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Tag:Ricky Rubio
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 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: June 4, 2011 2:44 pm
 

Finally, Ricky Rubio

     Ricky Rubio signing a contract to play with the Timberwolves next season is phenomenally good news for the fans. No other way around it. I first got word that he might have signed around 10:00 PM on Tuesday night and like the rube I am, I stayed up until almost 1:00 AM reading a number of news articles, blogs and Twitter accounts on the development. I did the same thing this morning.

     What I found, not surprisingly, is that there is a lot of negativity out there. In what should be a really positive moment for the organization and its fan base there are those who feel the need to quickly bring us all back to Earth. Most of the criticism is based around his subpar stats in Euro leagues. The individuals who speak this sort of criticism are quick to forget the ancient history that was a 17 year old Rubio going head-to-head against Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Jason Kidd in the 2008 Beijing Olympic and in many ways, outplaying them.

     If we’ve learned anything at all about the transition from Euro to NBA ball, and vice versa, it’s that the two styles of play are very different and what works in one does not necessarily work in the other. As a result, the statistics do not necessarily translate.

     First and foremost, the games are 8 minutes shorter in Europe. That alone deflates the numbers. Euro leagues also tend to play a more all-inclusive style of basketball. There is much less focus on individual stat stuffing and more of a commitment to team play. For example, everyone talks about how Rubio only averaged 3.5 assists this season. That was good enough for 11th best in the league. The leader averaged 6.2 assists. Only 3 players averaged above 5 assists. The league leader in points averaged 17.2 a game (fun fact: it was former Timberwolf, Igor Rakocevic). Him and one other guy in the whole league were the only players to average over 15 points. Compare those two tidbits to the NBA this season in which 31 players averaged 5 or more assists and 62 players averaged 15 or more points. The games are very, very different and if you simply read a box score and think that x points here equals x points there, you are sorely mistaken.

     So if in spite of all that if you can manage to overlook the previous paragraph and instead focus on some less than eye popping statistics then I suppose I can admit some skepticism is deserved. Personally, I just choose to enjoy the moment for a while before getting back to basking in the negative. Are we embattled Timberwolves fans not allowed to be excited about something for even a few minutes? Is good news a phenomena that must evade us completely? Is the thought of a star caliber player voluntarily agreeing to play in the state of Minnesota such an abomination that we must immediately degrade the potential (and sanity) of the player? If being a Wolves fan is to live in a state of gloom and disappointment, can signing Ricky Rubio not serve as a little dose of Prozac?

     I really am okay to let the haters hate and watch the money pile up, but where I will interject and argue is on the basis of expectations. A lot of the detractors are essentially saying that Rubio won’t be able to score a lot or single handedly take over games the way a LeBron or Kobe do and so he basically amounts to much ado about nothing. These individuals, I am afraid, are the victims of a poor imagination. They are looking at Rubio all wrong.  He is not LeBron or Kobe or Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook. If we’re insistent on putting a current player comparison on him I’d say he probably most resembles Jason Kidd. A plus defender, good size, floor general, elite passer, questionable jump shot, etc… Rubio also shows glimpses of being a truly transformational player in his ability to conduct an offense in an uptempo-fast break offense. In that regard, an eventual progression to a Steve Nash type is probably his best case ceiling.

     That stuff covers his skill set. If you just look at his physical projections I can see why he wouldn’t look all that different from other top prospects.  Where Rubio sets himself apart, however, is in his intangibles. If you saw the Olympics in 08, if you’ve watched any of the plethora of Rubio highlight videos on Youtube, if you’ve followed the guys career closely  and what some of the top players and coaches in the world say about him, then you know that there are things about Rubio’s game that do not translate to paper. The guy simply has a feel for the game that appears unnaturally natural, made all the more impressive when you consider he is still only 20 years olds.

     Does his jump shot need a lot of work? Yes. Will he need to add muscle mass in order to stand up to the grind of a NBA season? Without question. Could he ultimately fail to live up to expectations? Considering the expectations by many fall right around ‘franchise savior’, yes, I would say there is a decent chance he could fail to live up to some expectations.

     At the present, none of that really matters. What matters is that this is a win for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Whether it puts the team back on the right track, energizes the fan base, sells some tickets, earns the team a little more national attention, makes Minnesota more attractive to free agents, plants the seeds of a big T-Wolves following in Spain or all of the above, Rubio’s arrival is a good thing.

And now, let me leave you with some quotes about the newest Timberwolf…

"He's an amazing defender, that's one thing that stood out to me is how well he pressured the ball and disrupted our offense…He's flashy, he's crafty as well and the passes he did...were kind of amazing."Kevin Durant

"It's crazy what he's already done. I am 23 and I think of the things I've done, but he is only 17, it's crazy! He has already been in the Olympics. I've played 3 years in college and 3 years in the NBA before going to the Olympics. He will come to the NBA to steal my job." – Chris Paul

"This is my third time playing against him, and he is definitely ready to play in the NBA. The kid can play. I felt like in the Olympics he played very well and showed a lot of poise and he reads a lot of things that average players don't."Kobe Bryant

“He’s gotten bigger and he plays outstanding defense, and because he’s a pass-first guard—he’s going to be liked by everybody who plays with him.” - Mike Krzyzewski

“It was great just to test him. He’s a young player and he played great. He really runs the offense well … I think he’s ready for the NBA.”Derrick Rose

"We're very high on him. If they (Minnesota) want to give him up, we're very interested. We would do that in a heartbeat…We tried to trade up to get Rubio. But we weren't close. We would have loved to draft him” – Mark Cuban





Posted on: April 15, 2010 4:10 pm
 

Apologies to Jonny Flynn

Jonny Flynn had a productive rookie season. It was a good season. Yet listen to most Wolves fans describe it and you would probably walk away thinking it was a disaster. A flop. A total bust. Out of frustration of enduring the worst season in Wolves basketball, I, at times, have been guilty of this too. But alas, some perspective.
 
Below are the full season stat lines for various starting point guards in the league. To be more accurate, they are the stat lines from the player’s first season in which they averaged at least 28 minutes per game. I chose that number because it suggests it was the first season in which the player was given a starter’s type role.
 
See if you can predict who did what.
 
a) 7.9 points, 5.5 assists, 2.9 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 36 FG% in 31 minutes per game
b) 10.8 points, 4.5 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 42 FG% in 29 minutes per game
c) 10.6 points, 5.1 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 49 FG% in 29 minutes per game
d) 11.3 points, 3.3 assists, 2.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals 35 FG% in 32 minutes per game
e) 9.2 points, 4.3 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 42 FG% in 30 minutes per game
f) 13.5 points, 4.4 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 42 FG% in 29 minutes per game
 


 
a) Steve Nash - 3rd Season
b) Deron Williams - 1st Season
c) Rajon Rondo - 2nd Season
d) Chauncey Billups - 1st Season
e) Tony Parker - 1st Season
f) Jonny Flynn - 1st Season
 
 
So as you can see, Flynn’s rookie year compares favorably, if not flat out better, than many of the top point guards in the league. The three glaring exceptions are Jason Kidd, Derrick Rose and Chris Paul, who all had superior rookie seasons, but in the end that’s what those players are, exceptions. Otherwise, every other great point guard in the NBA clearly failed to experience a statistical breakthrough in their first, second or even third prominent season. The other thing to remember is that with Flynn’s outstanding quickness and athleticism, as well as the fact that’s he’s a mere 21 years old, he still has plenty of room to develop.
 
The next question that bears asking is why then is Flynn the subject of such harsh criticism? I can narrow it down to four primary causes.
 
1. The Systematic Maladaption of Timberwolves Fans
Very simply, the vast majority of Wolves fans believe they are cursed. They believe that no matter who they draft, who they acquire in trade or free agency, who they decide on as coach or GM or who they send to represent them at the draft lottery, they are so thoroughly cursed that it will positively end up a disaster. And so when a player, in this case Flynn, is taken the demoralized ranks of Wolves fans essentially start the countdown to when they can officially call the pick a failure without appearing completely irrational. Some skip the countdown all together and jump straight off the cliff. Note, I’m not saying some of the skittishness isn’t warranted. On the contrary, proof of an actual curse certainly would answer a lot of questions. But fans and critics alike need to calm down, step back and take a few deep breaths. Case in point: Brandon Roy. Yes, the Wolves traded Brandon Roy for Randy Foye. An epic debacle of a trade. In that same draft, the Raptors took Andreas Bargnani over Roy. The Bobcats opted for Adam Morrison. The Bulls took Tyrus Thomas and the Hawks thought Shelden Williams would be better. The truth is that several teams swung and missed big on Roy, but bitter, jaded, sky-is-perpetually-falling Wolves fans don’t see that. They just see the cliff.
 
2. That Darned Ricky Rubio
People, a lot of them, live an orderly life. They like things the way they do. Everything has to fit neatly in its place. In my highly unprofessional opinion, it is this characteristic that lies at root of the inability of Wolves fans and the draft clowns at ESPN to comprehend the logic behind the Flynn pick. The Wolves took a PG in Rubio and so the nice and neat, orderly folks of the world thought that naturally they would fill another position of need. Most, at the time, said they should have taken DeMar DeRozan because his draft card said “Shooting Guard”. That made orderly sense. Instead with Flynn, the Wolves took who they thought was the best player available (before you shout “Stephen Curry” at the computer screen please go reread the thing above about point guards in their first season). They drafted the best player available because at this stage in their progression overall talent is what matters, not filling out a roster sheet. The drafting of Rubio was the drafting of an asset more than it was a contributing player. They were drafting an incredible future possibility when they took Rubio, whereas with Flynn, they were drafting their starting point guard. Plus, there would have been an actual honest to goodness riot at Target Center if the Wolves had passed on Rubio with two consecutive picks. Things played out as they did and now, unfortunately, there is this mystical floating Rubio head that looms over Flynn every time he misses a shot or commits a silly turnover. The floating Rubio heads says things like “Flynn is garbage, luckily you have me waiting in the wings” and “Don’t get used to the smiley guy with the headband, when I get tired of Spain I’ll be over to claim my job”. Rubio, in a way, has prevented people from ever really supporting Flynn in the same way a fan base never really gets behind an interim head coach or in the way a kid never really embraces a mom’s boyfriend. They know the next one is right around the corner so why get attached?
 
3. A Bad Situation
Nothing about his rookie year was really ideal for Jonny Flynn. He was also cast onto a team that by design was supposed to fail…miserably. Known for his ability to fast break, he was surrounded with tree trunks the likes of Damien Wilkins, Sasha Pavlovic and Ryan Gomes. A master of the pick and roll at Syracuse, he was told to forget about the pick and roll and basically adopt a new philosophy and style of play in Minnesota, where on the flipside fellow rookie PGs, Brandon Jennings and Steph Curry, were placed in systems that perfectly suited their respective games. These contradictions were done in the name of making Flynn a better overall player. Flynn could have been allowed to play differently, more to his strengths, but in doing so he would have been sacrificing long-term potential and growth in favor of short-term results. Allowing Flynn to do what he does best on nightly basis, with little check or balance, would have resulted in better box scores and simultaneously put him on to the fast track to becoming the next Bobby Jackson, a serviceable and effective scoring backup point guard. Not a bad thing necessarily. However, by forcing him to harness his established talents and instead pain stakingly improve on his weaknesses the belief is that he will eventually develop into a legitimate upper tier starting point guard. This is the vision (and gamble) of David Kahn and Kurt Rambis. It sounds terrific in theory and if it works they will both look like geniuses some day. If it doesn’t pan out, see #1.
 
4. He Played Like A Rookie
I'm going to keep this one short because it's the most apparent and requires the least analysis. Possession killing shots in the first five or so seconds of the shot clock, completely avoidable turnovers at costly times in the game and occassional defense void of any awareness or teamwork were the main culprits. In other words, he played like a rookie. The problem is that the three points above combined with the state of the average Wolves fan being sick and tired of being sick and tired and it all led to the fact that there just wasn't the patience or tolerance of rookie-like play, even though there probably should have been. Flynn didn't play like a rookie of the year or even like he deserved top 5 consideration, but he also wasn't as bad as he was too often portrayed.


The point of this isn’t to make excuses for Jonny Flynn. I’m the first to admit he deserves a fair amount of criticism for some of his play this year. Really, I’m just trying to balance the overwhelming amount of criticism he has received with the credit he also deserves. A commonly held belief is that point guard is by far the toughest position to transition from college to the pros. Based on that and the past development of other guards in the league I tend to believe that maybe, given his respectable stat outputs, obvious intangibles and consistent leadership skills that just maybe, Flynn could make a lot of people eats their words and end up as the Wolves future floor general. Unless, of course, they land John Wall. In that event, ignore everything I just said.
Posted on: April 6, 2010 8:37 pm
 

Ten Moves to Remake the Minnesota Timberwolves

Ten Moves to Remake the Minnesota Timberwolves (to get them on the right track) and Inspire Fans to Want to Buy Tickets (and support the team again).

It’s not that I have too much free time on my hands or that my life is simply lacking in quality. Rather, I’m sort of an insomniac and can think of nothing better to do at really early hours than stay up and scheme out the Wolves hypothetical future because frankly, at this
point the hypothetical is so much more fun than the actual. So behold, ten moves I would make this offseason if I were running the Timberwolves.

I read a lot of these best case offseason scenarios and they typically lose me when the equivalent of Kevin Durant ends up getting traded for the equivalent of Corey Brewer and a bag of Funyons. Where I am clearly so much better than those other people is that if anything, I handicap the Wolves side a bit in order to emphasize the plausibility of the deal. I wanted to explain that incase you were thinking that the Wolves could have squeezed and extra 2nd round pick out of Philly, or something to that effect.

There’s also one other assumption you have to operate under: the Wolves win the lottery and secure the #1 pick. They have the second best odds of doing so with about a 20% chance. Of course, this requires you adhere to basic probability and not their epic lottery curse history, which is much easier said than done. Anywho, you’ll figure the rest out as you read.


1. Draft John Wall with the #1 pick. Pretty self-explanatory. Wall is the top talent in the draft. Some say Turner is better. I agree that he is better right now but also believe that Wall has barely begun to scratch the surface of his talent, whereas Turner probably has less room for growth.

2. Trade Al Jefferson and Ricky Rubio for #2 pick and salary filler. Suspend your disbelief for a second and consider this possibility. At the time of the draft Rubio will only be one year away from the NBA. That’s a lot easier to stomach than at this time last year. Sure, Turner could be very good but what you get in Jefferson is a known quantity and what you get in Rubio is a ceiling far higher than Turner’s. Jefferson is a well above average rebounder and an absolutely elite low post scorer. His contract isn’t too bad either
considering his talent level and youth. Rubio has the potential to be a transcendent star, who the Wolves can now part with due to the drafting of Wall. Given their respective roster make up, I believe other likely top pick candidates New Jersey, Golden State, Sacramento, Washington and Detroit would jump all over this.

3.  Draft Evan Turner #2. Can a Wolves fan dare to dream? Pairing Wall with Turner would fortify the team’s backcourt for the next decade and instantaneously make this team relevant again. Just dream on it for a second. If you happen to disagree with the trade scenario in #2 at least acknowledge that if the resources were shuffled around the right way the deal would still be possible. I believe fully that if the Wolves made any combo of Love, Jefferson, Flynn, Rubio, picks, etc… available they could get it done.

4. Draft Ekpe Udoh #16. I loved watching this dude play for Baylor (Youtube him if you don’t know).  He’s probably not a center in the
NBA but his athleticism and shot blocking ability will definitely transfer. He’d be exactly the kind of player to spell Love. He may not last this long in the draft (2 of 4 major mock draft sites have him going before this). If he were to go before this pick Paul George or
Hassan Whiteside would be solid secondary options.

5. Draft Manny Harris in 2nd Round. He’ll definitely fall into the deep 2nd round meaning the Wolves could take him with one of their
three 2nd round picks. He’s limited in potential but would add another scoring option for the end of the bench. That, or he’d be a great addition to the Sioux Falls Skyforce. I like Kyle Singler out of Duke as a secondary option.

6. Resign Darko Milicic. With this fictional crew being assembled in mind, Darko would have the luxury of sitting back, making savvy passes, playing intelligent defense and scoring when the situation is ideal, all while meeting his “request” for heavy minutes in the
rotation. Fortunately, this is the sort of role I think would suit him best at this point.

7. Trade Jonny Flynn, Corey Brewer, Ryan Gomes, Ryan Hollins and the #25 pick to Philadelphia for Andre Igoudala. The 76ers were almost willing to salary dump Igoudala at the trade deadline this year so I’m inclined to believe that they would do this trade. Some wouldn’t even like Brewer for Iggy straight up, given their vast salary differences, Brewer’s much improved play this year, conversely Iggy’s plateaud play and now proven inability to be a #1 team option. Iggy gives the Wolves a much needed athletic defensive presence on the wing. I also tend to believe that his shooting percentages would go back up a bit if he wasn’t the focal point of the offense any more. The 76ers get rebuilding assets in Flynn, Brewer and #25 as well as the expiring contracts of Gomes and Hollins.

8. Sign Matt Bonner in free agency. Bonner is an unrestricted free agent and would help patch the one whole on this team: long range
shooting. He also seems like he could add a nice veteran presence on what would be a really young team. Plus, I’m trying to build a real team here. Not all the moves can be sexy.

9. Sign Kyle Korver in free agency. A few of my friends will probably disown me for condoning the signing of Kyle Korver but like I said
with Bonner, shooting is a need. They could throw this guy out there as a zone buster or simply to space the floor. I can live with all his other bullshiz for 10-15 minutes a game.

10. Bring Nicola Pekovic over from Europe. By all accounts, he’s already confirmed he’s coming. Incase you’re in the 98% of NBA fans
who have never heard of him, he’s the #1 rated Euro center. Scouting reports label him as a hard nosed defensive standout with a mean streak and a lethal scorer anywhere around the basket. The Wolves drafted him in the 2nd round a couple of years ago and it looks like he’s finally ready to play with the big boys. Perhaps backing up another Eastern Euro in Darko would help ease the transition.


So there you have it. Ten moves. Dramatic moves, but arguably realistic I believe. The 12 man rotation would look something like this.

PG – John Wall, Ramon Sessions
SG – Evan Turner, Wayne Ellington, Manny Harris
SF – Andre Igoudala, Kyle Korver
PFKevin Love, Ekpe Udoh, Matt Bonner
C – Darko Milicic, Nicola Pekovic

A good balance of youth and experience. Scoring and defense. Fundamentals and electricity.

Most importantly, what do you think?

Posted on: November 13, 2009 2:08 pm
 

Fix the Wolves

The Timberwolves are sucking hard right now but no one with honest expectations should be all that surprised by it. Rookie head coach, rookie point guard, two key players coming off devastating injuries, second best player currently injured, a completely overhauled roster with very little chemistry, and of course, a low level of overall talent.

So to pass the time until this team can improve I thought about three REALISTIC trades that could be done in order to reshape the Wolves outlook.

You can play, too! Here's how. Pick any NBA team, even the Wolves, and come up with three or fewer trades that could improve the team substantially.  YOU MUST BE ABLE TO JUSTIFY THE TRADES, although your explanations don't need to be nearly as detailed as mine. For a challenge, make the trades work under the cap. You can do that under the Trade Checker at www.realgm.com.


MY PLAN FOR THE TIMBERWOLVES: It seems there are two types of successful teams in the NBA. Those that win on star power (Boston, LA, Cleveland, Miami) and those that win on the system (Houston, Phoenix, Atlanta, Chicago). That's not to say that star powered teams don't have a good system or that good system teams don't have stars, only that there are teams like the Lakers that could play under any system and still win and teams like Phoenix that can seemingly slot any player into their run-and-gun system and still be successful.
The Wolves need to become a system team. I think that's what they are going for anyways. Sitting around and waiting for a Dwight Howard or LeBron James to fall into their laps isn't going to work, especially for this cursed franchise. So the plan becomes to get as many skilled/talented players that fit what they are going for, a primarily up-tempo team that can transition in and out of the triangle offense when needed. Behold...

Trade #1
Al Jefferson TO ATLANTA FOR Josh Smith. Before this trade could happen Al Jefferson would need to return to full strength and prove that he is who he used to be. I believe Atlanta would do the trade because when at full strength, Jefferson is one of the top three low post scorers in the league. Josh Smith, though more diverse, is a non-traditional big in that he doesn't play particularly well with his back to the basket. It was well publicized last year that they were irritated with how many threes he was taking and wanted him to get in the paint more. Also, the fact that they almost let him walk away in free agency two off-seasons ago leads me to believe that they hold other players in higher esteem. After a year in which he declined in every statistical category (in my opinion, due to a more balanced attack) I doubt his value got any higher with the team. Conversely, the "flaws" Josh Smith has in Atlanta would be pros for the Wolves and their desired up-tempo style. He's only 6'9" but plays like the 7' shot blocker that would so perfectly compliment Kevin Love. He's also a much better transition player than Jefferson and wouldn't require the ball in his hands so much in order to be effective. Contractually the players are almost identical and are both under the age of 25. Sweeteners (non-lottery picks and/or expiring contracts) could be thrown in on either end in order to make this happen.

Trade #2
Ricky Rubio AND Ryan Gomes TO NEW YORK FOR Wilson Chandler AND Jordan Hill. Before, during and immediately after the draft I would have never done this trade. But since that time Rubio has made himself unavailable to the Wolves for at least two seasons, and possibly three. I'm not a fan of waiting that long. The Knicks were more than willing to do this exact trade during the draft. Given that Jordan Hill does not play at all and that the Knicks probably regretted the pick within two minutes of making it, I think there is about a 99% chance they still would do the trade, especially considering that Donnie Walsh to this day spouts off about acquiring Rubio. My hunch is that the Knicks would believe once they acquired the rights to Rubio they could start swinging their big New York dicks around and get him over here early. I'm sure there is some kind of loop hole that would allow them to bend Barcelona over In Big Apple fashion. Losing Chandler is offset by adding Gomes, who doesn't pack the upside but is enough compensation in the meantime. The Wolves actual force Gomes into this deal in order to offset the addition of two non-expiring contracts. For the Wolves, they add a young and dynamic wing, something they desperately need. Chandler’s relatively low stat production this season is mostly due to him having to default on offense to David Lee, Al Harrington, Larry Hughes and Danilo Gallinari. In other words, he’s better than his stats show and the fact that he’s being underutilized could mean he’s undervalued.  Picking up Hill adds depth and some upside.

Trade #3
Brian Cardinal AND Sasha Pavlovic TO PORTLAND FOR Martell Webster, Jerryd Bayless AND Juwan Howard. Pound for pound this isn't a good trade for Portland. However, when you consider the cash money implications I think it becomes highly probable that Portland would accept. Cardinal and Pavlovic have expiring contracts. Cardinal would help with their only obvious weakness, big man depth. Sasha would add a short-term filler at the wing. Portland has a lot of ex-1st round picks on their team that within the next year or two those players are going to be demanding a lot of money. Then factor in that Webster/Bayless are playing in and around Brandon Roy, Travis Outlaw, Rudy Fernandez, Steve Blake, Andre Miller, Nicolas Batum and even Patrick Mills, and you realize not even Paul Allen can't afford to spend that much on backups. I think Webster is a really talented wing player. A good shooter with great 6'7" size. He just doesn't play in Portland. He would start in Minnesota. Bayless and Howard are in this deal purely to make the money work, although Bayless might one day prove some worth.

 
New Wolves Roster:
PG - Jonny Flynn, Ramon Sessions
SG - Martell Webster, Wayne Ellington
SF - Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer, Damien Wilkins
PF - Josh Smith, Jordan Hill, Oleksiy Pecherov
C - Kevin Love, Ryan Hollins, Nathan Jawai (Nicola Pekovic)

I know it's non-traditional with Love and Smith at the two big spots but I do think their playing styles compliment each other really well. Plus, Love, though not as tall as you'd like, has demonstrated the ability and bulk to guard bigger players.

This roster also isn't exactly a powerhouse as is. But there aren't any realistic scenarios in which the Wolves could add the talent necessary to do that. It is, however, a plausible start and puts several young and talented pieces in place that could truly shine in a run-and-gun/triangle hybrid offense.

Finally, this scenario leaves the Wolves with plenty of assets to improve further. They'll still have their high 2010 lottery pick, Utah's 2010 1st Round Pick and either Charlotte's 2010 or 2011 1st Round Pick. They have several expiring contracts, which they could throw into another trade or let expire and use in free agency. Another wildcard is Euro center extraordinaire, Nicola Pekovic, universally regarded as top 3 European prospect. He should be over next season.

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.
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.





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