Category: Offseason News

Instant Impact, Part III: Draft

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This is a three-part series detailing the three mediums through which the Wolves can improve their roster: Free agency, trades and the draft; and who they could possibly target via those outlets.

After already writing about free agency and potential trades, that leaves but one medium to acquire a player that brings instantaneous results, albeit even to the smallest degree, during this oh-so important offseason, and that is the NBA Draft. It’s easy to get swept into the flurry of buzz that any major league sports’s draft brings but I want to take a step back and express my opinion. I do believe the Wolves will end up moving this pick because it could help sweeten our end of any trade offers — I said in another piece that we have very little of value to trade away outside of Derrick Williams. But if they decide that the trade offers aren’t worth it, the Wolves actually sit in a nice spot in this draft. Sure, it’s not as deep as everyone originally predicted but there are 20-25 guys that should go in the top 15. That means there is going to be some worthy talent sitting at #18.

There is one big difference in approach looking forward to this draft. The Wolves don’t want “potential” with this pick, though, which is usually the case drafting likely anybody. Rather, they need a rookie who can come in and help right away. It’s no easy feat finding a rookie with the professionalism, skill and maturity to step into the NBA game and contribute right away, which is mostly why I believe the Wolves will look elsewhere to improve.

But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Here’s are just a few options that I think the Wolves could take at 18, who could come in and help this team immediately.

1: Terrence Ross, SG, Wash.

Just as I say the Wolves would be better off selecting a senior from a solid program or someone with a strong character that may help you now more than later, I choose Ross as the #1 target. Ross is leaving Washington as a sophomore, so he’s more experienced than a freshman. The thing I like about Ross, though, is how much he can possibly cure for a team that needs many remedies.

Ross is a huge shooting guard or an average sized small forward. His length and athleticism combine to give him one of the more NBA ready bodies amongst other shooting guards available in the draft. But beyond his size, Ross is one of the better shooters in this draft. There’s nothing more the Wolves need than a knock-down shooter from behind the arc. That would take a ton of pressure off both Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love. There’s so much more that Ross can do on top of his shooting too. He’s a good defender and actually a decent ball handler in pick-and-roll situations.

Ross is probably the best possibility at #18 for the Wolves. All of the intangibles listed though have helped boost his stock into a potential late lottery pick. There’s a good possibility he won’t be available but if he is, Ross gives the Wolves the best mix of value in terms of NBA ready and star potential for that mid-first round pick.

2: John Jenkins, SG, Vanderbilt

The skill that translates best from college to the NBA is shooting. A great shooter is a great shooter, no matter what league they play in. That’s why Jenkins’ talents are very serviceable.

Jenkins is a junior out of Vanderbilt, where he averaged over 19 ppg the last two seasons. All three years at Vandy, Jenkins nailed better than 40-percent of his treys, including his freshman year when he nearly hit 50-percent of his three attempts. Just like all great deep-ball shooters, Jenkins also hits his free throws, which the Wolves desperately need from their 2-guard.

Overall, Jenkins has a lot of JJ Reddick in him. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing because Reddick is making good money in Orlando but they’re both one-dimensional players. The Wolves wouldn’t mind that when that one-dimension will improve a category they need badly but Jenkins at #18 doesn’t leave a whole lot of room in terms of value. He’s a decent target.

3: Kevin Murphy, SG, Tennessee Tech

Wait, who?

Look him up. For those of you who don’t watch/follow college basketball as religiously as I do, a quick Google search and minimal research will tell you just who this guy is.

Murphy is a senior graduating from Tennessee Tech, where he led the team in scoring with 21 ppg. His offensive skills are really impressive of a guy at such a small program. He’s selective with his shots, something often overlooked when reviewing college tape, even though he’s known as a volume shooter. To get get looks like that, you have to be creative, and he can do just that. He possesses this turnaround jumper, sort of Kobe-esque, that was so deadly and efficient and nearly impossible to defend.

But there’s a reason he played for Tennessee Tech. Murphy has significant flaws to his game, including lackluster defense and serious inefficiencies at the charity stripe. I still love Murphy’s pro prospects because he’s a leader. He’s had to carry a lame program on his back for four years, saying a lot about his character. Murphy is a definite reach at #18 but he’s a player that you reach for, if that makes sense.

Instant Impact, Part II: Trades

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This is a three-part series detailing the three mediums through which the Wolves can improve their roster: Free agency, trades and the draft; and who they could possibly target via those outlets.

Part I of this series focused on the approach the Wolves should take heading into free agency as well as a few names they could go after. Part II is going to focus on potential trades.

If free agency isn’t the way to look for immediate impact from a great player, then perhaps the Wolves look to the trade market. Big names such as Dwight Howard will float around all summer. The problem is the Wolves don’t have the extra assets to sweeten any deal. Rubio, Love and Pek are likely untouchable, leaving very little left to swing a trade.

The biggest piece they have to build a deal around is Derrick Williams. Williams’ rookie campaign was neither a homerun or a strikeout; it was sort of like a hard-hit liner to right field, so it only came out as a single. He showed that he is strong enough to battle underneath but possesses that soft touch to hit some threes when he has to (Maybe a little too often even). His defense isn’t good and it’s mostly a problem because Adelman couldn’t figure out what type of player he can guard. There’s no question that he has the moves on offense to play a small forward and attack as well as hit the jump shot, but he certainly can’t guard the opposition on the other end.

Because Williams is still full of potential, he’s the likeliest candidate of this young core to be dealt away, probably paired with the 18th pick. Now the question is what can they get for a package like that. Before I get into that, let’s look at Kahn’s trade history thus far. He made the deal for Michael Beasley, shipping away a second-rounder and a peanut butter sandwich — Not actually — which was certainly worth the price of giving Beaz the audition. Kahn also swung multiple deals last draft to accumulate some cash and stayed away from picking a player they really didn’t need.

So clearly Kahn has a knack for getting some good value out of trades. It’s been nothing extraordinary but good. This offseason could be drastically different, as Kahn will look for bigger names in a more headlining type of deal. Of course he can still take it easy and just look to break even by bringing in a simple role player just to shake up the roster. But I believe it’s time to dream bigger than that.

With that, here are five potential trades that could mean immediate impact both on and off the court.

#1: Derrick Williams, #18 pick and Luke Ridnour to the LA Lakers for Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol

Gasol’s name has been floating around the trade rumor bin for a while now. It’s about time someone does something about it. There are likely going to be more glitzy packages out there for Gasol but this one makes a lot of sense for both sides.

The Wolves are indeed giving up a lot but what people need to start realizing — again — is that Gasol is a former all-star and one of the NBA’s best big men. He had an incredibly down year but there’s no reason to think that it’s the start of a trend. Lakers head coach Mike Brown implemented, well, nothing in terms of offense. Switching from the extravagant triangle offense in which Gasol excelled to a simplified pick-and-roll offense is like transferring from aeronautics to algebra; it’s so simple that it’s actually difficult. I don’t think all of the pressure in LA and the rumors swirling helped that team’s chemistry either.

Gasol would fit in much better here than he does currently in LA. The Lakers of old are done, and once they realize that, bringing in Williams to groom would be a very good addition. Just like the Lakers, the Wolves of old are now done and moved on with a youthful roster but need a veteran or two sprinkled in to gain a sense of leadership and guidance.

Gasol has all the intangibles to fit in nicely with fellow Spaniard and friend Rubio as well as the rest of the crew. Although his defensive skills aren’t exactly what the Wolves are looking for, you just can’t pass up the opportunity to grab one of the game’s elite big men to form a scary frontcourt in Love, Pekovic and then Gasol.

#2: Derrick Williams, #18 pick and Brad Miller’s contract to the Memphis Grizzlies for Rudy Gay

Rudy Gay

I mentioned in Part I at how OJ Mayo is a legit target to go after in free agency. Well, if the Grizzlies indeed want him back, they may need to shed some cap space to do it, which means Gay could be on the outside looking in.

Gay was part of the strong recruiting class Kahn attempted back in 2010. But before he could board his plane to Minneapolis, the Grizzlies called back and said they’d offer him the max to stay in Memphis. Game over. Now the Grizzlies have their hands tied behind their backs because they have a lot of money invested into just three players, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Gay (Even Mike Conley makes a hefty paycheck). In order to balance out the budget and roster, one of those guys will have to move, and the easiest would have to be Gay.

The Wolves have been pleading for a player of Gay’s caliber ever since Garnett left. Sure, we found one in Love but nothing beats having a versatile and freakishly athletic wing player who can score all over the court. We’ve never had that, unless you count JR Rider.

Again, the price could be steep but with this one you may even need to sweeten the deal that much more because of Gay’s age compared to Gasol. And, just like Gasol that I forgot to mention, Gay is owed a lot of money, $15+ a year for the next four years. That crimps any chance of resigning Pekovic and maybe even Rubio. GASP!

So is it worth it? Probably. You have to look at it in the short term. Could Gay, a fantastic scorer and stout defender, propel the current roster to championship hopes within the next 3-4 years? I think so.

#3: Derrick Williams, #18 and Luke Ridnour to the Indiana Pacers for Danny Granger and Darren Collison

Darren Collison Danny Granger #33 of the Indiana Pacers congratulates Darren Collison #2 after Collison shot a 3-point shot late in the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics on January 6, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Indiana Pacers defeated the Boston Celtics 87-74. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
Danny Granger and Darren Collison

D-Will, and good draft pick and cool-hand Luke all for Granger and Collison? Yup.

Williams, again, is the easiest piece to formulate any sort of trade, and in this one, just like #2, they get back a wing who can score religiously and may be on the fritz with their current squad. Granger, despite posting great numbers for the last six years in Indianapolis, is ready to be moved aside for a younger, bigger, more athletic player in Paul George. And now at 29 years of age, a lot of teams may look to Granger with a sense of caution. But not the Wolves. Not a team so desperate for a scorer at the 2 or 3 positions.

Granger would come into Minny and immediately start at the 3, keeping Wes Johnson at the 2 — Yikes. Just imagine the size of that perimeter, though, Rubio at 6’4″, Johnson at 6’7″ and Granger at 6’8″. Granger possesses all of the tools to get to the basket as well as hit open threes more consistently then our former small forward, Beasley.

Now, I’m sure many of you are wondering why exchange Ridnour for Collison. My answer: Why not? Ridnour would be missed indeed but Collison is a cheaper option as a backup with more defensive capabilities. JJ Barea and Collison may seem redundant but not when it comes to defense, and that’s why it’s worth the switch. It’s just a way to shake things up a little bit but also bring another dynamic to the backcourt at a cheaper price tag.

#4: Derrick Williams, #18, future first rounder and Luke Ridnour to the Sacramento Kings for Tyreke Evans

Tyreke Evans

I’m dreaming now. The others are more than plausible, but this, this right here, probably not. But hear me out because it’s not completely farfetched.

Tyreke Evans, since winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2010, has seen a steady decline in his production. You can blame the injuries but I also have to point out that the Kings just aren’t the team for him; as much as he thinks he’s a point guard, he still needs a true ball-handler at the point to set him up for success. That point guard can be Ricky Rubio, no doubt. Rubio and Evans could form a fearless backcourt, strong enough to hang with any of the West’s guard combos. They would be big, fast and a steamrolling monster on offense with a plethora of ways to score.

The Kings would get a special deal here but they also take a risk. First off, they pair DeMarcus Cousins with a true power forward next to him in Williams and also score with the two first rounders headed their way. But shipping off Evans puts a serious dent in their plans for a true point. Can tiny Isaiah Thomas fill that role? Or even, dare I say, Jimmer Fredette handle the bulk of responsibility at the point?

That’s the art of trades, though. In a league full of intelligent businessmen, you have to sacrifice value to gain value. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

#5: Derrick Williams and #18 to the Golden State Warriors for Klay Thompson and #7

Klay Thompson

Now back to reality. This is arguably the most realistic, fair and probably my favorite deal. It’s not a groundbreaker only getting the sure player in Thompson but he’s a darn good one at that. Thompson would come in and fill that huge need of a sharpshooting guard to pair with Rubio. That duo could combine for 100-plus dimes-to-treys easily, considering how deep Rubio can penetrate the lane and kick the ball out to a likely wide-open Thompson. It could be deadly.

The sweetener in this deal is obviously the draft pick coming back from the Warriors. I believe it’s possible they move out because Williams was the second overall pick last summer and Thompson was taken at 11. To balance out the trade, the two squads exchange draft picks and both teams go home happy. The Wolves move up for a chance to improve their front court and the Warriors move back to 18 in a very good draft from picks 1 thru 20.

Now I just want to finish with this disclosure: None of these trades are actual rumors at the moment. Some were formed off of rumors and that’s it. The likelihood any of these happen are about as likely as David Kahn reading this himself and writing me a letter thanking me for my recommendations.

Instant Impact, Part I: Free Agency

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This is a three-part series detailing the three mediums through which the Wolves can improve their roster: Free agency, trades and the draft; and who they could possibly target via those outlets.

The Wolves made distant and visible strides last season that even some of the harshest critics took notice to. It mostly came from within the organization (i.e. the dominance of Kevin Love, the sudden emergence of Nikola Pekovic, etc.) but also from abroad (Ricky Rubio’s contributions were imperative to the first half of the season’s hot run).

Looking at those under contract for next year, there are still plenty of names that will be able to provide immediate help in hopes of solidifying a starting lineup and bench platoon capable of making the playoffs. But the challenge to any GM in the NBA — or any sport, for that matter — is to find personnel outside of the current roster that can come in and not only help the team but gel seamlessly with the guys already in place. After all, there’s nothing worse than bringing in a new guy who only ends up being a locker room nuisance.

Because there are multiple outlets to acquire that complementary piece — or even pieces, if you’re feeling lucky — I’m going to lay out a three-part series highlighting specific players that can provide instant help in next year’s quest. I will divide the players into the three categories by which the Wolves can obtain them: Free agency, trades and the draft.

Let’s kick it off with free agency. Since Kahn’s reign began back in 2009, his work in the free agent market has been sub-par to say the least. He has nothing really to hang his hat on. Instead he has two backup point guards signed to identical four year, $16 million contracts. It’s not to say he hasn’t tried, though. Back in 2010, Kahn looked to make a big splash by talking to marquee names on the market such as Rudy Gay and David Lee. Unfortunately, Gay cancelled his flight after the Grizzlies said they’d give him a max deal, and Lee seemed close to signing after Kahn dined and wined him but — luckily — ended up in Golden State.

It’s obvious Kahn was searching for that big name to headline a desperate team back in 2010. But with two of the NBA’s brightest up and coming stars in Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, there needs to be a drastic change in the approach towards free agency this summer. Instead of a headliner, the Wolves need supporters. Well, they’re in luck because the crop of free agents is slim on big names but bountiful with players ready to come in and simply contribute even in a lesser role. Watching the NBA Playoffs, I found it’s imperative that a championship team have at least 2-3 of those role guys on a team, unless you’re the Miami Heat, of course. But the OKC Thunder are chock-full of those guys. Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison, Derek Fisher. See, told ya.

These guys are just as important to team success as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are. Because of that, it will be Kahn’s duty to find these gems within the passel of 2012 free agents. Now, the Wolves will have just enough money to pursue one, maybe two, tier 2 and tier 3 free agents (Roughly $12 million if they decline options on Beasley and Webster, as well as other easy moves). But there are two issues that come from leaning on free agency: 1) The money, and; 2) The commitment. I didn’t lie saying the Wolves will have some cash to spend but it’s not plentiful by any means. And tying that money up in to a long-term deal would hinder the ability to sign someone in 2013 — James Harden, anyone? — or extending a deal for a current player like Pekovic.

Having said that, here are three mid-level targets that I think the Wolves could/should go after during free agency in hopes of filling out the roster with the most flexibility possible for next season.

#1: Courtney Lee:

Courtney Lee and Kobe Bryant - Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers
Courtney Lee

Rumor has it that Kevin Martin may be on the Wolves’ radar. He’s familiar with Rick Adelman and his system; he’s a solid offensive player with all the tools the Wolves lacked from that position last season (Ability to take it to the hoop, hit open threes and get to the foul line). But Martin’s glaring weakness is on defense, which certainly doesn’t bode well for the Wolves, and his enormous contract is quite the burden.

Well, since Martin won’t help in that area, why not go for the other shooting guard in Houston? Lee has been a bit of a journeyman in his NBA career thus far but he’s awfully young still. At just 26, Lee has already played for three different organizations in four seasons. At every stop, he’s played up to par, averaging 10 ppg for his career, and a serviceable 44-percent shooting percentage. Clearly, Lee’s not going to light up the board but he is capable of hitting timely shots and going for 20+ on special nights.

Diving deeper into Lee’s body of work, in the month of April last season, Lee actually averaged 14 ppg and even hit nearly 43-percent of his three-pointers. Because of that last month, Lee may have improved his stock just enough to score an extra few million dollars on his next deal.

But as I said, Lee’s specialty is his defense, which the Wolves so desperately need. Lee immediately fits in with the Wolves because of his defensive prowess but his spot-up scoring and athleticism doesn’t hurt. Playing alongside Rubio would only give him more open looks from deep. All things considered, Lee would easily step in and be the starter alongside Rubio in the backcourt from day 1. Or at least he should.

The skinny on Lee, he’s a restricted free agent this summer, meaning any offer a team gives him, the Rockets have a chance to match that offer and retain his rights at that price. When it comes to restricted free agents, the trick is to offer just enough so that the former team doesn’t match but not too high to where you lose value in terms of price. Lee could be had at a low-medium offer, say $5-6 million a year because the Rockets still owe Martin a lot of money, which gives the Wolves a great shot at him.

O.J. Mayo

#2: O.J. Mayo:

Remember back when Mayo was a T-Wolf? Can’t say that trade for Love didn’t work out for the best, but what would you say to having both Mayo and Love on the same team? Well, it could happen.

Just like Lee, Mayo is a restricted free agent, but rumor has it that the Grizzlies are interested in retaining his services, which only means more money for the Wolves. Is it worth it?

Mayo didn’t transform into the Kobe-lite player many thought he could’ve been from his high school days. But that’s no matter because he’s still made a decent living in Memphis. His role has drastically changed, from star (pre-draft) to starter to sixth man, and he’s been very professional through each step, which has to say something about his maturity. Mayo, although many of you won’t agree, is best-suited in that sixth man role, especially for the Wolves. Allow me to explain. Take the OKC Thunder (I use them a lot because, hell, what a great franchise). They have one of the best shooting guards in the league in James Harden. He’s not perfect at any one aspect on the court, rather he’s above-average across the board; the true do-it-all player. The Thunder have dubbed Harden their sixth man for strategic purposes; once Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are ready for a breather, Harden comes in fresh, ready to tear up the opposing team’s bench players (Because they probably switched out their starters around the same time too).

Mayo can play that role for the Wolves, like Michael Beasley did last season. Everyone needs a scoring punch off the bench. And whether Mayo is starting or not shouldn’t matter because he’d likely be on the court to end the game and potentially hit that clutch shot. That’s what Mayo would be brought in to do. He’s a scoring savant in need of a change of scenery, not necessarily a change in his role but scenery for sure.

#3: Anthony Tolliver:

Anthony Tolliver

Hey, I never said that player has to come from another team. Tolliver is an unrestricted free agent this summer. All signs point to the Wolves retaining his services but just to make sure, I’m throwing him on this list.

I see Tolliver playing a Collison-like role on a championship team. He’s just a great all-around guy, who’s guarantees 110-percent of his effort every night. Tolliver is a top-notch hustle defender capable of defending guards and forwards alike. He’s so versatile and does exactly what’s asked of him to the best of his ability. Because he’s still young, mistakes happen and Tolliver saw his fair share last season as well as inconsistency on the offensive end but nothing alarming enough to ship him off.

Tolliver can resign for the Wolves for cheap, maybe another two year, $4 million deal, which gives the Wolves money to play with in other free agency plans. That’s why resigning Tolliver is a no-brainer as well as a must. It really can’t hurt.

Predicting Pick #18

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The draft is very special to NBA fans, especially Wolves fans. Even without a lottery pick, the hype is still brewing and the conversations keep flowing. This is a guest piece from Nick Bullock, an experienced sports journalism guru. Like I said, the draft is so special that it needs a special guest. Call Nick our Draft Pundit, and this won’t be his last piece.

When I was asked to share my thoughts on whom the Timberwolves would draft this year, I realized I would first have to take my best guess at all 17 preceding picks.

I know which player I hope the Wolves draft. I have a hunch which player David KAAAHN would land in a perfect world — or at least in his world. And, of course, we all know who will be the No. 1 pick. But I hadn’t thought much about picks No. 2–17.

First, as an aside: I am not Jonathan Givony, Chad Ford or Jerry Zgoda. I have not attended the NBA draft combine. I do not have any scouts on speed dial. All of these picks are based merely on what I have seen from each player. The picks represent what I think each team will do, not what each team should do. Finally, I will not offer an explanation for picks No. 1–17 because this is, after all, a Timberwolves blog.

To the mock draft:

  1. Hornets – Anthony Davis, PF
  2. Bobcats – Bradley Beal, SG
  3. Wizards – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF
  4. Cavaliers – Harrison Barnes, SF
  5. Kings – Thomas Robinson, PF
  6. Trailblazers – Damian Lillard, PG
  7. Warriors – Andre Drummond, C
  8. Raptors – Dion Waiters, SG
  9. Pistons – Meyers Leonard, C
  10. Hornets – Kendall Marshall, PG
  11. Trailblazers – Jeremy Lamb, SG
  12. Bucks – Tyler Zeller, C
  13. Suns – Austin Rivers, SG
  14. Rockets – Jared Sullinger, PF
  15. 76ers – Perry Jones III, PF
  16. Rockets – Arnett Moultrie, PF/C
  17. Mavericks – Terrence Ross, SG

Here we are. And here is what we know:

  • Minnesota desperately needs perimeter scoring.
  • Luke Ridnour is a point guard, not a two-guard, even though he played the position admirably.
  • There is no SG or SF in KAAAHN’s mind; both are simply “wings.”
  • Despite Pek’s quantum leap forward in his second year, KAAAHN still seeks a shot blocking big.
  • Rick Adelman was openly reluctant to do so, but he still gave Derrick Williams 21 percent of the team’s minutes at the three, according to Williams can be considered nothing but an abject failure at the position so far, though I hold out hope that a slimmer Williams may be able to defend the position. Adelman probably lacks such faith.

All of this leads me to think the pick will end up being Quincy Miller, former Baylor small forward. I also have a nagging fear that KAAAHN likes former St. John’s small forward Moe Harkless at this spot.

But let’s focus on Miller. Like his teammate Perry Jones III, Miller never quite lived up to the hype his freshman year at Baylor. He averaged 10.6 points and 4.9 rebounds in 24.4 minutes per game. He shot 44.7 percent from the field, 34.8 percent from three and 81.6 percent from the line. The 6-foot-9 forward does not appear to be the most explosive athlete, but perhaps this was because he was still recovering from an ACL tear suffered during his senior year of high school.

Miller has a game that leaves you wanting more. He has a pretty good handle for a small forward — something Wolves fans long for after watching Wes Johnson turn the ball over on his every foray into the paint.

Despite a low and slow release, he possesses a relatively accurate jump shot and should be able to hit the NBA three after a year or two. The poor release may not be a huge issue because Miller is quite tall for a small forward.

Miller was able to get his own shot with relative ease at the college level, but because of his lack of explosiveness and average jump shot, I have my doubts as to whether that will translate. He also tends to rely on a bit too much on his pull-up jump shot. It often went in because of his height advantage, but that won’t necessarily be the case in the pros. He also overused a pretty looking drop step that he followed with an up-and-under move to his left, which he shot with his right hand. By the end of the season, defenders keyed on the move, staying home on the second move and forcing him to shoot a contested fade away. Again, he often made it, but he’d be better off using that move to post up smaller forwards and draw them in the air, instead of picking up his dribble off the drive.

Nevertheless, he has the makings of a decent offensive arsenal and should be able to score consistently at the next level. Defending opposing small forwards may be another matter.

Because of his skinny frame he was routinely pushed off the defensive boards while at Baylor. His impressive length (his 9-foot-1 standing reach was fifth-tallest at the combine) will help on the defensive end, but his middling foot speed will likely prevent him from every being more than merely average. Although there is a possibility that could also improve as he distances himself from the ACL surgery.

This is an imperfect comparison, but the way he moves with the ball reminds me of a poor man’s (a very poor man’s) Kevin Durant.

Perhaps, I have been a bit too harsh. I do think Miller could be a third scoring option on a winning team, and a definite improvement at the small forward position for these Timberwolves. In fact, if the draft plays out just as I projected above — doubtful, I realize — this is the pick I would make, not just the pick I expect the Wolves to make.

Most draftniks seem to think KAAAHN would still prefer to move this pick, perhaps packaged with Williams, to bring in a veteran wing. This is the same old song and dance as years past, so I remain skeptical the pick will be moved.

As for the player I think KAAAHN hopes will fall and the player I hope will fall? Well, let’s just save those for a future post.

Kevin Love named to All-NBA Second Team

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Kevin Love was named to the All-NBA Second Team

Today the NBA announced its All-NBA teams, and, needless to say, Kevin Love was elected to team numero dos. Now, honestly, this honor means next-to-nothing except that Love must’ve had a very good season to the oblivious simpleton, and his accomplishments didn’t go unnoticed by the NBA. But if these “teams” were legitimately concocted to honor the league’s best at their respected position, then I believe our very own K-Love should be shining alongside four others on the All-NBA First Team. Sure, a team of Kevin Durant and Lebron James playing the two forward slots is too good to be true but you can’t mean to tell me that either can play substantial minutes at the power forward position.

It’s no big deal but I guess it’s worth congratulating him for. He had one hell of a season, one certainly to remember, and, hopefully, it’ll only get better from here on out. Congrats, Kevin.

Rubio and Williams Named to All-Rookie Teams. Does It Mean Anything?

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Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams were rewarded for their rookie seasons on Tuesday.
Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams were rewarded for their rookie seasons on Tuesday.

Today the NBA All-Rookie Teams were announced with a noticeable Minnesota flavor. On the 1st team, Ricky Rubio joined Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, Denver’s Kenneth Faried, Golden State’s Klay Thompson, the Knicks’ Iman Shumpert, and Detroit’s Brandon Knight. On the 2nd team, Derrick Williams was joined by Irving’s teammate Tristan Thompson, Houston’s Chandler Parsons, Sacramento’s Isaiah Thomas, and New Jersey’s MarShon Brooks. That makes for an even 7 players on the 1st team and 5 on the 2nd team. Hold on, “even” must not be the right word there. Anyway, Rubio and Williams join Mike Beasley, Wes Johnson, and Kevin Love as the other previous selections currently on the roster. I’ll even mention that Jonny Flynn as a recent selection. How much stock can you put into these selections as far as figuring out a player’s career direction? Well not much.

(Edit: I spent over an hour trying to get a nifty little graph, chart, or anything that illustrated the various Win Shares Per 48 Minutes each recent Wolves All-Rookie had, but it wouldn’t take. So, here it goes: Love- .178; Rubio 0.070; Beasley 0.063; Johnson- 0.026; Flynn- -0.015.)

It doesn’t really mean too much. Whether they were 1st team or 2nd team, it’s difficult to guess how a player’s career will wind up. I mean, Beasley was a 1st teamer, but Love was a 2nd; who wouldn’t take Love over Beasley? Notice that it’s taken Beasley 4 seasons to amass a whopping 0.004 more WS/48 than Williams already. It’s sad. Looking at the point guards, it’s not even close in terms of career success to say that Ricky Rubio is having a better career thus far. These things really don’t mean much, but they can be a fun thing to examine.

Exit Interviews: Nikola Pekovic

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Big Pek,

Judging by this picture of you in the hospital, you must’ve been awfully distraught after being thwarted in the MIP race. I totally thought you had it in the bag, as did you, purely speculating from your pain-filled facial expression.

I’m just kidding. We all know you just underwent surgery, and we’re happy to hear that all went well and it was a success. The road to recovery is a long and trying path but we know you can overcome the tribulations and return to your battering ram form that took the league — and some of its best big men — by surprise.

Speaking of your elevated play this last season, we couldn’t be happier with how vastly your game improved from your rookie year to this. If you haven’t read Tom’s piece on why you should’ve won the MIP award, — yes, we’re still bitter — well, you should. But if you don’t find the time, allow me to ramble off some stats your way. Your PPG jumped up 8.4. We saw your shooting and true shooting percentages increase 0.47 and 0.34, respectively. You bullied your way in the paint much more, which led to an additional 4.4 RPG from last year to this. And you managed to increase your minutes on the floor without committing so many petty personal fouls.

But the biggest, and perhaps most frightening stat was the surge in your PER. You went from a posting a dismal 11.2 in 2010-2011 to a scary-good 21.4 this season, the second highest tally on the team behind only Kevin Love. Partly because of that, you and Love ended up forming a dangerous duo in the frontcourt that could very well compete, and even obliterate, some of the strongest front lines in the NBA.

Honestly, it’s hard to really capture and describe how much your improvement helps our chances at, well, improving. The bruising offensive style of your game beautifully contrasts Love’s new perimeter-hawking tendencies, which allows us to swallow up offensive boards better than anyone in the game, and we could tell you found a chemistry catching passes from Ricky Rubio. And your newfound fancy footwork in the post is simply outstanding. Paired with your special touch underneath, you made some of the NBA’s toughest post defenders look simply incompetent matched up against you. You were like Al Jefferson minus the jumpshot, plus a more battering, brute approach to your post game. It was just a phenomenal sight to see you blossom as your minutes increased this season. It’s just a shame that you had to go down with those nagging injuries, but, like I said, we’re not worried about your pending recovery.

But something continues to perplex me. How does one go from barely being D-League material to being considered a top 10, maybe top 5, center in the whole league? Was it a fluke? Or did you truly feel out the NBA game enough after that first year to become more comfortable? I don’t know which answer is right. I know which one I want to be true but we’ll never know until you fully recover from surgery and begin working on the court again this offseason.

The bottom line is that your unprecedented contribution this season were nearly unfathomable but truly a blessing. No longer do we need to search for a starting center, that is as long as your improve your defense and shot blocking ability. We’re likely not going to find a replacement any time soon because this franchise has never found a cornerstone center to hang its hat on but you’re the closest thing we’ll get to that. Believe me, that’s a compliment.

Exit Interviews: Wes Johnson

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Coming into the league as a 23-year old rookie, you were heralded as an “NBA-ready” prospect, but your rookie season was filled with lots of ups-and-downs. I guess that a rookie is still a rookie no matter how polished they are supposed to be, and, to be fair, you did show some flashes of promise. Then, you were handed a real point guard, and a Hall of Fame coach, and it seemed logical to expect you to build on the positives from your rookie season, while also getting away from the negatives as well.

“Supposed to”, were the keywords from that sentence I guess, as things didn’t go as expected…at all.  I still want to believe, but I’m quickly losing hope.

And here’s why.

Offensively, you went from an average player last season to an absolute liability this season. I’m not sure which metric to use to back that up with since your Usage Rate dropped as your Turnover Rate rose; your Offensive Rating fell 8 points from 101 to 93; and you were one of three players — Mike Beasley and Darko Milicic being the other two  – who finished the season with negative Offensive Win Shares, and wound up tied with Darko for last on the roster, overall.

I don’t like comparing you to Darko, Wes.

Many think your offensive issues could be psychological, which could be a better or worse case scenario. It’s as if you don’t trust your abilities, and play it safe instead of being an aggressive playmaker, which we’ve seen a couple of times (I think). Passing up open shots to dump it off to a teammate who’s double-teamed hurts the team, as does settling for jumpers when there is a higher percentage shot that is just a few dribbles away.

Maybe you don’t trust your ball-handling abilities, and that’s fine, we can all improve, but they won’t improve if you don’t dribble. Even then, you’re 6’7, and quick, which should enable you to take a quick dribble to get in the lane and get a better shot up. Although you’re not a great foul shooter, you need to get to the line more than 0.5 times per game. Heck, you were still last on the team in free throw attempts per 36 minutes (0.8 per game) by almost half a shot. 34 attempts in a season is not OK for a starter averaging 20-minutes per game. I know, the other team is sweaty, and it’s gross when they foul you because of that, but it won’t kill you, and ultimately wipes away.

To wrap this up on a somewhat positive note, your defense was average at best, but it was average at worst, too. By now, we may have figured out that guarding shooting guards isn’t your thing, as you gave up an Opp. PER/ 48 Minutes of 18.3, but just a respectable 15.0 against small forwards. In addition, your per 36 minute averages of around one block and one steal were nice to see. Still, if you can’t score on opposing perimeter players, your defense on them won’t matter as the team cannot continue to start a player that ultimately cost them wins on any end of the floor.

It’s foolish to dismiss a player after their rookie year, but adding that second season into the sample doesn’t offer much hope to extrapolate. It’s possible it’s not too late. I mean, most of us counted out Nikola Pekovic before the season, and he’s a couple of years older than you, so it is technically possible. I’m just not sure how likely that is anymore. I want to be wrong here, I really do. All I know is that it’s beginning to be too much to bear watching you struggle night in and night out. I know you didn’t choose to be the #4 overall pick a couple years back, but you were, whether or not you like it.

- Wes Johnson at Basketball-Reference

- Wes Johnson at 82 Games

Exit Interviews: Michael Beasley

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Oh, Michael, the good times we had...

Mr. Beazzz,

Upon your arrival in Minneapolis just two years ago, I couldn’t be more precise in saying how excited I, no, everyone was for you to grace our presence. A second overall pick practically given to us from the basketball gods seemed like just the thing to turn our misfortune and dismay around that the post KG era left us drowning in. Right off the bat you seemed to gel seamlessly into Rambis’ star-less offense and took on the bulk of the scoring. Alongside Kevin Love, you two seemed to unite a formidable duo that would ravage the West’s best for years to come. Love would throw two-handed, full court alley-oops to you as you ripped them through the net with such force and vengeance. Your defense was as impenetrable as the Great Wall of China. You finally turned into the superstar the NBA thought you’d become, lifting yourself to all-new heights, far above and beyond anything your childhood friend Kevin Durant has been able to accomplish in that two year span.

(Yawwwwwwwwwn…..) Was I just dreaming?

I apologize if the blurb above offended you in any way but it’s what we all expected from you, Michael. The pressures and expectations of the NBA officially proved to be too much to handle, while you tried to do your best to shape up your attitude and mature a little bit. And while we did see some great strides in your maturity in the last two years, I’m just not so sure that you’re the right person for this team right now.

The biggest reason for us letting you go has nothing to do with your performance over the last two years. We understand the player that you are and the things you can do on the court. Your offense is your blood, your baby, and it’s becoming more versatile as your grow. You are a serious threat to beat your man off the dribble and take it to the hoop for that patented floating jumper. But where you grew as an offensive juggernaut is the improvement on your deep 2′s and 3′s. From last year to this season, your three-point shooting definitely improved, and so did your shot selection on the perimeter.

You might not understand because your stats don’t agree but you really did make vast improvements this season. And you may also not understand why coach Adelman put you in the sixth man spot but it was what was best for the team. Honestly, having your scoring prowess to call on from the bench was a blessing in disguise while you were healthy. This very well could be your role in the NBA from here on out, so be ready to be placed into that spot on another team in the near future.

But, unfortunately, your role on this team is no more. We truly appreciate everything you’ve given us these past two years, but your price tag is too steep for what you actually offer this current roster and coach Adelman. It’s just not going to work out. So we bid you adieu and good luck finding a new home.

Timberwolves' Offseason Grade

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For those with ESPN Insider.

And for those without:


Key additions: Rick Adelman (coach), Derrick Williams (draft), Ricky Rubio(draft), J.J. Barea (FA), Brad Miller (trade), Malcolm Lee (draft), Robert Vaden (trade)

Key subtractions: Kurt Rambis (coach), Tony Ronzone (assistant GM),Sebastian TelfairLazar Hayward

For the first time in two years, GM David Kahn didn’t completely blow it. The talent on this year’s Wolves team is impressive. And coach Rick Adelman, one of the most underrated coaches in the game, seems like a perfect fit for what looks like a turbo-charged squad.

Ricky Rubio is finally here, too, and should be a really nice fit with this team, while Derrick Williams and J.J. Barea should add more firepower to an already potent offensive team.

Still, the question on everyone’s mind is, while a number of the individual parts look stronger than they have in a couple of years, will the team win enough games to matter? Give Kahn credit for amassing a number of assets over the years, but at some point assets have to turn into players and players into wins.