Whelp. This put a damper on an otherwise pretty good day. Apparently Love broke his hand during his morning workout Wednesday. My initial reaction was a four-letter word, but after a deep breath I think I’m a little better. But this is still really crappy news!
Ugh. Why can’t we ever have nice things.
Anyway, I’m resisting the urge to feel too bad for myself. I mean, I’m sure the developers didn’t know that they were building the Target Center on an Indian burial ground. Ok, I’ll knock it off. Really, this means we won’t see Love and Rubio until just before Christmas, and there will be a lot of basketball to be played after that.
In the mean time, the Wolves have multiple players to platoon at the power forward including Derrick Williams (Tom will have more on this later), Dante Cunningham, and Andrei Kirilenko. This also means that wing players like Brandon Roy and Chase Budinger will have to pick up the scoring slack and stretch the floor like Love did. And of course, Nikola Pekovic will could really earn his extension if he can shoulder some of the load.
Anyway, we’ll learn a lot about the meddle of this team and how deep they really are these next 6-8 weeks. I’m curious to see how they will handle being down their top two players. At least there’s a chance they could be ok with their apparent depth.
As I predicted my post on Derrick Williams generated some strong opinions in the comment section. Normally I would respond with a comment of my own, but in this case a short-form response wouldn’t be enough. So I’m taking the time to answer them properly and more thoroughly with this post. One of the commenters, iamgeneoh, I know. We’ve played hoops together a couple times and have had several hoops discussions over the years, so I respect his opinion. I don’t know the other commenter, but in no way am I doing this to put anyone on blast.
We’ll start with Gene’s comment:
Ok, if you are just going to forget about his 4th quarter ill do the same and forget about the beginning of the game and only go by the 4th where we was hitting 3s and driving at will… By viewing it like that he looks like he can play the 3 and would succeed. You can skew stat lines to prove any point that you want. Last night I saw a player that struggled at 3 and saw a player that succeeded at 3. You don’t think he can learn from ak, Roy and bud? Can develop the skills it takes to play the 3? He obviously has the drive and wants to play the 3. From all accounts he works hard an is dedicated to his craft. Have you never started something in your life that you weren’t good at but over time learned and became good at it? Writing, designing, photography, building, etc. these are all crafts that take time to develop just like learning a new position in the nba.
Believe me, I know better than to skew statlines to make myself look better. Perhaps even more damning to Williams I was using the numbers we have from his two seasons in Arizona, his rookie season, and what we’ve seen-to-date in Summer League and preseason. Aside from his sophomore year at Arizona in which he shot a ridiculous .568% from long, he’s never topped the .268% he shot as a rookie last season. And less than twenty seven percent is atrocious, but he keeps firing away. Continue reading →
Remember when I was saying that Derrick Williams was best-suited to play the power forward and that he likely didn’t fit on this team? To many I was a common hater. They said, “But he’s young! You can’t give up on him,” and I wasn’t. When I said that he didn’t have the range now to play the small forward position they said, “But he’s dropped weight and been shooting jumpers,” in the same way that someone might try to become a tree by sticking their feet in the ground in hopes they become roots and growing their hair out to act as leaves while holding out their arms like branches.
I know a lot of us would love to see Williams work out successfully at the 3, but I just don’t see how that realistically will happen. We couldn’t get Beasley to work as a 3, and he actually had a good amount of the skills and at least the basic mindset for it. Williams isn’t going to overtake Kirilenko, and it’s kind of hard to make a reasonable argument for why he should be the #1 reserve instead of Budinger. At this point, I have a hard time even convincing myself he’s the best backup for Love, after seeing up close what Cunningham can do. Dante is a physical, blue-collar guy who’s going to affect the game with sheer activity (and without his numbering being called) by rebounding, playing hard-nosed defense, and just generally being disruptive. And that, in a very real way, makes him better suited to and more valuable for this team.
At some point, I think this team is just going to have to face the facts: Williams is a guy who could potentially be a pretty good power forward, on a team that has absolutely no minutes available at power forward.
It’s not like the Wolves are oblivious to this sort of thing. The reason we got Cunningham in the first place is because the team saw it had a need for a hustler/defender in the post and no minutes available for Wayne Ellington on the wings.
I like Williams, and I think he’ll have a good career as a valuable player, but I don’t see how it will happen here. He’s a stretch 4, on a team that already has one of the best, if not the best, stretch 4s in the league. With Kirilenko and Cunningham filling in the gaps around Love, how is Williams going to find space?
Read the full article yourself, but I’ve been saying! In fact, Oceanary probably said it better, and some things that I hadn’t thought of yet. And it’s not just me. Williams was 5-15 shooting at one point in Friday’s game with just 12 points before making his last four shots and getting to the line a few times to save his stat line. Honestly, it’s probably time to face the facts that he’s not efficient enough right now to play on the perimeter. Especially since the Timberwolves added perimeter shooters, hustle players, and defensive-minded players to address the team’s needs that are also areas of weakness in Derrick’s game.
This isn’t to say that Derrick will never be able to shoot or learn to play defense, but he’s not that type of player now. And there really is nothing with being able to be a good power forward. Unfortunately for Williams, the Wolves have three better players at that position than him now, and a trade may be mutually beneficial for both parties.
New Wolves guard Brandon Roy joined Paul Allen on KFAN for a few minutes Tuesday morning to discuss a number of things. Instead of live-tweeting, I decided it would be easier to do things this way: in a blog post. Roy divulged some good info on his health, role, and even how much we can expect to see of him this season. If you missed the interview, scroll down.
(All quotes are pretty accurate, but I did have to paraphrase in some places.)
The first question PA had for Brandon was how his knees were doing, to which he replied, “Knees have been great. We’ve been going at it for about five days for 3 hours at a time.” From there he said that he feels good coming out of camp and was excited to play a game Wednesday.
With all of the fresh faces on the roster, Adelman has been mixing up lineups, and Brandon in particular mentioned that he’s been seeing time with Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love. Brandon praised the roster, and talked about building those friendships off of the court to grow the chemistry on court, and added, “We got a lot of really good pieces along with the guys who were here last year. We’re just trying to build chemistry as soon as possible…we got a lot of guys.”
Brandon spoke highly of Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio when he was asked of them. Although he did say that while Williams is talented, the team needs him to be aggressive, and that he told Derrick just to focus on being effective regardless of what position he plays. As far as Rubio, he talked about how his hustle and unselfishness rubs off on teammates and makes them want to follow suit.
Probably my favorite part of the interview was when he was asked about his role on the season and how he expects to help the team.
We all know that Rick Adelman decried the lack of ballhandlers on last year’s team, but it sounds like he already trusts Brandon with it, and Brandon mentioned that he can see playing the 1-3 positions. Brandon mentioned that he can create pick ‘n’ rolls and create off of the dribble.
When Allen asked if he could still get to the line Brandon said, “If I wasn’t able to get to the basket and create, [or draw fouls] I wouldn’t have made this comeback. Fouls shots can help separate our team.” He said that aspect is a huge part of his game and doesn’t want to become a jump shooter.
Brandon added — and this was neat to hear him talk about how exactly he sees himself in the offense– that with the way Rubio and JJ Barea draw defenses in he’s not sure how many three pointers he sees himself taking, and that you’ll probably see him (and others) with more catch-and-shoot opportunities than the past. On top of having gifted passers throughout the roster like Love, Kirilenko and Rubio, there should be some good shots available this season.
As far as a minutes restriction, Brandon said they haven’t talked about it yet but, “I’ve been asked this question since I came to town. Me and coach are gonna talk about it. I’m gonna have to bump him on the shoulder [to discuss it]. I wanna keep it in-house to make sure teams don’t know, ‘Brandon’s on a minute limit…’” As he wrapped up, he added that Adelman is the biggest reason he came here and trusts him and that it’s a long season and he’s coming off of a knee injury. I liked that he added that he understood that because it’s seemed that Brandon has let his competitive spirit override concern for his health in the past.
Anyway, Brandon mentioned a lot of good stuff, and I for one am excited to see him in action. It’s taken a while, but I’m finally optimistic about Brandon’s season. Brandon’s attitude and talent are going to be good for this team. He also seems to have a good balance between competitor and being a good teammate, which isn’t easy for every player to manage.
It was a chilly fall Saturday in October and the Timberwolves had just wrapped up training camp. As goes the tradition, team owner Glen Taylor invited the team, coach Rick Adelman, and general manager David Kahn over for a celebratory dinner. The following was overheard as everyone found their place around the meal.
Taylor: Thanks everyone for coming, and for a great camp! I can’t wait to see the team in action on Wednesday. Now let’s—yes, Rick?
Adelman: Do I have to sit next to David?
Taylor: Yes. Can we all get along?
Kahn: Yes. I don’t see any problem with the seating arrangement, Glen.
Taylor: Good. Glad you all could make it—wait – where’s JJ?
Barea: Right here, boss!
Barea: Where you told me to sit: between Greg Stiemsma and Lou Amundson.
Adelman: JJ, why don’t you sit here and I’ll sit over there?
Taylor: Nobody is going anywhere! You’ll all be fine there. Now, how about some college football while we eat. Which game do you want to watch? I have 900 channels, so you can watch whatever.
(Everyone starts talking over each other)
Kevin Love: UCLA-Cal! /high-fives Malcolm Lee
Chase Budinger: Wildcats!
Derrick Williams: Yeah, AU!
Ricky Rubio: Barca! /eye flutter
Love: That’s not real football!
Barea: Is too!
Luke Ridnour: *Makes an “O” with his hands for Oregon*
Brandon Roy and Will Conroy: Huskies, all day!
(Alexey Shved and Andrei Kirilenko have an exchange in Russian with confused looks on their faces.)
(Nikola Pekovic literally devours a butler out of frustration, low blood sugar, and an innate need to establish himself as the alpha male in a new environment.)
(Dante Cunningham Instagrams a picture of the scene)
Taylor: Ok, I’ll just put on the Ohio St.- Nebraska game since we’re in Big Ten country, we’re all going to be happy with that, and eat a nice meal. Agreed?
Stiemsma: Yeah! On Wisconsin! Hey, Lou. Pass me the rolls?
Amundson: Sure. Here you- *thud*
Taylor: JJ! Are you alright? What’d you do Lou?
Amundson: Nothing, boss! I swear, I didn’t touch him.
Taylor: What do you have to say for yourself, JJ?
Barea: It wasn’t my fault! He elbowed me and I fell off of my chair!
Stiemsma: Come on, JJ…
Barea: Ok, fine. Old habits die hard.
Taylor (To himself): Next year I’m ordering pizza in the dorms…
Want more? Be sure to follow Derek on Twitter: @DerekJamesNBA
Reporters really like when people within an organization will tell them juicy bits of gossip because juicy gossip drives traffic, especially online. And this offseason, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor has been serving up juicy tidbits like reporters are tiny children wearing sheets with eyeholes, holding their hollow plastic pumpkins out for tootsie rolls.
In some cases, this is fine. Dish on Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph all you want…they are both gone. Dish on Darko being a problem in the locker room, since we could all see it on the bench anyway. But when Taylor starts saying things about players who are currently on the roster, well, I get a little worried.
“Brandon Roy, you might think that is the coach, but that is more David. I think it is David saying, ‘Let give this player to Rick and get the backup in place in case it doesn’t work out.’ Because Rick keeps saying to me, ‘I don’t know if he can play!’ And I tell him, ‘Rick, I don’t know if he can play either!’ So the Brandon Roy thing is a risk.”
You should go read the whole link. There is so much more interesting stuff in that article, including thoughts on some of our dearly departed players from last season and the reasons Nic Batum wanted to play for the Wolves (hint: the reasons’ last names are Love and Rubio).
But should Taylor be telling reporters that Adelman wasn’t sold on Roy? He’s already a complete wildcard this season. Do we really want to add his coach’s lack of confidence? Does he need to be hearing his team’s owner saying “The Brandon Roy thing is a risk”?
Also of note: Adelman, one of the best coaches in the NBA, wasn’t sold on Roy while Kahn, author of such hits as Darko’s four year deal and Wes Johnson over DeMarcus Cousins, really wanted to bring Roy in. Awesome. I feel better about the deal already.
In all seriousness, this particular story probably won’t mean anything in the long run. Roy is a professional, and he probably understands that, given his shaky health situation, a lot of teams would (and did) hesitate before signing him. But I am a little worried that Taylor, who seems to be checking out of the whole T-Wolves situation, might say something dumb that gets someone upset.
ESPN merely created the NBA Rank series to pass the down time that falls into place between the end of the offseason and the start of training camps around the league. Without it, it could perhaps be the most boring 2-3 weeks of the year concerning basketball. And now with it, we’ve quickly learned how the public is so fast to judge — including myself — the very players we watch on the court. It’s perhaps a bit wrong but it’s human nature to feel like our opinion is worthy and thus lists and rankings such as these are born.
I will admit they’re fun. This #TwolfRank series may have turned out to be the most entertaining and interactive thing we’ve ever done and HTW, and for that, we thank you. And now here’s a review of the Timberwolves’ showing in #NBArank and #TwolfRank.
Lee was the lowest player on the Timberwolves to be ranked. That’s no problem. Lee has been working hard in the gym just these last two weeks — first one to start working out here, actually. He’s the kind of player that has something to prove, and this UCLA Bruin just might be able to crack some minutes with the departure of Wayne Ellington. Oh, but now Alexey Shved’s here too. Well, patience is always key. He’ll get his turn. For now, Lee is a solid bench warmer that gives the Wolves depth at the guard spots that they didn’t last year with all the injuries.
Shved’s a wildcard, and he plays that way too. You often never know what he’s gonna do next on the court. In that sense, he’s a lot like Rubio, but Wolves fans will see often see him at the 2-guard, if those minutes accumulate at all. Being the wildcard he is, coach Adelman may find it difficult when to throw him into the lion’s den. It could be early in the season because of Rubio’s injury and the need for a back-up shooting guard. Or maybe way later in the year just to give him more time to study and learn the game. Whichever it may be, he has a high ceiling and could become a real treat to watch for the next three seasons.
A journeyman to say the least, Cunningham came into his own last season after getting time with the Grizzlies with Zach Randolph missing a big chunk of the season. He’s a gritty bench presence with a hard-nose. The number one thing that Glen Taylor came out and said the Wolves needed this summer was a deeper frontcourt, one with length, athleticism but mostly toughness. Cunningham brings all three of those to the table and now has a good chance to step in as Kevin Love’s immediate backup with Derrick Williams’ alleged move from the 4 to the 3.
Freshly signed but still eager as hell, Amundson was seen working out at the Target Center the day after he signed. And he plays the game in that exact same way with a particular knack for rebounding. Amundson again solidifies the Wolves’ frontcourt depth along with Cunningham but also gives him some healthy competition at the same time. We never see “competitions” happen on the Wolves, usually because any player good enough just gets the minutes. Not anymore. This team is deeper than any I can remember in recent memory, which bodes well for the long, difficult push to make the 2013 NBA Playoffs.
For the first time in David Kahn’s tenure, there will be two centers capable of holding down their own. No more Darko Milicic or Ryan Hollins. Stiemsma, although fairly unproven, spent last season in Boston learning from one of the game’s best interior defenders in Kevin Garnett. If even an ounce of that growth can plant itself here and eventually uproot, Stiemsma has a chance to become a great backup center in the league, one you never have to worry about. Stiemsma gives Pekovic support in the way a cleanup hitter backs up his 3-hitter. And did I mention he led the league in blocks per minutes last season? That’s something new for us.
This is a shameful ranking. For anyone who watched Timberwolves basketball last season would know that Ridnour was arguably the most versatile player on the team. He was asked to play shooting guard for a majority of the season alongside Ricky Rubio, which even meant him covering guys much taller than him (I vividly remember him shutting down Chandler Parsons, who’s 6’9″, at the Target Center). Ridnour is a nice guy with a controllable passion for the game. I believe he’ll be a big key moving forward this season as Rubio rehabs but don’t be surprised if he gets moved by the trade deadline. It’ll break all of our hearts but he’s a likely candidate, unfortunately.
So, here we go. Roy consistently says that he’s knees feel great and he’s just getting himself in game shape. Most rational thinkers believe this is a high reward/low risk investment, which it is. Also, most rational thinkers that know anything about the sport’s hardships, without healthy knees, you’re not going to last the bumps and bruises of a long, reckoning season. We all want to see him succeed, but success in my mind is more along the lines of 25 minutes and 13 points per game. Or something along those lines. He believes he can one-up that and push it to starter’s minutes (30-35 mpg) and maybe even be the second-leading scorer on the team. Only time will tell. I’m just happy to see him playing basketball again.
Somebody believes that Williams upcoming position swap will do wonders for his game. Is it worth a jump from 196 to 139? HTW doesn’t think so. But I still believe. Williams has all the tools to become a ferocious force, regardless of which position he plays. But he needs to slow the game down and stop settling for bad jumpers. We know he can hit them, but we also know he can drive at will and at least get to the free throw line. The latter heavily outweighs the former, and so to justify his newly dubbed ranking, he needs to perform and do it efficiently.
134: Juan Jose Barea | Score: 4.97 | 2011 Rank: 92 | TwolfRank: 10
I’m not sure if it was the transition from D-town to Minny or his wife’s pregnancy, but something was off with Barea all of last season. He clearly was not the same player we saw in the 2011 NBA Playoffs. But if he has any of that spark left, he could be the fire-starter off the bench that we need. With Ridnour the likely trade target from the backcourt, that means Barea will have to step up this year and prove he’s worth being here for another two years after that.
Somehow, in some unimaginable way, Budinger was ousted out of Houston’s starting lineup in place of Chandler Parsons. Sure he was injured a little but to me, Budinger is one of those guys who does what he’s told and does it well, which makes losing his job a head-scratcher. His numbers last season were solid, not great but solid, including the oft-mentioned corner three-point shooting percentage he boasted last season. Budinger helps the Wolves in way Wesley Johnson couldn’t, which is a gift from God. He’ll be able to efficiently backup the 2 and 3 postions, giving Adelman all the flexibility in the world. It also doesn’t hurt that he has a great relationship with the coaching staff already.
Pek jumped up 280 spots from last year to this year. That’s not enough. And if he isn’t higher on next year’s, and I’m talking in the top 40, Pek will literally rip someone’s face off. I don’t know if anyone has seen photos of his new slender, chiseled physique but they are nightmare-inducing. We saw Pek could throw bodies around last season, I can’t wait to see what he will do this year. As long as he stays out of foul trouble, keeps that ankle healthy and builds on what he did last season, I really have no doubt that he’ll be able to establish himself as a top-5 center at season’s end. And just for entertainment, here are three guys ranked ahead of Pek: Emeka Okafor, Omer Asik and Javale McGee. HAHA.
Obviously, AK47 didn’t play in the US last season, and one has to wonder why. Well, for one it was because of the lockout. But another reason I don’t think anyone has touched on was AK’s desire to get away from the NBA game for a while. Some people just need a break and AK hit that wall after so many up-an-down seasons with Jerry Sloan and the Utah Jazz. AK’s time in his homeland wasn’t a vacation, though. He ended up winning the MVP award of the Euroleague playing for CSKA Moscow, alongside Shved. He also was the leader of a feisty Russian Olympic squad that took home the bronze medal. AK’s expectations are high and it seems like his mind and body are fresh enough to jump back into the NBA.
It’s sincerely a shame that the Wolves will be without Rubio for the first part of the year. Even with the newfound depth in the backcourt, nothing can replace what the fans were treated to with Rubio’s boyish charm and on-court flair. The good news is that, at his press conference yesterday, Rubio will be saying hello and goodbye to Vail, Colorado and his doctors for the last time before training camp. He is indeed running and shooting free throws but is limited to just that. He says agility drills and jump shooting might not happen until November or later. But sooner or later he’ll get to grace our presence yet again. Let’s just hope the Wolves can hold their own until that happens.
7: Kevin Love | Score: 8.86 | 2011 Rank: 16 | TwolfRank: 1
After being under appreciated for so long to start his career, and having to sit behind the incumbent Al Jefferson, Love has finally emerged as the Timberwolves’ leader. To take it further, he’s now emerged as the league’s clear-cut best power forward. And he can only go up from here. He’s taken his hard-nosed game to new heights by becoming the best inside-out player in the league. He sports a deadly three-point jumper and still manages to grab 13 rebounds a game — 4 of them offensive boards. He’s developed a game that no one has seen since Larry Bird, and although he’s not that good, there’s no saying he can’t reach those heights.
Biggest Riser: The biggest riser by the numbers is Nikola Pekovic, who jumped 280 spots, but you can also note that Greg Stiemsma wasn’t even ranked last season and soared all the way to 270.
Biggest Faller: That honor goes to no other than Brandon Roy, and rightfully so. The man is attempting a comeback after semi-retirement on a more-than-a-bum knee. It won’t be easy but anything’s possible… I guess.
Average Timberwolves Score: 4.76
Average Timberwolves Rank: ~186
Random Notes: If anyone frequents on Daily Thunder, you probably realized I stole this format from Royce Young himself. But you’ll also notice, towards the bottom, that the Timberwolves sport a higher average score AND rank than the Thunder. What does that mean? Well, absolutely nothing. At the very least you can argue that the Wolves’ depth is much stronger than the Thunder’s but a quick, strong rebuttal would just state that they have Durant, Westbrook and Harden. End of conversation. I wouldn’t throw the fact completely out, though. With our own top 10 player, a deep bench and a proven coaching staff devoted to turning the organization’s culture around, the Wolves are primed and ready to make some noise in the Western Conference. They’re no longer a doormat to an easy victory rather a test of a team’s will to win. They will be scrappy and they will be tough. Oh, and also very white.
Differences between NBArank and TwolfRank: There are some obvious differences from ESPN’s NBArank and HTW’s own TwolfRank. One major difference is the ranking of both Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko. Everyone knows AK is a sound baller with tested playoff experience, but Pek is just a beast. There’s no way around it. I put in my two cents on Pek under his blurb and will stand by that statement at year’s end, if he stays healthy. A top 5 center in the league is more valuable than an above-average small forward, as versatile and defensively stout as he is. The other big difference is ESPN’s affection for JJ Barea and Derrick Williams. I see their argument on Barea because of what he did in D-town but D-Will? Any educated Twolves fan would agree that D-Will is not worthy of being a top 150 player in the league, which is why he found himself at the end of our TwolfRank rotation. Could he one day move up? Hell yes. Without a doubt. But his rookie campaign was so up-and-down, you have to take a flyer, and I’m not even going to mention what position he’s going to play because that can play a major role in his development. But for now, we can all agree that he’s likely not worthy of his spot in the top 150, which may justify our “questionable” 9 ranking in TwolfRank.
Love rebounded daily for Chandler in warmups and practice while studying his moves and squeezing in conversation whenever he could. Chandler signed several autographs for the kid. The pair became chummy, to the point that Love started dishing out smack talk.
“I’m gonna be in the NBA one day,” Love told the senior. “You’ll want my autograph someday. You’ll see.”
Chandler was amused. “He was just this little fat kid,” he recalls, “but he was funny.”
Something about hearing Love described as a “little fat kid, but funny” is equal parts endearing, hilarious, and utterly plausible. Obviously, most kids don’t enter sixth grade in elite-level athletic shape, but given Love’s physique before he dropped a considerable amount of weight this past year, it’s not hard to believe that he had some puppy fat when he and Chandler first met. A Google search for Love’s sixth grade years was unproductive, as the closest pictures I could find were this one, clearly before sixth grade, and this one, playing in a high school game. Split the difference, and perhaps we have a clearer idea of the small, chubby white kid Chandler was so amused by.
Apparently, Love is yet to pay up on the autograph he promised 12 years ago, although if Chandler is really interested, he could just put a bid down on the shoes Love advertised on Instagram, autographed by all of Team USA. I can’t for the life of me make out any of the signatures besides Love’s, which is on the left side (right shoe), right by the toe, but Love’s is the important one, right?
There’s a ton to love in this story (ANOTHER FAT JOKE!), so make sure you check out the link.
The Timberwolves had the right idea in pursuing Blazers free agent Nic Batum. He would be a nice fit at small forward. The $46.5 million price tag is a lot, but Rule 1 of Restricted Free Agency 101 says you have to dramatically overpay to convince a home team not to match. The Wolves didn’t overpay enough, and the Blazers, as expected, quickly matched the offer.
Roy is an interesting pickup; no one knows if his knees will hold up enough to make him worth the $10 million the Wolves are paying. If he’s healthy enough to be a contributor, this was a good move.
Kirilenko is less risky. He played well in Russia and looks like he still has something left in the tank. The Wolves look like they overpaid to get him, but that seems to be GM David Kahn’s specialty. How he fits onto a team that primarily needs shooting remains a question mark, but most GMs think his veteran presence will help.
After Roy and Kirilenko, the Wolves don’t have much to show for their offseason other than adding Budinger and Shved — two shooters who don’t bring a lot more to the table.
The waiving of Milicic via the amnesty clause only highlights how silly their offer was to him two years ago. Ditto for the dumping of Webster. The Wolves gave up a mid-first-round pick for him last year. And giving away both Johnson (the No. 4 pick two years ago) and Ellington points out yet again that, with the exception of Rubio, the Wolves have blown through numerous draft picks will little to show for it.
Overall, short of Roy having a miraculous recovery or Kirilenko dialing back the clock five years, the improvements this summer have been incremental. Somewhere, Kevin Love is pouting.
As the post-Dwightmare offseason hits us, Derek and Tom’s email posts, bouncing ideas off each other, will increase in frequency. You can see the abbreviated version of these posts by following Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) and Tom (Tom_NBA) on Twitter.
Derek: It’s been a long time since we’ve done one of these discussion posts, but I figure I should write something before Jonah gets my picture on a milk carton. There hasn’t been much Timberwolves news to discuss, but the NBA community was put out of it’s misery with the conclusion of the Dwightmare as Dwight Howard was finally dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers in a mega deal.
I know this must grieve the smaller Celtics fan within you, and I know we were both looking forward to the Timberwolves maybe taking a game or two from the Lakers over the next couple years as Kobe got older, but now it looks like the Wolves (and any Western Conference team not from Oklahoma) will likely have to settle for fighting to be the conference’s third seed at best for the near future.
Still, I don’t feel as if this makes the Lakers a lock to come out of the West. Kobe’s sixth title now hinges on, not just his own health, but Dwight’s back, Steve Nash continuing his high-level play and Mike Brown figuring out how it all fits together. Let’s say Kobe keeps the ball out of Nash’s hands, Dwight’s back continues to act up, and Mike Brown can’t figure out how manage the roles of players like Pau. Suddenly they’re back where they were in the standings before the trade.
What do you think about this Lakers team?
Tom: I hate them even more than I hated last year’s Laker team. But I’m almost happy that they got Dwight: now everyone else will hate them as much as me! At least that’s what I’m telling myself as silverish lining from the fact that, once again, the Lakers have become a favorite to reach the NBA Finals, provided they all stay healthy.
And, as you said, LA’s biggest concern is health. I assume you caught Dwight’s comments Friday night in which he refused to provide a timetable for his return? This could be harmless, of course. But if I was a Laker fan, this would be worrisome. Howard is many things, but weak is not one of them, and back injuries are no joke. Combine Dwight’s back with Kobe’s age and Steve Nash’s lack of a Phoenix training staff, and suddenly I have hope for Oklahoma City again.
If the Lakers are all healthy, and they all click together on offense, they will be horrifyingly good. The pick and roll opportunities for Steve Nash are endless, and having a point guard who is both extremely intelligent and well-respected by Kobe might make the Lakers more efficient (read: less Kobe-oriented). Damn it all.
Defensively, it will be interesting to see how the Lakers match up. Howard is an absolutely fantastic defender, both individually and as part of a team. It will be interesting, however, to see a team with both a good point guard and a good center attack Los Angeles. Howard may have to help Nash quite a bit on defense, opening up opportunities for opposing centers. But now we are picking some very small nits.
Quick, let’s get to our next topic before I start poking my own eyes out with a screwdriver. The Lakers always get what they want. THEY ALWAYS ALWAYS GET WHAT THEY FRIGGIN WANT. It drives me absolutely beserk. The last time LA was even CLOSE to bad was just before Gasol arrived. The adage “LA doesn’t rebuild, they reload” is absolutely, horribly cliché, and it’s equally true. I hate my life.
You, however, think differently?
Derek: I do, and I have no problem with how the Lakers are able to keep their window open time after time. Maybe I’m envious of their extended successes growing up a fan of Minnesota sports, and am more accustomed to getting fleeced instead of doing the fleecing. What if the Lakers are just a well-run organization that knows how to play the game and bring in the right people at the right time? It’s not as if they had the inside track on Dwight, either. Houston could’ve had him, but didn’t want to take on the Magic’s bad contracts and sacrifice all of their young players. Had New Jersey Brooklyn not pissed off the Magic with tampering allegations, Dwight could’ve wound up there since that was his first choice. He was also hardly free since the move cost them Andrew Bynum, but you trade Bynum for Dwight 10 times out of 10, anyway.
Yeah, that last paragraph may not make me popular amongst most readers. With that being said, let’s look at the rest of the deal.
Since you mentioned just about everything that I would’ve mentioned about the effects of this trade on the Lakers, I’ll take this opportunity to point out that Andre Iguodola is now on a division rival of the Timberwolves—the Nuggets. This of course is bad news since Iggy is a returning All-Star and world class defender that is coming to a team that was probably a playoff team already. Unfortunately, this move likely solidifies Denver as the second-best squad in the Northwest, and if the Jazz Kids take another leap, it’s bad news because the Northwest isn’t sending 4-teams to the playoffs. OK, now I’m going to be sick.
I like this trade a lot for the Sixers after reading A Wolf Among Wolves’ Zach Harper’s post for Bleacher Report on what Bynum can bring if properly utilized. According to Harper, Bynum should have a chance to thrive in the pick-and-roll with Jrue Holiday, and with a strong passing big man like Spencer Hawes. Bynum, and the Sixers putrid “offense”, could be in for a big year next season.
And then there’s the Magic. Most teams dealing their superstar are able to acquire lottery picks, a former lottery pick, and dump some bad contracts. The Magic achieved none of these things. I can understand not wanting to take on the big money of a Kris Humphries or Brook Lopez to maintain long-term flexibility during a rebuild, but rebuilding is going to be difficult when your return is Arron Afflalo, Moe Harkless, and a few late first round picks. Afflalo is nice, and Harkless could very well end up being a nice player, but there is much to be desired, still.
I’m not sure anyone could pay me to go to a Magic game next year knowing that one of JJ Redick, Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, or Arron Afflalo is going to be their best player. And unless something serendipitous happens, I may feel that way for a long time.
Tom: Something serendipitous…like the Magic playing like crap all of next season and getting the number one draft pick in the 2013 NBA Draft? To me, that is pretty clearly their end game here. Pick up a few good role players like Afflalo and Harkless and go the Bobcats route of losing a ridiculous amount of games to pick up a potential superstar in the draft so the Lakers can steal him away in eight years as he is entering his prime. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if Orlando’s best player is Andrew Nicholson. He needs a couple years to develop, but he looks like a really good piece.
I should mention that I have no doubt that you are right about the Lakers being an extremely well-run organization. They clearly know EXACTLY what they are doing, and I laud their ability to land superstars consistently. That doesn’t stop me from hating them forever.
Harper’s BR article was great. Bynum was a big pick up for the Sixers, a team that doesn’t exactly have a history of getting big pick ups. I confess, however, that I’ll be curious to see if they make the playoffs next year. Bynum/Collins is either a matchup made in heaven or a recipe for disaster, and quite frankly, I have no idea which one it will be. If Collins can get Bynum to play as hard as the rest of the Sixers, they will be an improved team from last year. If he can’t, things might be a little bit ugly, and Bynum might end up with 30 three point attempts on the year.
Obviously the Lakers are the big winners in this deal, but for sheer value, it’s hard to beat what Denver did. Turning Al Harrington and Aaron Afflalo into an athletic all-star and one of the best perimeter defenders in the league ranks among Masai Ujiri’s best moves. But while I agree with you that Denver is pretty clearly the second best team in the NW division, I’m curious as to why you think the Jazz are going to be better than the Wolves next season. Do tell?
Derek: I think you’re right about the Magic’s strategy, and it sucks for Magic fans that already had to suffer the Dwightmare. It would be one thing if the worst record guaranteed them the number pick, but they could go through a 10 win season and still only get the 4th pick. You’re right though, if they can suffer through Hedo and Jameer, Nicholson and Harkless could be something for fans to follow.
I completely forgot about the Collins-Bynum dynamic. Actually, that should be a reality show centered around Collins and Bynum living together. We get everything from Collins chiding Bynum to do the dishes over and over to Bynum attempting to show coach a good time on the town. The show could actually be called, “The Collins-Bynum Dynamic”. I mean, why not since this is like storing your matches next to your gunpowder.
I see it this way. The Timberwolves will be banking on Ricky Rubio missing time and coming back without missing a beat, Brandon Roy’s knees, and the Russian imports just to make the playoffs. I’m not so worried about Andrei Kirilenko, but I think that from what we saw in the Olympics is that we can expect an adjustment period for Alexey Shved.
While I do think the Wolves had a good offseason, I feel like the Jazz improved, too, coming off of a playoff berth. I think Mo and Marvin Williams are nice pickups, and the Jazz Kids – Favors-Hayward-Burks – should continue to improve as well. On top of that, they still have Paul Milsap and Al Jefferson, who naturally improved once he left Minnesota.
I don’t think they are far and away better than the Timberwolves, but I do think they should be slightly favored coming into the season based on their successes last season and the moves they’ve made in the offseason. I’d be more confident in the Wolves if they didn’t have so many wild cards in their hand, and maybe if I wasn’t so terrified of good things.
Tom: That’s fair. I suppose I’m counting on Rubio returning healthy for most of my T-Wolves predictions, since it sounds like his recovery is coming along swimmingly. And to my mind, a core of healthy Rubio-Love-Pek-AK47 is preferable to any lineup the Jazz can trot out on the court. I also feel that while the Timberwolves did gamble this offseason, it’s the kind of gamble that has 1-3 odds of working out and you gambled three times to ensure that you would win. I would also like to point out that Utah’s biggest offseason acquisitions (Mo and Marv Williams) sound more like front office additions than player personel. But I digress.
You say that the NW division isn’t sending four teams to the playoffs, but even if the Jazz are better than the Wolves, I could see Minnesota grabbing the 8th seed as the 4th team in the division. Their main competition will be Dallas (who are worse than last season) and Houston (who are a very different animal, and I have no idea what they will be next season). If the Wolves were to beat out Houston and Dallas, the teams going to the playoffs would be San Antonio, OKC, Memphis, LAC, LAL, Denver, Utah, MIN. Unless you see massive strides coming from Sacramento or New Orleans next season, that seems very plausible to me. The argument, of course, is that the NW division will spend most of the season beating up on each other, knocking Minnesota out of playoff contention, but I like to think positively, thank you very much.
Meanwhile, you and I can start counting our money from this Collins/Bynum TV show royalties, because that is sure to be a hit. Philly’s first game of the season is against Denver, so we can even have Iguodala crash the show on the first episode and bring out the “superstar who left” character dynamic. It will be can’t-miss TV.