Category: Offseason News

Glen Taylor likes telling stories

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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.

From the Minnesota Post:

“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.

#NBArank and #TwolfRank Recap

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According to both NBArank and TwolfRank, the Timberwolves are primed to make a ruckus in the West

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.

404: Malcolm Lee | Score: 2.52 | 2011 Rank: 429 | TwolfRank: 13

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.

353: Alexey Shved | Score: 2.86 | 2011 Rank: N/A | TwolfRank: 11

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.

298: Dante Cunningham | Score: 3.33 | 2011 Rank: 311 | TwolfRank: 8

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.

294: Louis Amundson | Score: 3.38 | 2011 Rank: 257 | TwolfRank: N/A

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.

270: Greg Stiemsma | Score: 3.58 | 2011 Rank: N/R | TwolfRank: 12

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.

194: Luke Ridnour | Score: 4.41 | 2011 Rank: 182 | TwolfRank: 6

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.

145: Brandon Roy | Score: 4.85 | 2011 Rank: 59 | TwolfRank: 7

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.

139: Derrick Williams | Score: 4.93 | 2011 Rank: 196 | TwolfRank: 9

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.

133: Chase Budinger | Score: 4.97 | 2011 Rank: 170 | TwolfRank: 5

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.

105: Nikola Pekovic | Score: 5.34 | 2011 Rank: 395 | TwolfRank: 3

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.

79: Andrei Kirilenko | Score: 5.93 | 2011 Rank: 90 | TwolfRank: 4

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.

47: Ricky Rubio | Score: 6.71 | 2011 Rank: 204 | TwolfRank: 2

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.

Kevin Love owes Tyson Chandler an autograph

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This is about a week old, but I just discovered it today, so hold your judgment. Chris Palmer of ESPN shared a fun story regarding the unlikely origins of Kevin Love and Tyson Chandler’s friendship.

When Love was in sixth grade, Chandler, then a top high school prospect from Dominguez High School, played in a tournament in Love’s hometown, Portland, Oregon.

From ESPN:

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.

ESPN Insider Offseason Grades

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ESPN Insider released their updated Offseason Grades. The Timberwolves’ offseason wasn’t their favorite, to say the least:


Key additions: Brandon Roy (FA), Andrei Kirilenko (FA), Chase Budinger(trade), Alexey Shved (FA), Greg Stiemsma (FA), Dante Cunningham(trade), Robbie Hummel (draft)

Key subtractions: Wesley JohnsonDarko MilicicMartell WebsterWayne EllingtonBrad Miller

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.


The End of the Dwight-mare: An email discussion

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This is the picture that keeps Tom awake at night.

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.

And you doubters didn’t think we could work in a picture of Rubio on a Howard post.

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.

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!