Tag:Kevin Love
Posted on: April 24, 2012 11:59 am
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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 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 Warcraft...wow. 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....
http://www.usatoday.com/sports/bask
etball/nba/kings/story/2012-01-01/d
emarcus-cousins-benched-trade/52324
488/1

Posted on: January 29, 2011 10:33 am
 

Like it or not, Kevin Love is an All-Star

If history is the gauge by which we assess the present, then in a few days Kevin Love will be screwed out of an All-Star game appearance. Just like he was in the rookie game a couple years back. Just like Al Jefferson was for the All-Star game the same year when he was clearly one of the top bigs in the West. Love isn't flashy enough, his team sucks, he plays in fly over country. The usual stuff.

Usually in these situations I would wait for the inevitable to happen and then complain about it. I thought I'd mix it up and go all preemptive on it this year.

Before I state the obvious, let me first address this claim that Love shouldn't make the All-Star game because his team is bad. This is a made up excuse. It usually works that the best players happen to come from the best teams but to my knowledge it's called the "All-Star" game, not the "All-Stars Who Also Play For Winning Ball Clubs Game". There is no way anyone can deny that Kevin Love is an All-Star. Some can say the Wolves are only a 10 win team and so how good can anyone on that team individually be? Well, to them I counter, the Wolves would be a 1 win team without him.

One final disclaimer, I do not in the slightest bit care about the All-Star game. It's not about that. Watching a bunch of divas laugh up and down the court while they take turns dunking holds zero interest for me. People rip the NFL's Pro-Bowl for being a pointless exhibition. Then what is the NBA All-Star game? There's an equal percentage chance I'll watch The Bachelor or Housewives of Madison County or that new sitcom about those two obese people who manage to love each other in spite of their wretched BMIs. It's not about that. It's about respect. The Wolves haven't deserved it a lot lately, but in the few instances they do, believe I will let it be known.

Kevin Love is #1 in the NBA in rebounding at 15.7 per game. That's 2.3 more per game than the next guy, Dwight Howard. He has 30 more offensive rebounds than the guy with the 2nd most offensive rebounds, Zach Randolph. He has 60 more defensive rebounds than the next closest guy, once again, Super Dwight.

Kevin Love is #1 in the NBA in player efficiency rating at 29.6. LeBron James is 2nd at 26.9. Google it if you want the real definition but basically player efficiency measures how bad ass you are and how few chances you need to prove you are a bad ass. Kind of like the new inmate who walks into prison and immediately punches the warden in the face and then shanks the first guard who steps to him. That guy would have a really high inmate efficiency rating.

Kevin Love is shooting 44% on 3 pointers. The only other forwards who are also in the realm of All-Star consideration and near that mark are Paul Pierce at 41% and Dirk Nowitzki and 39%. His 63 3-pointers made are 5th among all Power Forwards/Centers in the NBA.

Kevin Love is 4th amongst power forwards (3rd in the Western Conference) in points per game at 21.6, which leads to...

Kevin Love is #1 in the league in double-doubles at 41. Blake Griffin is next with 37. The Wolves have played 44 games, which means that 93% of the time the Wolves take the court Love is going to get a double-double. That's more than Dwight, LeBron or anyone else in the league can say.

Kevin Love is 7th amongst power forwards (5th in the Western Conference) in assists per game at 2.54. That number isn't Earth shattering but it shows he is at least in the conversation and by no means some sort of black hole who gets numbers simply by dominating the ball.

Kevin Love's 47% overall shooting percentage and 2.3 turnovers per game aren't especially noteworthy. They also aren't by any means a detriment or a source from which a detractor could draw criticism.


The truth is, I actually think Love will make the Western Conference All-Star team. Not out of blind fandom or luck but based on what you just read. These numbers are undeniable. When Al Jeff got overlooked in 2009 one could say his turnovers were too high or that he was a ballhog, but with Love there is nothing not too like.




***I was so gonna end that last sentence "nothing not to Love" but then I played through the whole scenario in my head of having to punch myself in the nuts for being such a wank and decided against it. Just thought you should know that.




Posted on: December 10, 2010 11:02 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2010 11:15 pm
 

Giving Credit, post mortem

Things were so much more simple way back in the summer of 2008.

I was in my 20s.

The Wolves had only sucked for two years in a row instead of five.

George W. Bush was still President.

You Don't Mess With the Zohan was still in theaters.

But getting back to the Wolves, they sucked. Badly. Hopelessly bad. They needed more than just better players. What they needed was a franchise face. Someone to resurrect this one perennial playoff team. They had Al Jefferson to work the post. They needed a dynamic guard to carry the outside scoring and to also carry the spirit of the fan base. The draft was approaching. They needed OJ Mayo. Everything about Mayo looked good. I mean, hell, for a while when he was in high school the experts all compared him to LeBron. We could use a LeBron here in Minnesota. Even his name, OJ Mayo, sounded like the name of a star. Nothing ever goes right for the Wolves but on draft night that year things did go right…for once. David Stern got up and said his name and for a few hours we had OJ Mayo. The savior was coming North.

We Wolves faithful went to sleep that night (if one could manage to overcome the excitement and actually fall asleep) with visions of OJ Mayo taking over Target Center the way KG did not so long ago.

Then we woke to text messages from our Dads saying “Did McHale really just do that?” Were our Dads not happy with the Mayo pick? Why would he not want Mayo? Surely, we didn’t do something catastrophic like trade Mayo for anyone other than say, LeBron.

Then we flew to the computer and in a few clicks came across the headline “Wolves Deal Mayo to Memphis in Midnight Blockbuster.” LeBron did not play for Memphis.

Rage. Hysteria. Crushing disappointment. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m a rube. I felt cheated. I ripped off an email to the T-Wolves ticket rep who I had been talking to about potentially purchasing season tickets with a summation of “Go F--- Yourself!”

Kevin Love, Mike Miller and scraps for OJ Mayo and bad contracts.


I remember thinking WTF? And that was before people really started using the abbreviation WTF. It looked cheap and stupid, as if we had given away our future franchise leader in order to shed some ugly contracts that McHale was responsible for in the first place.

The line from McHale and Co. at the time was that Mayo was a low upside guard with limited athletic ability. Essentially, players like him are a dime a dozen. On the other hand, we were told that Kevin Love possessed a highly unique skill set. He could rebound on a truly elite level and pass as well as any big in the league. OMGod, how they raved about his outlet passing. Love’s basketball IQ and intangibles would clearly make him the better pick. That’s what the guy who traded Brandon Roy for Randy Foye said.

To a disenfranchised fanbase, it all sounded like an elaborate ruse to clear Marko Jaric’s horrendous contract off the books. McHale had been so wrong so many times before, where did he get the nerve to think he was capable of outsmarting another league executive? The fact that the only NBA starter-worthy player on the team, Al Jefferson, happened to play the same position as Love only added to the vitriol.

Nothing happened during year one to change anyone’s mind. Mayo got off to a hot start. It looked then like he was ascending to stardom before our eyes. 

Flash forward three seasons and McHale’s prophecy is basically coming true exactly as he said it would. Instead of ascending to stardom it appears Mayo was only hitting that low ceiling McHale had projected. Kevin Love, on the other hand, is a monster. OJ Mayo is a back up. There isn’t a GM in the league who would choose Mayo over Love right now. That’s pretty wild. It's wild because the guy who let Chauncey Billups walk while signing Troy Hudson to a long term deal called it.


Compare the numbers this season.

Kevin Love – 20.1 points, 15.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists on 43% shooting (41% on 3 pts)

OJ Mayo – 11.9 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists on 39% shooting (37% on 3 pts)


It's not even close.


Of course, the next chapter of this book could swing back around again. And then back the other way once more. But for now it's lopsided. For as much as I ripped the guy who orchestrated an illegal contract with Joe Smith, got caught, fined up the ass, had draft picks taken away and then signed Joe Smith again a couple years later, I can certainly be man enough to admit that, in this instance, I was wrong and he was totally right.




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: March 31, 2010 5:01 pm
 

Minnesota Timberwolves 2009-10 Season Review

In a few days the Timberwovles will play the final game of their 2009-10 campaign. It will officially mark the third consecutive season of virtually unwatchable Wolves basketball to anyone other than the hardest of core fans. This season holds the distinction as perhaps the worst full season performance by any Timberwolves squad in team history. Yes, this assemblage of “talent” could very well be worse than the early 90s teams that showcased Felton Spencer, Gerald Glass and Doug West. Of course, one could argue that this particular outcome was intentional. That in order to truly rebuild the team had to abandon the ‘one foot in, one foot out’ approach that McHale had attempted and instead fully hit rock bottom before they could rebuild the right way. To that I say mission accomplished, Mr. Kahn. Mission most definitely accomplished.

There is, fortunately, reason for hope. Optimism can be found in the team’s considerable assets. Three 1st round picks. Ample cap room. Youth. Blah. Blah. Blah. That may all be so, but when reviewing this god forsaken season there can be no sense of hope. No silver linings. No glimmering instances of good to hang your foam finger on. There’s no way around it, this was ugly in it's purest form. Turnovers upon turnovers. Ill advised pass after ill advised pass. Missed dunks and missed free throws. NBDL bench players masquerading as NBA athletes. More 15-0 runs than I ever care to remember. Yes it was so very, very ugly. On that note, I present my 2009-10 team grades.

(I should warn you, this is going to be a bit negative. I’ll probably even say some things I don’t really mean out of anger. Such, I feel, is my right, my allowance if you will, for enduring yet another year of basketball by the loosest of definitions and yet surely pulling myself off the mat to do it all again next year.)


The Roster: F
The worst team in the Western Conference deserves no better a grade. Honestly, there is no one on this team that played well enough to make me declare them vital to the team’s long term plans. The closest thing they have to that is Kevin Love but even he showed his flaws. Most notably, his tendency to become obviously shaken by a lack of minutes or cold shooting streak or some other slight that anyone with an appropriate level mental toughness would have overcome. Also, he was used in a reserve role most of the season and is yet to show that he can still put up the ridiculous rebounding numbers against frontline starters.

Al Jefferson, the most dominant player they have, actually had his most unselfish season but never seemed to fully recover from the torn ACL that ended his previous season early. As with pre-injury Jefferson, post-injury Jefferson continues to look a little lost when the offense isn’t running through him.

Jonny Flynn showed glimpses of both good and bad extremes. Regrettably, more bad than good. I can say that he might be the victim of being the most miscast player I’ve ever seen as far as style of play and type of offensive system go. In an up tempo offense I could see him thriving through a persistent fast break attack. In the triangle hybrid offense the Wolves run he was reduced to an undersized guard who cant shoot. His well advertised on ball lock down defense was either an outright lie or the result of criminally inept scouting.

Ramon Sessions had his moments but it was hard to appreciate his game when every minute he was on the court was a minute that Jonny Flynn wasn’t. And Jonny Flynn, as I have already highlighted, needed the minutes.

Corey Brewer was the most improved Timberwolf, probably one of the top five most improved players in the league, but he still can’t shoot well enough to warrant the lion’s share of the minutes at the two guard.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Ryan Gomes needs to be the 8th man on a contending team. Read into that however you like.

At any given time on any given day at any given YMCA in any given pick up game there are no fewer than three guys running full court that are more athletic than Damien Wilkins.

I actually felt disrespected as a fan every time Ryan Hollins, Sasha Pavlovic or Nathan Jawai were on the court.

Oleksiy Pecherov had two good games all season.

Wayne Ellington: a young guy with room to develop, who plays a position of need and unlike the rest of the guards on roster – can shoot. So naturally, he hardly ever plays. I’ll get back to this in the coaching section.

Darko Milicic. I like his game and think he could eventually be solid contributor to a winning team if given the chance. There has been a lot of talk about convincing him that he should stay in the NBA and specifically, with the Timberwolves. How about we flip that and ask ourselves the question, has he done enough to convince the Timberwolves to keep him? I'm not sure that he has.

And finally, the Wolves traded Brian Cardinal to the Knicks. The Knicks cut him. Then the Wolves resigned him. Kind of like when the Cavs traded Zydrunas Ilgauskus and then resigned him a month after he was cut by Washington, except for in the Cardinal instance the player is worthless and the team is irrelevant.

Your 2009-10 Minnesota Timberwolves, ladies and gentlemen!


The Coach: C
The hiring of Kurt Rambis was unusual because at the time he was the highest profile candidate out there. Whereas the Wolves previous few head coach hires had been straight from the bargain bin, Rambis was top shelf, and they paid for it. So far, they’re yet to get their money’s worth.

On the plus side, Rambis kept the team together. Over in an equally pathetic situation, New Jersey, there was all kinds of player drama. Guys were demanding trades or to be outright released. Signaling the onset of female puberty, some Nets players even Tweeted their disgruntled feelings. The Wolves didn’t have any of that and it showed Rambis has their ear. That’s a good thing and a positive sign to move forward with.

On the downside, Rambis failed to achieve what this season was about: player development. I didn’t sense or see that Jonny Flynn was ever getting consistently better. Wayne Ellington regularly and inexplicably took a back seat to the likes of Sasha Pavlovic. Kevin Love and Al Jefferson were given very little opportunity to play together before it was declared a failure. Similarly, Flynn and Ramon Sessions rarely took the court together. I realize these situations created mismatches for the Wolves but in the end, who cares? Instead of going with a non-traditional lineup and trying to create a mismatch for their opponents as well as themselves, Rambis quickly resorted to a safe and formulaic rotation which went on to produce an embarrassingly few amount of wins and a bountiful number of blowout losses. Could it have really been all that much worse had a lineup of Flynn-Sessions-Ellington-Love-Jeffe
rson took the court together? Would they have ended up with the worst record in the league instead of the second worst? Oh no, that would have sucked.

In fairness, Rambis needs more talent. Phil Jackson would have maybe squeezed twenty wins out this group. Beyond that, he needs to develop an identity as a coach. He’s attempting to run some sort of triangle-fast break cross breed offense. Typically, players that thrive within one of those aren’t really suited for the other. The thing is, and I really think Rambis needs to consider this, the only two successful triangle offenses in NBA history have included guys named Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, neither of which have anything to do with the current Timberwolves makeup.


The Front Office: C
David Kahn inherited a tricky situation. His predecessor, Kevin McHale, had acquired just enough talent to not be amongst the league's worst and to give the semblance of a team on the rise, but at its core, was limited in growth potential. So Kahn’s inevitable dilemma was that he was going to have to blow the whole thing up and start over. To a fanbase that had already felt like they were blowing things up when they traded Garnett, the notion of doing it all over again wasn’t in the slightest bit appealing.

The 2009-10 season is ultimately what it needed to be and at heart, what we all knew it would be: a disaster. This season was a series of painful losses followed up by a series of slightly less painful losses, sprinkled with the occasional win. This is what rock bottom is. Rock bottom is somewhat acceptable when you know that your stay on the bottom is merely a pit stop on your eventual way back up to the top. It is in this way that David Kahn will eventually be judged. A little lottery luck and a Ricky Rubio sighting in Target Center within the next year or so will dramatically help that cause.

Other than that, what Kahn does this offseason will be extremely vital. All those afore mentioned assets need to materialize into
positive growth. One thing Kahn said before this season that stuck with me was, and I’m paraphrasing here, that the Wolves wouldn’t
realistically win a lot of games this year but they would always play hard and with tireless effort. They would never lose for a lack of trying. They would be the gritty, gut it out sort of team that other veteran teams don’t like to play for the high level of effort they would need to exert in order to beat one of the league’s supposed bottom feeders. If the players didn’t do that, Kahn promised, he’d find ones who will. Unfortunately, this team rolled over far too many times this season. It led to the disgust I felt, which I’ve never had for this organization before. I hoped it would never come to this, but Kahn will need to live up to his promise on this one.



Up Next: my 2010 mock offseason, in which I speculate on things that will almost certainly not happen!


Posted on: October 28, 2009 4:41 pm
 

The Season Opens

In a few short hours the Timberwolves will open the 2009-10 campaign against their mirror image in the Eastern Conference, the New Jersey Nets. In recent years both teams have completely deconstructed their core veteran team and have begun the lengthy process of rebuilding around a young and dynamic player. The Wolves with Al Jefferson, the Nets with Devin Harris. Both teams feature a promising 2nd year big man, who surpassed all expectations during their rookie seasons. The Wolves with Kevin Love, the Nets with Brook Lopez. Both teams are stock piled with young potential, which may someday amount to something special or something all together worthless. The Wolves with Jonny Flynn, Corey Brewer and Ramon Sessions, the Nets with Yi Jianlin, Courtney Lee and Terrance Williams. 

As for the Wolves, success this season will come in the form of effort, development and chemistry. Wins are ideal, but if that's the only barometer for measuring success then us Wolves fans might as well start planning for the 2010 draft now. They're simply too young, too inexperienced, too injured and and too unfamiliar with each other to realistically make a legitimate push this year. What I do realistically envision is a move like Oklahoma City made last year and Portland made several years ago just before becomming a playoff caliber team. That being a transformation to a scrappy, yet inconsistent team that will be on the losing end of their fair share of blow outs but from time to time will also flash their enormous potential and beat a few of the league's best, earning the reputation as a team better than their record and most definitely on the rise. Combine that with another high lottery pick, two additional 2010 1st round picks, Ricky Rubio's perceived value, enough cap space next offseason to offer a max contract and several expiring contracts that could aide in a deadline deal, and the Wolves could be back in the playoffs sooner rather than later. Or at least sooner than the Nets.

If pressed to put a number prediction on wins I'd say somewhere between 28 and 35, which is presumably where they would have ended up last year if not for losing Jefferson for nearly half their games. I think the additions of Jonny Flynn, Ramon Sessions, Wayne Ellington, Sasha Pavlovic, Ryan Hollins and Kurt Rambis easily offset, if not improve, the losses of Randy Foye, Mike Miller, Sebastian Telfair, Craig Smith, Mark Madsen and Kevin McHale. For the Wolves to end up on the higher end of that prediction or even exceed it, the following things will need to happen.


Al Jefferson - will need to be healthy. If his knee isn't right the Wolves are in big trouble. His well documented 30 lb. weight loss seems to suggest he'll be fleeter of foot on both defense and fast breaks but first he'll need to ease everyone's fears that his knee is going to give out every time he jumps for a rebound.

Jonny Flynn - will need to be wise beyond his years. Truthfully, he's probably the best true PG the Wolves have had since Terrell Brandon. If he can come in and be more Chris Paul than AC Law, then the Wolves will be better than anyone would have thought.

Kevin Love - will need to get healthy. A broken bone in his non-shooting hand should keep him out well short of the projected 6 weeks. When he's back he'll need to prove that his ridiculous rookie rebounding rate wasn't a fluke and that his conditioning has improved. After all, you can't average 12 rebs per game if you can only play 30 minutes a game.

Corey Brewer - will need to build on the preseason. This is the first time I have given Brewer a compliment without surrounding it with a ton of "buts" and "ifs" and "maybes". He was genuiniely good in the preseason, which can be inflated but can also be a sign of things to come. Shit, I said "but".

Ramon Sessions - will need to make Milwaukee regret letting him go. Right now, he could be Mike James (circa Raptors to Wolves, 2006) having just parlayed a bunch of empty stats on a losing team into a longterm contract. Or he could be Chauncey Billups (circa Wolves to Detroit, 2002) having just begun to show what he's capable of and on the verge of establishing himself as a force in the league. Most likely, he's somewhere in between.

Ryan Hollins - will need to block a lot of shots. They don't need him to do much. Just block shots. He should be watching every minute of Chris "Birdman" Anderson film he can get his hands on. Or rather video. The kids watch video these days.

Wayne Ellington, Sasha Pavolvic and/or Oleksiy Pecherov - will need to become reliable outside shooters. Right now the deep ball is this team's major weakness and if they can't hit shots Love and Jefferson will eat non-stop double teams.

Ryan Gomes, Damien Wilkins, Brian Cardinal - will need to be steady veterans. Outside of these three guys everyone else on the team is 25 or younger. No one is expecting much out of them production-wise, but they will need to be the on court teachers to do the little things that build a winning team.

Mark Blount - will need to sit on his couch, collect a paycheck and wait to be traded or cut. Nice career.

Kurt Rambis - will need to be as good and as patient as advertised. Hopefully, all those years sitting next to Phil Jackson pay off.



Enjoy the season.
 
 
 
 
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