Category: Opinion/Commentary

#TwolfRank: #9 J.J. Barea


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JJ Barea’s now the only true backup PG to Ricky Rubio in town

Welcome to the second annual #TwolfRank. It’s one of our favorite times of the year, to say the least. Here is the sixth part in this roster-long series. As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf), Tom (@Tom_NBA) and Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) on Twitter as well to partake in the fun.

There’s been turmoil at the point guard position in Minnesota before the season starts for about as long as I can remember.  Even the years they thought they had it figured it out, supplied with the likes of Terrell Brandon, Stephon Marbury, Chauncey Billups, Sam Cassell and more, they’d still run into some type of drama, which resulted in more turnover than Kentucky’s point guard spot.

So what’s the deal? Why can’t we hold on to a point guard for more than three years? Personally, I believe it’s a greater power that finds amusement in spitting on this franchise or even this state, for that matter, cursing nearly every facet involved in the process. But I digress.

Believe it or not, David Kahn tried to fix that problem. It’s no secret that Kahn used his power to stockpile tryout many point guards during his time here. Ever since picking Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn back-to-back in 2009, it was clear Kahn wanted to end the Timberwolves’ poor history at that integral position by not only adding a future staple (Rubio) but also adding depth to the position by bringing in players with sound ball-handling and passing skills (Luke Ridnour, Ramon Sessions, JJ Barea, Flynn).

The depth that Kahn created at the position was actually pretty astounding and very comforting at the time given the disastrous organizational history at that spot. There was a confidence that settled, at least in my mind, looking up and down those rosters. But then the problems continued.

Flynn flunked out of the league. Sessions couldn’t really score. Rubio tore his ACL. Ridnour was forced to play out of position, and Barea, quite the same, also dealt with a myriad of injuries in his two years here. That confidence in the position’s depth all but escaped and it seemed history was repeating itself.

Now here we are. Rubio is back and should be fully healthy, which means the starting spot is locked down (Fingers crossed). But with Ridnour’s departure back to Milwaukee, the back up duties solely rely on Barea. And that’s a big job but with true shooting guards in town, which means Barea won’t be forced to play at the 2-guard spot too often, he should be able to identify his role very easily and fall right into place (Again, fingers crossed).

The last two years haven’t been all that kind to Barea in Minnesota. He’s been a hero and a villain. He’s proved he can explode and change the face of a game and that he can blow it all up in less than 10 minutes of work. He’s shown us consistent and inconsistent stints in the same game.

With that bi-polar like approach to the game, Barea must show that he can take the backup duties and prove to be effective. It’s that plain and simple. Teams don’t ask much from their backup point guard. Typically it means playing 15 minutes a game, commanding the offense and creating opportunities for 1) your teammates; and 2) yourself. Barea has that ability but it’s the mental makeup and his struggle to overachieve that always seems to get in the way of an effective, efficient outing.

Last season Barea went through spurts of both good and bad on his way to 11.3 points and four assists per game. Respectable numbers for a backup. The problem was in his efficiency, which suffers during his “I can be the hero” stints. He improved his field goal percentage from last year to this but he failed to connect on more three-pointers than he did in 2011, which is an important part in his new, established role. And even though Flip Saunders made it a goal to sign more perimeter shooters, Barea is still going to have to show that he can make it from deep on a more efficient clip.

Barea’s prospects moving into the season look good. Finally, he has a distinguished role as the Wolves move into the season without any injury issues in the backcourt (Fingers crossed, third time’s the charm). A clean slate might be exactly what Barea needs to settle into his role as Rubio’s backup as well as the emergency plan to generate some serious offense late in games, which he definitely can do. I personally believe that Barea ought to be ranked higher than this because of the shallow depth at point guard and his abilities on the court, but here he is at #9 in our #TwolfRank and still important as ever. Let’s just hope history doesn’t repeat itself and the Basketball Gods leave the Wolves’ point guards alone for a season.

Here’s what you all had to say on Barea:

Want to take part? Look for one of us to tweet out who the next player will be and tweet us your thoughts on him using the #TwolfRank hashtag and we’ll throw your tweet in the post.

#TwolfRank: #11 Alexey Shved


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Source: AWolfAmongWolves.com

Welcome to the second annual #TwolfRank. It’s one of our favorite times of the year, to say the least. I bring you the third part in this roster-long series.  As always, you can follow Tom (@Tom_NBA), Jonah (@howlintwolf) and Derek (@DerekJamesNBAon Twitter as well to partake in the fun.

I think it’s safe to say that Alexey Shved’s rookie season didn’t wind up being what we or himself initially thought it would be. As a result, Shved’s performance turned into a source of frustration for fans and the rookie himself. And unfortunately we saw the side of Shved that we were afraid of and the one that Shved worked so hard to improve himself.

See, because of injuries Shved was asked to take on a larger role than anyone originally expected him to, and when things went sour, so did Shved. And it’s not entirely unfounded.

No, no I’m not condoning pouting, but Shved hit his rookie wall, and hit it hard.

See, in December Shved shot .420 and .355 percent from the floor and three on his way to averages of 11.4 points per game and 5.8 assists per game. I know what you were thinking at the time. You were thinking, “Oh, what a great sign from a rookie 27 games into his career! What a steal!”

Then, unfortunately for Shved, the rest of the NBA figured him out quickly and his minutes dwindled as his production did. Seriously. He never shot above .400 percent from the floor for the rest of the season, and only shot over .300 percent from three again once, when he shot .300 from distance in April. Before we knew it the once promising start was beginning to look like an anomaly, or a flash in the pan. Was it the attitude? Was it his smallish frame? Both?

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom as soon as the calendar rolled from 2012 to 2013.

Shved still managed to finish fourth — third if you don’t count Brandon Roy — on the team in Assist Percentage, demonstrating a willingness to set up teammates while also posting a near-average Usage Rate. Additionally, although his efficiency at the rim may have been perfectly average, it was still his best floor shooting spot, which may or may not be a good thing after all.

The answer for Shved may be to take on a smaller role– which he will. Well, so long as Shabazz Muhammad, the player ranked one spot below Shved in #TwolfRank, can prove to be a productive contributor. If each player can help each other adapt to the NBA slowly,the team will be better for it. If they both falter…I…I…don’t want to think about that right now. When you think about it, the Timberwolves don’t actually have much of a choice with their bench guards than to put their faith in two young players with questions concerning their maturity.

With the Timberwolves mass-injury troubles hopefully behind them, they can finally bring Shved along at the more deliberate pace they intended to last season. If a smaller role can bring back December Shved while simultaneously boosting his confidence long-term, Shved could possibly ascend up this list sooner rather than later. As for now, there are questions about which Shved is the real Shved, and how much more a 24 year old guard can improve since young guards mature quicker than bigs.  I’m not saying he can’t improve, especially since there is an adjustment period from Europe to the NBA, but historically, guards are approaching their apex at his age, which would be troubling if this is near Shved’s.

Sometimes, it’s important to — HERE COME THE CLICHES — walk before you can run! Take baby steps! Less is more! Actually, “less is more” is a good one to keep in mind with Shved, because that may just be the key to re-unleashing December Shved once again. Or better, because I’m too excited about average production.

#TwolfRank: #12 Shabazz Muhammad


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What do you expect from the lottery pick?

Welcome to the second annual #TwolfRank. It’s one of our favorite times of the year, to say the least. I bring you the third part in this roster-long series.  As always, you can follow Tom (@Tom_NBA), Jonah (@howlintwolf) and Derek (@DerekJamesNBAon Twitter as well to partake in the fun.

It’s been a very long, hard road for this 20-year old.

And please let me stress the “20-year old” part of that.

As fans of the NBA, many of us get caught up too much in the politics of the sport and forget to realize how young, inexperienced and mostly immature many of these rookies, second year, even third and fourth year players really are. On top of trying to become a sound professional athlete, they’re also learning the ways of becoming an adult — the exhausting process we’ve all experienced — or perhaps coping with the fact that they were shoved into premature maturity, if you will, at such a young age because of their talents.

As you may know, Shabazz Muhammad has already had his experiences with the situations outlined above. Touted as the best high school player in his 2012 class, he was forced to grow up early and swallow that inner-teen in him. But then it caught up with him. Stuck in the middle of mostly his dad’s mess that regarded an age discrepancy, Muhammad again had to “mature” faster than usual to explain his father’s mishap, accept responsibility and move on, something no teen would ever wish to go through.

But there were signs of Muhammad’s inner-self poking out throughout his time at UCLA. He showed glimpses of that immaturity any 19-year old would have by getting into tiffs with his coach Ben Howland or pouting when he didn’t get the ball, despite his team winning on a buzzer-beater.

Some would call it arrogance. But with a new veil over my eyes, I believe it’s simply immaturity, something that we all went through — or still may be going through — except without the added pressure of becoming a world-class athlete. It was a mistake for Muhammad to invite a lady friend over during the NBA’s Rookie Symposium but don’t sit there and point the finger when you probably had your girlfriend over after hours when your parents explicitly said no at that age or younger.

My point is, people make mistakes, and when you’re 17-21 years old, you tend to make even more mistakes than usual. This is why I believe it’s time to get over Muhammad’s off-court antics, which have been disappointing, but accept them for what they are in the time-being: complete and utter mistakes.

But I’m not letting Muhammad get off the hook that easily. Oh no. Just because I can sympathize with him through this tough transition from immature young adult to professional athlete with upstanding class does not mean I can dismiss his ailing on-court game.

Muhammad is a pure scorer. That’s always been an odd term for me but in Muhammad’s case it’s true; he simply knows how to put up points. The problem is that he’s never done it on a truly efficient level nor has he developed other parts of his game enough to make them even average at the NBA level.

At UCLA, Muhammad scored 17.9 points a game on 44-percent shooting. Not bad, right? But there’s still glaring weaknesses to the “scorer’s” methods. Muhammad is a volume shooter that likes to use his strength to get inside. The problem there, if you watch his tape, he favors his left hand (His dominant hand) way too much, which makes it easy for the defender to cheat. And he’s not all that big on the NBA level, even for a shooting guard, which means he’s already at a disadvantage. He does a decent job of drawing fouls, averaging just over five free throw attempts per game, but only converted on 71-percent them in college. The worst part is he will settle for an outside jumper before ever thinking of passing the ball off.

No one has yet to see Muhammad play within a structured offense that doesn’t revolve around him, which is why I’m both excited and terrified to see how his rookie season unfolds. He could become a complete mess, both lost and inefficient, just like Derrick Williams was. Or he could find a niche to utilize his scoring capabilities off the bench and be a real spark plug in that role.

For that reason and just about everything else I’ve already mentioned, Muhammad finds himself at 12th on this year’s T-Wolf Rank. It’s not because of his past or what talent scouts have said (Many think he could be an absolute bust, like a Jonny Flynn-type bust, due to his mentality, immaturity and family issues) but rather he simply needs time to grow — both on the court and off — and learn his place on the Wolves, in the NBA and in his own life.

Here’s what some of you had to say:

 

 

Want to take part? Look for one of us to tweet out who the next player will be and tweet us your thoughts on him using the #TwolfRank hashtag and we’ll throw your tweet in the post. 

#TwolfRank: #14 Gorgui Dieng


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Photo: TwinCities.com

Welcome to the second annual  #TwolfRank. It’s one of our favorite times of the year, to say the least. Here is the first installment in the series.  As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf) Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) and Tom (@Tom_NBA) on Twitter as well to partake in the fun.

Gorgui Dieng is ranked this low because, well, he isn’t expected to be making meaningful contributions to this team this season. And with the way this roster is built, that’s just fine, but the future is certainly what matters as far as Dieng goes. Really, this isn’t a bad thing, and although the Timberwolves are hard up for depth behind Nikola Pekovic, they will survive a 2-3 developmental years for Dieng.

At 6’11 and 245 pounds, he has the tools to matter someday. In college, he excelled in offensive efficiency, defensively ability, and on the boards, so he has the ability to become Pekovic’s backup someday as long as he develops properly. I mean, he may not be ready today, but there’s a reason the team invested a first round pick in the guy.

Until Dieng is ready, the Timberwolves will continue to feed themselves on short term deals for journeymen centers to solidify the backup center position. Perhaps a stint in the D-League, which Flip Saunders is a major proponent of, would benefit Dieng better than watching Pekovic and Ronnie Turiaf play ahead of him. Because no team with serious playoff expectations ever really gives a developing center major burn– those things just don’t go together.

What’s encouraging is that Dieng was still the same efficient player he was in college from the field and at the line during summer league, despite averaging 3.5 fouls and 2.2 turnovers in 15 minutes per game. But that’s what young players are supposed to do in places like summer league. Landing in Minnesota as a whole will be great for him because he can be brought along slowly instead of being thrown right into the wolves (excuse me.)

For now, Dieng is number 14 — last — but the idea is that he eventually ascends at least a few slots higher.

 

 

@OmidFerdowsi: @DerekJamesNBA I think he has the skill set to be like Ibaka. I see a lot of upside for him on both ends of the floor.

Want to take part? Look for one of us to tweet out who the next player will be and tweet us your thoughts on him using the #TwolfRank hashtag and we’ll throw your tweet in the post. 

Announcement: The Return of #TwolfRank


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It’s that time of year again where the Howlin’ T-Wolf crew — Jonah, Tom, and myself — get together to rank and discuss the Timberwolves roster player-by-player. And now that this is the second year, and therefore second consecutive year, you can say that this is now a tradition. Of course the best part is that, you, the reader get to participate via Twitter.

How does it work? 

I’m glad you asked!

To start, each writer ranks the Timberwolves roster from top-to-bottom (only including guaranteed contracts) and then we average them out to get one comprehensive list. Then each day we will (try) to reveal a different player each day with a post about the player. The part of this that makes this really fun is the #TwolfRank hashtag that we use. The day before we will announce who the next player is and then have our followers tweet us their thoughts on the player using the #TwolfRank hashtag. You can be funny, you can be serious– it doesn’t matter!

With that being said, look for the announcement from any of our accounts (Derek: @DerekJamesNBA; Tom: @Tom_NBA; Jonah: @howlintwolf) to see who the next day’s player will be, shoot us a tweet and we’ll use it in the post. Simple, I know.

If you missed last year’s, check it out here.

There’s a Time and Place for Everything: This Was Neither


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You’ve probably heard by now that Timberwolves rookie Shabazz Muhammad was kicked out of the NBA’s rookie program for having a female visitor, as we’ll word it. Which I suppose is relieving to know that it’s not drugs or anything, but it’s still not allowed, and still gets you kicked out. For someone who has been as scrutinized as Shabazz has the last year or so, this was exactly the type of thing that he didn’t need.

It’s not that he had a woman in his room; he is a 20 year old, after all. It’s the fact that he broke a pretty simple rule to understand. I think the other ones are no drugs, no weapons, no fighting or leaving the toilet seat up. Okay, I might have made that last one up…

To his skeptics this is exactly what they were waiting for– Muhammad to do something that could be taken as a distraction. To those following the team, this is a welcome break in a relatively unexciting offseason (Kidding!) And for those who supported Muhammad and believed he had wised up, they’re frustrated.

From everything that I’ve read and watched on Muhammad, he’s not a bad person by any means. In a lot of ways he’s undergoing the same growth that all of is did at that age just on a much bigger platform where each indiscretion is amplified one hundred fold. But still, he broke a simple rule that wouldn’t be a big deal if he literally did it anywhere else but here. Lesson learned: even the small rules are important.

This is one of those things that doesn’t feel like a big deal, but is a big enough deal to be talking about. I mean, was it really worth the likely-inevitable fine coming and having to answer these questions up until training camp starts? Couldn’t you just wait? (Well, maybe not. I guess I don’t really know.) This is one of those things they talk about staying out of your own way since this is entirely preventable.

One way or the other Shabazz got an idea how the NBA works whether or not he stayed for the entire program. Which I think is actually a pretty clever dual, either way, lesson for the NBA to pass on to incoming players.

Timberwolves Schedule Highlights


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With all of the overhaul in the front office and on the roster this offseason, there is understandably much hype for the coming season. Despite the upgrades that Flip Saunders has made to the roster, Wolves fans learned last season that you need more than just talent: you need luck. Yes, damn your hard work and in-born talent– sometimes the only thing that matters in the end is not landing on your ankle wrong. It’s unfortunate but, hey, what can you do?

Anyway, the Timberwolves kick off the season on October 30th against the Orlando Magic at home, and then turn around to face Oklahoma City, when Kevin Martin faces off against his old team.

Conversely, the Utah Jazz come to Target Center on April 16th to close out the 2013-`14 regular season. I say “regular season” because I’m hoping they have a post-season. I’m not trying to jinx anything but I’d rather spend May covering the playoffs instead of researching draft prospects for a change. It’s been 10 years and year 25, I don’t think I’m asking too much here!

The Timberwolves have a tough stretch in December that includes playing in Oklahoma City on the first, at “home” against the San Antonio Spurs in Mexico City on the fourth and the Heat make their lone appearance in Minneapolis on the seventh. And Dwight Howard will make his first appearances as a Houston Rocket at Target Center on February 10th and March 20th.

Kevin Garnett returns to Minnesota on November 22nd with the new-look Brooklyn Nets. This will also mark the return of former Timberwolf Andrei Kirilenko.

In February, Utah and the Timberwolves will play a home and away series on the 18th and the 20th. One can only assume the four days off will be because they are traveling by station wagon instead of flight.

As far as back-to-backs, the Timberwolves will play 20 total, including three in February alone. Hey, the All-Star break is for rest for a reason, right?

Ya know what? February sucks. Period. If being the month of the year that is also known as, “The Official Homestretch of Winter” wasn’t enough, the Timberwolves will also spend their longest time away from Target Center going to Utah, Portland, Sacramento, Phoenix and Denver in a stretch that lasts into March. Hey, at least they’ll have their longest homestand of the season (Four(Portland, Houston, Denver and Indiana) and winter is almost over.

One more thing before I go: who wants to go to the Bobcats game with me on January 10th? No one? Fine. I’ll go by myself.

Timberwolves Eyeying Matt Barnes?


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Now that the Timberwolves have seeming addressed their shooting issue by retaining Chase Budinger and bringing Kevin Martin into the fold, the team will look to round out their bench. Without much more than a few million in cap space remaining, any help the team will be seeking will have to be of the bargain kind. One of those names that’s out there and was mentioned by ESPN 1500′s Darren Wolfson was Clippers free agent Matt Barnes.

Barnes is one of those players that manages to sneak under the radar despite being a valuable rotation player just about every season. Despite playing for eight teams in ten seasons, he is a career .451/.331/.730 shooter who has never made more than $3 million in one season, so he would likely be affordable as well. Additionally, it will help that he has had very little in the way of an injury history and is still capable of being a 20-25 minute per game player if it came down to that.

According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles, the Clippers would be hard-pressed to bring in free agent Carl Landry and retain Barnes, giving the Wolves somewhat of an advantage. It’s not as if Barnes would command much of a raise from his ’13 salary of $1.2 million since he took a $7 million dollar paycut from 2012, so it’s not as if there would be some major bidding war here, and the Timberwolves would be able to save some space.

Should the Timberwolves go further into talks with Barnes and ink a deal, this is rough idea of what the roster would look like, not necessarily in any particular order:

C: Nikola Pekovic/Gorgui Dieng/Chris Johnson

PF: Kevin Love/ Dante Cunningham/Derrick Williams

SF: Chase Budinger/Derrick Williams/Matt Barnes/Shabazz Muhammad

SG: Kevin Martin/Shabazz Muhammad/Alexey Shved

PG: Ricky Rubio/Luke Ridnour/J.J. Barea/Alexey Shved

Of course, a lot of this could change and several players are likely interchangeable from position-to-position, but this is a seemingly deep team, especially if Muhammad can contribute even semi-consistently. As for Barnes, he would be able to perform in a similar role in Minnesota with Rubio as he did in Los Angeles with Chris Paul by getting open and waiting for the pass. In fact, Barnes shot .345 percent from three and was assisted on those .941 percent of the time, so he won’t try to do too much.

Shotchart_1372914109400

 

In particular you can see Barnes shot very well from the left side of the floor from beyond the arc and was an effective midrange shooter within the arc from the right side. If players like Martin (Click the link, DO IT), Budinger, and Muhammad are effective from range, Barnes’ efficiency will be just that much more valuable. Really, it would only diversify what should already be a  pretty potent offense if they were to bring Barnes on.

More than that Barnes is a decent rebounder for his position with an average Usage Rate and also doesn’t commit too many turnovers. At a salary around what he made last and on a short-term deal Barnes could really be a terrific fit for what the Timberwolves are trying to do as they work to finalize the roster before next season. I also decided that Matt Barnes is the hill I’d rather die on, instead of Nick Young.

Wolves draft analysis; Why you shouldn’t hate Shabazz Muhammed


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Shabazz Muhammed was taken 14th by the Timberwolves last night

And so concludes the 2013 NBA Draft. Although not chock-full of organization cornerstones or even all that talented players, the draft certainly had its fair share of twists and turns.

For starters, Anthony Bennett going first overall to the Cavs. That subsequently led to the fateful Nerlens Noel slide, which didn’t end all that badly for the Kentucky big man. Or how about Dallas’ moves that took them from 13th to 16th and back to 18th in the first round, just so they could save a little cap to go after Dwight Howard? Or even the Celtics’ plan to move up to take… Kelly Olynyk?!

Yeah, I know.

But let’s get to the reason why you’re here. How did our beloved Timberwolves fair in this draft?

Here’s a review of what they did:
- No one was available at the 9th spot that they really wanted, so the Wolves chose the B.P.A. in Trey Burke, only to trade him to the Utah Jazz from the 14th and 21st picks overall.
- The Wolves had options at 14 but opted for Shabazz Muhammed.
- With the 21st pick sent from Utah, the Wolves cold-called Gorgui Dieng (They apparently had no intention of drafting him in the first place) to be their selection.
- Originally they still possessed the 26th pick but then actually sold it to Golden State in a deal that also included Malcolm Lee for a future second round pick coming our way.
- The second round began with the Wolves having two spots, 52nd and 59th, and they kept both of them (Surprise).
- The 52nd pick was used on underrated guard Lorenzo Brown.
- The 59th pick led to a international draft-and-stash in Bojan Dubljevic.

As you can see, just on the Timberwolves behalf, a lot happened in the draft.

Starting with the pick that everyone cares about or at the very least has a strong opinion on: Shabazz Muhammed. In order to fully understand what happened, let’s go back in real time to break everything down.

Flip Saunders and the Wolves had a liking for Victor Oladipo — Who didn’t? But to move up and get him, the only real partner was Orlando and they were content on grabbing whoever with that 2nd pick because they just need bodies, talented ones at that. It would’ve taken a lot to get that pick, simply put, because of how prime Orlando’s position was, especially after Bennett had gone 1st overall. My guess is more than just a package of the 9th, 26th and Derrick Williams, which was rumored in just about every trade-up scenario possible. So because no deal was made, the Magic go home happy with a great player and the Wolves were forced to scratch player one off the draft board.

Their next target was Ben McLemore. He was more tricky to peg down in the draft because his talent is undeniable but his work ethic is questionable at best. Some were enamored, some weren’t. Regardless, he fit the exact profile Flip wanted in his 2-guard: Someone who could shoot lights out, doesn’t need to be the top scoring option and possesses good size at the position. McLemore slid compared to most mock drafts that had him in the top 5. For a brief moment, I legitimately thought he could’ve fallen to the Wolves at 9. But then I remembered this is the Wolves were talking about and, sure enough, Sacramento scoops him up with the 7th pick. That was tough to swallow because Sacramento is where talent goes to die a miserable death. Seriously, just go look at Tyreke Evans and Demarcus Cousins. It is not an ideal situation for McLemore and I truly hope his career doesn’t suffer because of it.

Moving on, there was still one player left who fit the bill of Flip’s ideal 2-guard: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. KCP wouldn’t be a lottery pick most years but because the lack of depth at the top of this draft, he was. Most mock drafts pegged him in Minnesota with the 9th spot. Hell, KCP even did too. But, in classic Minnesotan, heartbreaking fashion, the Detroit Pistons used the 8th pick on KCP, leaving nothing for Minnesota. Looking back, though, KCP wasn’t my ideal choice because he is unknown and could fizzle out very quickly in this league if he doesn’t have a good situation and doesn’t get out to a good start. But we’ll have to wait and see on that one.

So, just like that, Flip and the Wolves’ 1st, 2nd and 3rd scenarios for this draft were obliterated very quickly. They ended up taking Trey Burke — cue the point guard jokes from Bill Simmons — but surely not for their own. The pick was traded to Utah and they were left at the 14th pick.

Here’s where things get kind of weird. Rumor has it that the Wolves wanted Kelly Olynyk at 14. What the – If that truly would’ve been the case, Wolves nation may have considered sprinting to the nearest bridge on the block and hurling their numb bodies off. But no. Instead they stuck to the plan… Sorta. In Shabazz Muhammed, the Wolves get a pure scorer who’s done it his whole life. He’s not extremely talented or athletic or an amazing shooter but he’s been great at putting the ball in the hoop, which is the name of the game, right?

The Muhammed pick is still awfully disappointing to many out there, and I understand the pain because he wasn’t my ideal choice either. But as the timeline shows, it was the next-best option in a draft that had all sorts of twists and turns. Essentially, Muhammed was the fourth best option on the table, which really sucks that Flip had to resort to that, but at least it wasn’t the fifth, sixth or even seventh option, all of which David Kahn would’ve delightfully considered probably.

The best part is at least they didn’t have to reach for Muhammed. He was projected end of the lottery to the middle of the first round. It wasn’t clear who was willing to take the gamble but that’s where he was likely to go. So the fact that the Wolves were able to move down, accumulate a pick and still take their fourth best option is certainly a win in my books. That extra pick actually turned into Gorgui Dieng, who is more than capable of backing up Nikola Pekovic as a defensive specialist and someone who’s more efficient than Greg Stiemsma with a smidgen of upside.

The part I really don’t love about the trade/drafting Muhammed is what else we could’ve gotten out of Utah. What if they scored Alec Burks and the 21st pick instead of the 14th pick? Or how about the 9th and 26th picks for the 21st and Enes Kanter, who was reportedly on the block? There were better options available and now Flip is sort of holding his pants up, hoping Muhammed lives up to the pick. It’s also worth noting that the number one goal in this draft was to grab someone who could really shoot the ball, preferably from the 2-guard spot. They didn’t really get that. Not even in the second round. Muhammed is a capable spot-up shooter but he’s not going to wow from deep or be all that efficient either. That’s a big fail in my books. Even if they believe someone will be available via trade or free agency in a few weeks, we’re still looking towards 2013-2014 with no true starting shooting guard with a skill set that isn’t all that difficult to find. That is without a doubt the most frustrating aspect out of this whole fiasco.

So if you can understand that the draft simply didn’t play out to the Wolves’ favor, you should be able to comprehend the Muhammed/Dieng/Utah Jazz trade moves that swarmed the first round. All things considered, it made a great deal of sense based on both need and value to trade back and take a true scorer on the wing and a defensive-minded big. The problem moving forward is that there is still a gaping whole in the Wolves’ roster that will be difficult to fill moving forward into the offseason, when the draft would’ve been a useful place to fix it.

Without further adieu, here’s my grading of the Wolves’ draft:

  • Utah Jazz trade: C+
    Should’ve been able to get more from the Jazz utilizing Burke, the best point guard in the draft, as a solid leveraging point.
  • Shabazz Muhammed pick: B
    Bazz is a good player who gets a bad rep. He can flat-out score and that’s something the Wolves desperately need when Love and Pek are the only 16+ ppg scorers on the roster. His presence off the bench could be very helpful.
  • Gorgui Dieng pick: B-
    The Wolves knew they needed a wing and a big man in the first round. They got both even though Dieng wasn’t the best option. He does fill a hole on defense and could get better as he develops.
  • Trading 26th pick to Golden State: C
    There were some very talented shooting guards available here including Allen Crabbe, Alex Abrinnes, Glen Rice Jr., Ricky Ledo and Jamaal Franklin. Taking three first rounders isn’t ideal but when your need is available, you should cash in.
  • Lorenzo Brown: B
    He has first round talent, good size but was a major disappointment for NC State last season. A capable replacement for the injury-prone Malcolm Lee and at good value but that’s probably all.
  • Bojan Dubljevic: C-
    I don’t know who he is and we never will. Draft-and-stash players are close to worthless in the second round. Better off drafting someone like Trevor Mbakwe, making his night memorable and giving him a chance at a big-league squad.

By my math, that gives the Timberwolves a total draft grade of B- (And that’s rounding up), which makes this a passing and somewhat satisfying measurement of success.

Take note that this is simply the first day of draft analysis. We only have our intuition and projections to base this off of. That grade could very well go up or it could spin down faster than you could imagine. It’s all speculation to this point but at least it’s fun, right?

Now, as for the draft as a whole, it was entertaining. I can’t say that I’ve actually watched a draft from beginning to end before this one. I’m not entirely sure why that is but it might be the fact that all of these players — from Anthony Bennett to Janis Timma — are all graded so closely together. None are projected to be superstars but none are really projected as bonafide busts (yet) either. The talent pool, although not great, indeed had breadth, which made it fun all the way until the end.

My favorite moment: After a whole night of continuous booing upon the current and best commissioner the NBA has ever seen — perhaps the whole country has ever seen in any major sport — the tireless Brooklyn crowd gave David Stern quite the ovation on the 30th pick of the first round. Since Stern already announced his coming retirement, we knew that this would be the final pick he ever announces as the commissioner of the NBA. To thank him, the NBA faithful cheered him on as his career starts to wind down. Plus the Hakeem Olajuwon thing was pretty cool.

But that’s not even the best part. I lean over to my brother-in-law and say, “I bet they start too boo Adam Silver now.” And just like that, without missing a beat, Silver steps to the podium to begin the second round and is greeted to a wave of boos as playful but real as the ones belted out for Stern. The life of an NBA commissioner, huh?

My least favorite moment: Bill Simmons’ commentary. I’m not usually one to bash Simmons because I’m a Grantland junky and simply love what he’s done for bloggers and sports columnists everywhere. But the majority of his comments lacked any analysis whatsoever and at times seemed downright inappropriate  The fact that he brought up the Boston/Brooklyn trade about 8 different times made it difficult to view any longer with the sound on. I’ve been a fan of the tag team that is Simmons and Jalen Rose but the draft affirmed the fact that Rose out-analyzes Simmons on every situation in the basketball world. For entertainment purposes, Simmons is fine. But if you actually wanted something valid to spew out of his mouth, don’t get your hopes up. Oh, and by the way, his home team, the Celtics, royally screwed up tonight with that trade. Eat it, Bill.

More on Shabazz Muhammed


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It all started when it was announced that the Detroit Pistons were going to select Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the guard the Timberwolves had so coveted, with the eighth pick.  Not even Ben McLemore’s selection at seven sent fans’ blood pressure soaring since we never believed he would be there anyway and that it was nothing more than a fun thought to entertain. No, as soon as KCP came off the board the question became, “Now what?” Do they take C.J. McCollum, the combo guard, as a consolation prize? Or would they be better served trading out of their position altogether?

Well, they opted for the latter, selecting Michigan point guard Trey Burke for the Utah Jazz in exchange for the 14th and 21st picks.

The game began again with what to do with the 14th pick. Some of the options remaining included Sergey Kerasev, Mason Plumlee, and UCLA’s highly scrutinized Shabazz Muhammed. As we know the Timberwolves would select Muhammed, igniting a portion of the team’s fans.

“They’re gonna regret passing on McCollum!”

“Why didn’t they just keep Burke?!”

“Muhammed is Michael Beasley 2.0!”

If you’ve been following the hype leading up to the draft you are well aware that Muhammed was going to be coming with some questions, so this reaction shouldn’t surprise you. To many it sounds like there is almost no point in Shabazz even trying and whatever team gives him a uniform is destined to an eternity of futility. It’s easy to speak definitively when we get emotional about a subject we’re passionate about that we forget to take a step back and re-examine the situation at-hand.

Yes, he only had 27 assists over the course of 32 games last season, but that was at UCLA. Here, he won’t be the team’s go-to player and neither will he be the team’s primary ballhandler. In fact, if he becomes a ball-stopper by refusing to pass, he won’t play. We’ve seen it with Derrick Williams where he gives him these in-game teaching moments by benching Williams if he’s trying to do too much on his own and is hurting the team. In reality, Adelman may be the strong coach Muhammed needs to succeed at the next level. Systematically, Shabazz can fill the role of the catch-and-shoot player off of Ricky Rubio passes while helping to open up driving lanes for Derrick Williams and others to cut to the basket. No, he wasn’t elite in college (37 percent), but that figure is still good and he’s certainly young enough to continue to improve further.

While Muhammed isn’t a spectacular athlete, he’s a good athlete and his 6’11 wingspan will help him compensate for that defensively. Using Williams as the example once again, we’ve seen Adelman make serviceable defenders out of players with inferior physical attributes, so there is reason to believe that Muhammed could grow into a capable defender along the way. You can certainly change a 20 year old kid’s mindset from scorer to more complete player as long as they have the proper coach to instill that in them. Again, if he wants to get minutes he’ll earn them by doing things like playing defense.

You can point to his past issues with his birth certificate or his perceived attitude problems as reason for concern, but part of the reason Muhammed wooed the Timberwolves was the fact that he did own up to his prior issues. He’s young, naive, and made some mistakes because of that, but taking responsibility for them is a sign of maturity. The Timberwolves were also enticed by the fact that he’s a gym rat and willing to put in the work to get better. Plus, it will only be an added bonus if Muhammed comes in with a chip on his shoulder having fallen from top pick consideration once upon a time to a fringe lottery pick.

Perhaps I’m being positive here, but it’s a choice I’d rather make than damning Muhammed to failure from the get-go. Like any other pick, there’s a chance that it works out and a chance that it blows up in your face; that’s the draft for you. It’s not as if they gave up a ton to get him, and arguably received more in return considering the alleged depth of this draft and the fact that they were swapping the ninth for fourteenth. Being able to use both picks to fill separate needs isn’t too shabby, either. So, there are many reasons this could be a disaster but there are also several reasons why this could be a bit of a steal.