Category: Offseason News

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:

Who?

Lamont Mack:

Who??

Papa Dia:

Who???

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.

Roy un-retires with T-Wolves; Batum still on wish list


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Roy is signed, and Batum remains Wolves' coveted free agency prize

On what seemed to be a dull, bare night on the Timberwolves’ front regarding free agency, took a full 180 and united a boisterous fan base with two awfully big moves.

It started off with the big news that Brandon Roy will be officially coming out of retirement to join the Wolves on a two year, $10 mil deal. It sounds like Kahn’s pitch worked out but it’s Roy and his agent’s pitch that leave me curious. Roy was forced into early retirement because his knees literally ground into dust. No one wants to play the game in pain, which left Roy with no choice. But just one year away from the game and an illegal medical procedure made famous by Kobe Bryant and Roy states he’s healthy enough to play in the NBA yet again.

Is it possible for a man with no cartilage in his knees to withstand the physicality and speed of the NBA? Even for someone with All-Star credentials such as Roy, I certainly have my doubts. Whatever he and his agent had to say in that meeting with Kahn, Taylor and other T-Wolves’ contingent, must’ve struck a nerve so deep to give assurance that he is fully capable of making this comeback worth his while, as well as the Wolves’.

For fans, this is a huge addition. Roy’s reputation alone brings great joy and hope for Wolves fans everywhere. The fact that they’re bringing in a former All-Star in through free agency gives the fan base subtle reassurance that David Kahn and the front office are doing everything they can to make winning now a plausible — if not guaranteed — situation in Minnesota. There are still other moves to make but the fact that they’re creating a solid base with players that seem to want to come here and play in Adelman’s system is certainly a positive.

Speaking of those other moves, the next big move tonight was the word of Nic Batum officially agreeing to sign an offer sheet from the Timberwolves. The details: a four-year deal worth $45 mil including bonuses that could amount to $50 mil. Woah. Batum is a simpleton but a great example of the Wolves’ determined efforts to find pieces that are going to fit on this team now and still have room to grow. He’s a lanky swingman with the ability to play the 2 or the 3. But more importantly is how he plays either position; he is a perimeter hawk with a smooth stroke and the ability to make plays for himself. Really, he’s the perfect kind of player to plop into Adelman’s corner-based offense and let run the sidelines in the open court alongside Rubio.

But it’s never gonna happen.

Earlier today, the Trail Blazers told the Oregonian that it’s within Batum’s “best interest” to stay in Portland, and that they’d match any offer that Batum decided to agree to. It didn’t take long for Batum to call up Minnesota and agree to their offer. But even with a wholehearted desire to play for the Timberwolves — How refreshing is it to hear someone say they want to play here? — it looks as if Batum won’t get his chance to play here. At least for four years.

Just because Batum has the desire to play in the Twin Cities, doesn’t mean that Portland is simply going to let him walk. Just like Eric Gordon and his passion to play for the Suns, there’s no way in hell the New Orleans Hornets are just going to let him go.

Because of Batum’s RFA — restricted free agent — status, Portland has the right to match any offer within three days of July 11th, the official “signing day” of NBA free agency. And because Batum is a very good and underrated 23-year old, Portland isn’t going to not match the Wolves’ offer.

It would be suicide.

The best chance the Wolves have at landing Batum now is via sign and trade. They would need to build some sort of package around D-Will and other pieces — Martell Webster/Brad Miller deals, draft picks, etc. — to have any hope of acquiring him. Again, reports say that Portland has already denied any such D-Will package. Williams plays the same position their star does — just like the Wolves — and so his value isn’t nearly as high on their list.

It’s going to take a little work and a whole lot of luck to bring Batum here to pair him with his former Blazer teammate, Roy. But the fact that the Wolves are attempting the impossible, and stirring up some bad blood with a fellow division rival, makes this entire situation awfully fun to cover. Even if it’s likely to end for worse, it’s still worth the debate.

Musings on the Budinger deal


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This morning, we all probably woke up to the same breaking news of the Wolves trading the 18th overall pick in Thursday night’s draft to the Houston Rockets for swingman Chase Budinger. As breaking and exciting as it may be, there needs to be some analysis to pick the deal apart and attempt to pick why Kahn, Adelman and the front office made this happen.

Before even getting into it, I laid my head to rest late last night thinking about the rumors that had Kevin Martin coming to Minnesota for the 18th pick. That’s why the news this morning actually took me by surprise in the moment. I thought, “Did Kahn ask for the right player? Did he screw Martin and Budinger’s names?” But the more you think about it, the more Budinger makes more sense than his former teammate Martin.

For those who don’t know diddly squat about Budinger, he’s a legit 6-foot-7 wing player with bullseye accuracy from deep and a white boy swag to him (He dunked over P. Diddy in this All-Star Break’s Dunk Contest). In the ’10-’11 season, head coach at the time, Rick Adelman, grew fond of the former second round pick’s skills and inserted him into the starting lineup for 22 games, in favor of Terrence Williams, a former lottery pick. However, last season, Budinger did lose playing time to Chandler Parsons but didn’t see much of a decline in his numbers.

Budinger has carved a niche to his NBA game as a role player playing the 2 or the 3. Mentioned earlier, he’s a great three-point shooter. Last season he converted threes at a 40-percent clip, and nailed 48.5-percent of his corner threes. The Wolves, collectively, only hit on 36-percent of their corner threes thanks to the poor shooting of Wes Johnson and Martell Webster. He makes a great addition for someone who can clean up off penetration from Rubio in the corner. He’s not one-dimensional either, and has better ball-handling skills than Johnson, although still not great. And neither his is defense but it’s not putrid like Michael Beasley’s.

Clearly the move is an immediate upgrade at the wing from years past, and I stress the word immediate. The one knock you can have on this deal is that the value wasn’t there; the 18th pick in the draft could/would/should produce younger, sexier talent with the chance of awakening a sleeper star. But I’ll be the one to tell you that your odds of that happening aren’t likely. Some of the most notable 18th overall picks in NBA history include Mark Jackson, Joe Dumars, Theo Ratliff, JR Smith and Ty Lawson. Just one, Dumars, has been inducted to the Hall of Fame. The odds of finding insane talent and value at pick 18 are slim to none. That’s why acquiring a proven player, someone who has posted an actually good career low win shares per 48 minutes of just 0.95 (WS/48 is “an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player per 48 minutes,” according to Basketball-Reference; the league average is 1.0) is of much higher value than an unproven rookie with an unknown amount of development to go.

Overall, I really like this deal. It immediately helps our desperate need at the wing and also makes Beasley and Webster assumably expendable at this point. That, in turn, will free up nearly $13 million in cap space this coming offseason, and give flexibility beyond that because Budinger is owed not even $1 mil next season.

Sitting here thinking about why this trade could be bad, there comes but one thought. For all those bashing the trade because Kahn made the wrong move or didn’t get enough for the 18th pick, just stop it. Kahn didn’t make this move, Adelman did, or at least he facilitated it, I’m sure. Adelman coached Budinger in Houston and obviously really liked him enough to throw his name to Kahn and say, “Make it happen.” Because of that, you have to wonder who’s really running this team and, more importantly, this pivotal offseason. Is it Kahn or is it Adelman? You have to hope there’s not a power struggle up top. If it’s Kahn running the team, you have to worry about what might come during free agency and the types of contracts he may be throwing on the table. If it’s Adelman, you have to hope that he’s not planning on stocking this team full of vets he’s coached before, especially ex-Rockets. Adelman’s a successful coach but the Rockets were always so-so under his command. Do the Wolves really want to become the next Rockets of the NBA? The team that always plays good but never good enough. The goal has to be championship, not just bottom-dwellers of the Western Conference playoff seeds, therefore allowing Adelman to takes reigns over the personnel could spell out mediocrity in big, legible writing. The two must learn to coexist through this offseason or there will be an awful lot of discouragement from the front office, something no young team should have to put up with.

Anyways, I don’t believe that’s the case. It’s just a simple musing I conjured up sitting at work all day. Again, I believe that this trade is definitely a step in the right direction towards having a solid offseason. Improvements are needed in tons of areas and this deal helps shade in a couple of those. The real craziness begins July 1st. Are you ready?!

Breaking: Wolves trade 18th pick for Chase Budinger


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In case you haven’t seen it yet, this comes from ESPN:

The Minnesota Timberwolves have agreed, pending league approval, to send the 18th pick in the 2012 NBA draft to the Houston Rockets for Chase Budinger and the draft rights to Lior Eliyahu, two league sources confirmed to ESPN.com.

Although sources stressed that no deal is imminent, the Rockets have had substantive discussion about sending their other two first-round picks (No. 14 and No. 16) to the Sacramento Kings for the No. 5 pick. The Rockets have also been exploring moving point guard Kyle Lowry to a team in the top 10 to acquire another pick.

Sources say the Rockets are hoping to acquire enough assets to entice the Magic to trade Dwight Howard to them.

There will be much more analysis throughout the day. Feel free to join the immediate conversation on Twitter.

White's promise


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Royce White came to workout for the Timberwolves just last week. The workout went well — not spectacular — but maybe just good enough to tip Kahn’s hand at taking him with the 18th pick of this year’s draft.

Word from ESPN’s Chad Ford is that White, as of yesterday, has cancelled the rest of his workouts with other teams. Ford tweeted yesterday,”He’s pulled out of all remaining workouts and gone silent. Not injured.”

The only explanation for White’s sudden hiatus means that he must’ve gotten a promise from a team he’s pretty happy with in the first round. Draft promises are sticky situations. Who’s to say what opportunities present themselves on draft night in terms of players falling or even trades? Things can change very quickly and that promise your team just made may end up wrecking everything up.

So who’s stupid enough to promise White a selection?

Perhaps it was David Kahn and the Timberwolves.

Since working out here last week, White has been enamored with the idea of playing for the Wolves. Minneapolis is White’s homecity, and there’s almost no better feeling than coming home to play for the team that you idolized and rooted for growing up. White’s workout here was good but his interview was better. Since the workout process started, White has been very open and honest about his anxiety disorder since revealing the truth mid-way through the college season.

Head coach at Iowa State, Fred Hoiberg, has also been outright and truthful about his former player. Hoiberg believes that White’s game is best-suited for the NBA, as long as any coach is willing to buy in to White’s unorthodox style of playing the point as a power forward. And because Hoiberg, a former player and exec for the Timberwolves, has such close ties to Minnesota, there may be some hidden information that he’s given Kahn that no other team has received.

That’s all speculation at this point, even the promise, but there is something fishy going on, even if it’s not with Minnesota. According to Ford, both the Celtics and Hawks have come to like White’s talents, as well as the Warriors. But none of them are in the right position to actually take him, except the Warriors at 7, which may be a little high. Instead, the Wolves, sitting at pick 18, are in prime real estate to take White. So even if that promise came from a team below the Wolves’ pick, there may be a wrinkle in their plans already, unless they plan on trading up for him.

The Wolves really do have a great pick with 18. There are many options available. Trades will be flying and it could surely get moved as a casualty. Or they could stay-put and take a flier on someone with great talent like White and see what he can do; he’s certainly the type of player that, if his head is on right, can replace Michael Beasley’s output plus more. It’s a good time to be a Wolves fan.

Terrence Ross: A chance at wing redemption


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Yet another great post from our draft guru, Nick Bullock. Enjoy the read!

In my last post, I explained why I think former Baylor forward Quincy Miller will likely be the Timberwolves pick at No. 18.

Although I am less than enamored with Miller, I do think he’d be the logical choice given the players I expect to be sitting there for Minny. And I have little concern Miller will be available to the Timberwolves, because he had a dreadful combine and the teams ahead of the Wolves aren’t in dire need of a small forward.

Recently, however, I have seen a couple mock drafts showing Washington swingman Terrence Ross drop to No. 18. Aside from packaging the pick in a trade, this would be my ideal scenario. (I favor Jeremy Lamb, but I expect him to be off the board between Picks 6 and 14.)

My reason for loving Ross is simple: He has a chance to be everything Timberwolves fans, and David KAAAHN, initially hoped Wes Johnson could be. He is a lights-out shooter, a great athlete, a lockdown defender and a perfect complement to Ricky Rubio.

I realize the fear I may have just instilled in all of you by comparing him to Wes Johnson, but if I’m being honest, Johnson’s skill set as advertised is a perfect fit for the Wolves. The problem was that skill set was falsely advertised.

For a shooter — and that’s all Wes is offensively — he sure misses a lot of shots. His true shooting percentage last season was 70th out of 83 qualified shooting guards. (Note: Johnson played 41 percent of the Timberwolves small forward minutes, but John Hollinger’s rankings only listed Wes as a SG).

Also, for a supposed defensive stalwart, he was rather ordinary. If Thabo Sefolosha showed us anything this post season, it’s that there is room in this league for players that contribute zero offensively if they are spectacular on the other end of the floor. Against small forwards last season, Johnson allowed his opponents to record a 15 Player Efficiency Rating (PER), according to 82games.com. That is precisely the league average. Against shooting guards last season, Johnson faired a bit better, allowing an opponent PER of 18.1. But let’s then remember that as a rookie in the 2011-2012 season Johnson played 40 percent of the team’s minutes at shooting guard, where he finished with an opponent PER of 14.3.

But enough said about Wes; this post is about Ross. Let’s address his ability to fulfill the role we once thought would belong to Wes.

Shooting: What I like about Ross’ shot is the rhythm he shows getting into his shot. He has a very simple and repeatable motion. He also uses his legs and gets good elevation, not surprising given the 37.5 inch vertical he recorded at the combine. He also has a very quick release, so he doesn’t need much room to get the shot off.

But what I like best is Ross knows he is a good shooter, so he is often looking for that open three. When he is open in the corner Ross is ready to enter he shooting motion before the ball even reaches him. All of this will make him a great spot up 3-point shooter — something the Timberwolves desperately lacked last season.

To be sure, Ross is capable of scoring in other ways, as well. He has shown a decent step-back move — which has led many an NBA shooting guard to success — and he is good at probing the baseline for easy layups. He is good coming off screens, and his athleticism also makes him quite adept at flying in for put-backs.

Defense: Ross didn’t test too well at the agility and sprint tests at the combine, and the game film tends to reflect this. He also has rather short arms (6-foot-7.25-inch wingspan), so he won’t be the kind of defender to affect shots with his length. The reason why he could be a good defender is because he is very instinctual and tenacious. He has very active hands and his timing is superb, which is part of the reason he averaged 0.9 blocks and 1.3 steals per game as a sophomore at UW. He is a lot like Ricky Rubio in this way, minus the wingspan, of course.

Team fit: Unlike some of the other two guard prospects in this draft (with the exception of Jeremy Lamb and Bradley Beal), Ross plays beautifully off the ball. We all know Rick Adelman’s desire to keep shot creators on the court. Barea, despite his skill running the pick and roll, is incapable of playing without the ball in his hands. Ridnour changed the way he played enough to fit the role, but it was a bit of a square-peg-in-a-round-hole situation, especially at the end of the game, when you know every possession will run through Rubio. The Timberwolves desperately needed someone to pair with Rubio in the backcourt at the end of games who could both slip to the basket (like Wes), hit the open three (like Ridnour), defend the position (like Martell Webster? like no one?) and occasionally take his man off the dribble.

I tend to disagree with the notion that this team needs a starter that can create his own shot. Sure, it would be nice, but only if he plays well with the Wolves’ two cornerstones, Love and Rubio. Also, when you have a passer like Rubio, why take the ball out of his hands?

Although a little slight, Ross is also tall enough to play small forward, and will probably excel in the role when the team goes small.

Negatives: It’s not, however, all sunshine and roses with Ross. He is pretty poor at creating shots for teammates. His handle is average (Wes, anyone?) often leading to turnovers when he drives. And despite his ability to slash to the basket, he averaged just 2.7 free throw attempts in 31.1 minutes per game last season for the Huskies.

But this is what you get when you pick outside of the lottery: flawed players.

At best, Ross could be a more-athletic, cheaper Aaron Afflalo or a more-talented Courtney Lee, a desired offseason target of many Wolves fans, including this one. At worst? Probably Wesley Johnson.

But that shouldn’t stop KAAAHN from making this pick if available. After all, Wes was a good fit. He was just a poor prospect. Picking Ross at No. 18 seems to me like the perfect mix of need and talent.