarming. They need a rim protector. The odds on favorite is Greg Steisma, a shot blocking big who spent last year with Boston.


Finally, we need to accept that the Batum plan may very well never come to fruition. After him, there are three big names that are getting tossed around.

OJ Mayo (UFA) – Mayo would be the flashiest acquisition but I think he’s also the most unlikely. He’ll demand a high salary and doesn’t seem to fit the mold of player Adelman likes. The wildcard is if Kahn feels like he needs to do something big to overcome the letdown of missing out on Batum.

Courtney Lee (UFA) – Lee is the most likely get. He’s familiar with Adelman from their Houston days. Plus, he’s the pure shooting defender the Wolves are looking for. Rumors are that he wants to come here, as well, and that he’s intentionally put off signing with Boston until he sees how the Batum thing plays out.

Andre Igoudala (76ers) – Igoudala would be my choice. Philadelphia wants to unload him, evidence by the fact that they’ve picked up three players who all play his position since the draft. I’d take Iggy because it would be a statement about this team's intention of competing at a high level but also adding an elite class defender – another major team need. A starting 5 of Rubio-Roy-Igoudala-Love-Pekovic would be pretty dynamic. The major problem here isn’t so much his $15 mil per year salary (although it is pretty gaudy), but the fact that he has a player option after next season, and I can’t see the Wolves wanting to lock him up to a long term deal when the intention right now is to throw the bulk of their money into Love, Rubio, Williams and Pekovic. That being said, if they could get him in a salary dump it might just be worth it.


Ok, that’s all for now. Stay tuned.

Category: NBA
Posted on: June 27, 2012 10:37 am

dedman's Final 2012 NBA Mockery

1. New Orleans Hornets – Anthony Davis, PF Kentucky
- Done deal.

2. * Cleveland Cavaliers – Bradley Beal, SG Florida Thomas Robinson, PF Kansas
- I’m predicting a trade here in which the Cavs deal their #4 and #24 to move up with Charlotte. Visions of an Irving-Beal backcourt are too damn sexy to resist.

3. Washington Wizards – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF Kentucky
- MKG pairs great with John Wall’s up tempo style of play.

4. * Charlotte Bobcats – Harrison Barnes, SF North Carolina
- The Bobcats have almost nothing so from this draft they want multiple assets and a marketable face. This trade gives them both. The hometown kid, Barnes, should go over well.

5. Sacramento Kings – Thomas Robinson, PF Kansas
- Robinson and Cousins will make a very nice front court. Robinson with the fundamentals, high bball IQ, high motor, effort and character. Cousins with the sick talent, suspect conditioning, and childlike mood swings. All bases covered.

6. Portland Trailblazers – Damien Lillard, PG Weber State
- A bit of a stretch but the Blazers want a PG and Lilliard has been great in workouts.

7. ** Houston Rockets - Andre Drummond, C Connecticut - My second predicted trade. Rockets use two of their three 1st rounders to move up and take the big man they have been trying to get since their failed Pau Gasol trade last offseason.

8. Toronto Raptors – Dion Waiters, SG Syracuse - No easy pick for the Raptors here. Waiters is what they call a workout warrior and DeMar DeRozan is tiring in the eyes of a lot of folks in Toronto.

9. Detroit Pistons – Meyers Leonard, C Illinois - This allows Greg Monroe to shift down and dominate lesser PFs.

10. New Orleans Hornets – Tyler Zellers, C North Carolina - Emeka Okafor is gone, Chris Kaman will be shortly. Zellers and Davis round out their brand new rookie frontcourt.

11. Portland Trailblazers – Austin Rivers, SG Duke
- Jamal Crawford will either be traded on draft night or he’ll opt out of his deal. This leaves the Blazers backcourt wide open.

12. Milwaukee Bucks – John Henson, PF North Carolina
- The Bucks have to be tired of trying to pass Drew Gooden off as a legit PF. Henson gives them some shot blocking to replace what they’ll be missing in Bogut.

13. Phoenix Suns – Terrence Ross, SF Washington
- Ross has vaulted his stock through workouts. Even ahead of the next guy.

14. ** Golden State Warriors – Jeremy Lamb, SG Connecticut
- The Warriors feel comfortable in moving down from #7 because there is no one available there that they can’t get here. They’ll hope for Ross at this spot but settle on Lamb.

15. Philadelphia 76ers – Jared Sullinger, PF Ohio State
- He won’t fall any further. The 76ers and Doug Collins are in win-now mode. Sullinger can best contribute to that. Although, the Brand-Sullinger injury worries might be hard to ignore.

16. ** Golden State Warriors – Perry Jones, PF Baylor
- Jones fits the tall-athletic-project mold that GS always seems to make (ie. Anthony Randolph, Brandon Wright, etc…). At this point, Jones is a great homerun pick.

17. Dallas Mavericks – Terrence Jones, PF Kentucky
- Jones is extremely versatile and a super athlete. I think he’s a bust, but this seems like a logical spot.

18. Houston Rockets – Kendall Marshall, PG North Carolina
- This pick is totally based on the rumored rift between Kyle Lowry and Kevin McHale. With Goran Dragic in the fold I’m betting they’ll jettison Lowry before long.

19. Orlando Magic – Arnett Moultrie, PF Mississippi State
- Let the attempted filling of Dwight Howard’s shoes begin.

20. Denver Nuggets – Moe Harkless, SF St. Johns
- Denver’s needs are tough to assess but at this point I think they’ll take the most upside available. That’s Harkless. He can play either wing spot and will have time to develop in Denver.

21. Boston Celtics – Royce White, PF Iowa State
- The Celtics need almost everything. I could see Denver taking White one pick before. If so, then slot Harkless in here.

22. Boston Celtics – Fab Melo, C Syracuse
- Even if he does come back, Boston cannot start KG at center again.

23. Atlanta Hawks – Evan Fournier, SG France
- Without any glaring needs the Hawks take an upside pick who can potentially be stashed in Europe for another year.

24. * Charlotte Bobcats – Andrew Nicholson, PF St. Bonaventure
- Nicholson has potential and has a solid offensive game. They need that next to Bismack Biyombo, who has no offensive game.

25. Memphis Grizzlies – Will Barton, SG Memphis
- I think the Griz know OJ Mayo is gone so they take the hometown kid who can probably fill Mayo’s shoes surprisingly well.

26. Indiana Pacers – Marquis Teague, PG Duke
- George Hill is a RFA. There’s a good chance they’re going to need another PG next to Darren Collison, who has failed to take the step to the next level of PGs thus far.

27. Miami Heat – Festus Ezeli, C Vanderbilt
- Just like Boston, they need size.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder – Draymond Green, PF Michigan State
- 75% chance OKC either trades out of this spot or takes a Eurostash. If they do pick, Green seems like the kind of blue collar smash mouth big that would do well there. Their weakness in a Ibaka-Ken Perkins front court was exposed by the Heat.

29. Chicago Bulls – John Jenkins, SG Vanderbilt
- Good chance Kyle Korver is gone and Jenkins is the best 3 point shooter in the draft. Also, Rip Hamilton is old.

30. Golden State Warriors – Quincy Miller, SF Batylor
Almost no way to really predict this pick.  Miller represents the most upside left on the board and also a potential need at SF for the Warriors.

Category: NBA
Tags: draft
Posted on: June 25, 2012 10:11 am

Wolves Big Board, 2012

These rankings aren't actually player rankings. Rather, they are a ranking of the likelyhood of each possible outcome from this week's NBA draft as it pertains to the Minnesota Timberwolves. You'll catch on.

1. Trade the Pick

- The Wolves absolutely want to win now. Check that, need to win. David Kahn’s job likely depends on it. Rick Adelman, who maybe has one or two years left, is probably demanding it. Sustaining the momentum made with the fan base means they have to win now. I think the most likely scenario is that the pick gets dealt, probably in a package with other assets. For the record, I’m all in favor of dealing this pick but only if it goes towards a legit player.


2. Terrence Ross, SG WASHINGTON

- Ross remains the most ideal mix of talent and team need. He’s got size, athleticism and a legit 3 point range. He’s also a true SG, and mercifully removes the novelty from the SFs and PGs that the Wolves have attempted to start at the position over the past few seasons. I think there is a good chance that Ross will be available at #18, although apparently he’s been gaining buzz in recent days. If Ross goes before #18 I can almost guarantee that someone will be available here that wasn’t supposed to be.


3. Will Barton, SG Memphis

- An underrated prospect at this point. Great height at 6’6” and an explosive all around scorer, but the main knock is that he’s rail thin. Like, Corey Brewer thin. That sort of comparison will take him out of the running right off the bat with a lot of Wolves fans. #18 would be a bit of a reach but there’s no denying the talent.  He averaged 18 ppg last season to go with an impressive 8 rebs a game, which might somewhat calm fears that he can’t be physical. Another big thing about Barton is that he’s an emotional (in a good way) type player. Highly vocal, plays with incredible passion. I like players like that. One final bit here, if you’re into reading the clues and whatnot, the Wolves only worked out two legitimate 1<sup>st</sup> round players, Barton and Royce White. Could mean something, could mean nothing. We’ll see.


4. Royce White, F IOWA STATE

-  If Derrick Williams wasn’t in the mix I would say White had a much better chance of being the pick here. If Williams gets dealt during the draft, as many are predicting, White has a great chance of being the pick. He’s an intriguing talent. A lot of players get the ‘point forward’ title but White is the real deal. He’s an amazing passer for his size and counters with great power in the post. There is upside in this pick, which is why I’d prefer White over some random SG who just happens by title to fill a need.


5. Fab Melo, C SYRACUSE

- This pick makes sense but will make a lot of Wolves fans cringe for two reasons. One, he’s not a wing player, their most dire position of need, and two, he’s from Syracuse, a seriously negative stigma in Wolvesland thanks to Jonny Flynn and Wes Johnson. But like I said, the pick makes sense. Almost as much as a SG, the Wolves were painfully inadequate in the shot blocking department last season. Melo averaged 3 blocks a game. His offensive game is raw at best but with Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic on board that isn’t a huge deal. Finally, Melo represents upside. There’s definite risk but at this point in the draft why not go for a homerun?


6. Moe Harkless, SF ST. JOHNS

- I think there’s virtually no chance Harkless goes before #18. He’s got supreme athleticism and a lot of room still to grow. The problem, and it’s a big one, is that he’s not a good shooter. I just don’t see a scenario in which the Wolves take a wing who can’t shoot. Plus, I could only see them taking a SF who they think can be better than Derrick Williams. I doubt that person is Harkless.


7. Tyler Zellers, C UNC

- Same logic as Melo. Zellers is more polished and has less of a bust potential. That being said, his ceiling isn’t nearly as high and if you take Zellers I think you’re basically admitting you’re okay with getting an 8<sup>th</sup> and 9<sup>th</sup> man in a winning rotation. That’s too boring for me. Roll the dice.


8. Quincy Miller, SF Baylor

- Terrific size at 6’10” for a SF. Good shooter, worldly athleticism, tons of potential. The deal breakers: he’s rail thin and doesn’t really know how to play basketball. He also didn’t demonstrate a ton of success in coming back from an ACL tear. The Wolves want to win now so taking a total project like Miller doesn’t seem likely. On the flip, if you’re looking for a total and complete payoff/gamble type pick, this could be it.


9. Austin Rivers, SG DUKE

- This would be the ideal pick, in my opinion. I love Rivers’ game. A lot of people are down on him because they say he’s a diva. I don’t see it. To me, the knocks on Rivers remind me of the knocks that prevented Steph Curry from being a top 5 pick a few years back – they’re just white noise. Rivers will be long gone by #18 but if by some miracle he’s still on the board he’s a no-brainer pick.


10. Bradley Beal, SG FLORIDA

- A long shot, but also some reason to it. The Wolves could deal Williams to move up to #2 and take Beal. It’s one of the few Williams trade scenarios that actually makes sense from a Wolves perspective. Replace potential with potential, except for the new potential fills your #1 need. If they could somehow do that while keeping #18 and then with the pick snag Royce White I’d safely label this draft a massive win.


Others….Dion Waiters, SG SYRACUSE;  Jeremy Lamb, SG UCONN;  John Henson, PF UNC; Jared Sullinger, PF OHIO STATE

- These guys all make sense for their own reasons but none of them, barring a fluke, are going to fall to #18. Waiters and Lamb would be worthy of SG consideration but they’ll both be gone in lottery. If Henson or Sullinger do manage to fall, this pick is probably getting traded.

What do you think? What are you hoping for?

Category: NBA
Posted on: June 14, 2012 11:49 am

1st 2012 NBA MOCK DRAFT!

I only do the first 18 picks because that's when the Wolves pick and I'm an unabashed homer. Just accept it and this will be easier to digest.

1. Hornets – Anthony Davis, PF KENTUCKY

* No brainer. I think the Hornets should go with the ultimate rebranding/rebuilding plan and trade Eric Gordon for another top 7 pick. Then with the #10 pick that they already have they come out of this draft with three pretty talented rooks. This would definitely be in line with the OKC model that is awfully trendy these days.


2. Bobcats – Bradley Beal, SG FLORIDA

* Charlotte needs to trade this pick. They need a franchise face to build around. There’s only one of those in this draft and he’s going #1. Beal is a good player, probably the best scorer outside of Davis but he’s not going to do anything to shore up their atrocious front court. Don’t sleep on this rumor: Wolves deal Derrick Williams, #18 and their 2013 1<sup>st</sup> Rounder from Memphis for this pick. Win-Win. Wolves take Beal and fill their one glaring weakness. Bobcats get more of a #1 talent and the #2 pick in last year’s draft while also picking up some other pieces. Or they should trade down with Portland at #6 and take the hometown kid, Harrison Barnes, if he gets there.


3. Wizards – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF KENTUCKY

* Apparently the Wiz used Jan Vesely almost exclusively as a PF last year. I think Thomas Robinson would be a better pick for them, as he would be a massive talent, heart and IQ upgrade over former front courters, JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche. However, I think they’ll go with MKG, which for me is a concern because although he’d be great in transition with John Wall that also means they wold have two poor shooters starting at the 1-3 spots.


4. Cavaliers – Harrison Barnes, SF UNC

*Thomas Robinson slips again because the Cavs are already invested in Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao. Barnes gives them a wing scorer and a well-known name to market alongside Kyrie Irving. I fully expect Barnes to be a serviceable, if not overrated, player in much the same way that OJ Mayo has been. Just don’t expect stardom, or anything close to it.


5. Kings – Thomas Robinson, PF KANSAS

* Finally. This would be a tremendous acquisition for the Kings. Robinson, known for his incredibly high motor and great character, would round out their front court and be an invaluable counter balance to DeMarcus Cousins’ lackadaisical effort and explosive attitude. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he ends up being one of the top 2 or 3 players from this draft.


6. Blazers – Damien Lillard, PG WEBER STATE

* The first somewhat surprise pick of the draft. The Blazers are desperate for a PG and even though they also have pick #11 they know New Orleans will snipe him at #10. Lillard was a scoring monster in college, but the question will be does the competition at Weber State translate to the NBA.


7. Warriors – Dion Waiters, SG SYRACUSE

* Another surprise pick. Sullinger and Drummond are the two best talents on the board but the Warriors already have Andrew Bogut, David Lee and Andres Biedrins hogging their big spots. They need to replace Monta Ellis and think Klay Thompson might be better at SF. Waiters’ stock is rapidly rising right now.


8. Raptors – Jared Sullinger, PF OHIO STATE

* Not a super need pick but the almost solid production guarantee from Sully forces their hand. Andres Bargnani doesn’t give them enough interior toughness and Ed Davis has been a super bust. Sullinger could be a very intriguing future match with Jonas Valanciunas.

9. Pistons – Andre Drummond, C UCONN

* Maturity issues and a lack of a track record cause Drummond to fall a bit but the Pistons can’t pass on the potential. Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe, Jonas Jerebko and Drummond are a nice quadrant to build around. Too bad the contracts of Ben Gordon and Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer are still handcuffing them.


10. Hornets – Kendall Marshall, PG UNC

* Marshall fills a need for them and is a fine floor general type. He just don’t have an offensive game to speak of. He played in a big program. It seems like a pretty big flaw to still go this early but this draft is void of quality PGs so Marshall will have to do.


11. Blazers – Jeremy Lamb, SG UCONN

* Fits the prototype of big time scoring NBA guard perfectly but there are major knocks against his maturity, intelligence, drive and willingness to play within a system. The Blazers can take the risk at this point and hope he begins to fill in for Brandon Roy.


12. Bucks – Meyers Leonard, C ILLINOIS

* The departure of Andrew Bogut and the emergence of Ersan Ilyasova  leaves one major hole at the center spot. Leonard certainly looks the part of slow, clumsy white guy center, but he’s surprisingly athletic and has improved drastically every year.


13. Suns – Austin Rivers, SG DUKE

* It’s hard to say where this team stands without knowing the status of Steve Nash. Ultimately, I think they’ll be looking for scoring from their backcourt with their frontcourt occupied by Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris and Channing Frye.


14. Rockets – Tyler Zeller, C UNC

* The Rockets keep drafting big men but don’t have one that can adequately play the 5. So they reach a little bit on Zeller, a true 7 footer who seems like an inevitable bust to me but size sells and the Rockets are still trying to buy a replacement for Yao.


15. 76ers – John Henson, PF UNC

* Philly is thrilled to have the eventual Elton Brand replacement fall to them here. Henson strikes me as another in a seeming trend of soft UNC bigs that can’t hack it in the pros (ie. Ed Davis) but even I’ll admit this spot is good value for him.


16. Rockets – Quincy Miller, SF BAYLOR

*Miller is an enigma type. Tons of talent but an ACL tear and inconsistent performance in college held him back from reaching his top 10 potential. There are a few things the Rockets could do here but I’ll give the nod to the Texas connection.


17. Mavericks – Terrence Jones, SF KENTUCKY

* Jones is extremely raw but a super athlete. The Mavs can begin to add youth with Jones, who can eventually take over the Shawn Marion role and be for them what Lamar Odom never was.


18. Wolves – Terrence Ross, SF WASHINGTON

* This wouldn’t be a homerun pick but would definitely fill a need. It’s almost a bit unnerving for a Wolves fan to hear Ross’ game described as basically what we were supposed to be getting with the Wes Johnson pick. Ross is a great shooter and defender, but his one big weakness (poor handle) does concern me. If Derrick Williams is dealt look for either Perry Jones or Royce White to go here as two big man picks with higher upside than Ross. Another higher upside pick would be the SF out of St. John’s, Moe Harkless. The problem with him is that he can’t shoot very well at this point. That’s a major problem for this team. One other player to keep an eye on is John Jenkins, a SG from Vanderbilt. He’s a one trick pony, but he’s amazing at that one trick – 3 point shooting. He shot 43% from 3-land throughout his college career. He can’t create his own shot, which limits him. Jenkins would be a reach right here but the Wolves need shooting badly.

Category: NBA
Posted on: April 24, 2012 11:59 am

2011-12 Wolves Season Summary & Offseason Primer

So, clearly you all are unsatisfied with the drop off in my Timberwolves blogging this season. You want a 2011-12 season recap? Okay, fine. I’ll throw some stuff together but I just don’t have the spirit to put a lot of energy into breaking down the campaign. That’s my way of telling you to limit your expectations. Emotionally, I’m drained. This is all I can muster.

Things in Wolvesland were magical from the beginning. Ricky Rubio was even better than advertised. Kevin Love was psychotic, making a lot of fans wish they would have given him the supermax contract after all. Nikola Pekovic was emerging before our eyes. Luke Ridnour was enjoying his best season as a pro. Rick Adelman’s coaching prowess was tangible from the start of training camp and on. Best of all, the walking detriments like Anthony Randolph, Darko Milicic and Martell Webster were confined to limited reserve roles. The Wolves were rolling along at 22-20. Admittedly, not the stuff dynasties are made of but for a team that hadn’t surpassed the 17 win mark since 2008-09 it was a major step in the right direction. There was buzz all around the franchise. Games (plural) were selling out. Nationally televised games were popping up. The words “Wolves” and “playoffs” were being mentioned in the same sentence, and not with the words “will never make” in between. The long suffering of Wolves fans was seemingly coming to an end.

Then, in the closing seconds of a heartbreaking three point loss to the Lakers back in early March, the season, for all intents and purposes, came to an end. Rubio tore his ACL and that was that.

The Wolves managed to stay scrappy for a couple of weeks but then everyone else got hurt and what started as a season of promise and redemption quickly changed course and ended like all the others in recent history: shit.

In this shortened 66 game season, Rubio missed 25 games, Love missed 11, Pekovic missed 20, Ridnour missed 13, Beasley missed 19, and Barea missed 26. That’s just way too much injured time from your six best players for an already depth starved team like the Wolves to overcome.

I could go on blasting half the roster for not stepping up when other players went down, but really, what’s the point? You don’t need me to tell you that Martell Webster is the worst 3 point specialist in NBA history, or that Wesley Johnson is good at nothing, or that Anthony Randolph is like the Lion, Tinman and Scarecrow all in one. You already know this, don’t you?

Looking ahead, the Wolves are entering a critical offseason. David Kahn will begin his 4th season as GM. His personnel moves throughout his first three seasons have been hit or miss, but the true misses (Jonny Flynn, Wes, Martell, Darko) plus the ultimately ineffectual moves (Randolph, Michael Beasley) are starting to outweigh the big hits (Rubio, Rick Adelman). To his credit, Kahn was initially very successful in unloading many of the bloated contracts McHale had brought on board, but that (manipulating the cap) was supposed to be his specialty. The thing no one knew about him was if he’d be able to actually put a winner together. We still don’t know the answer to that.

The roster breakdown for next year follows. These are players who are locked in and their salary due.

Kevin Love – 13.6
Derrick Williams – 4.9
Nikola Pekovic – 4.6
JJ Barea – 4.4
Wes Johnson – 4.2
Luke Ridnour – 4.1
Ricky Rubio – 3.7
Wayne Ellington – 2.0
Malcolm Lee – 0.7


If I were in charge, the following players would be dispensed.

Michael Beasley – 8.1 (RFA, don’t make the qualifying offer)
Martell Webster – 5.7 (decline team option)
Darko Milicic – 5.2 (amnesty or buy out)
Brad Miller – 5.1 (decline team option)
Anthony Randolph – 4.0 (RFA, don’t make the qualifying offer)
Anthony Tolliver – 2.0 (UFA)

Let’s just assume the salary cap stays the same. That leaves the Wolves with guaranteed contracts worth a combined 42.2 mil, which translates to being approximately 14 mil under the cap. 14 million is enough to make a splash in free agency. If the right free agents aren’t there, it’s enough to eat a big contract in a cap clearing move by another team. Of course, the big contract has to also be attached to a good player.  

The way I see it, this season showed us that Wolves have five legitimate NBA basketball players. Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea. In that order. Their wing play is atrocious. Simply terrible. They have no one at either SG or SF who can create a shot or break down a defense. That’s the biggest area of need. Then they also need an athletic and defensive shot blocker type to play some center when the matchup calls for it. The rotation for next season right now looks something like this.  

PG: Ricky Rubio – Luke Ridnour – JJ Barea
SG: ???????? - ??????????
SF:  ???????? – Wesley Johnson
PF: Kevin Love – Derrick Williams
C: Nikola Pekovic - ?????????

Those question marks, especially at the wing spots, need to be replaced with competent players. At least one of them needs to be a high level player, no lower than an Andre Igoudala/Monta Ellis/Rudy Gay type in terms of talent and production.

Do the Wolves have the assets to pull it off? I don’t know. But I would be open to trading anyone not named Love and Rubio in order to land a true star. Derrick Williams, in particular, could have some high value to a team nearing a rebuilding phase.

Do the Wolves have the right personnel to execute such an offseason? Again, that’s up for debate. Kahn has been talking about adding a star via a “signature move” since day 1. He is yet to deliver. Some claim that RJ Adelman (Rick’s son) was brought into the front office as a way to ensure that Rick has his say in personnel decisions. Let’s hope so, because at his age I can’t see Coach Adelman wanting to be especially patient with the high number scrubs Kahn has assembled for him so far.

For Wolves fans, we got a taste of what could be, which creates some optimism for the future. There’s also plenty of reason to feel snake bitten – like this franchise is doomed to fail. Ultimately, we’re headed towards another summer of hope and an eagerness to move on from the season that was.

Posted on: January 31, 2012 3:32 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2012 3:51 pm

Wounded Wolf

Wesley Johnson has a PER of 10.14. To put that into perspective, there are only two players in the league averaging more than 20 minutes a game with a worse PER. Out of 400+ players in the NBA, there are two. One is Toney Douglas of the Knicks, and he really is that bad. The other is Shane Battier. He gets a pass, not only because he’s 46 years old, but because his contributions cannot be measured in statistical increments, and by default, not measurable with PER. 

Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is an imperfect stat. It heavily favors players who tend to score more and puts weight into defensive stats, namely blocks and steals, that can be, but are not necessarily, reflective of good defensive play. Shane Battier is the perfect example of a guy who plays great D but doesn't register a lot of steals or blocks. That being said, I think it’s fair to look at PER when assessing the abysmal play of Wes Johnson. PER favors scorers, and so it should favor a guy like Wes, who was drafted with the intent of being the great shooter and athletic running mate that would benefit so greatly from an open court passer like Ricky Rubio. In ideal terms, Wes would be to Rubio what Shawn Marion was to Steve Nash.

The ideal is not real.

There’s no other way around it: Wes has been terrible. Not even he, I imagine, would deny it. He’s shooting 24% from 3 point range and 37% overall. That’s his apparent specialty. His 6.8 points per game is hardly what you’d like out of a starting shooting guard. At 6’7” you’d assume he’d have a sizable advantage on the boards against smaller competition. His 3.0 rebounds do not support the assumption. In fact, there are 51 combined PGs and SGs who are averaging more than that. His 0.85 assists per game average rank him at 250th in the league. When, as a wing player, there are 22 centers averaging more assists than you there’s a problem.

Some Wes apologists will quickly point out that he has largely been used out of position as a guard, when everyone knows his true position is small forward. In recent games, Wes has in fact been starting at SF with Luke Ridnour starting at SG. That’s another byproduct of the Wes problem - the Wolves start a PG at SG because their other 2-guard option (Wes) is really no option at all. But as to the ‘Wes is a SF’ debate, the positional move hasn’t meant a thing. His points, rebounds, assists, shooting percentages and overall contributions to winning basketball have remained the same, regardless of what position he technically is occupying. His struggles are bigger than that.

Wes, quite simply, is playing with shattered confidence. That’s the overwhelming appearance, anyways. He allegedly worked all offseason on his ball handling and shooting. By the end of the first game of the current season up until the present day it appears that all the practice and rededication didn’t do a thing. It must be incredibly demoralizing for him. You can see it in the way he plays. He doesn’t want to shoot. When he does force himself to pull the trigger it’s like he’s simply trying to hit the rim and not embarrass himself with another air ball. In the January 30th game against Houston he passed up two dunks when he was literally already airborne, uncontested and at the rim for passes to teammates that weren’t there. It was totally inexplicable. He was milliseconds away from dunking the ball and it’s like the demons in his head stepped in and convinced him he would somehow blow the most high percentage of shots. The fact that he did it twice is almost beyond words. 

So now the only question that remains is why is he still playing? Michael Beasley and Martell Webster returned from injury recently. JJ Barea should be back soon. Derrick Williams needs development minutes. Why even bother with a guy playing so poorly? Why give him as much as 20 minutes a game?

Some have ripped Rick Adelman and David Kahn for sticking with Wes. I don’t see it as that. To me, this is the on court basketball equivalent of an intervention. I think Adelman and Kahn know that Wes is in a critically fragile state. To bench him and relegate him to mop up minutes would take his shell of an ego and obliterate it completely. To send him to the D-League would be equally as damning. Plus, I think there is a good chance that Wes would continue to struggle even in the D-League, which certainly wouldn’t help restore confidence.  Wes has minimal trade value right now so the only option is to stick with him and hope he improves.

The Wolves have managed to win despite Wes Johnson’s negative impact. The team is young and really isn’t expected to compete this year so there isn’t a ton of pressure to replace him. There is also the matter of having invested the 4th overall pick in the draft on him less than two years ago. Impatience isn’t the answer to helping Wes finding his niche. At this point, I’m not sure what that niche is or will someday be. He has the size and athleticism to be a plus defender. But even a great man defender like Bruce Bowen had to be competent enough to keep defenses honest by knocking down open jump shots.

A year ago, Wes Johnson experienced his share of rookie struggles, but he also flashed the ability to make big plays often enough that showed something was there. As someone who followed the team closely, at no point did I think he was someone who didn’t have a future in the NBA. Right now, that’s how it looks. Games like his 29 point explosion against the Lakers, and specifically Kobe, from last season seem like they never really happened or could ever happen again. That’s how far he has fallen. Hopefully, for the Wolves, but more so for Wes, he finds himself in all of this.

Posted on: January 2, 2012 12:16 am

Wolves 10 Pointer: Mavericks (1/1)

Wolves win, 99-82

1. I was in attendance for this beautiful game and let me just say this, wow. Wow. World of Electric energy. Maybe not a must win, but after losing three very close games dropping a 4th to begin the season would have been difficult to stomach. So what do they do? The Minnesota Timberwolves came out and throttled the defending NBA Champs. You shoulda been there. It was one of those games where you couldn't help but get out of your seat and yell shit at the court from the upper deck. I'm enjoying this way more than a grown man probably should, but shit, fuck it. I, and many like me, have endured so many bleak years with this team that this brief, very brief, glimmer of legitimate hope for the future is more enjoyable than it would be to the casual observer. Fuck it, we deserve to enjoy the shit out of this.

2. Ok, so maybe it wasn't a total throttling. The teams were tied after 1. Wolves up 9 at the half. Mavs cut it to 5 in the 3rd. Then the Wolves asserted their will in the 4th and ended up winning by 17. The most impressive thing about the overall game is how this Wolves team stood up to every Mavs run and answered with a run of their own. All Wolves teams between the years 2005-2010 would have collapsed under the psychotic scoring ability of Dirk and company. But not this team, and that's largely a credit to Rick Adelman. They went punch for punch with OKC and Miami but came up inches short. Not tonight. All the little things they did to shoot themselves in the foot throughout the first three games they cleaned up and put one on the Champs.

3. Kevin Love. 25 pts, 17 rebs, 5-6 on 3pt shots. It's a shame that stat lines like those can begin to seem ordinary when a guy does it enough. Again, here's what really matters about those numbers - he did it in a win. Not just any win, but a win against a team that is supposedly way better than his own AND he did it in the clutch. Midway through the 4th Dallas had cut the Wolves lead to 2 and the all too familiar appearance of another collapse crept back into our minds. You could feel it in the air. The very next possession Love drills a step back three right in some clueless mother fucker's face, and the Mavs would never get that close again. Doing it when the game is on the line. I've always said, that's what separates the good from the great.

4. Once again, Ricky Rubio plays the entire 4th quarter. He finished with 14 points, 7 assists and 3 rebs in 26 minutes of play. I'm a rube, no doubt about it. But I feel like I'm a pretty critical rube, which if you know that about me you know I've never said this about another Wolves player, at least not since the glory days of KG. Ricky Rubio was masterful in this game. Him and Love were instrumental in the convincing nature of the win. Play after play Rubio commanded the offense. He was moving around the perimeter with complete confidence, setting his teammates up with wide open looks and when the defense dared him to beat them with his supposed subpar offensive capabilities, he did just that. I went to the game with former Court Electric owners, the Brothers Zerr, and all three of us and virtually every other person in the arena were stunned with how efficiently he took the game over. Maybe we're just starved for that sort of ability around these parts, but I tend to think it was more than that.

5. Easily the third most valuable player in this game was Anthony Tolliver. He played excellent defense on Dirk. Clearly Tolliver got in his head - Dirk's frustration was obvious by his persistent tantrum throwing. AT got his typical hustle boards and hit three massive three pointers, including the one that Rubio delivered on a stunning between the legs of Dirk pass, which for all intents and purposes ended the game and sent the fan energy level through the roof of Target Center.

6. Giving credit where credit is due, Luke Ridnour had his best game of the year. He limited his turnovers and took (and made) some timely jumpers. I've been brutal on the guy but he had a good game.

7. Lamar Odom has vaulted into my 5 least favorite NBA players list. I noticed him acting like a little bitch a lot last year with the Lakers and now with the Mavs it seems like he's made the full-time  transition to punk ass bitch. He's lazy and I suspect gutless. No heart. Deserving of the Kardashian he got.

8. Unfortunately, it's not all sunny in Wolvesland. There are certain individuals who continue to struggle. Interestingly enough, I attribute it somewhat to the fact that the team as a whole is beginning to play well, which is now exposing those who play against the grain more so than they would have been on last year's totally dysfunctional team. Giving Ridnour a free pass for the moment, Wes Johnson, Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph can't quite get their shit together. Wes strikes me as an intelligent player who is out of position and really headfucked right now. I think his confidence is at an all-time low and he's thinking way too hard about every little thing he is doing on the court. The dude needs to step back and get his mind right before it gets really out of hand. Beas and Randolph I think are a little more complicated. They are extremely talented but hamstrung by low basketball IQs. They just don't seem to get it. For every good thing they do they seem to quickly counter it with one mind numbingly stupid thing. Players like that can't be trusted when the game is on the line. That's more damning for Beasley than Randolph, but ultimately good for neither.

9. Before any Debbie Downers out there feel the need to check me on my enthusiasm, let me beat you to the punch. Yes, I know they are still a long ways from being taken seriously as a good, legit team. Yes, I know they are, in spite of the positive signs of growth, still just 1-3 on the season. Yes, I realize Rubio will likely hit the rookie wall at some point and struggle to play at this level throughout the season. I know all the reasons to be muted in my optimism for this year. But I can also recognize true improvement when I see it. This team IS headed in the right direction. There'll be some growing pains, but God damnit, we're starting to claw our way out of the cellar. Let's be happy about that.

10. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you exhibits A, B and C as to why the Wolves passed on DeMarcus Cousins....

Posted on: June 16, 2011 8:22 pm

1 Week to Go Mock

1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Kyrie Irving, PG DUKE

* All sorts of misdirection in the media, but I still say there is a 90% chance Irving goes here, just as the BPA should.


2. Minnesota Timberwolves – Derrick Williams, SF/PF ARIZONA

* Will they trade it? Flip a coin. Williams may be redundant to Beasley, but Beasley hasn’t proven himself to be the sort of talent you pass on the consensus #2 talent in the draft for. The only question that remains is whether or not Williams actually is the #2 talent.


3. Utah Jazz – Brandon Knight, PG KENTUCKY

* Personally, I’d go Kanter here and get rid of Mehmet Okur as soon as possible. However, it seems like the Jazz really want a guard and the PG pedigree at Kentucky makes Knight the no brainer pick.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers – Enes Kanter, C TURKEY

* Kanter plays below the rim for a center but JJ Hickson and Anderson Varejao will serve as a nice compliment. I think there is a good chance Kanter, whether taken here or earlier, ends up with the Wolves.


5. Toronto Raptors – Kemba Walker, PG CONNECTICUT

* Toronto gets not only the play making guard they so desperately need but also a star personality to help everyone forget about the loss of Chris Bosh.


6. Washington Wizards – Kawhi Leonard, SF SAN DIEGO STATE
* After Irving, I rank Leonard as the #2 can’t miss prospect in this draft. His overall upside may not be all that great but his athleticism and defensive intensity will translate well to the pro level.


7. Sacramento Kings – Jimmer Fredette, PG BYU

* Fredette is a great backcourt mate for Tyreke Evans. What Evans lacks in shooting, Fredette more than makes up for. What Fredette lacks in defense Evans makes up for. Or at least, has the ability to make up for.


8. Detroit Pistons – Jonas Valanciunas, C LITHUANIA

* Valanciunas has incredible potential and would be a tremendous compliment to Greg Monroe. The only hesitation I have about this pick is if echos of Darko still linger in Detroit and they’ll be skittish about taking another Euro-big this high.


9. Charlotte Bobcats – Jan Vesely, SF CZECH REPUBLIC

* Charlotte is weak at every position. So they go BPA in Vesely. Questions about how the Euro game translates to the NBA aside, I think this guy has top 5 talent in the draft.


10. Milwaukee Bucks – Alec Burks, SG COLORADO

* This pick seems destined to be. The Wiz might grab Burks at #6. The Bobcats might snipe him at #9. However, I don’t expect either of those things likely to happen.


11. Golden State Warriors – Chris Singleton, SF/PF FLORIDA STATE

* Defense will be the new name of the game in Golden State. Singleton has all the tools to be an elite defensive presence in the league for many years to come.


12. Utah Jazz – Klay Thompson, SG WASHINGTON STATE

* If Brandon Knight is taken to replace Deron Williams, then Klay Thompson will be taken to replace Wesley Matthews.


13. Phoenix Suns – Marcus Morris, PF KANSAS

* This is a very un-Phoenix like pick but he’s the BPA and the Suns may be starting to think about life after Nash. Plus, Morris will be ready to contribute from Day 1.  


14. Houston Rockets – Jordan Hamilton, SF TEXAS

* This would be the first real reach of the draft. Hamilton represents a direct need in scoring from the wing position. Fellow Longhorn, Tristan Thompson, is a better prospect but with Luis Scola, Patrick Patterson and Jordan Hill already in the mix, there’s really no room for him.


15. Indiana Pacers – Marshon Brooks, SG PROVIDENCE

* Assuming Indiana feels good about Tyler Hansbrough at PF, SG is the one glaring need. Brooks packs a fair amount of boom or bust potential, but should add some punch to a fringe Eastern playoff team.


16. Philadelphia 76ers – Tristan Thompson, PF TEXAS

* Elton Brand was productive last year but his presence on the roster is a formality. When his insanely huge deal runs out Brand will be on the first flight out of Philly. Thompson will then step in as the starting PF of the future.


17. New York Knicks – Markieff Morris, PF KANSAS

* This pick will be the result of D’Antoni trying to prove to ownership that he is serious about improving defensively. Morris is a limited upside pick but he will bring some grit that Amare and Carmelo do not.  


18. Washington Wizards – Donatas Montiejunas, PF/C LITHUANIA

* No one with the upside of Montiejunas who doesn’t add to the position jam they already have is still available. He reminds almost everyone of Andres Bargnani, which would compliment a JaVale McGee-Andray Blatche front court well.


19. Charlotte Bobcats – Josh Selby, SG KANSAS

* This feels like a Michael Jordan pick to me. The Bobcats were one of the worst offensive teams last year. This should help with that.


20. Minnesota Timberwolves – Bismack Biyombo, PF/C CONGO

* Biyombo has major upside and ultra rare physical gifts, but he is a long ways away from being ready to play at the NBA level. This would be a great value pick for the Wolves.


21. Portland Trailblazers – Nolan Smith, PG DUKE

* Just like Ty Lawson a few years ago, Smith will fly under the radar and end up going later than he should. He’ll be groomed to replace Andre Miller in a year.


22. Denver Nuggets – Tobias Harris, PF TENNESSEE

* I can’t imagine the Nuggets will bring back Kenyon Martin and so they’ll seek his replacement here. There are some questions about whether or not Harris is big enough to play PF in the NBA. I think he is.


23.  Houston Rockets – Nikola Vucevic, C USC

* Yao Ming is not walking through the door. McHale is known for coaching up big guys and Vucevic is a talented 7 footer. Seems like a good match.


24. Oklahoma City Thunder – Kenneth Faried, PF MOREHEAD STATE

* With Serge Ibaka and Kenneth Faried, OKC will feature two hard nosed, blue collar mashers at the 4 spot. If Faried gets decent minutes he’ll average 10 boards a game without much difficulty at all.


25. Boston Celtics – Jordan Williams, PF/C MARYLAND

* The need someone to replace Shaq and Kendrick Perkins. Williams is the closest thing in the draft.


26. Dallas Mavericks – Kyle Singler, SF DUKE

* I doubt they’ll bring back Peja Stojakovic or Caron Butler, which means they have a need for some bench scoring from the wing position. Singler is big-game tested and will be able to step into a meaningful role from the beginning.

27. New Jersey Nets – Tyler Honeycutt, SG/SF UCLA

* Honecutt is a classic wing who underachieved his college expectations. He’s still very young and has the size and excellent athleticism to grow into his talent. Plus, he's from New Jersey.

28. Chicago Bulls – Malcolm Lee, SG UCLA

* Malcom Lee didn’t get a lot of attention at college, but that sort of seems to be the trend with a lot of UCLA players who go on to produce at the next level. He has legit size and if they add nothing else, could probably replace Keith Bogans as the starting 2 guard.


29. San Antonio Spurs – Davis Bertens, SF LATVIA

- This Spurs have consistently cleaned up by grabbing bigtime Euro talents and giving them time to develop. That will continue here. Bertens is an amazing shooter but will probably need another year or two before he’s physically ready for the NBA.


30. Chicago Bulls – Trey Thompkins, PF Georgia

- With Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson in the fold Thompkins doesn't have an immediate place to play. I just think he has a tremendous amount of talent and is worth drafting here. He's got good size and a knack for scoring, which is something the Bulls didn't consistently get from their bigs last season.

Category: NBA
Tags: draft
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