Category: 2012 Offseason

Alexey Shved: Not a point guard?

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Wishing you had more in-depth analysis on the Timberwolves latest acquisition? Searching for YouTube videos that will show you Shved’s strengths, weaknesses, and anything in between? Not to worry, Grantland’s Sebastian Pruiti has you covered.

From Pruiti’s Grantland article:

In isolation, [Shved] always seems to make his decision a little too late. Which means, by the time he picks out a teammate to pass it to or a lane to drive into, it’s usually not open anymore. So even when he makes the right decision to kick out the ball, the defense has usually recovered by the time the pass is made, and that leads to turnovers.

If Shved was coming over to the NBA as a point guard, I’d be worried about his ability to have a positive impact. However, pair him, and his shooting ability, with an elite, pass-first point guard like Ricky Rubio, and you have a player who can do a lot of good things for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Don’t be surprised to see him knocking down a lot of corner 3s next season.

Pruiti’s analysis is really interesting (all backed by Synergy Sports numbers, as is customary with his posts), in part because most Timberwolves fans were thinking that Shved’s signing was partially point guard insurance until Rubio comes back. I, for one, have heard the “Russian Rubio” terminology thrown around quite frequently, which led me to believe that we were about to get an oversized point guard with excellent court vision/instincts and mediocre shooting skills.

Pruiti’s article claims exactly the opposite. He presents videos that show Shved as an excellent catch and shoot wing, but someone who struggles as a ball handler, specifically as a decision maker in the pick and roll. Shved’s numbers in the PnR are disturbing, to be sure. But they are far from fatal, if Pruiti is correct (and he usually is) that Shved can be used as a catch and shoot player, especially from the corners.

I highly recommend that you go read the article and watch the videos. Great stuff, all around.

#ShvedSwag and AK-47 dominate Great Britain

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Alexey, you beautiful, strange-looking man.

Timberwolves fans have a lot of Olympic basketball cheering options. There’s the United States featuring Kevin Love, who threw off concerns about his playing time with a strong performance against France yesterday. There’s Spain, who Rubio is loudly cheering for on Twitter (and let’s face it, he has a little bit of influence over us). And now, there’s Russia, for whom the two most recently acquired Timberwolves are playing.

From The Star Tribune, my new favorite quote of the Olympics:

“Look at me,” [Andrei] Kirilenko said, exulting after the game. “I am running like a young deer.”

Putting aside the utter hilarity of that quote, it’s hard to argue with Andrei. In yesterday’s 95-75 domination of the Olympic home country, Great Britain, Kirilenko shot a staggering 82.3% from the field and scored 35 points. His team Alexey Shved, the other Timberwolf on the roster, also played extremely well at point guard, dishing out 13 assists to go with 16 points.

It should be noted that Great Britain is not a very good basketball team, despite Luol Deng’s presence (and yes, even Deng’s Olympic coaches overplay him). But Alexey Shved can PASS, and I’m not just talking about the absurd between the legs dish. Shved demonstrated excellent court vision, as well as a flair for the dramatic. His basketball IQ seems to be very high, which makes him an exciting pairing with Rubio next year after Ricky is cleared to play. Until then, performances like this indicate that we may see Shved starting in Rubio’s place until the Spanish point guard is fully recovered.

Marc Stein of ESPN tweeted this gem of a quote last night:

Russia coach David Blatt on Kirilenko & Shved vs. Team GB: “If I’m the Minnesota Timberwolves … I’ve got a big, fat smile on my face.”

Oh, we do, David Blatt. We certainly do.

Glen Taylor Has Buyer For Wolves/Lynx

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During the offseason, the most interesting stories are the ones involving player transactions, or Russian acquisitions lighting up the Olympics together (more on that later today). But just because a story isn’t quite as interesting doesn’t mean it isn’t important. This is an important one, so listen up.

The Star Tribune is reporting that Glen Taylor, owner of the Timberwolves, has found the successor he has been searching for.

From the article:

Glen Taylorwho has owned the Timberwolves for 18 seasons and the Lynx for 13, has found the successor he has been looking for. In the near future, Taylor will close a deal to sell 25 percent of the franchises, and eventually the new owner will own the majority.

Unfortunately, the buyer is from outside the Twin Cities, but Taylor insists he will continue to own a share of the two teams and will make sure that they don’t move out of the state.

Taylor has said throughout this process that it is important to him that the new ownership keeps the Timberwolves in Minneapolis, which is why he was first searching for a buyer who lived in the Twin Cities. Apparently, no wealthy Minnesotan was willing to bite, so he had to go outside the state.

This might not mean much in the grand scheme of things. It’s possible that the new owner is a person who has ties to the Twin Cities. This would be ideal.

The problem is that Clay Bennett also said he was going to keep the Sonics in Seattle. Lipservice doesn’t mean much in this game. So while we certainly hope that Glen Taylor knows for a fact that this mystery person isn’t going to move the Wolves, and while we know that even if this mystery person DOES intend to move the Wolves, it won’t be for several years until Glen Taylor is completely out of the equation, if we discover that this owner lives in Kansas City, or some other city that has been pining for an NBA team, the fact that the new owner doesn’t live in the Twin Cities is a real cause for concern.

Analyzing the Andrei Kirilenko Signing

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I imagine this is the face Kirilenko used to get a few extra million out of the Timberwolves during negotiations.
I imagine this is the face Kirilenko used to get a few extra million out of the Timberwolves during negotiations.

You probably caught the news of the Andrei Kirilenko signing from a contrived all-white team joke on Twitter, or some other traditional medium. Following the 3-way trade between our Timberwolves, the Hornets, and the Suns that shipped out Wes Johnson to clear cap space, the Wolves were quickly tied to Kirilenko. Although he was 31, he was a 3 time all-star in Utah, and once an elite perimeter defender, so it was an intriguing move. Kirilenko, as we know, spent last season with CSKA Moscow playing with new Timberwolf, Alexey Shved.

Then the contract figure came out- $18 million for 2-years. OK, Kirilenko is probably still an effective player, but $9 million per year?! Alas, the final figure came out today: 2 years and $20 million total (2nd year as a player option). Because, why pay him $9 million when you can pay him $10? I want to know how this was negotiated; I imagine it went like this:
“My client wants $9 million per year, and a 2-year deal.”

“How about $15 million over two years instead?”


“OK, you drive a hard bargain. Make it $10 million per year for two years!”

“Absolutely no—wait, what? Alright, Mr. Kahn, you’ve got yourself a deal!”

After all this is the same player who missed 10-24 games each season between 2004 and 2011. Now, that same player is 31 years of age. Call me crazy, but this is starting to look like a bad contract. Not saying he’s a bad player, but $10 million for a player you will likely end up paying sit in the trainer’s room is a lot.

I had my questions, so I turned to one of my go-to Jazz guys, David J. Smith of I’ll try to transcribe the Twitter conversation my best here. Be sure to follow David, too (@davidjsmith1232)

Me: How should I feel about the AK47 rumors?

David: Now, he is most effective as a PF. Uses his quickness to cause matchup issues. Makes great help defense blocks from PF spot.

As a SF, his outside shot is decent (improved greatly), but he is taken out of the interior, making his D more pedestrian.

Me: Ah okay. Is he still at his peak or so?

David: On a slight decline, but he seems rejuvenated from his year back in Europe.

Me: Ah, the home country magical remedy, I see. A 4? That’s interesting. Wolves just got [Dante] Cunningham to back [Kevin] Love, and they still have Derrick [Williams]. Interesting fit.

David: Which is exactly my confusion. Where does he fit in Minny? Wasn’t that a reason Al was traded (playing same spot as Love)?

Me: Yep, I don’t get it either. Btw, I’m probably gonna use these tweets in a post. Good info! Thanks!

David: Anytime, my friend!

An interesting perspective and I’m still convinced that the money is still probably too high, but the fit can be worked out. Even if he can be at least an average defender still, shoot at least 45%, and average around those 3.3 assists per game he’s averaged for his career, the Wolves got better no matter what.

What does this mean from a positional standpoint? Means that Derrick Williams will have to work for every one of his minutes or learn cheers for his teammates that are on the court. Obviously, Love is the power forward and Kirilenko would play there if Love was on the bench or if Adelman wanted to play small with Love at the 5 and Kirilenko at the 4. This could possibly make Chase Budinger the starting shooting guard as well, if Kirilenko starts.

Actually, thinking about this team with better passers and shooters makes me extremely happy. This will be fun to watch. Picture this: a Rubio-Shved-Budinger-Kirilenko-Love lineup making the defense’s heads spin with their passing, and getting good shots. What was I saying about the money again?

A blizzard swept through town

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Just like in the scene we’ve all grown familiar with nearly every Winter, a flurry of transactions in the last 48 hours have changed the very loins of the Timberwolves’ roster heading into the 2012-2013 season. Although, unlike a blizzard sweeping through town, covering everything from our cars to the very ground with feet of snow that can spark the deepest disappointment, this blizzard has been actually, say, pleasant.

The moves have broke news fast and there’s no telling when they’ll all be officially announced, so let’s start with the ones that broke first.

Greg Stiemsma signs with Wolves:

To save some paperwork and keep this from becoming an annoying formality, the Celtics rescinded their qualifying offer to Stiemer, making him an UFA. With that, the Wolves snapped him up on what’s believed to be a 1 year, $3 mil deal (Could be multi-year, maybe 2 years). Just when everyone thought this move was a no-brainer because Kahn had established interest in Stiemer the minute free agency started, it actually took awfully long to officially offer him a deal. The course even hit some turbulence when Stiemer’s agent claimed that there was another offer on the table but that their camp would still be willing to give the Wolves “a hometown discount.” (Stiemer is actually from Randolph, Wisconsin. Not exactly a “hometowner” but close enough).

Stiemer isn’t a wildly interesting signing but it’s an effective one indeed. After finally breaking through and earning legit consistent NBA minutes with the Celtics last season, Stiemer was able to make the most of his time on the floor. Well, sorta. He’s actually a bit of a foul machine like Pek used to be but he’s a physical rim protector with an 8.5% block rate. All Adelman will be asking of Stiemer is to replace Darko’s minutes. If he does anything beyond that, it’s really just an added bonus. Odds are, he’ll be able to take advantage the situation and become an effective backup center.

Wolves trade Wayne Ellington to Grizzlies for Dante Cunningham:

This deal has some sentimental value for me. When my mother was sick with breast cancer, one of her remedies after long days of chemo was to watch the Wolves every night she could. I joined in on the occasion when I could, and from those times I quickly learned that my mother’s favorite player was Ellington. Don’t ask why, he just was. She rooted loud and hard for Ellington and the Wolves and I owe part of my affection for the franchise to her fandom. R.I.P., mom!

Seeing Ellington move on — although not an overly effective or entertaining option at the 2-guard spot — stings like a drop of sweat in a fresh wound; it startles you with pain instantly but only for a moment or two. But this is a business after all, and in terms of a business decision, this was a solid acquisition on Kahn’s part. Cunningham provides depth in a front court that severely needed it just one week ago. He’s a long, athletic forward that can defend multiple positions. With the logjam in the back court, it was a good move. Stings but still good.

Wolves sign Alexey Shved:

The mystery man out of Russia has some fans/bloggers salivating. For me, I just don’t know. Really. I had never heard of Shved since late in the Spring when doing a little international scouting of my own. But from what I know now and have learned from others in the last 24 hours, Shved has serious game.

Shved is a 6’6″ combo guard, who’s been something of a phenomenon in Russia, just like Rubio was to Spain. Although he mostly played the point in Moscow last season, Kahn expects Shved to gain a little weight — he’s a tad scrawny — and become a full-time 2-guard with special ball-handling skills. In a conference call with Kahn, Shved and Shved’s agent/translator — the guy doesn’t speak a lick of English — Kahn explained how Adelman loves to have two ball handlers on the court (We saw that with a combo of Rubio, Ridnour and Barea quite often last season). And not only can Shved handle the ball but he can do it well. He’s got excellent court vision and passing skills to boot, making him an excellent counterpart to Rubio, playing alongside or backing him up. Shved also sports a solid spot up jumper and consistent three point shooting (46% and 37% respectively).

Best of all, Shved just seems like a winner. He’s got plenty of confidence in his basketball abilities. He helped lead his CSKA Moscow to a championship last season. And in his conference call, as excited I’m sure he is to be a Timberwolf, he claimed his focus is on the Olympics for now. He knows what he needs to do, so he’s the best mixture of youth and leadership.

Wolves trade Wes Johnson and Mem. 1st rounder to the Suns in three-way deal that nets them 3 2nd rounders and Jerome Dyson:

This is where things got awfully complicated. There’s no denying that after missing out on Nicolas Batum and some other key guys, the market has dried up. Especially in terms of what the Wolves were looking for — A long elite defender who’s primarily a 3 but can play multiple positions and score on the spot. Batum seemed like the only option to fill this hole, in my mind, so with him out of the picture and Johnson’s brief and surprising Summer League success, the only other option imaginable would be to stick with Johnson, cross your fingers and hope for the best.

Well, how about trading him and squashing that dream? That’s about the immediate analysis I could come up with. Why ship out Johnson AND a 1st rounder for some loose change? Obviously, at the time, it was clearly a cap-clearing move due to Johnson’s $4.3 mil contract this season and a $5.4 mil option for the next season due in October. But it was still a little confusing and disheartening. I was one who believed in Johnson. I would’ve chosen him over Cousins back in 2010 and I also fell for his comments/performance in Las Vegas last week. It felt as if he turned over a new leaf. People do forget that his rookie year wasn’t nearly as bad as last year, making his confidence comments more believable.

I may be the only one but, even with the positive result that comes out of this deal, I still feel bitter and actually hope Johnson has a really solid season in Phoenix. Now that he’s starting over in a situation very similar the Wolves were in two years ago, the likelihood he’ll have a great season there is certainly in question, but at least he knows that he has one person rooting for him.

Wolves sign Andrei Kirilenko:

And they finally landed the big one. Or did they? Everyone seems awfully stoked to see a 31-year old who’s coming back after a year away from the NBA for a decent contract. I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon quite yet for a few reasons.

The first is that Kirilenko is an aging role player. Like Shane Battier, we’ve seen these types make a difference in the game but they’re not the game changer that the Wolves truly need. Kirilenko is a pretty good shooter, inside and out, but he’s not a threat to light the lamp for more than 20 on any given night. Odds are he’ll be closer to averaging anywhere from 12 to 15 ppg. Not bad but not great.

Secondly, as noted before, he is coming back from playing one season in Russia. He played for the best team in the league against below-average basketball players overall. The Wolves literally picked up the two best players from that league in 1 day. Having said that, I’m guessing there will still be some transition stage that Kirilenko needs to go through before getting into the swing of things. The truth is the two games and players that play them are completely different, and even though he’s already a 10 year NBA vet, he may need to catch up to the game and it could take a little while.

Finally, I mentioned the contract, which is reportedly a 2 year, $20 mil deal. When I first heard Kirilenko wanted to return to the NBA back in the Spring, his camp claimed he wanted $10 mil a year. What a joke! There was no way I thought he could possibly get it. But in a buyer’s market that ran dry awfully quick, Kirilenko’s services got spendier by the day. Part of me still believes the Wolves could’ve offered $7-8 and still win the bid, especially after the Nets thought he could maybe sign for the vet’s minimum (HA!) The fact that it’s just two years is a little more settling for this aging vet, but the $10 mil option for next season eats up a lot cap space next Summer when resigning Pekovic will be on the top of the to-do list (Buckle up).

This isn’t a bad move, in fact it’s a good one. They found someone that fulfills their needs — a legit versatile forward who can do a little of everything: shoot, defend, rebound and pass — and it didn’t seem possible in this deserted market, so they got lucky. It may be an overvalued deal but when he’s your only option available, you have to go for it at all costs. I just have some minor concerns. None our likely major enough to actually affect how everything works out in the end, rather they’re just my thoughts that I’ll keep a thumb on into the start of the season.

All “whitest team in America” jokes aside, you can finally see the direction Kahn and Adelman are taking this team. Adelman’s offense calls for a diverse unit with exceptional passing, court vision and basketball i.q. The players currently on board certainly help out. And with Brandon Roy still left to be announced, the offseason has taken a turn for the better.

Sometimes you can see the beauty within a blizzard. This offseason threw mud in the air at times but it’s all coming together quite harmoniously. Out with the “bad blood” and in with the new. The new Minnesota Timberwolves are officially playoff contenders. Rejoice!

The Timberwolves’ Suprisingly Successful Offseason (So Far)

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Does it look like Kahn is shrugging here? I think it does. And thats what hes done with each shortcoming this offseason.
Does it look like Kahn is shrugging here? I think it does. And that’s what he’s done with each shortcoming this offseason.

If you had to sum up the Timberwolves’ offseason in the least, you would probably say that it was ambitious and filled with good intentions. However, for all of their good intentions, they’ve been forced to implement plan…plan…what number are we on? Despite these setbacks, the Wolves have still had the resolve to keep pushing through these rejections like that one guy at the bar on a Friday night around closing time. No, they didn’t land the 8 or 9 they initially set their sights on, but they upgraded from the 4 they had last season to at least a 6 or a 7.

That’s just the nature of the game, er business: you have to keep pushing on despite your shortcomings. There are still options and fish in the sea.

So what if the team that could be formed with the players they missed out on could probably beat the team of the players they did get. It’s been said before, but the Timberwolves likely had an addition by subtraction type offseason. Is it a plan that really invigorates a fan base? Not really, but for a fringe playoff team, getting better is getting better.

Yet, just for fun, let’s use Win Shares (WS/48 in particular) to see if they really did get better. Admittedly, I haven’t looked at these numbers ahead of time, so I’ll be discovering this as we go, too.

Darko vs. Greg Stiemsma: You need a 3rd center, and you amnesty Darko and his James Bond-esque .007 WS/48 for Stiemsma’s .170. I think you did pretty well. Now, Stiemsma was a 26 year old rookie last season, and at least some of his defensive numbers can be attributed to the Celtics’ system and playing next to KG, but he still should be a vast improvement over Darko.

Michael Beasley vs. Chase Budinger: Although he seemed well-liked by his teammates, Michael Beasley still did too many bad Michael Beasley things to be brought back. Not only does Budinger have experience with Rick Adelman and improves a poor shooting team, but his .111 are a vast improvement over Beasley’s .022 WS/48 even though Bud’s line is just above average.

Anthony Randolph vs. Dante Cunningham: OK, so this hasn’t been officially announced yet (I don’t think) but I’m still counting it. Even though certain advanced metrics love Anthony Randolph, his .099 pales in comparison to .147. And if you watched the games you know there’s no way to consider Randolph as even average.

Martell Webster and Wayne Ellington vs. Alexey Shved and Brandon Roy: This may not be the fairest matchup, since we have no way of putting these matchups on equal footing, but we’ll use what we do know. We know that Webster and Ellington didn’t exactly raise the bar or leave big shoes to fill. All Roy and Shved have to do is top Webster’s .064 WS/48 and Ellington’s .041; that’s barely one average player between the two. If people are correct and Shved could have been a lottery talent and Roy is even serviceable, the Wolves have easily upgraded the shooting guard rotation.

All-in-all, the Wolves have added 0.300 WS/48 from last year’s roster as it is. Does it make swinging and missing on Nic Batum or Courtney Lee any less disappointing? Not entirely, but it’s not as if they’ve come up totally empty, and there are still more moves that can be made. I don’t know if this means that they’ve added 3 wins from last season’s team or not, but they’ve likely taken a step towards being a playoff team already. Perhaps next season the Timberwolves could go home with a 6 or 7…seed in the playoffs.

Vegas wrap up

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Hasta la Vegas

Summer League is just one big crap shoot, if you think about it, making Vegas the perfect fit to host the event each year. Players from all different backgrounds gather in the City of Sin to dodge the limelight and focus on the task at hand: Proving your NBA worthiness.

It’s not easy, I’m sure. Being a Vegas visitor just six months ago, it’s nearly impossible to ignore all the glitz and glam that is the Strip — Even though that was my prerogative. But for players that already had a taste of the high life that the NBA offers, staying focused on improving your game is a troubling and difficult task. There’s no hiding Derrick Williams’, a recent 21-year-old turnee, Instagrams of him photobombing with bitties in the club. It’s all in good fun, right? Maybe. But maybe not considering all eyes were on him, urging for a change in his approach to the game, from start to end.

I’m not scolding or pointing the finger at anybody. I actually think Williams had a strong showing in Vegas, but I’m merely suggesting that Vegas is an interesting spot to plop these in-between pros and recent college grads as they fight for NBA glory, or even just a shot at making a team. Vegas has the ability to sift out those that are trying their hardest and those that may have other matters on their mind.

Musings aside, I digress. It’s time to review what we saw or didn’t see in Vegas.

Derrick Williams:

Considering he was the most intriguing prospect on the Wolves’ squad, let’s begin with him. Instagrams and partying aside, Williams had himself a Summer League. That’s all. Not great, not bad.

Williams reported to the Wolves’ camp about 15 pounds lighter. I really wonder whether the weight loss was his, Adelman’s or Kahn’s suggestion. No matter who’s idea it was, it was apparent they were looking for a leaner, conditioned and hopefully quicker Williams with the hopes that he could fill the 3 spot the Wolves so desperately need to fill. The weight loss certainly attributed to a cut and faster Williams but was it enough to consider him a 3?

The debate will go on and on. My opinion? Sure, why not. It’s all going to depend on how well Adelman can integrate Williams into the offense and how well Williams can make decisions within the given sets. Oh, and don’t forget how well he can defend other 3′s. Adelman’s screen-heavy offense could bode well for Williams but it really lies on whether he can think fast on the court. Last season, we didn’t see that. But with a little more chemistry with his teammates, he may be able to succeed on this team after all. He set out in Vegas to make attacking the hoop and drawing contact a big priority, and that he did. But his jump shot is still pretty ugly and his dribble-drives are oft-wild and always result in a foul, in his favor or against. There are plenty of kinks that need ironing but you can visibly see the talent there. It just becomes a matter of sprouting him in the right spot to capitalize on all that potential. And, yeah, I do see that happening in Minnesota.

Wes Johnson:

Everyone seems surprised with Johnson’s Vegas outing. Not me. Like everyone, I’ve shared my frustrations over Johnson the past two seasons but I can honestly say that I’ve never waived the white flag. I’m hoping that those of you who did, can at least sail it at halfmast for just a little bit longer.

Before jumping into Johnson’s performance, I think it’s important to note how ignorant we can really be. We get too spoiled thinking top-5 picks will succeed right out of school but that’s not always the case. Johnson was the fourth overall pick in 2010. He came into a lousy franchise with lofty expectations that he couldn’t possibly fulfill. Of course, he struggled, and it mirrored over to 2011 due to the lack of a true offseason and the roster turnover — Johnson claims he’s a “chemistry” player. But with a full offseason under his belt and clear vision of what the team needs him to improve on, Johnson has set out and done just that.

Now, having said that, Johnson certainly turned up the heat in Vegas, leading all Wolves in scoring with 20.5 ppg. The jumper we all dreaded last season has a new spunk to it with actual rotation on the ball, and they were all falling in Vegas. He worked on adding some aggressiveness to his game too by utilizing a susceptible pump-fake to get the defender off his feet. Two hard dribbles later, he rose with a mid-range jumper that almost always went in. There were still pieces of his game that seemed skeptical like his overall ball-handling and attacking the rim but everything else seems to be settling in. There was an air of confidence above his head at all times, good shot or bad, it didn’t matter. With a spring in his step, Johnson could finally grow into the lottery talent he was expected to be.

Robbie Hummel:

I’m disappointed in Hummel’s performance. Maybe he was shaded behind Williams and Johnson but he actually never played alongside them too much. I do, however, know what he’s capable of and I think he knows what his niche is with the Wolves moving forward, and that’s to be a three-point specialist. I also hope he doesn’t get caught in that mold at the same time. There’s a fine line of of staying in your comfort zone (Three-point shooting) and going above and beyond the call of duty. I just hope Hummel doesn’t get too comfortable and pushes himself to get better in his rookie season.

Kammron Taylor:

Ahh, the Chris Rock of the NBA. Taylor did a great job of directing the starting five each game. He’s a solid pick and roll point guard with good speed. But the fact that he can’t use his left hand at the rim is alarming, and his passing skills are nowhere near that of Rubio or even Ridnour. Taylor has a future in the D-League and certainly abroad, just probably not with the Wolves due to the depth at the point guard position right now.

Corey Fischer:

Fischer shoots way too much, even if he is a good shooter. He’s more of an undersized 2-guard than a true point. Fischer will likely be playing abroad again next season.

Zabian Dowdell:

The Wolves came to Vegas with the best names on their roster, starting with Dowdell. Unfortunately, Dowdell didn’t do enough to put his name in lights. He won’t be at Wolves’ vet camp.

William Buford:

This one hurts me. I actually really like Buford and wish he got more playing time. In high Ohio State days, I saw him live multiple times and he reminded me of Harrison Barnes-lite. Obviously he’s not that good but there are aspects of his game that mirrored Barnes’. But because he didn’t see much time, Buford’s NBA future is in doubt.

Jet Chang:

The name train continues. Chang played 0 minutes unless you count the scrimmage against Denver. Just sad.

Coby Karl:

Karl is your true-blue coach’s kid. Learned from his father, George, Karl shows the basketball i.q. of someone who’s been around basketball his whole life (Duh). He’s just really, really smart. Thing is that he’s got game too. His three-pointer is solid and he has good court vision. If Wayne Ellington is on his way out, I’d love to see Karl get an invite to camp in the Fall. He could make the most of it.

Sylven Landesberg:


Lamont Mack:


Papa Dia:


Lior Eliyahu:

Eliyahu was part of the Budinger trade coming from Houston. He really could’ve stayed in Houston for all I care. He doesn’t have much of an NBA future.

Tony Easley:

Easley didn’t see a whole lot of time but he has serious length. He’s 6’9″ and his wingspan is enormous. That’s all I got, though.

Luke Sikma:

Another coach’s kid, Sikma had a fine Vegas outing. His gritty work in the paint says a lot about his character — and a little on how his dad probably coached him throughout his life. He’s a relentless force to be reckoned with and has a non-stop motor. With the Wolves needing some girth on the front line, maybe Sikma can get a shot.

Mike Harris:

Harris is one beefy dude. Like Sikma, he was tough to keep off the boards, and even had a team-high in points in the finale against Memphis (22 and 12). Sadly, Harris is much too small to do any damage against any NBA frontcourt.

Paulo Prestes:

Prestes was the starting center each game. He’s a wideload of mass, an immovable object in the post. He actually has some game to him too; he understands the game much better than a lot of big guys do (Think Hasheem Thabeet). But in the end, he’s still a big guy searching for his place in the world. I don’t see him making the roster this year or even next. The big fella has some work to do before that can happen.

Gary Johnson/Luke Nevill/Luke Sigma/Garrett Stutz:

Good luck next year.

What Happened in Vegas

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In case you missed it because you didn’t have NBA TV or didn’t care because it was Summer League, I figured I’d write a quick post for those who just want a summary. Actually, this may not be quick-quick, but far from a dissertation. I figure this is also a good way to head off some common questions I get every day from my followers, since now I actually have some answers to a couple questions I couldn’t answer before. Of course, anything I say good or bad should probably have the, “It’s only Summer League” caveat attached to it.

“What about Paulo Prestes?”

This was one of those things I had no idea about. Since he was taken in the 2nd round in ’09 we’ve heard little about him. Well, here’s the deal. He’s 6-10 and 275 pounds; “plodding” is a good word to describe him. And he spent last season playing in Lithuania.

Last night he put up 5 points, 5 rebounds in 5 minutes, but didn’t see much action until later so the coaches could get looks at other players. Prestes would go on to finish with 9 points and 8 rebounds in 19 minutes of action and 4-7 shooting. However, he started out 1-3 and shot 42% last season in Lithuania, so don’t expect that 4-7 to be the norm.

Prestes did however shine on the glass and as an on-ball defender. He’s big and strong, but he’s by no means a quick player. Some of that he does make up for with his strength and smarts, but quicker opponents may exploit that at the next level, especially if they make him step out. Yet, he was a +8 and could not be moved once he established position.

With 3 fouls in 19 minutes, he would have to enter the NBA as a 3rd string center if those types of numbers held up. Thanks to his shooting he likely could never be higher than a #2 center on a good team. His best case would be if the Wolves brought him along like Nikola Pekovic and give him a year to adjust to the NBA game and then expand his role. He may never be the efficient scorer Pekovic is, but could certainly learn how to move his feet on defense like Pekovic to compensate for his slowness.

All-in-all, I like Prestes. I don’t know if he’ll be here or not, though. And remember, it’s only Summer League.

“Yo, What about Robbie Hummel?”

I think Rick Adelman may wear a Robbie Hummel jersey under his suit this winter. I’m serious; he’s going to love Hummel. Hummel was the shooter that was advertised (3-6; 6 pts), very active on both ends (+13) and the glass (6 rebounds), and showed some passing ability. If Robbie’s knees allow, he could be a potential Wayne Ellington replacement.

“Does Wes Johnson have a pulse?”

Well, I think you have to have a pulse to take 17 shots and only wind up with 16 points. The same player that could only get to the line 32 times last year somehow managed to get four attempts in one game. Shocking, I know. Unfortunately, that’s about where the praise for Wes’ game ends….and this paragraph isn’t even completely positive.

There were times tonight when he realized that he should be able to get to the rim at will against his competition, and did. Then there were other times when he continued to be the same passive player we’ve known. What’s more is his incredibly off-putting body language; give me Irrational Confidence Guy any day.

(If you didn’t watch the game, Wes attempted to post up late in the 4th in the high post but was pushed out by the three point line by his opponent. It was a little funny, but we now know that Wes isn’t very good at the shooting guard, small forward, and power forward positions. If you’ve seen him handle the ball you can imagine how good of a point guard he’d be and if you’ve saw his aborted post-up attempt you can imagine how well he’d do at the 5. Ok, now I’m just piling on. )

“What position is Derrick Williams?”

I answer this question every day, and tonight changed nothing as far as my answer. Before tonight I thought Williams was a power forward, and now I really think he’s a power forward. Yeah, he showed some things that a small forward would do, but his best moments were when he was at work down low. Losing weight has made him quicker, but it didn’t hurt him last night.

Williams still loves the three, but finished 1-4 from there. Derrick Williams is not most effective taking long jumpers, but when he’s aggressive and assertive in getting to the hoop for high percentage shots. Watch any Derrick Williams game, and this is apparent, yet I argue this almost every day.  I don’t know how else to convince people other than to point out he went 4-12 overall from the floor, if they didn’t watch the game.

(Hmm…what position is better suited for players who struggle with the outside game…)

Defensively, he worked hard and stuck with his man, for the most part. One post play bothered me was when Williams forced the defender to kick out and stand straight up while leaving his defensive stance. That is not a good look, but can be fixed. But, he sure could stick Adam Morrison!

Adelman actually joined the broadcast and was asked if he thought Williams could play the 3, to which he replied “No, I don’t. He’s never played it before!” As Jonah pointed out during the game, Adelman sounds like he just wants Derrick to work hard no matter what position he’s playing, even if Adelman isn’t sold on him.

Adelman did say that he is bigger and stronger than most NBA 3’s (I’d bet most power forwards are…), but will need to do the little things to get on the court. Most of this we already know. Ultimately, Derrick Williams can lose all of the weight he wants, but the number on the scale isn’t affecting his playing time, or job security.

Darko Amnestied…and Not a Single Care Was Given That Day.

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Apt (adjective). Definition: Suited to the purpose or occasion. Ex: This picture of Darko is apt in summarizing his career.
Apt (adjective). Definition: Suited to the purpose or occasion. Ex: "This picture of Darko is 'apt' in summarizing his career."

File this under blips on the radar or offseason footnotes, but the Timberwolves used their amnesty clause on the little-used often-disappointing Darko Milicic. Darko had one year and a team option remaining on his deal, yet the Timberwolves thought that it would be better to pay him to play elsewhere or sit at home than to have him continue to take up a roster spot. Aside from his inconsistent play and poor body language, the move was made to free up cap space so they could make offers to Nic Batum and other players that could actually benefit the team.

There isn’t much to say on Darko, really. We all know his story before he got here. We remember the Manna from Heaven remark by David Kahn. And our final memory of Darko will be him at the end of his bench in warm-up gear while any and everyone moved ahead of him in the center rotation.

This isn’t to say that Darko didn’t have his moments that made us wonder if he was suddenly getting it, but then would remind us in the next instance that he was just the same Darko. For once in his career he was given a legitimately fair chance to succeed and he couldn’t make the most of it. Sure, he made plays here and there on defense, but he was the model for offensive inefficiency due in part due to his one-dimensional post-game (Dribble-Dribble-Lefty Jump Hook!).

For a starting center, Darko wasn’t overpaid (35th overall highest paid center in 2011). The Timberwolves paid him fairly for that role, but he could never play into that role and soon became an expensive 3rd stringer.

Did he want it badly enough? Maybe, but we’ll never really know. Maybe his confidence was irreparably damaged. Maybe his spirit was too broken. Maybe the player that has been so heavily scrutinized since he was a teenager just couldn’t get himself excited for the game anymore. Ultimately, we don’t know why Darko has never been able to get over the proverbial “hump”.

The weird thing is that, even though he was done with the NBA when he got to Minnesota, he wants to continue his NBA career. Well, if it’s for the money that’s not so weird, but it means that we’ll probably see him again. Part of me does wonder what it would be like to be on the other side of one of those 20-10 games from him…

The Darko story I’ll never forget is during the training camp preceding the 2010-’11 season when the team was running drills and Darko couldn’t finish a conditioning drill and Michael Beasley rallied the team to finish it with him while telling him that they had his back. If I had to pick one story that epitomizes Darko for me, that’s the one. Even more so when he knocked the ball through the other team’s basket on a jump ball.

Derek can also be found on Twitter: @DerekJamesNBA

Everything You Need to Know Before the Signing Period Begins

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From L to R: Brandon Roy, Brandon Roy Jr., and Nic Batum in a scene that could possibly be re-lived this winter at Target Center.
From L to R: Brandon Roy, Brandon Roy Jr., and Nic Batum in a scene that could possibly be re-lived this winter at Target Center.

Well, since it’s Tuesday and I’m on vacation, I have the luxury of being able to post on back-to-back days. It helps that my vacation takes place now when there isn’t any big news, but a bunch of little stories that make it just worth sharing. After all, if only one of us has to spend a gorgeous summer day at their computer, why not be the one with almost 37,000 tweets? Alright, let’s get to the updates.

- The Timberwolves sign Russian star Alexey Shved. Shved is a combo guard that could potentially make Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea expendable. If the rumored terms of his deal are correct, his 3 year/$9 million dollar deal makes him not only cheaper than Barea or Ridnour, but a good overall value.

With the Olympics around the corner and Shved playing for team Russia, expect his press conference to happen with in the next couple of days. Nice pick up for the Timberwolves, and if you don’t know about Shved look into him.

- An update on the Nic Batum situation…kinda…sorta…I think. Apparently there is a chance that the Pacers matching the Blazers’ offer on Roy Hibbert makes it less likely for them to match the Wolves’ offer on Batum if they stick to their 4 year/$50 million dollar offer because they may feel their team isn’t good enough to justify having that contract without Hibbert. But we don’t know that for sure, and last we heard from the Blazers (last week) they were still gonna match.

We do know that Batum wants to play for the Timberwolves first…but would be OK if he had to return to Portland.

Then there’s the issue of the sign and trade, a move the Blazers GM Neil Olshey said that he wasn’t interested in, but apparently they have the framework of a deal done that’s being held up by Blazers owner Paul Allen. To make an even more complicated situation even more complicated, Derrick Williams may be suddenly untouchable despite the Wolves shopping him feverishly since last trade deadline.

Blazers people expect him to stay, Timberwolves people expect him to go. I’d personally suggest coming to your own conclusion.

In short: I know nothing!

- Brandon Roy wants to start. God bless this man’s competitive spirit, but I really get the feeling this is a bad idea. I’m happy he cares, I really am, and I do think he can play around 15-20 mpg and probably be OK. However, 30 minutes per game is probably out of the question. Whatever, if he pushes Shved, increases his own production, and saves us from watching Wes Johnson’s disintegration, it may not be so bad. Hey, he even said that he’s never felt better, and working out two times a day, so that’s good.

- Miscellaneous: If the Wolves do add Batum, they would have to buyout Brad Miller (retiring), Martell Webster (annual injury liability), renounce Anthony Tolliver’s rights and amnesty Darko! Milicic (bad at basketball) in order to make room…Last we heard to the Wolves were still in play for big men Greg Stiemsma and Jordan Hill, which is good because they are currently in need of frontcourt help.

Anyway, so that’s what’s going on right now. Everything is very fluid right now, so a lot or nothing could happen around 11pm when the signing period begins. No matter what, the Wolves’ offseason is looking to be a vast improvement over last season’s that barely got to 26 wins.