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Tag:David Kahn
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: July 19, 2010 7:43 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2010 8:08 pm
 

Al Jefferson Era (7/31/07 - 7/13/10)

Al Jefferson has been traded to the Utah Jazz for two future 1st round picks, one of which originates with Memphis and the other with Utah. As is protocol with the vocal majority of disillusioned Wolves fans, the initial reaction was one of shock, terror, self-pity and rage. Now that we’ve had a few minutes to digest the deal, let me offer six reasons why dealing Jefferson in the fashion they did is not in fact the catalyst for Armageddon as it may have originally been portrayed.

 

1. If David Kahn could have got more for Jefferson, he would have. Dealing Jefferson within the division signals that Kahn was merely looking for the best return. Utah presented that. Those who complained about not trading Jefferson for someone like Andre Igoudala or Danny Granger or Josh Smith or Kevin Martin are forgetting one vital component: trading requires two willing parties. The market on a given player is only what someone is willing to pay, and clearly, the market for Jefferson wasn’t exactly booming.

2. In Al Jefferson’s three seasons as the focal point of the offense the Wolves won 22, 24 and 15 games, respectively. It’s hard to justify dedicating 25% of your cap to a guy who can’t, even by sheer force of will, get the team to 30 wins. Put any true star (in other words, someone worthy of eating a fourth of your payroll) on the worst team in the league and they still get 30 wins.

3. Al Jefferson is only 25 years old but has already run up a notable injury history. Nagging injuries in Boston were one thing, but tearing his ACL two seasons ago put him on a whole different level. I’m not saying players haven’t come back from ACL tears, but guys his size, who were already heavy footed to begin with, typically don’t get healthier with age.

4. With Kevin Love , Michael Beasley and even Nikola Pekovic on board the Wolves have several talented pieces that can replicate, if not exceed, Al Jefferson’s contribution to the team. They are younger, cheaper, possess more upside at this point and bring a more versatile game to table, or rather court.  

5. Kurt Rambis claims to utilize a system that breaks down to roughly 70% uptempo attacking style offense and 30% Triangle. The former requires big men to be agile and able to run the court. The latter requires a focus on accurate and timely ball movement and a keen sense of the overall scheme. No matter how you slice it, Al Jefferson is not a good match for this system.

6. Al Jefferson, though still young and already having demonstrated impressive skill for such a young age, has failed to improve notably on areas of weakness within his game. The same knocks he had three years ago he still has today. Poor defensive awareness, apparent unwillingness to share the basketball and/or inability to pass out of double teams, and so on. Even the most adamant defenders have to admit that he seems to have plateaued. In fairness, some of this is due to an unimpressive surrounding cast. Some of it is surely due to ineffective coaching. Without question, some of it can be attributed to the ACL tear. All of that aside, when it comes down to it a player eventually has to answer the naysayers and Jefferson has not done this. In failing to do, the crowd of naysayers has grown even more. Now go back to #1 and the part about his market value.


    Let me close by saying that I don’t mean this to be a slash and burn job on Jefferson now that he isn’t a member of the Wolves anymore. Far from it. I’m a big Al Jefferson fan and I am glad he will finally get a chance to win. What he does, he does extremely well. I challenge anyone to name five better offensive low post players in the entire league. On top of everything, he seems like a genuinely good guy and so he’s easy to cheer for.

    I’ll liken this trade to the rare instance of breaking up with a girlfriend on legitimately good terms. You know, she’s really cool and in another time and place maybe she could have been the one. But personally, emotionally and spiritually you’re headed in one direction and she’s headed in another. Neither in bad directions, just different. You’ve outgrown each other. Truthfully, you probably should have ended this awhile ago but things were cool so you rode it out, hoping the ship might right itself. In the end, you saw this coming but at least you gave it a fair shake. Many say it, few mean it. We still want to be friends.





Posted on: October 15, 2009 6:28 pm
 

Minnesota Timberwolves 2009-10 Offseason Review

On May 22nd of this year, after an exhaustive and seemingly blundered search for a new Head of Basketball Operations, the Timberwolves hired their apparent 3rd choice for the position in David Kahn. Typical fan reaction ranged from anger to disbelief to apathy, or some combination of the three. Today, I'd estimate that at least 8 out of 10 of those fans would take it all back. 

Imagine, if you will, you went into a coma back on May 22nd and awoke from it today. Also imagine that by some strange twist of fate you were a demented Wolves fan whose rabid obsession and supposed first thought after coming out of a four month coma is “What happened with the Wolves this summer?” Your family would try to convince you to talk about your emotions or them or your life, but you’d be unstoppably obsessed with talking some T-Wolves. Well, you’d definitely be a sick S.O.B. but I’ll be damned if I wouldn’t respect you for it. I’d sit you down and fill you in on the details but you’d probably have a hard time believing all that had gone down in one short summer. Sure, you’d recognize a few of the names but for the most part you’d be waking up to a whole new team.

 

Wrath of Kahn

It all started with the hiring of David Kahn. Before him, however, was a flirtation with Spurs Assistant GM, Dennis Lindsey. He has the pedigree to make him a no brainer pick for GM but in a moderate dis to the Timberwolves organization he essentially said he'd rather be an assistant with the Spurs than the main man with the Wolves. In vain, I sit here unable to think of a more cordial way to say ‘fuck him’. It's worth noting that he did the same thing with the Atlanta Hawks last offseason. Then there was Blazers Assistant GM, Tom Penn. Kevin Pritchard's (Blazers super-GM) right hand man is largely credited with being instrumental to the Blazers impressive youth movement. Penn was apparently ready to sign but at the last minute Paul Allen (Blazers uber rich owner) swept in and offered him a ridiculous pay raise to stay in Portland. This plus other illuminating details that came out in the wake of everything suggest that Penn never intended to leave Portland and was instead merely using Minnesota as leverage to get a new contract. They're only rumors, but based on the credibility of the rumors I believe every one of them, which of course earns an even more impressive and emphatic ‘double fuck him’.

And then there was Kahn. All anyone knew was that he was some ex-Pacers guy under Donnie Walsh who hadn't been in the NBA since 2002 and spent the last few years fiddling around in the NBDL and heading up a grassroots movement to get a Major League Baseball team in Oregon, which obviously never happened. Even worse, his reputation was as a business-minded man as oppose to a basketball-minded man. The story went that in Indiana Walsh was the personnel guy who put the championship contending teams together. Kahn was the finance guy who worked the cap. The prevailing thought amongst jaded fans was that Glen Taylor had gone ahead and hired a guy with the savvy to save him a few more Bucks, which was a somewhat deserved reaction considering the plethora of painfully frugal moves the Wolves have made over the past few years.

Anyways, it happens. Kahn shows up for his press conference. He's pasty white and looks to be maybe 5'7" at most. He's seems way too articulate and dainty to be a real sports guy. But then he starts to talk about his vision of the Wolves future. He talks big. He promises change. A change in organizational philosophy. A change in personnel. A change in the way the Wolves are perceived around the league. He says no team will work harder. He says no front office will be more diligent and persistent. He says once again the Target Center with be full of rambunctious and howling fans. I've got to admit, it was convincing. Only talk, but somewhat convincing. Of course, Wolves fans have heard plenty of talk over the years, much of it hollow and void of follow through, most of it from the previous man in charge, Kevin McHale.

McHale was no longer in charge but he was still the head coach. His presence in the organization was quite literally likened to a cancer. A little dramatic, yes, but I agree with the general principle of the analogy. No matter how small or potentially insignificant, he had to be removed. The team could not begin to rebuild until it was cleansed of his toxic presence and allowed to build a new image of its own. Sure, Kahn talked a big game but if he wouldn't/couldn't get rid of McHale then it would be apparent to everyone who still cared to pay attention that he was, in the end, just a Taylor pawn.

Kahn and McHale had a number of lunches and dinners and probably even a few brunches in which they reportedly discussed the future direction of the team and McHale's roll within it. The longer events transpired, the more likely it appeared that McHale would be retained. But then the axe suddenly fell and McHale was for all intents and purposes, decapitated. I can now empathize with the citizens of Baghdad who saw the oversized statue of Saddam Hussein ripped down by chains and drug off to a scrap heap somewhere. We knew the day would eventually have to come, but it still didn't seem possible that it would come in our lifetimes.

For the sake of bringing some order to the personnel chaos that ensued after McHale’s firing, I’ve organized the various transactions into three categories: the draft, trades and free agency. Behold.

 

The Draft

One thing you can credit McHale with his a late-tenure run in which he unloaded many of the terrible contracts he had previously signed players to for future assets. So even though David Kahn has done an impressive job in a short amount of time, you’ve also got to remember that much of the flexibility that allowed him to do so much was inherited. But, as they say, it is what it is.

Heading into the 2009 NBA Draft the Timberwolves had an impressive four 1st Round Picks and two 2nd Round Picks. Two of those picks, the #5 and #6 overall selections (I’ll get into how that #5 pick was acquired later on), would/will define this draft. Those two picks represented the organizations opportunity to add significant pieces to the core of this team moving forward.

Blake Griffin is taken #1 by the Clippers. No surprise there. Hasheem Thabeet went #2 overall. Thank you, Memphis. James Harden goes #3 to Oklahoma City. A somewhat surprising pick because, you know, this team should be in Seattle. Sacramento drops the bomb when they take Tyreke Evans at #4. Evans is a very talented player but for a team with virtually no identity it seems like Rubio would have been the ideal player to build a team around. But perhaps they saw the writing on the wall. The Wolves were then up with two straight picks and the guy who seemed like a total pipe dream is there for the taking.

The following is the approximate inner monologue of a Wolves fan in the moments leading up to the #5 pick in this year’s draft: Would he want play in Minnesota? Is he going to stay in Europe? Can he even play against us big, bad Americans? Screw it, draft him. He’s the BPA, no doubt. Shit, here comes Stern. Why does he always have that stupid grin? We took Ricky Rubio! We took Ricky Rubio! Fans everywhere erupt! We, yes “we”, got the 2nd most talented player in the draft with the #5 pick. A star caliber talent, something all NBA championship teams are built around, just fell into our laps. There are a lot of logistics still to be worked out, but who cares. We got Rubio!

What can I say, I’m a Rubeo. Get it? Rube + Rubio. I made that up.

Then came the #6 pick. Stephen Curry seemed like a logical choice, although a Curry/Rubio backcourt would have been perhaps the smallest in the league. DeMar DeRozan made sense. But taking him at #6 would be a stretch even though the Wolves needed a shooting guard to pair with their new point guard of the future. So naturally, they took Jonny Flynn, the point guard.

It didn’t make much sense at the time. Some think it still doesn’t. Why take two point guards? Well, let me answer that self-imposed question. It’s my belief that there are four types of NBA teams. 1) Legitimate contenders who are stockpiling veteran talent in order to have the deepest and most ready to win team possible. 2) Mediocre pretenders who add whatever talent they can with the goal of winning a lot, but never winning the big one. 3) Rebuilding teams whose primary goal should be acquiring as much young talent as possible, regardless of position. #4) The New York Knicks. The Wolves are that #3 type of team. Right now, taking two point guards can’t make a lot of sense from the appearance of things but if Kahn & Co. believed that Rubio and Flynn were the two best players available then taking them both is so much better than being short sighted and taking a worse player just because it fills out a roster sheet better than the alternative. Then and today, drafting Ricky Rubio was the absolute right thing to do.

Obviously, the Rubio situation has played out with the conclusion that he will be playing in Spain for at least two more years. Do yourself a favor and don’t believe any of the tabloid nonsense that the Chad Fords and Rick Buchers of the world love to spew. Rubio has no qualms about playing in Minnesota. He is not demanding to be traded to a major market. He is not afraid of snow or of playing with Jonny Flynn. If any of it were remotely true he would have played that card by now so as to increase his leverage. He, nor his agent, has ever said anything of the sort. This is all about money. When Rubio wasn’t selected in the first three picks he not only lost out on quite a bit of money on the NBA rookie salary scale but he also triggered a clause in his Nike contract that would have paid him substantially more had he gone in those first three picks. Rubio and his people made the decision that they would not come to the NBA if it would put him at a major financial loss, even in just the short term.

So now he will play in Spain for two years and will most likely come over to the NBA when he is a mere 20 years old. He will either play for the Timberwolves or he will play for whoever the Timberwolves trade him to. The options in that regard are too many to speculate on. Flynn, on the other hand, will most likely spend those two years making Wolves fans forget about Rubio. Lost in all of the Rubio mess is just how good Flynn is. His game is extremely comparable to that of Chris Paul. He’s also a natural born leader with a sense of charisma that will quickly endear him to Wolves fans everywhere.

Finally, don’t sleep on Wayne Ellington. He was taken with the #29 overall pick (acquired via Boston in the KG trade). He’s not a huge upside guy but his game right now is very solid and he will get major minutes as a rookie.

 

Trades

The Timberwolves have made seven trades since Kahn arrived. Most have been financial chess moves in order to position themselves to be heavy free agent players in the 2010 offseason. A couple of the trades have actually been about acquiring talent. In chronological order they are…

1. Randy Foye and Mike Miller to Washington for Darius Songalia, Etan Thomas, Oleksiy Pecherov and the #5 pick in the 2009 draft. This was easily the most noteworthy of the trades made. I’ve already delved enough into the Rubio situation and the rest of the incoming assets can be summed up in the following statement: Etan Thomas was a salary chip, as was Darius Songalia, and Oleksiy Pecherov is a low-risk, low-salary Euro flier. The non-Rubio intriguing aspect of this trade was who the Wolves dealt: Randy Foye and Mike Miller. Foye, though not his fault, was the total embodiment of the McHale blunder years. People got over and even partially sympathized with the Joe Smith fiasco (thanks to Premier Stern and his resounding “FUCK YOU” to the people of Minnesota). Given the circumstances, no one could really blame McHale for letting Chauncey Billups go. Ndudi Ebi was a bust but he was also the 28th overall pick so it’s not like he passed on Michael Jordan or anything. But Foye, that was inexcusable. The Wolves had Brandon Roy in their possession. He was a Timberwolf for a few fleeting seconds and McHale let him go…for Randy Foye….and cash. Cheap and stupid. Double whammy. Roy goes on to become one of the top shooting guards in the league. Foye goes on to sustain a major injury, demonstrate the inability to play the position they drafted him to play, and struggles through unwatchable bouts of inconsistency. If Brandon Roy is on the Timberwolves, Kevin Garnett probably still is too. The Wolves are most likely legitimate contenders in the Western Conference. Target Center is undoubtedly packed with fans. But instead, the past plays out as it did, McHale goes into hiding, and the fans have no choice but to unleash their fury on the guy who represents what could have been, Randy Foye. Sad to say, trading him was trading more than a player. It was trading a scar. Mike Miller, to a lesser extent, was another McHale gem. Landing Miller when they did was the justification for trading OJ Mayo for Kevin Love. Sounded good at the time but Miller, like so many other skilled role players, failed to produce when a team actually needed him to be “the guy”. The difference here is that Kevin Love, unlike Foye, actually endeared himself to fans through hard work and definitive signs of potential. I would guess that up to 60-70% of Wolves fans today, if given the choice of Mayo or Love straight up, would go Love.

2. Ty Lawson to Denver for their 2010 1st Round Pick (via Charlotte, top 12 protected). He was the best player available on the board at the time of this pick but with Flynn and Rubio already selected he had no purpose in Minnesota. The national commentators erupted with laughter (3 point guards!) in response to this pick, but that’s mostly because they are irrational morons who either don’t know the facts or choose to ignore them in favor of sensationalism. Here’s hoping Charlotte just barely misses the playoffs this year.

3. Nick Calathes to Dallas for their 2010 2nd Pick. Solid player but he’ll be in Greece for as long as Rubio is in Spain.

4. Sebastian Telfair, Craig Smith and Mark Madsen to the Los Angeles Clippers for Quentin Richardson. Q-Rich is a very unlikeable player and so trading three likeable players for him seemed strange. But alas, this turned out to be one of those 2010 cap savers I mentioned before.

5. Etan Thomas to Oklahoma City for Chucky Atkins and Damien Wilkins. Big contract for small contracts. Wilkins could actually prove to be a serviceable player.

6. Quentin Richardson to Miami for Mark Blount. Whoa, did I say Q-Rich is unlikable? What does that make Blount? He’ll probably be cut or traded before you finish reading this sentence.

7. Darius Songalia and Bobby Brown to New Orleans for Antonio Daniels and a future 2nd Round Pick. This was a very savvy move to save five million dollars off next year’s cap. Daniels has a 0% chance of being on the roster come opening day.

 

Free Agency

The Wolves didn’t throw down any serious money on players but they did drop a fair amount on their next head coach. Unlike past hires, Dwayne Casey and Randy Wittman, who were given the job as much for their low salary demands as they were their skill and acumen, Kurt Rambis was the most high profile assistant on the market. When his name came up it didn’t seem like a real possibility because that’s just not what the Wolves do. They don’t go after the big names, they go after the big bargains. Right? Well, apparently not anymore. Hiring Rambis, who has two hands full of championship rings, both from his days as a coach and as a player, is sending a message that this thing is for real. He played the bulk of his career with Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy. He coached the better part of the last decade under Phil Jackson and for Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. When it comes to resume building, it doesn’t really get any better than that. And for those looking for the cosmic tie, he also famously clotheslined Kevin McHale in the 1984 NBA Finals.

Rambis continued the surprises by hiring an equally high profile team of assistants. Reggie Theus, Dave Wohl and Bill Laimbeer will join him on the bench this year and for the foreseeable future. Theus already has heading coaching experience from his short run with Sacramento. Wohl was with Boston when they drafted Al Jefferson and is credited with a lot of his development as a player. Laimbeer won three championships as head coach of the Detroit Shock (WNBA) and will be probably be good for humorous post game quotes.

As for the actual players, the Wolves added three guys that fit two criteria: 1) Young, talented and a healthy upside. 2) A financially low risk contract. Enter Ramon Sessions (23 years old, 4 year deal worth 16 million), Ryan Hollins (25 years old, 3 year deal worth 7 million) and Sasha Pavlovic (25 years old, 1 year contract worth 1.5 million).

Sessions is the most talented of the three and will see the most minutes on the court. Some people questioned why the Wolves would bring him in, even with the knowledge that Rubio won’t be here for a couple of years. I tend to believe that Sessions is part of the long-term plan, as oppose to the other theory which is that he’s merely keeping Rubio’s seat warm. He’s both insurance incase they trade Rubio or a trade asset in case Rubio actually shows up someday. Sessions also lends merit to David Kahn’s claim that he wants to build an up tempo team that utilizes a two point guard system. Detractors claimed that he invented that idea after drafting both Ricky Rubio and Johnny Flynn in an attempt to answer critics who loudly and sarcastically questioned “Why would you draft two point guards in the 1st Round?!?!” Apparently, because he wants them to play together.

Hollins technically fits a major team need. He’s long, athletic, a true center and a great shot blocker. That’s all a technicality because he’s yet to put it together in a game that matters for any sustained amount of time. He’s been buried on Dallas’ depth chart but in very limited action has shown some big time potential. Ultimately, however, he’s completely unproven and still very raw despite two years in the league. He could easily boom or bust but for a guy they only need about 10 minutes a game out of he’s a solid prospect.

Sasha’s role on the team isn’t entirely clear but I do expect him to get a fair amount of playing time. The obvious reasons for that include he can play the 2 or the 3, he’s one of the few players on the team that can shoot from long range, they don’t have many other alternatives on roster and they need to showcase his talents. With only a one year contract he’s unlikely to be on this team beyond this one year. That means he’ll be a prime candidate for a deadline deal to some playoff bound team looking for an experienced shooter with the added bonus of being an expiring contract.


The Season Begins

That about sums it up. The season opener is less than two weeks away. Leading up to that, we all witnessed one of the two most eventful offseasons in Timberwolves history. The other being the 2003-04 season, in which they stockpiled talent for a championship run. This year is equally as momentous but for the opposite reason. This offseason was about building a core that will one day contend not just for one championship, but for several, year after year. The answer is yes, Wolves fans, you can say that with a straight face and not be embarrassed.





Posted on: September 1, 2009 10:27 pm
 

The Death of the Rubio Dream

If given the option, I would have prefered a scenario in which Brett Favre stayed retired and Ricky Rubio ditched Europe to suit up for the Minnesota Timberwolves. But it went the other way and we're forced to put the Rubio dream on hold until an unimaginable time in the future called 2011. That's two full NBA seasons from now. All along this was a likely possibility but the apparent finality of the outcome still stings. Something that really needs to be acknowledged: the Wolves made an offer that was accepted by DKV Joventut, as did Barcelona. Rubio could have gone to either locale. He chose Barcelona. This decision was not at all a result of a lack of effort by David Kahn, Glen Taylor and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Let me also clear up the following...

Yes, absolutely, David Kahn did the right thing when he drafted Rubio with the 5th overall pick in June's draft. You'll hear from a lot of revisionists who don't actually know anything, but that won't stop them from saying how bad of a draft pick it was. First of all, Ricky Rubio is the undisputed #2 pick in the 2009 draft if he doesn't have the buyout situation hanging over him. When he was on the board at #5 the Wolves had to take him. If they would have passed on him with both of their picks they would have been signaling to the league and their fanbase that they weren't really serious about building a contender. They would have been signaling that deep down they, as an organization, don't feel entitled to acquire the top talent in the league and instead those players should be reserved for only the biggest of media markets. They would have been signaling to all the other punk ass kids across the Globe that if you pout and whine and make threats you can basically dictate to the NBA where you play. They would have been emphatically signaling that even though the guy running things was new, business was in fact business as usual for an organization with a built up reputation for letting top talent walk away on draft night. Who else should they have taken? DeMar DeRozan? DeRozan at #6 or Wayne Ellington at #29? I take Ellington as an enormous value ten out of ten times. Terrance Williams and Gerald Henderson would have been debacale picks. The only guy who makes any amount of sense is Stephen Curry but him and Jonny Flynn would have been an even worse defensive combo than Rubio and Flynn. Taking Rubio was a risk. No doubt about it. But it was a risk worth taking, regardless of the outcome.

Yes, trading Randy Foye and Mike Miller for the #5 pick, which became Ricky Rubio, was a good trade. Anyone who thinks Foye and Miller were anything more than roleplayers for the Timberwolves who contributed very little to team wins most likely isn't reading this blog. Trading those two marginal talents for a crack at a potential game changing star was a no brainer.

Jonny Flynn is the forgotten man in all of this.
Flynn, the ultra charasmatic pure point guard with Chris Paul-like skills, is a Minnesota Timberwolf. He's the guy who grinned his ass off after getting drafted by the Timberwolves. He's the guy who showed up in Minneapolis the next day for the team press conference and spoke of wanting to be part of building a contender. He's the guy who said he was thrilled to be in Minnesota and looked forward to sharing the backcourt with Rubio. He's the guy who looked like an all-star veteran in the Vegas summer league. Yeah, that guy. Post draft there were just as many "experts" who claimed they would have taken Flynn ahead of Rubio as there were the opposite. All things considered, Flynn could very well turn out to be a much better player than the Spanish Golden Child. Rubio seemingly has all the potential and intangible star power in the world but as things are now, Flynn is faster, stronger, more athletic, more suited for the NBA game, a better defender and a better overall scorer. I'm not trying to blast Rubio now that he has scorned America, only highlight that Flynn is a hell of a player in his own right. He's a natural leader and from all accounts a really solid human being. I, honestly, sincerely, hope he takes the starting point guard spot and never even lets Rubio get a look at it.

Ricky Rubio is playing a very dangerous game. Of course, the game he's playing wouldn't be as dangerous if his primary motivation wasn't getting rich beyond his wildest dreams. If he was staying in Spain because he didn't feel like he wasn't ready for the NBA, that would be one thing. If he was staying in Spain because at the age of 18 he didn't feel mature enough to handle the leap to the US of A, that would be another. But this kid wants cash. Plain and simple, he wants to get paid and he followed the biggest pay check. That took him to Barcelona. He stood up before the draft and said it was his ultimate dream to play in the NBA and he would go to whatever team took him. But really, something was lost in translation. What he meant to say or should have said was that he wanted to play in the NBA so long as it was with New York or Los Angeles and he was able to rake in some serious bank by endorsing whatever slew of products offered the biggest pay off. The "for the love of the game" stuff was cute but regrettably turned out to be as transparent as it initially appeared. So the game he is playing is called dollars and cents, but it doesn't make all that much sense. He'll make a few more mil in the very short run but really he's just deferring the only true monster pay day he'll ever get by putting off his NBA career. Two more years until he signs his rookie contract. Four more years after that until he gets his assumed max contract. What could really happen in those six years, you ask? He could get injured playing against Euro trash hacks. He doesn't develop at a fast enough pace. He flat out sucks or is simply average. Jonny Flynn dominates. Out of sight, out of mind - people forget about him because he's toiling away in the middle of Spain somewhere. There's an NBA lock out and rookie salary scales are adjusted for the worse. Any of these factors, amongst many others, could damage or destroy whatever leverage he currently holds. The door to the NBA was wide open, as was the door to Barcelona. He chose his backyard over the big stage. Draw your own conclusions from that one.

If the offer was right, I would trade the rights to Ricky Rubio right now. If he isn't here for two more seasons that means the Wolves will go another two years without landing one of their franchise faces. Are they supposed to simply twiddle their thumbs in the meantime? The Spurs could maybe get away with that. This is a team, however, that hasn't been in the playoffs for four seasons. Two more without Rubio would make six seasons, and that's making the presumptious assumption that they'd make it during his first NBA season. I'm not saying this team needs to make a run immediately, but they do need to be on the upward swing by 2011, not still in full blown talent development. As I said above, Jonny Flynn needs to claim the PG job and make everyone forget about Rubio. Note that I wouldn't give Rubio away for scraps. The trade would have to yield another core player in return. One offer I would explore is dealing Rubio and some expiring contracts to the Clippers for Eric Gordon, one of their garbage contracts and the Wolves old 1st Round Pick back. To my understanding, Rubio has an affordable buyout in 2011 but can still be bought out at any point until then but for some unGodly fee in excess of 8 million dollars. Los Angeles is one of two cities that could make that happen. I know the Clippers like Gordon but I'm betting the allure of paring Rubio and Blake Griffin in the mold of Stockton-Malone would be too much to pass on. Not only would they be able to build around the promise of a future dynasty but they could also begin to challenge the Lakers monopoly on buzz in the city of Angels. The Wolves, on the other hand, get a young and underrated dynamic scorer. Gordon's lights out shooting would pair perfectly with Flynn's drive and dish game. Both Flynn and Gordon are slightly undersized for their positions but they easily make up for that with being abnormally strong and athletic for their positions. A core moving forward of Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Jonny Flynn, Eric Gordon and 2010 Lottery Pick would be legitimate.


Peace out, ya'll.




 
 
 
 
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