As a long-time Wolves blogger and die hard fan, I’ve concocted and assessed dozens of trade scenarios in print, hundreds in discussion and probably, sadly, thousands in my mind. Throughout the last five years of perpetual rebuilding 99% of those scenarios have involved trading for young, potential laden players. This idea is a complete change in direction.
Rationale: It has been reported that Portland is considering dealing away some of their aging players for younger ones given that the team has seemingly plateaued and/or been injured to death, so to speak. Andre Miller is at the top of the list for such players. Mostly because of his age (34), but also because he has a team option in his contract for next year for 7.8 million and it’s unlikely the team would pick that up if they decide to head in a younger direction. Portland would replace Miller with Ridnour, who should score fan points as a former Oregon Duck. They also add Brewer, who would replace much of the perimeter athleticism and defense they’re missing from Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw.
Rationale: There is no question, Rip is overpaid at over 12 million for each of the two seasons after this one. His production level just doesn’t justify that. Part of that is due to a declining skill set but I would argue that even more of it is a result of Detroit’s further reliance on Rodney Stuckey and the addition of Ben Gordon. Ellington gives them a shooter at a fraction of the cost. They also get some big time potential in Pekovic, which seems like a really good fit because we all know how well Detroit develops Serbians.
The next question that begs answering is what would the Wolves want with a couple of past their prime players like Rip Hamilton and Andre Miller? I can answer that in three parts.
1. The Wolves don’t need more youth. They need knowledge. They need to learn how to win. Adding a couple of savvy vets like these would expedite that development. Beasley and Love are immensely talented. Darko, Wes, Martell and Flynn have all shown flashes of exceptional play at times. Add in Ricky Rubio and another lottery pick next year and you have the core group of eight Wolves players moving forward. Keep in mind, when I say ‘learn how to win’ I don’t necessarily mean teaching plays or how to properly take a charge. I’m talking about developing the mental toughness and perseverance required to consistently win games. There have been five games already in this short season in which the Wolves had double digit 4th Quarter leads only to squander them away and eventually lose. There have been another seven losses in which they either had commanding leads at some other point in the game or were competitive throughout before letting it slip away. That’s twelve losses. Twelve games out of eighteen where if the team were only a bit more experienced or prepared or disciplined the outcome might have gone the other way. Throw Hamilton and Miller into those games and that’s two more players on the court who know how to win. Two players who know how to protect the ball and work the shot clock and how to execute when the game is on the line. That’s what the Wolves are missing right now. Add that and give the future guys, Love, Beasley, Flynn, Wes and company, a taste of winning sooner rather than later.
2. It’s not like Hamilton and Miller are completely cooked, they’ve just lost a step. They’re both still productive players. Think about a lineup of Miller – Hamilton – Beasley – Love – Darko with Flynn, Wes, Martell and Tolliver bringing up the 2nd unit. It’s hard to project a win total for that group but I do know it would be a lot more than it is now. Again, this isn’t about winning a championship or even the division. It’s about developing a culture of winning and making sure these young guys don’t become mentally defeated by too much losing at such a young age.
3. As the summer of 2009 taught us, big time free agents aren’t coming to Minnesota in its current state. It will take at least two years of winning before this organization is even remotely viewed as an attractive destination for players seeking anything other than a massive payday. By that time both the Hamilton and Miller deals would be off the books. Why not bring in a couple of high character pros to bridge that gap? Given the state of NBA trade market and the respective situations for the Pistons and Trailblazers, I think both deals are realistic.