Insights into Kahn's thinking and how that translates into building a contender…

Every Wolves fan should take a look at the notes over at T-Wolves Blog from Kahn addressing a group of season ticket holders. My initial reaction? YES! Finally somebody who gets it.

Kahn said there were five opportunities over the next 16 months to drastically change the team (for the team to “pop”):
1) The upcoming draft
2) This summer’s free agency
3) Next year’s trade deadline
4) Next year’s draft
5) Next summer’s free agency

Here’s to hoping we get the first splash right away at the draft in two weeks.

When asked about rumored trades, he mentioned Kirk Hinrich whom he described as a nice player who makes too much money. He said Hinrich is not what the team is looking for offensivelyThis is obviously interesting after discussing the possibilites of Hinrich on the Wolves. The key thing here is that Kahn is focused on the offense which is good (not that we don’t need defense too). Further proof was given in what he said this morning at a media breakfast:

“We need shooters,” he said. “We were the worst-shooting team in the Western Conference last year.”

Can’t argue with this either, isn’t it refreshing to have someone in the front-office at least show they understand!

Other thoughts I especially liked:

  • Wants to be hyper-aggressive on adding new pieces
  • Could have 7-10 new players/perimeter players by training camp 2010
  • For a championship caliber team, Al Jefferson and Kevin Love are, respectively, 2nd and 4th best players. The team needs to find players who can be the 1st and 3rd best players, according to Kahn.

Yes, yes and yes to these 3 points. Obviously the third point is a tall task getting a top level A player but it shows a lot about Kahn to say that. It’s a long cry from the “we’re fine” mentality McHale has seemed to have as well as the whole front-office and organization over the past decade. Nobody can argue that we shouldn’t be hyper-aggressive and no one can also argue against having 7-10 new players to go with Jefferson and Love. The real interesting thing here is no mention of Foye. Could he be on his way out? Obviously it would depend on the trade but does anyone really love having Foye on the team and would be really broken up if he were gone?

Let’s delve a little deeper into this description of a championship caliber team that Kahn is talking about and trying to build. With a couple of team bloggers already looking into “How to Build a Contender” over at the Daily Thunder here (Part I) and here (Part II) by Joe Newell and the original idea at Hornets 24/7 by Ryan Schwan.

As Ryan explains his idea:

It’s a little simplistic, but it seems to me that there are two ways to contend for a title in the NBA: Field a team with two Class A scorers, and surround them with specialists(see Shaq-Kobe or Shaq-Wade, 2nd Three-Peat Bulls) or field a team with one Class A scorer, and two Class B scorers, then fill in around the edges.(Ginobili-Duncan-Parker, Jordan-Pippen-Grant, Dantley-Thomas-Dumars, Hamilton-Billups-Sheed) The Hornets are currently built around a Class A scorer(Paul) and one Class B scorer(West), and one scorer(Peja) who they hoped would be Class B, but has fallen to Class C. To me, they either need to find another class B scorer on the cheap or try and upgrade their Class B scorer to a Class A one. The question is, however, who do I classify as a Class A or Class B Scorer? Class A are those players who are not only efficient scorers(points per shot of 1.3 or better) but whom retain that efficiency while taking around a dozen shots or more. Class B are those scorers who average between 1.2 and 1.3 points per shot, while taking the same number of shots per game.

I’ll spoil it for you but if you go over there you won’t find any Wolves on the list of the 29 GUYS Class A scorers in the league. You will find efficent big men (Howard, Shaq, Amare, Yao, Duncan etc.) some great shooters (Martin, Allen, Billups, Nash, Granger, Durant, Nowitzki, etc.) a handful of all-around scorers (James, Wade, Roy, Pierce, Salmons, etc.) and some guys who thrive in the paint and get to the line a lot (Paul, Harris, Ginobli, Maggatte, etc.)

Currently the Wolves have a Class B (1.19 so close enough) efficent big man in Jefferson and two players that WOULD be Class A if they got 11+ shots a game in Kevin Love and Mike Miller. In fact Miller had been a Class A scorer in Memphis until he came to MN and in the 14 games he shot more than 11 times for us last season he was indeed a Class A scorer with 17.7 PPG on an average of 13 shots for a PPS of 1.36. For Love in the 25 games he played the most minutes (27 mins+) he too was a Class A scorer averaging 16 points on 11 shots for a 1.44 PPS that puts him just above Lebron James. Not too shabby. So I have to agree with Kahn that Jefferson is at best a #2 player and Love is a #4. (I think you could argue Love as a solid #3 in the Horace Grant/Dennis Rodman role to two class A scorers like Jordan/Pippen). As for Foye he rates out similiar to Westbrook in Joe’s breakdown in Part I, basically average at best and not someone who should be shooting 14 times a game.

So the question now is, is Miller in the Wolves long term plans? Obviously his expiring $9mil expiring contract is one of our best trade chips, but if we were to find a way to get him more shots next season it could lead to some more wins for us. Likewise if Love can get the 30+ mins he should be getting we can expect him to be a Class A scoring big man next season. That being said Miller + Love are far from the same Class A scoring duo that Shaq+Kobe or Jordan+Pippen are on championship teams but with a very solid Class B big man in Jefferson (who’s efficiency could improve with defenses giving more attention to anyone else on the team) and the ability to still be able to draft or trade for another Class B or even Class A scorer the Wolves don’t sound as bad as a team that hasn’t been able to win 30 games in the last 2 years. As for Foye he’s starting to look more and more tradeable for the Wolves. Think about it, why are we beating ourselves up trying to find guys that will fit with an shall I say “awkward fit” combo guard like Foye. So let’s start to figure out some trade ideas involving Foye.

As for what to target in the draft, looking again at Joe’s breakdown in Part II of this year’s upcoming draft class both Harden and Curry stand out as the best scorers. Certainly the college numbers won’t be translating for sure (see Redick and Morrison) but it gives you a good idea for who to target and how much of a scorer they really are. A third player not on Joe’s list is Jonny Flynn who was at 1.39 PPS last season at Syracuse and would fit the Wolves need at pg quite well. As for Evans who I previously advocated for, he’s looking less attractive the more I hear, including turning down a workout for the Kings (ESPN Insider) against competition after saying he would take on anyone and everyone. Meanwhile if we did move Foye we can start from scratch and get a more traditional poing guard (like drafting Flynn) and a more traditional shooting guard (like by trading Foye).

Draft Analysis…

Ok Howlers here is the HT-Dub draft preview…

Obviously I covered a little bit before in the Draft Howls and the State of the Wolves. (And sorry for the break in the action… I’ll try and make this make up for it and be as comprehensive as possible)

A lot of what should influence the direction of the team under David Kahn on Draft day is going to be who is coaching. I think McHale would be worth keeping as I’ve stated however that’s looking less like a possibility as time rolls on and the Wolves don’t have a head coach evaluating the players at our workouts. With this in mind its hard to decide what type of scheme the Wolves will be running next year. With Big Al slimming down you could even argue the Wolves have the right parts for a push the ball type offense or a more slow it down run the set in the half court and control the ball type team (like they did under Flip with KG/Sam/Spree). So as it looks like we will go another direction which, as explained by Jerry Zgoda at the Trib makes a lot of sense because of McHale’s hold over Taylor and Kahn’s desire to cut that tie, I can’t help but think that the Wolves would be a great spot for Avery Johnson or Jeff Van Gundy but an even better spot for Sam Mitchell. Certainly Thibodeau as I’ve mentioned before would be good too, but Mitchell is a MN guy and a proven coach who showed he can win in Toronto. So my personal preference would be Mitchell and I think he could really help the team take a step forward with the right pieces. That being said I’m not really sure if there’s a blueprint for a Mitchell team other than to have guys that are warriors and compete night in and night out. He did try and push the tempo in Toronto so that might influence it. Keep in mind also that Mitchell has ties to 3 of Kahn’s close friends in the business in that he played in Indiana for Donnie Walsh and Larry Brown, and also I think was a representative for the Players Association to David Stern as well. As it looks like we won’t get a coaching resolution anyway lets take a look around the league at who the “experts” think the Wolves will nab with their #6 1st Round pick.

SOURCE,
PROJECTION
COMMENTS
CollegeHoopsUpdate.com
Tyreke Evans
FR, Memphis
6-5/220 PG/SG
With a new GM, a roster shakeup is certainly possible. As it stands, there is a talented foundation, with the Wolves needing a guard to pair with Randy Foye, length up front to rotate with Al Jefferson and Kevin Love and a wing. Mike Miller and this pick could be used to move up or acquire a proven talent.
CollegeHoops.net
James Harden
So, ASU
6-5/220 SG
Strengths: An explosive scorer… Shoots for an extremely high % everywhere on the court (FG, 3Pt, FT). Great at getting fouled and knocking down his free throws. Has three-point range on his jumper. Very good rebounder and assist man for his position. Young – will only be 20-years-old when next NBA season begins. Strong, solid build – won’t be pushed around in the NBA. Great at playing the passing lanes – led the Pac-10 in steals his freshman year. Smooth and under control. Mature and poised. Unselfish player. Used to being double-teamed.
Weaknesses: Not a standout athlete – not especially quick or a high leaper. Questionable foot-speed may limit his ability to guard one-on-one effectively in the NBA. Will be short for a shooting guard (may only be 6’4”). Turns the ball over too often.
Draft Express.com
Tyreke Evans
FR, Memphis
6-5/220 PG/SG
Has the scoring tools to be productive, but needs to improve his perimeter arsenal to be efficient. Was the top player on our list in possessions used per game as a finisher at 8.8, and his PPP of 1.14 lands him a bit above average. Unfortunately, his overall PPP was .88, which lands him slightly below average and exposes the biggest weakness in his offensive game: his jump shot. Getting fouled at an average rate and not being too turnover prone, whichever team drafts Evans needs to take the time to develop his jumper to help the transition of his dribble-drive game to the NBA.
ESPN.com (Insider)
Stephen Curry
JR, Davidson
6-3/180 PG/SG
Analysis: The Wolves really need help at center and point guard. There aren’t any centers left worth taking. They’ve been looking at Evans here, but in this mock draft, he’s already off the board. Curry becomes an interesting prospect if Evans is gone.

He can play both positions on the floor and combined with Randy Foye could give the Wolves a pretty formidable backcourt. Curry’s maturity, his dead-eye shooting and his name recognition all make this a pretty smart pick for the Wolves.

HoopsHype.com
James Harden
SO, ASU
6-5/220 SG
Versatile lefty shooting guard who is equally effective creating shots for himself and others. Efficient player with terrific scoring instincts both shooting the ball from the perimeter or getting to the basket and drawing fouls. Very advanced player with an outstanding feel for the game and excellent court vision. Solid defender who knows how to fill up the stat sheet. Has average size for his position and is not incredibly explosive to compensate. Ball-handling skills are improvable, especially with right hand. Polished, mature player, with good, but not great upside, even though he’s extremely young for his class.
HoopsWorld.com
James Harden
SO, ASU
6-5/220 SG
From Draft Express: It appears that he’s one of those players who “finds a way to get by” despite his shortcomings.Very efficient, while maintaining fairly high usage rates. In spite of his perceived athletic limitations, Harden was a terrific finisher around the basket this season. Harden’s biggest shortcoming ended up being in the perimeter shooting department. Harden’s intelligence and excellent skill-level really shine through in his ability to score in transition. Something NBA types will be happy to learn is that Harden created quite a bit of offense by himself in isolation type situations. Harden turns the ball over at a fairly high rate, and isn’t as effective driving right (39% FG) as he is going left (44% FG)—which makes sense since he’s left-handed. He also doesn’t draw quite as many fouls as you might hope. However, it is more than safe to say that Harden could be a very effective offensive player if team’s put him position to succeed.
InsideHoops.com
Demar DeRozan
FR, USC
6-6/220 SF
(None)
MyNBADraft.com
Tyreke Evans
FR, Memphis
6-5/220 PG/SG
(None)
NBADraft.net
Demar DeRozan
FR, USC
6-6/220 SF
Strengths: Possesses the prototypical frame for an NBA wing …Incredible leaper and explosive finisher. Vertical is reportedly 40 inches plus … His head is even with the rim on many of his dunks … Has all but mastered the art of the mid-range game … Shoots the ball exceptionally well from inside 20 feet. At his best with one dribble and then elevating, preferably to his left … Moves well without the ball, always looking for creases in the defense … Uses screens well and comes off ready to fire … Puts his unique package of leaping ability and strength to good use on the glass … Excellent offensive rebounder (2.4 per game) … Finishes strong around the basket, but shows finesse and variety with floaters and spin moves Puts in a strong effort on the defensive end. Weaknesses: Still very much a work in progress, filled with untapped potential … Despite all of his physical attributes, is often satisfied to ‘go with the flow’… He plays hard, but rarely full throttle … Passion to be a superstar has always been questioned .. Needs to enhance range on his jumper … Shot only 17% from three in his one season at USC, attempting only 1 per game … He steps into his mid-range jumper well, but tends to fade away on three point attempts … Despite a picturesque stroke, shot only 65% from the FT line … His ball handling needs a lot of work … Rarely, if ever, takes more than one dribble to his left without pulling up or spinning back right … Not much of a passer or facilitator (1.5 assists per game) … Has a quick first step, but not dynamic … His ceiling is unlimited, but needs to add many significant dimensions to his game.
NBA-draft.com
Tyreke Evans
FR, Memphis
6-5/220 PG/SG
Strengths: Good size/physique/length (6’11″ wingspan) … Scorer’s Mentality … Great Penetration Ability, can beat his defender one-on-one off the dribble … Extremely quick first step/Great Explosiveness … Good ball moves/Excellent Ball-Handling ability
Weaknesses: Below average basketball IQ … Must improve fundamentals … Poor decision making … Team Player? … bad jump shot
ProBasketballNews.com
James Harden
SO, ASU
6-5/220 SG
The Wolves need another scorer who can get his own shot to help take some pressure off Al Jefferson, and the reigning Pac-10 Player of the year has a chance to
chance to fill that role immediately.
RealGM.com
James Harden
SO, ASU
6-5/220 SG
The best situation for Harden would be OKC, where he could be a secondary scorer and get team’s second best wing defender, but he would be a nice fit in Minnesota where he can offset the interior scoring of Jefferson and Love.
SportingNews.com
Stephen Curry
JR, Davidson
6-3/180 PG/SG
Many are assuming he’ll be there for the taking when the Knicks pick. Not so fast.
TheHoopsReport.com
Tyreke Evans
FR, Memphis
6-5/220 PG/SG
(None)

So the consensus seems to be a backcourt guy and most likely Evans, Harden, or Curry depending on who’s left on the board. I like Evans fit with Foye as I said in the State of the Wolves post but I could also make an argument for Harden and Curry as well. Both guys bring shooting we need and a desire to compete as well.

Coming up next… Kahn finally sheds a little light on his thinking…

State of the Wolves…

So here’s my State of the Wolves:

I like the format Draft Express used in their Off-Season Analysis a few years back so let’s go with that…

Draft Picks:

Picks #6, #18, #28, #45 and #47

Depth Chart:

PG: Randy Foye/Sebastian Telfair/Kevin Ollie/Bobby Brown
SG: Mike Miller
SF: Ryan Gomes/Rodney Carney/Corey Brewer
PF: Al Jefferson/Kevin Love/Craig Smith/Shelden Williams/Brian Cardinal
C: Jason Collins

I put the players in their most natural position here and only used everyone once. Miller could be argued at SF and Foye could be argued at SG but we’ll have more on that later. Notice how goofy this looks?!?!?

This is how the playing time went (Based on the Team’s Minutes per 82games.com) minus Rashad McCants+Calvin Booth who were traded:

PG: Sebastian Telfair (50%) – Randy Foye (24%) – Kevin Ollie (18%) – Bobby Brown (3%)

SG: Randy Foye (37%) - Mike Miller (22%) – Rodney Carney (19%) – Bobby Brown (3%)Kevin Ollie (2%)
SF: Mike Miller (36%) - Ryan Gomes (34%) - Rodney Carney (10%) – Brian Cardinal (8%) – Corey Brewer (6%)
PF:
Ryan Gomes (29%) – Craig Smith (29%) - Kevin Love (21%) – Brian Cardinal (14%) – Al Jefferson (2%) – Shelden Williams (1%)
C:
Al Jefferson (43%) – Kevin Love (30%) - Jason Collins (10%) – Craig Smith (7%) – Shelden Williams (4%) – Mark Madsen (2%) – Ryan Gomes (1%)

Initial Thoughts: The blessing of it is obviously the Wolves versatility at SG, SF, and PF. The curse of it is that we are stacked with a large group of quality “backup” type players (Save for Big Al and K-Love) at these 3 positions that are more like interchangeable parts with no defined role for each on the team. We have too much flexibility. Every player besides Telfair plays multiple positions with some consistency. Gomes is kind of a poor-man’s Odom (maybe a slightly better 3pt shooter) that is a nice player off the bench that gives the team flexibility to play small or big, Rodney Carney another nice 2/3 off the bench that played well with minutes down the stretch, and Mike Miller who had an up and down year with injuries but has the talent to be a starter with a high scoring efficiency from the wing. Foye splits time between the 1/2, Jefferson and Love between 4/5 etc. Jefferson is certainly capable of playing the 5 and with the news he’s looking to slim down this summer I think that will help his cause to be quicker on defense.

Background/Recap:

After an eventless year of rebuilding without KG in ’07-’08, the Wolves started this past season right where they left off with an 0-5 start that led to a 4-15 record which resulted in Head Coach Randy Wittman getting fired. Kevin McHale vacated the front office in a move to the bench that after a slow start learning his new philosophy resulted in a solid month of January at 10-4 that even gave McHale coach of the month honors. The run came to a crashing halt however with Al Jefferson tearing his right ACL on February 8th against New Orleans. The rest of the season was mostly a wash with Big Al out, but the Wolves used the time to groom rookie Kevin Love who by the end of the season established himself as a starting quality PF with the 4th best rebounding rate ever for a rookie. (See here for the evidence and here for the breakdown.) The only other news of note in the second half of the year post-Jeferson was the trade that sent Rashad McCants out of town to the Kings with Calvin Booth in exchange for Bobby Brown and Shelden Williams. (yawn…)

Ultimately the Wolves finished 24-58 which was bad enough to secure the 6th pick in the draft after being un-lucky yet again in the lottery.

Team Needs:

“The Timberwolves are a team without an identity.” (Funny this is a sentence that I didn’t need to change from Draft Express’ 2006 breakdown, ouch. Shows you the quality of GM Kevin McHale was and the general lack of vision within the organization). Even better look at what they had for team needs in ’06 as well.

1) A defensive minded center
2) A point guard
3) Athletic scorers

Amazing isn’t it! In fact I would contend that the Wolves have been in need of a defensive minded center, a pg (other than Cassell’s stint) and athletic scorers since forever. The biggest weakness we’ve had over the past decade in my opinion is that we have no one that can take the ball to the hoop and also get to the line. Here’s a mental exercise for you, picture the Wolves on offense in the half-court (not a fastbreak) and try and visualize one of the Wolves players driving past his guy to the hoop for an And-1. Anyone come to mind? Maybe McCants or Foye once or twice in the last two years but no Timberwolf has had “Can beat guys off the dribble” and “Gets to the hoop and the FT line” listed in their strengths since maybe Marbury was running the point over 10 years ago!

GM’s Strategy:

No one really knows what David Kahn’s draft strategy is or his vision of how to build a franchise. (Other than what you think you might be able to pull out of his open letter to the fans and his first couple of interviews here and here.) However he did have a significant role in building a team in Indiana that featured Stephen Jackson, Ron Artest and Jermaine O’Neal which was a pre-season favorite to win it all before the brawl happened. (And was also with the team when they grabbed Danny Granger after the Wolves passed on him for McCants). So we will see what Kahn’s strategy is, the good news is that moving from Kevin McHale to ANY strategy is an improvement.

Personal Analysis:

First lets look at the 3 team needs:

1) A defensive minded center: Again I reiterate that taking a run at Chris, The Birdman, Andersen would be a good move this offseason. Likewise, Anderson Varejao also could fill this role and is a FA this summer. Both players would bring the energy, rebounding, and tough/active defense to the team that has been missing while we had a constantly rotating door of backup centers fill the roster. (A third option would be “The Polish Hammer” Marcin Gortat of the Orlando Magic who when given minutes has been just as good as Andersen/Varejao) Snagging one of those two would give the Wolves a very solid 3-pronged Front-line with Love and Jefferson where any two of the three could play well. Slot Jefferson in for 36-40 minutes, Love for 30-35 and 20-30 for Birdman/Sideshow Bob and you have arguably one of the top front-lines in the league all of the sudden.

2) A point guard: Certainly the team has a solid player in Randy Foye that some have argued is the teams point guard of the future. However looking at the breakdown of the Wolves 5-man units at 82games.com from this past season notice who the SG is on all of our best ones. Yes folks its Randy Foye. Honestly I’m conflicted on Foye. I think he’s comparable to Leandro Barbosa and Jason Terry and would be a great scoring 6th man guard that can play both 1+2 and would play starters minutes off the bench. Part of me says hes not the long-term solution at PG for the Wolves because I don’t see him creating for his teammates very often. The other side says that paired with the right back-court mate who can create his own shot to go along with a Big Man in Jefferson who is also good enough to score on his own and I think it could work out well with Foye at the point. I think that trading for Hinrich could work out quite well or drafting a player at #6 like Tyreke Evans who can create his own shot and get to the basket at will would also work well. Both players are bigger than Foye and could match up well with SG’s on defense. The other part of me (that says Foye should play SG) says the Wolves should be looking at Johnny Flynn at #6 who fills the role of a more traditional PG and would be an upgrade over Telfair.

3) Athletic Scorers – Again the Wolves haven’t had an athletic scorer since Marbury left town. Drafting Evans, Flynn, or maybe Stephen Curry would change that. Don’t see a ton of trade options for a player that fits this mold either.

Other Considerations:

It’ll be interesting to see what Kahn does in his first month on the job and how he starts building the team and shaping it into his vision of a contender. Personally I think they should bring back McHale as coach for three reasons,1) he connects with the players well can commands their respect, 2) as a result of that connection he seems to do well developing players (especially big men), and 3) because really there aren’t that many better options available unless you can convince a guy like Jeff Van Gundy to come to Minny or sign away a top assistant like Tom Thibodeau from the Boston Celtics.

Looking Forward:

Since we all like to play GM here’s my stab at what I would try and realistically do this summer if I were running the Wolves:

1. Draft Tyreke Evans with the #6 pick in the NBA draft and B.J. Mullens with #18.
2. Trade #28 for a future first round pick.
3. Trade Mike Miller to the Bulls for Kirk Hinrich
4. Sign Chris Andersen, Anderson Varejao, or Marcin Gortat with the full-midlevel exception.

I don’t think anyone could disagree that every one of these moves is completely fathomable for the Wolves to be able to make this summer. The only thing that would need a little luck is being able to convince The Birdman or Varejao to sign with us. The Birdman probably prefers the mid-level in Denver if they offer it and Varejao may command slightly more than the MLE. That being said Gortat might be had by the Wolves with their full MLE.

With these moves the Wolves Depth Chart looks something like this with the percentage of minutes broken down:

PG: Kirk Hinrich (40%) / Sebastian Telfair (30%) / Randy Foye (20%) / Tyreke Evans (10%)
SG: Randy Foye (40%) / Tyreke Evans (25%) / Kirk Hinrich (20%) / Rodney Carney (15%)
SF: Ryan Gomes (33%) / Corey Brewer (33%) / Rodney Carney (33%)
PF: Kevin Love (40%) / Al Jefferson (30%) / Craig Smith (20%) / Ryan Gomes (10%)
C:
Andersen/Varejao/Gortat (40%) / Al Jefferson (30%) / Kevin Love (20%) / B.J. Mullens (10%)

That’s a playoff teams folks! And a fairly good one at that. Notice also how the roles become more defined even and that we basically have a solid 3-player rotation both in the backcourt and in the frontcourt without giving up our flexibility? Then we can fill in at SF whatever player we need based on the matchups that night. This is a solid NBA team in my opinion that could compete in the West right away next year.

That’s my State of the Wolves right now, next up I’ll have a more in depth look at the draft and what the Wolves should look for later this week.

Feel free to leave your comments below or Twitter them to me @howlintwolf. Also I’m up and running over at Ball Hype as well so if you want to give me some love it’s always appreciated.

A Second Bowl of Wheaties for You

And since it’s the inaugural weekend here why not a second bowl of the Weekend Wheaties for you?

  • Thanks to T-Wolves Blog for finding this Big Al interview:
    The “Sludge” marathon for lupus (?) on KFAN today included an interview with Al Jefferson. It’s maybe a third of the way into that link’s mp3 file.

    Al’s take, shorthand version:

    * Offseason in Florida, MN, and Mississippi.

    * Rehab’s feeling “real good,” says he’s feeling confident, it’s getting stronger. Ready for training camp, which was the plan.
    * January. Sigh. Several mentions of January.
    * McHale, coaching: Playing for McHale wonderful, didn’t feel pressure, could play through mistakes. Sitting back and waiting to see what happens.
    * Kahn: Kahn called him, they had a “great” conversation. Made Al feel confident.
    * Al says he “most definitely” wants to come back lighter, and says he and Kahn discussed that. Says he played heavier last year to play the center position. Wants to be more mobile, and being lighter would help the knee.
    * Sludge cannily uses LeBron to bring up defensive improvement: Al tosses Michael Jordan into the comparison. “I’m not there yet, if I want to be that guy…. I have to step up defensively.” Thinks the weight might help him. McHale and Wittman have “talked to him about” that. “80% of it is just a work ethic.”
    * The draft: Al likes “the idea of a great point guard.” Randy to the two, Sebastian backing up with the second unit is how he sees things.

Lots to like from this, that Kahn and Jefferson had a great conversation, that he’s looking to slim down this offseason (always a good idea in today’s NBA, I never understood the bulking up thing unless of course your Ndudi Ebi), and that he likes the idea of bringing in a great point guard and having Foye shift to the two. Kirk Hinrich anyone? (I should be throwing out my version of a “State of the Wolves” breakdown later this week with a more in depth look at the current team and where to go from here.)
  • After deeper reflection on the draft I am now throwing my hat into the “Wolves should use the #6 to make a move” camp. Here’s to hoping Kahn can leverage it in a deal and pick up a solid player that can contribute who’s team is moving him for cap purposes. (A couple of guys come to mind, Hinrich as I mentioned yesterday, Chris Kaman or Baron Davis would also fit nice and the Clips have to do something, not sure on how he fits but Jamal Crawford is a solid player that could be had from GS, and what about the Sports Guy’s hypothetical deal for the Wolves to get Tony Parker? Sign me up for that one.)
  • The Wolves have to bring back McHale at this point right? The players want him (and seemed to like playing for him and played hard) Otherwise who is left to bring in? It would have to be another current assistant (which always seems hit and miss on who pans out) as Flip and Eddie Jordan were both signed, although a guy like Boston Celtics defensive ace Assitant Coach Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t be too bad. Really we need a guy who can develop the young guys and isn’t the good stuff we always here about McHale his hands on development of our bigs from KG to Big Al to Love?

FYI…

I’ve acquired the domain, www.howlintwolf.com, and it is now sending you here to the official site for the Howlin’ T-Wolf blog. The blogspot version will still get you here as well. The point is either of them will get you here so when you’re on a different computer than your own it’s easier to type in without the blogspot.

Of course you can always just subscribe to the feed in the sidebar or stay updated on new posts via Twitter.

EDIT: I’ve been trying to set it up to be hosted on the non-blogspot page but was having some problems getting the DNS configured. For now the non-blogspot address is forwarded here.

Draft Howls…

Ok so obviously there’s a lot to howl about on this topic so let’s get five of my random thoughts out here and we’ll delve deeper later this week with some further commentary.

  • I’ll spare everyone another in depth “the Wolves get screwed once again and have no luck whatsoever” in the lottery piece. But really when are we gonna actually land something special?
  • With the 3 picks they have the Wolves should be one of the more active teams on draft day. Honestly it always seems like the more you hear about guys and their “tremendous upside potential” and sheer “length” as the draft gets closer the more you fall in love with guys, even if they aren’t all that good. Hopefully that won’t be the Wolves this year and we can make some moves to bring in some veterans to fill holes or upgrade some of our younger talent. Kahn will definitely be able to set the tone for the franchise under his leadership on June 25th.
  • My gut instinct on a few players (Again I’ll have more later): Ty Lawson will be better than expected, Demar DeRozan is going to end up more like Gerald Green than Vince Carter, Stephen Curry is the next Barbosa, and Blake Griffin will be better than Oden, Beasley, and Rose but not as good as Durant.
  • This draft class will be only slightly better than the 2000 Draft Class which is the year Kenyon Martin went #1. Take a look at that list for a refresher, barely 6 rotation players from that group. Again I’m hopin the Wolves are dealing on draft day. Maybe I’m rethinking Kahn keeping #6. If he can make a splash with it in a trade it’s probably going to be for a more productive player than we can get.
  • New Poll Question –> Who should the Wolves take with #6?

Weekend Wheaties

What’s better than a bowl of Wheaties on Saturday morning? Besides isn’t that what we all want, a picture of the Wolfies on the cover of a Wheaties Box? 
Here’s 5 spoonfuls to get your weekend started off right… but first let me thank SG over at T-Wolves Blog for the shout-out this morning, welcome anyone coming over from there.
  • Did you know the Howlin’ T-Wolf is on twitter? Follow us here.
  • Welcome to Loud City, an Oklahoma City Thunder blog, throws up a post I was thinking of putting together here… isn’t the Birdman, Chris Anderson, a great pickup this offseason? The stats say yes, my eyes watching the playoffs certainly say yes. This article also seems to alleviate fears he’d fall back into trouble. The only thing I would disagree with WTLC’s breakdown is this, $2-$3 million probably isn’t enough. Half the teams in the league need a quality C/Energy Guy. If a team signs 31 year old James Posey to the full-midlevel last year I would have to think even in the down economy that the Birdman after his performance in the playoffs is going to get something close. To me this would be a great move by Kahn if he can bring the Birdman into our den for anything less than the full mid-level and even that would still probably be worth it. He would fit in great with both Big Al and Love in my opinion and would match the energy of Craig Smith and Coerey Brewer (assuming he can come back healthy) off the bench too. Thats a nice active front line with 3 guys that would come in and play all out every play, something this team has always been shallow on.
  • Jerry Zgoda over at the Trib has the breakdown of players coming in to workout this week. I’ll have a more lengthy draft breakdown later this week but the headliners of guys coming in are Austin Daye from Gonzaga, B.J. Mullens from OSU, and UCLA guard Darren Collison. Based on recent mock draft the Wolves would be looking at these 3 with their picks at 18 and 28. 
  • A number of people around the internet/radio continue to talk about the Wolves trading for Kirk Hinrich. Frankly I like Hinrich and his fit on this team a lot. Some are saying the Wolves are discussing the #6 straight up for him and the other is for Mike Miller. I highly doubt Kahn would send out the #6 right away his fourth week on the job even for a solid guy like Hinrich. Moving Miller after a so-so year here in Minny makes more sense to me and moves one of our surplus wings for a much needed presence in the backcourt. Really there aren’t too many guys that fit in better with Randy Foye than Hinrich in my estimation. A steady ball-handler and decent 3pt shooter who can run the team as well as be a gritty defender that isnt afraid to match up with sg’s (for instance he’s one of the better guys in the league at slowing down the unstoppable D-Wade). So we’ll see if these are merely rumors or if they actually come to fruition in a deal for the Wolves.
  • Kahn is scheduled to meet a second time with Kevin McHale this week. I’ll have more on my thoughts on bringing back McHale as coach later this week.

The Lay-Up Line – Kahn Edition

Each day I’d like to start out with a group of links to T-Wolves news, which I’m dubbing The Lay-Up Line. Something similar to what you find at TrueHoop with the First Cup every morning. I’ll be linking to content all over the place and hopefully it will evolve into something that is a jump-start to the day focusing on the Wolves.

From Timberwolves.com a good roundup of quotes/reactions from around the league on the Wolves hiring David Kahn as their new President of Basketball Operations:

“David helped me as much as anyone that I worked with during my time in Indiana, and his work with Conseco made it the best building in the league. He has a wealth of experience and will do a great job in Minnesota. David is very capable of capitalizing on the position the Timberwolves franchise is in and taking that team to the next level.”
- Donnie Walsh, New York Knicks President of Basketball Operations

“I think the world of David. I’ve known him since we first crossed paths back at UCLA and I have nothing but admiration and respect for all that he’s accomplished throughout his career. David will bring a tremendous background to the job, particularly from his time with Donnie at the Pacers. I’ve always had a fondness for the Timberwolves, and with the group of exciting young players they’ve assembled, I think they have a great opportunity in front of them. I’m thrilled that David is getting this chance and I think he’ll do a phenomenal job.”
– Larry Brown, Charlotte Bobcats Head Coach

“I’m very happy for David. He’s a very intelligent guy and knows the ins and outs of this league as well as anyone. David has all the tools to get the job done in Minnesota.”
– Larry Bird, Indiana Pacers President of Basketball Operations

“An excellent hire. David has great knowledge of both the basketball and business sides of an NBA franchise. He is a highly-motivated person that will bring out the best in the people who work with him.”
– Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks Head Coach

“David is a remarkably gifted individual, with a combination of high intelligence, a major-league work ethic, and a great understanding of what makes teams successful. His ability to understand the dynamics of an NBA franchise is a real strength and he’ll be someone the Timberwolves can look to for leadership and sound decision-making.
– Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs Head Coach

Kahn also had a Q+A with Maury Brown at bizofbasketball.com

One part I found interesting as its something I didn’t really think about. How often are teams scouting players and their character and talent to potentially acquire a player (as opposed to just figuring out how to stop them the next time they play them)?

“Generally, I think we spend an enormous amount of research scouting college players, high school players, and not quite nearly amount of resources of scouting the players who are already in the league. When, now all of a sudden, scouting them, you have a lot more ability to make some more careful assessments. If you have a college kid, you have to project everything. You have to project his place in the league, you have to project how he’ll fit into the league. Can he make the jump? Once they’re in the league, you don’t have to project anymore, you’re watching them play other NBA players. So now, it would seem to me that the need to have information shouldn’t stop when they come into the NBA. It should continue on and you can make the argument that it should be bigger and more substantive.

And the press conference announcing the hiring of Kahn via Timberwolves.com

From the corresponding article:

“Taylor found a new president of basketball operations that encompassed a diverse background seen in other sports. Several examples include Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, and Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane.”

That’s some pretty good company to be putting Kahn in. I can only hope he is as good as Morey is in Houston and Epstein is in Boston.