Timberwolves Announce 2014 Summer League Roster

The Wolves finally announced their Summer League roster for Vegas, which begins July 11th. As a warmup, the team will be hosting a scrimmage at the Target Center with Zach LaVine, Glenn Robinson III among others participating. Should be a grand ole’ time. Anyways, here is the official roster:

  • LaRon Dendy | Forward | NBA Exp.: R
  • Mamadi Diane | Forward | NBA Exp.: R
  • Gorgui Dieng | Center | NBA Exp.: 1
  • Kyrlyo Fesenko | Center | NBA Exp.: 5
  • Brady Heslip | Guard | NBA Exp.: R
  • Dennis Horner | Forward | NBA Exp.: 1
  • D.J. Kennedy | Guard | NBA Exp.: 1
  • Zach LaVine | Guard | NBA Exp.: R
  • Jordan Morgan | Forward | NBA Exp.: R
  • Shabazz Muhammad | Forward | NBA Exp.: 1
  • Glenn Robinson III | Forward | NBA Exp.: R
  • Alexey Shved | Guard | NBA Exp.: 2
  • Markel Starks | Guard | NBA Exp.: R

A few quick notes on the team:

  • Obviously everyone is excited to see LaVine, especially because athleticism can rule in summer league games because they’re so similar to college level basketball. But the three players that must look good no matter what are Dieng, Muhammad and Shved. Dieng and Muhammad are Flip Saunders’ guys, so they have to break that mold of recent years that the Wolves can’t develop young talent. As for Shved, he may be playing for his NBA life and a new contract. He might not even be a Timberwolf to start the season. Nonetheless, he still needs to show that he has some potential and hopefully that he built up his frame a bit this offseason.
  • Morgan and Starks are nice additions to the squad. Neither are expected to make a team this season but they’ll definitely play a part during pool play and beyond.
  • Fesenko is an interesting name. He’s bounced around the league because there’s not much true talent there. But you can’t teach a guy to be 7-foot-1, 270 pounds. He’s an immovable object on the glass, if only he could shore up his defense a tad and learn some type of post move. He could end up being a decent option off the bench as a final big man.
  • I’ll bring it back to LaVine and Robinson III now. What we want to see out of both of them is an emphasis on team ball. Let Muhammad, Dieng and Shved shine while not completely surrendering your worth. I’m not nearly as worried about Robinson III in this regard as I am with LaVine because he played that role in college. LaVine, on the other hand, could easily let things get out of control, which could ruin his summer league experience and chip away at any confidence.
Zach LaVine, the Wolves 13th overall pick in 2014 NBA Draft

Timberwolves 2014 Draft in review

Zach LaVine, the Wolves 13th overall pick in 2014 NBA Draft

Zach LaVine, the Wolves 13th overall pick in 2014 NBA Draft

The NBA draft is over. You can exhale and safely bring back out the top-shelf liquor and crystal-ware to pour yourself a drink. After all, you deserve it! You stayed up late and watched the whole thing, didn’t you?

Well, in case you didn’t, here’s a very brief recap with a more in-depth analysis below:

  • Wolves take UCLA G Zach LaVine with the 13th overall pick
  • Wolves take Michigan G/F Glenn Robinson III with the 40th overall pick
  • Wolves sell the rights to the 44th overall pick (Markel Brown) to the Nets for $1 million
  • Wolves sell the right to the 53rd overall pick (Alessandro Gentile) to Houston for unknown amount

So, the Wolves had four picks heading into the draft and took just two players but probably made enough money in their two sales of second rounders to nearly pay LaVine’s first year salary. Nice! But let’s get into what really matters: The selections of LaVine and Robinson III.

Let’s kick things off with the first choice. Zach LaVine didn’t make the greatest impression on the Wolves community by saying a curse word — it started with an “F” — after hearing his name and “Minnesota Timberwolves” in the same sentence.

But can you hardly blame him?

LaVine is an intriguing prospect from — you guessed it — Minnesota’s favorite pipeline, UCLA. Although he didn’t play much during the season, in fact he only started one game, he still put up decent numbers as a sixth man. But what everyone truly loved about LaVine was his “potential” and all the measurables that go into scouting a player. But what really determines potential? To many, that means how well his game translates to the NBA. To me, it means his numbers, role and attitude/drive translates favorably to an NBA team.

Flip Saunders said, when he first started and reiterated when he was looking for a head coach, that he wanted analytics to become a part of the Timberwolves future when it comes to building the team. But, in an effort to completely throw that logic to the wind, Saunders did the opposite by taking LaVine, who is a complete testament to the old-school “eye test” when it comes to gauging a prospects, well, prospects of becoming a solid NBA professional. And by the eye test I mean you look at a guy and his measurables — height, vertical, wing span, hand size, shuttle time, etc. — in order to determine his fit and potential in the NBA.

But guess who will be the first to tell you that the “eye test” only goes so far: David Kahn.

Kahn was particularly keen on the eye test when scouting any draft. After all, it’s an old school measure of gauging a player’s transition and potential to the NBA. But in today’s stat-driven world, it’s an outdated method by immense measures. LaVine’s transitional statistics to the NBA are not good. In fact, LaVine’s per 40 minutes aren’t very good with just 15.4 points per game on 44 percent shooting. He’s not even close to good in terms of getting to the free throw line with just an average of three free throw attempts per game, despite a guy who’s athletic and likes to get to the rim. His true shooting percentage and effective field goal percentages are tempting but he turns the ball over too much and his usage rate was suspiciously high for a sixth man at UCLA.

Saunders falling for the eye test on LaVine is a critical mistake in the Timberwolves’ future plans. I don’t want to be the one to break him the news because I, in fact, have fallen for the eye test plenty of times, and often right alongside Mr. Kahn himself. Come draft time, I believed the Johnny Flynn projected to be an average NBA starter at the very least, and at the 6th pick, that’s not a bad deal some times. Then, with Wesley Johnson, I believed he was going to be another player with average starting capabilities. After all, he was long, had great size and defensive capabilities and could shoot the ball very well right out of school.

And then there was Derrick Williams. He was a little tougher to gauge, but in a draft that was so poor after Kyrie Irving, they really didn’t have much better of a choice. All three — Flynn, Johnson and Williams — turned out to be busts in Minnesota and put the franchise back about five years in terms of rebuilding.

Now, I’m not saying the LaVine’s fate will be very similar, but history lays out the path; the Timberwolves simply don’t draft well regardless of position in the draft. It’s a difficult reality to face, especially because they could be so much better than they currently are or ever have been, but the Wolves have been at the mercy of the draft’s crapshoot every season. It’s never been kind but part of that rests on the minds of the decision makers like Kahn and Saunders. In the end, there are new, innovative ways to approach creating a roster that fits the mold of your style of play and neither has been able to achieve that. Instead, both were stuck in the ancient ways of the eye test and have furthered the potential of failure for the coming years. I absolutely refuse to call Zach LaVine a failure before he appears before us in a Timberwolves jersey for at least a season, but forward-thinking with an emphasis on analytics has me skeptical nonetheless until he proves me otherwise.

As for Robinson III, he has a chance to become one of the best value picks of the entire draft, which Flip may or may not deserve credit for.

For starers, Robinson III is one of the more accomplished players in the second round, both in terms of statistics and team success in college. His per 40 minute stats are considerably better than LaVine’s in both of his seasons at Michigan. In most other drafts, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a late teens-to-twenties draft pick but this year was a tad different. Regardless, Robinson III played a big part in Michigan’s success the past two collegiate season, posting win shares of .178 and .142 in his freshman and sophomore seasons respectively. The regression in his sophomore season is a tad alarming, mostly because he was supposed to be the guy once Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. were out of town but that wasn’t the brand of basketball the Wolverines played, and if anyone reaped the benefits it was their key player Nik Stauskas.

Robinson III sorta just fell into Flip’s lap. If another name was called at 40, Flip may have had some explaining to do. Robinson III has a great chance to make the team, especially if Robbie Hummel is no longer an option — which he shouldn’t be. It’s not like Robinson III is a must-have on the roster, but he certainly adds a level of competition when it comes to making the squad, which is why he’s a great asset to have aboard.

If I had to give the Wolves a grade on last night’s draft, I’d have to say it’s INCOMPLETE. It’s a copout; I know that. But when you take a player like LaVine, who is such an enormous question mark, at a time where you really need players who can make an impact immediately, you’re taking on a huge risk. And as much as I like the Robinson III pick in the second round, it doesn’t make up for the fact that there were impact guys to be picked at 13 but you passed on them to take a potentially big project in the middle of a transitional period for the franchise.

If this were indeed a sign of things to come for the Wolves’ remaining offseason, I’d advise to brace for the worst. There are two things very wrong with what went down tonight that support that last statement. The first is that Kevin Love remains a Timberwolf. It’s not a bad thing but it means that you’re still skeptical of the offers on the table and that you don’t have a clear understanding of the direction you want the team to head in. Do we keep Love? Do we trade him? That sort of thing exactly. The second is that Flip has already publicly stated that he wants the Wolves to remain competitive and not go into any sort of rebuilding mode yet he took the most unpolished player in the entire lottery — perhaps the entire draft — at no. 13. What does that say about the direction of the team and where management would like to see things go from here? Doesn’t exactly scream “stay competitive” to me…

I have a strong gut-feeling that Flip doesn’t have any sort of plan for the present and the future states of the Timberwolves roster. Instead, he’s being very retroactive by sitting and waiting for things to change around him — like an unexpected trade offer for Love or the addition of Klay Thompson in a Warriors offer — but that doesn’t make the Wolves any better, or push the roster or future any further along in the present. Instead, that regresses the progress that was already taking shape because teams like the Mavericks, Pelicans and Nuggets are all making deals to get better as soon as they can.

That’s why I think the scariest part about last night’s draft wasn’t any of the picks they made or the sales they authorized; rather it was the general feeling of “what do we do now?” that seems to be resonating throughout the entire organization’s management, while the fan base is starting to slowly feel the rippling effect. Maybe it’s because Flip has never been in a situation like this before as the President and the Head Coach, but neither has a lot of employees. So buck up, dust off the best 5-point business plan you can find and present it immediately because the rest of us seem just as confused and lost as you probably are, Mr. Saunders.

kevinlove

Kevin Love Rumor Mill churning again

kevinlove

Kevin Love is a wanted commodity. You would be too if you can post a double-double as easy as tying your shoe. But now that he’s already let it be known that he’s not keen on staying in Minnesota past this upcoming season — with the ability to bounce thanks to David Kahn’s Kahntract that gave him in out after his third season — the rumor mill is moving fast with the draft approaching. And this time, the rumors could actually be truer than they were four weeks ago.

When the Love news broke out, the rumors went flying. That’s because a lot of people don’t have much else to do than to fuel the fire. But now it seems to be time where the Wolves actually have to consider the trades currently on — and even off — the table. Before we move further, check out current NBA future lines for the Minnesota Timberwolves and monitor how their odds move over the early summer as rumors come to fruition.

Many believe after yesterday that the Boston Celtics are the frontrunner. Why? Well, Chad Ford said so, DUH. But what also is interesting is all the hubba that Love stirred up when he vacationed the Boston. He caroused around the city like royalty and even met up with his agent and Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo to take in a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway. Then David Ortiz got into the mix – Damn you! He tweeted at Love offering advice of how to move from Minneapolis to Bo-Town, like a boss.

But if you move all the drama and passive-aggressive behavior aside, the Celtics have a pretty nice little package to send the Wolves for Love. The problem is no one truly knows what it is — if there’s an official offer on the table or not. The Celtics have multiple young, talented players like Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk. Then they also have the 6th and 17th picks in this year’s draft. Then, if you want, you can maybe even throw in Jeff Green as a possibility. Flip Saunders has stated that he doesn’t want to rebuild, if a Love trade indeed happens. You can’t blame the guy but not dealing Love because you’re only getting picks back as the headline is the wrong mentality. But I digress. If you look at all the pieces the Celtics could potentially offer, it seems like they’re a great fit to; 1) gain some young pieces as you address the future of your roster, and; 2) gain some players who’ve played in the league at least a couple of years. It’s the best of both worlds, methinks.

It’s not fair to jump all over the Celtics as the only logical landing point quite yet. Just because Ford has merit to say so doesn’t mean it’s even close to true. But get this: Darren Wolfson tweeted that he thinks the front office is sitting ominously quiet like it’s the calm before the storm. I think the night before the draft will be “take cover” time and then the night of could be a full hurricane of phone rings, espresso shots and stress. Just because the teams are what they are now doesn’t mean they will be the same way on draft night. Which is exactly why another team will plot and move to change their roster just to get the chance to make a move for Love. Maybe Golden State finds a third team interested in taking on David Lee and also sends a first round pick to Minnesota for the trouble. Maybe Sacramento bites the bullet and does perhaps offer the boat just to have a chance at having Love for one season. Maybe Chicago decides to challenge Miami’s decrepit Big Three with a newly formed Big Four (Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love and Joakim Noah) and clear enough space and assets to do so.

All I’m saying is anything can happen. The rumors will start to fly — with the one from yesterday being the first in a long while. I just know that it could be a bumpy ride, and the chances for disappointment are always greater than for success. But, perhaps, for the first time in just about ever, maybe the Wolves will be on the other side of the fence looking over, smirking in happiness. “Ha ha ha, have fun with that lethargic oaf of a star!”

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HTW’s 2014 Wolves Draft Board

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The NBA draft is less than two weeks away, and the Timberwolves currently hold the 13th, 40th, 44th and 53rd picks. Now, that’s a whole lot of picks that no one team should ever actually use unless they’re stashing Euro players. And with Kevin Love’s fate hanging in the balance, those picks are bound to move around for other pieces. Regardless of what happens, the Wolves know they need to add a young piece to this current group to shore up the bench or potentially find a new star if they end up trading the one the have now away.

There are tons of options for the Wolves to go with all those assets, with the 13th pick being the most coveted — aside from Love. In such a deep draft with even some legitimate potential stars at the top, there are going to be some names that can come in and push this team forward right away. HTW wanted to review those players and rank them accordingly to fit the Wolves’ needs/desires. This is different than Chad Ford’s Big Board or any other rankings or mocks you’ll see around the web. These players were ranked according to 15 different categories — from Team Fit to Marketability and more — on a scale of 1-10. Then they were weighted, added up and divided to find the average. What we have left is a number ranking from 1-10 on which player fits the Wolves best and therefore should draft.

Below is that list with some comments on how the board turned out:

Player:Overall Rating:Player:Overall Rating:Player:Overall Rating:
Joel Embiid9.87Shabazz Napier7.73Deonte Burton6.60
Andrew Wiggins9.87Bogdan Bogdanovic7.73C.J. Wilcox6.60
Jabari Parker9.53Clint Capela7.60Russ Smith6.60
Dante Exum9.33Mitch McGary7.60Isaiah Austin6.53
Noah Vonleh9.27Cleanthony Early7.60Walter Tavares6.33
Julius Randle9.27Thanasis Antetokounmpo7.60Patric Young6.33
Aaron Gordon9.20Rodney Hood7.40Devyn Marble6.33
Gary Harris8.73Zach Lavine7.33LaQuinton Ross6.33
Doug McDermott8.67Jordan Adams7.13Damien Inglis6.27
Tyler Ennis8.60Jerami Grant7.00Jabari Brown6.27
Dario Saric8.53K.J. McDaniels6.93James McAdoo6.20
Nik Stauskas8.47Kristaps Porzingis6.87Jordan Clarkson6.13
Marcus Smart8.33Glenn Robinson III6.87Nick Johnson6.07
James Young8.27Jarnell Stokes6.80Artem Klimenko5.93
T.J. Warren8.27Jahii Carson6.80Josh Huestis5.80
Adreian Payne8.27Sean Kilpatrick6.80Johnny O'Bryant5.73
Kyle Anderson8.20DeAndre Daniels6.67Visillje Micic5.47
Elfried Payton8.07Spencer Dinwiddle6.67Rasmus Larsen5.47
Jusef Nurkic8.07Nikola Jokic6.67Casey Prather5.40
P.J. Hairston7.87Dwight Powell6.67C.J. Fair5.27

 

  • So, let’s play a game. Say the Wolves make a deal with Cleveland for the first overall pick and a combination of Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, and Anthony Bennett by sending Kevin Love over. Now they’re on the clock. What do they do? Based on the board, they can’t go wrong flipping a coin over Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins. Embiid has a higher ceiling — the Hakeem Olajuwon comparisons are no joke — but has a ways to go before he reaches it. Wiggins fits the Wolves roster better right now. He might have a lower floor because he’ll be a Kawhi Leonard type of player early on but clearly needs guidance and will not be to go-to guy, especially on offense. If that’s the case, and you had to trade Love away to get to the top spot, I think you lean on Embiid because of the chance he has to become a superstar one day. The least you can do by trading your star away is getting the chance to blossom another, so that’s why I think Embiid would be the pick, despite the logjam they’d have at center. That would work itself out through trades later on.
  • Jabari Parker is without a doubt the third guy on the Wolves list, although I wish he were higher. Personally, I’d take him over Wiggins, but given the Wolves’ current makeup, Wiggins slides into the lineup much easier. I still believe Parker could be the best player from this draft in the end.
  • Once the top tier is gone — Embiid, Parker, Wiggins — things start to jumble up for the Wolves. We have Dante Exum with a narrow lead over Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon. I think like every other team, this is the core of that second tier of players. Exum has a slight lead just because I think he fits alongside Rubio better than what other people might think. And if Rubio can work out that three-point jumper a bit, he plays off the ball just fine, when Exum might have to take things off the dribble on his own. But I think the Wolves are high on all three of Vonleh, Randle and Gordon, especially if they’re moving to a future without Love. Vonleh and Gordon can both play in Minnesota alongside Love, whereas I see Randle as more of a desperate replacement if Love’s traded. If it were me, and I had a choice between the three forwards, I’d probably go with Randle because he’s the only one with a refined offensive game, which is very versatile.
  • Gary Harris and Doug McDermott come in next because they can shoot it. Along with Nik Stauskas, who is 13th on the board, these guys can slide in perfectly off the bench. I like Gary Harris the most but almost sure he’ll be be gone before the 10th pick. Stauskas could be overdrafted come draft night, and I’m still not entirely sold on McDermott. He doesn’t have the size or athleticism to do what he did in college, which was special. A great player but not worthy of a top ten pick, if you ask me.
  • An update here, Chad Ford reports that Dario Saric IS staying in the draft. Thank God. This dude rules. I mean, I’m really bullish on Saric. Problem for the Wolves is they need help now, and just because Saric is entering this year’s draft, does not mean he’s going to be in the NBA next season. He’s a wonderful talent who could excel in the NBA but other teams know that; he’s definitely no secret. Saric will get drafted before 13th, so the Wolves would have to move up in order to get him, which probably isn’t the right move.
  • Marcus Smart is one many are debating. He would’ve been a top three pick last season but went back to school, and things didn’t necessarily go as planned. Now that he’s doing workouts and showing teams that last year’s woes were just a fluke, he’s starting to rise back up the boards. Would I take him over Exum if I needed a point guard? Hell no. But he’d probably be the next-best guy, right? Not so fast. For the Wolves, they need someone off the bench who can slide into being Rubio’s no. 2. Smart is a leader, a go-to guy, and as hard as it might be to pass him up, Ennis seems to fit the mold of what Minnesota’s looking for in a backup point guard. That’s why I think Ennis is they guy over Smart for Minnesota.
  • Everything is really jumbled after the 14th guy on the board. If the Wolves some how move back in the draft, they’ll definitely have a hard time picking one guy to justify. Guys like T.J. Warren, James Young, Adreian Payne, Kyle Anderson, Elfried Payton, Cleanthony Early and Rodney Hood all are solid options. Guys who can legitimately play the 4 are better options — Payne, Anderson — because the Wolves have depth at the 3 with Brewer, Muhammad and Budinger. If there was one 3 I’d like to see them go with, even at the 13th pick, it’s Young. I think Young is an intriguing prospect given his size for the position and ability to shoot it from deep. He’s a consistent scorer, and although he struggled a tad in Kentucky, he could become another Eric Bledsoe kind of guy, where people overlooked him based on one year under Coach Cal.

There’s much more to go over, so let’s move the conversation to Twitter. Hit up @Howlintwolf with your opinions on the draft board and who you’re keeping a close eye on.

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Country Club Welcomes Former Members

It didn’t take long for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ President of Basketball Operations, Flip Saunders, to begin implementing those that will ultimately become his coaching staff. The organization’s Country Club complex is the focal point of offseason criticism, predictable are the decisions of Glen Taylor and Saunders, and that selective, mythical group of members grew larger on Friday.

Sidney Lowe and Sam Mitchell are the newest members of Flip’s coaching staff, entering the 2014-2015 season. Lowe was a member of the Wolves during their first year as an NBA team as well as an assistant and head coach in multiple stints. He returns to Minnesota after spending last with the Utah Jazz under Ty Corbin– Corbin and Lowe were teammates during on that inaugural Wolves team of ’89-’90. Mitchell was a Timberwolf from 1995-2002, and played under Saunders in his first go-around as head coach ['95-'05]. Mitchell received NBA Coach of the Year honors in 2007, but failed to sustain a win percentage over .500 in his four-year stint with the Toronto Raptors.

The troubling notion presented by these changes among the Wolves staff is how predictable they are. Because insanity is defined as; repeatedly attempting the same action only to yield similar results, time and time again, the foretelling result will undoubtedly be failure. Still, the future remains uncertain until the unfortunate, cyclical results are, again, duplicated. Henceforth, the sharper criticism with the employment-turnover is directed at those leaving to make room for the new, Saunders led coaches regime that’s beginning to implement itself with each passing day in the month of June.

Although David and R.J. Adelman, sons of Rick, will remain employed by the Wolves for the duration of their contracts [one more season], not every member of their father’s staff will be retained. The other night, I asked Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500 via Twitter about the fate of Jack Sikma. According to Wolfson, Sikma is free to pursue other employment opportunities, as the Wolves will not retain him for the 2014-2015 season.

Sikma was selected with the eighth pick in the 1977 draft, was named to the league’s All-Rookie team, and he eventually became an All-NBA defensive player before careers end. Sikma has spent the previous three-years under Adelman assisting in the area of player development. Back in March, Gorgui Dieng was announced as the NBA’s Rookie of the Month.

“It took a lot of effort, a lot of sacrifices.” Dieng told Mark Remme, “I get here before the other players and work with A.J. [head video coordinator Adam Johansen] and work with the other coaches that are here, and after practice I stay and work with Jack [Sikma]. So it takes a lot. It’s just the beginning.”

Dieng’s surgence in the latter portion of his rookie season was a product the coaching staff. In his 33 appearances before the All-Star Break, Dieng averaged only six-minutes per outing and barely managed to average over one point, and rebound, within that time [204 total minutes]. After that, because of injuries to Nikola Pekovic and Ronnie Turiaf, Dieng saw triple the workload in games played after the All-Star Break– though he proved himself very capable of potentially becoming a pivotal role-player that any team would covet when constructing their roster. His post-ASG averages [nine points, eight rebounds per game] were obtained while playing just over 20 minutes in each of Dieng’s 27 appearances.

How much of Dieng’s production can be attributed to the added effort put-forth by he and Sikma remains to be seen.

Searching for equilibrium, Ryan Saunders, Flip’s son, and an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards. He is expected to join his father alongside Mitchell, Lowe and remaining members of the Wolves staff after his contract expires on June 30th. [Ryan] Saunders aided in the development of a program titled Gametime Concepts, a statistics program used by various NBA/NCAA basketball teams. According to his profile on NBA.com, [Ryan] Saunders has been instrumental in assisting with the preparation for upcoming opponents with extensive scouting reports and statistical analysis.

While the congregating of these Country Club members insinuates that the era of futility that convides the Timberwolves to the doldrums of the NBA, deserving or not, this collection of basketball minds will have the chance to redeem and illuminate themselves under new light. With a fresh start, this bunch will have a lot to prove as they prepare to enter the 2014-2015 season.

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Cloudy Beginnings

Glen Taylor sat aside Flip Saunders, Friday, as the two explained why the decision was made to appoint Saunders as the Minnesota Timberwolves head coach, heading into the 2014-2015 season.

Although, as the press conference morphed from an explanation into an interrogation, the mood was the same throughout questions, and there were very, little laughs. Saunder’s quoted himself, reminding viewers that when he took the job it would require Saunders to ‘roll up the sleeves’ and ‘get his hands dirty.’

Taylor, begrudgingly, admitted that he hadn’t intended to allow Saunders to step-down, but alas; both answered intelligible, formulated questions meant to provoke the plan Taylor and Saunders have for the second-coming of the organization’s winningest coach.

“If we would have found a person that Flip would have recommended that fit our style,” Taylor told media,” we would have just moved ahead.” 

Taylor’s body language presented the notion that he isn’t excited about the imminent future with the Wolves, and he did everything but tell the media that he would have never made this decision if Flip hadn’t talked him into it. And, appropriately, Flip spoke with the more convincing tone, answering questions about a potential ‘coach in waiting’ candidate and portraying the heavy evaluation process that the staff will forgo in the following months.

“We evaluate players, scouts, assistants, developmental coaches,” Saunders said,”we’re going to put together our best staff, right now, for our team”

The underwhelming press conference left the audience with very little answers, but most of those that cover, or are a fan of, the team know that Saunders stepping down is merely the first of two proverbial shoes that will drop sometime before the end of the 2014 NBA Draft.

A glimmer of clarity revealed itself on Friday, and although the Wolves know who will be coaching them next season, the team’s best player in recent memory remains on the roster. Despite the storm of rumors that have gone on over the previous month, Kevin Love remains a Timberwolf. As for Flip Saunders the coach, it would be irresponsible to presume how he will perform based on an outdated sample, but it seems fair that nobody expects much from him just yet. Those critiques, whether they be praises or criticisms, won’t begin until the “Summer of Love” has long since passed.

 

 

Coachelor

The Coachelor – Episode 3

Coachelor

Written by: Nick Allen and Jonah Steinmeyer

PREVIOUSLY ON: The Coachelor

After Mark Jackson and Lindsey Hunter became the first two coaches to depart from the competition, it was time to spend a little more one-on-one time with the eight remaining candidates. Things became a bit tense as Billy Donovan and Sam Cassell needed to be separated when heated words were exchanged. Tom Izzo and Fred Hoiberg didn’t seem to have as much interest in the job as I would have hoped and it was ultimately the two of them that would be sent home. There have been some new developments surrounding the team in the past week and it will be interesting to see how the six remaining coaches take the news as soon only four will remain.

THE POWER OF LOVE

I initially thought about trying to hide the news or at least downplay the reports that Kevin Love basically wants out of Minnesota. At first I thought the timing couldn’t have been worse. Here I am putting my heart out there for the world to see and now the discussion is how much longer I’ll be able to keep the star in town. I decided not to confirm or deny the reports, but instead use them to see who ultimately had less interest now that Love may not be a part of the organization come next season. It was time to give the contestants an opportunity to ask me some questions in an effort to weed out the serious contenders a little better.

I didn’t have a specific order in mind for this go around, but apparently Sam Mitchell was incredibly anxious to talk to me first. I figured there would be no harm to it, until he came storming into the office I waited in and slammed a manilla folder down on the table in front of me. I began to reach forward to examine what exactly had the man so fired up, but Mitchell snatched the folder up as he began sounding off:

“How in the hell do you expect me to help this team when your best player won’t even be here?! You completely missed the playoffs this season with him being healthy and you’re asking for immediate success in return from the guy that takes over coaching the team?! Listen, we definitely had some good days together, but you’re asking quite a bit of anyone that fills in.”

He put the folder back down on the table as he looked at me, waiting for a response; an answer to his questions. Anything. I picked up the folder, making sure he wasn’t about to pick it up again, and opened it to discover articles and blog posts about what exactly this news surrounding Love meant. A lot of it was speculation, truthfully, which led me to believe Mitchell just wanted to understand the situation better. However, I wasn’t very fond of how Mitchell went about trying to find out. I told him that everyone must overcome challenges if they are to succeed at the highest level. Whether Love is with the team or traded somewhere else, it doesn’t matter; success remains the goal and expectation.
This wasn’t exactly what Mitchell was hoping to hear, apparently. He thanked me for the opportunity to compete for the position, but told me he was no longer interested in becoming the head coach of the Timberwolves and withdrew himself from the competition. I had a feeling this might happen with one of the contestants, but I was a little nervous about this only being the first to talk to me. How strongly would the others feel on these matters? Would anyone else just get up and walk out like Mitchell? Before I had a chance to talk to anyone else, some representatives of the NBA overlooking The Coachelor wanted to talk to me.

I was informed that, due to two of the contestants voluntarily leaving the show, another coach was going to be brought in for me to interview. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised. Who could be willing to join the competition after all of these rumors have been flying around? The representatives said the new person wouldn’t be joining until after this round of cuts, but that I would still have to eliminate two of the coaches despite Mitchell leaving The Coachelor. I wasn’t too thrilled about that. I was already having a tough time trying to determine which two would be cut from the six remaining, but the pressure of cutting two from five was even more immense.

My head was elsewhere and I decided to change things up a bit. Instead of meeting with everyone individually after talking to the NBA reps, I decided I would bring the five remaining coaches together and talk to them as a group. I explained that Mitchell had decided to leave the show, which some of them expected. Then I dropped the bomb that two of them would still be leaving by the end of the night and that yet another coach would be joining the competition after these cuts. This news didn’t thrill the contestants, as expected. George Karl guffawed, presumably expecting me to tell them it was a joke. The baffled smile slowly crept away from his face after he realized how serious things just became.

I had to tell them that things are what they are in Minnesota. While no promises can be made when it comes to the Wolves organization, it doesn’t mean I’m a completely lost cause! I expected to come here and fall in love with one of the coaches, not have to answer questions about Love. While some of them may have been displeased with the lack of facetime they got, all I needed to know was whether or not they still had any interest in coaching the team. This was their out, any of them could walk out now or remain on the show…

ROSE CEREMONY

As I sat thinking about my decision coming ahead, I felt like the drama was never going to end. I almost just wanted to call Rick (Adelman) and beg him to come back. But I knew that wasn’t right. All I have to do is breathe, slow my mind and make a decision.

Easy for you to say.

I gathered the remaining five coaches. We’re all used to this part by now but there’s still no denying the pressure it puts over each and every one of us. But, nonetheless, it had to be done. I picked up my first rose and decided I’d say a few words about each one receiving a rose tonight.

“Flip, come get your rose. It’s been hard for me to envision us getting back together in this capacity but I’m warming up to the idea every day. There’s just something about your charm that keeps me thinking ‘What if?’ Will you accept this rose?”

“Next, is you, Billy. Although I know your home is much different than mine but I appreciate how you’ve actually entertained the idea of coming to Minnesota. You’re much different than how Tom and Fred acted with me, and I like that. Please accept this rose.”

“And, finally, this is a really difficult decision for me. You three (Karl, Cassell, Hollins) each have a different, unique connection with me, and I appreciate you all. But I can only choose one. So…”

“George, come on up here! You and I don’t have a lot in common but I can see that you have a general interest in me. I want to see more of that in the coming weeks. All I ask is you not give up on me!”

And with that, Cassell and Hollins were gone.

“Look, Sam, I know that we’ve had our moments together. But I just don’t think you’re quite ready for a head coaching role quite yet. When you think you are, I want you to keep me in mind. And, Lionel, you’re resumé is outstanding and you’re an honorable man with ties to my city, but I want you to consider other opportunities. There’s going to be a special place for you like in Los Angeles or New York. You’ll get your dream job soon enough.”

Next Week on The CoachelorJust as the NBA promised, another coach was going to join my search quite unexpectedly. I mean, why so late in the competition? Does the next contestant even stand a chance considering all the time they’ve lost since we started? How will they get along with the other coaching candidates? Whoever it is, I’m both excited and nervous for them.

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The Kevin Love Roundtable – Part 2

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Kevin Love tells the Timberwolves he doesn’t want to stay in Minnesota or even talk a contract extension and all hell breaks lose. We wanted to give you, the fan, different takes and opinions on the sticky situation. This is Part 2 of our Kevin Love Roundtable discussion featuring Nick Allen, Zachary Bennett, Derek James as well as myself, Jonah Steinmeyer. 

Jonah Steinmeyer: I think regardless of which stance the Wolves decide to take, Kevin Love isn’t staying past two more years, at most, and will be traded at some point to at least cash in on part of his value. Because of that, I want to bring up a piece done by Phil Mackey of ESPN 1500. He wrote about what teams received in return for making a big-time deal using Win Shares as the measurement of comparison. For instance, he rated the Dwight Howard trade of 2012 to the Lakers in favor of the Magic because the pieces they eventually returned on Howard’s 15.6 win shares added up to be 23.3. That number comes from the likes of Arron Afflalo, Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless and more. Now those pieces didn’t come from L.A. directly, so what that tells me is that a trade is going to be about adding assets, not just a “player.” That means Flip’s going to have a hell of a hill to climb in the coming years that will tell the future of this franchise.

So what I want to ask you guys is what kind of return are you looking at cashing in on, if we all agree that a Love deal — at some point in time — is inevitable? Players that can play now? Expiring cap contracts? Young players/draft picks? Can you come up with a deal you’d consider right now, given the rumors out there?

Zachary Bennett: I’m going to the answer this question but i don’t want to be taken all that seriously, readers. Grabbing the pick that we gave the Phoenix Suns for taking Wes Johnson, back, in a deal that also brings the top-5 protected pick, a role player, and a starter our way would be nice. Although, that would never happen. Something that involves the Golden State Warriors sending Klay Thompson and Draymond Green would be nice. I have an irrational liking for Green, especially. Have to imagine the Wolves try sending Pekovic or Kevin Martin with Love just to rid themselves of questionable contracts, so there will be a lot of pieces in any deal if it were to go down.

Derek James: This is what I’ve been debating on. Assuming that no major pieces move, the team could still be very competitive. So, acquiring a guy who could play now could make a lot of sense. However, it doesn’t make much sense since moving a top option on your team would defeat the whole purpose of trading for Kevin Love since you would want to win now and get him to re-up with you. Also, teams are generally not in a hurry to part with their best players, so it may mean taking on a contract that is less than desirable. Think what the Nuggets did in the Howard trade by taking on Iguodola. That’s probably what the Timberwolves would have to do.

Realistically, their best option may be to look at some combo of young talent and draft picks. I’m not crazy about loading up on draft picks because they are really an unknown quantity, so it would be ideal to get someone that has potential that we know at least something about. Really, you have no idea what is going to come of draft picks, so a young prospect would be what I’m after here.

Nick Allen: I would be more interested in receiving expiring contracts if I had more confidence in Minnesota’s ability to bring in some top free agents when said contract(s) expire(s). Kind of like Derek was saying, receiving players that can play now could still keep the Wolves competitive and in the race for the playoffs. One potential trade I’ve seen people talking about is Kevin Love for Harrison Barnes and David Lee from the Warriors. Now, we obviously have no idea if that’s something Golden State would even be interested in, but a trade like that would give the Wolves two starters in return. I would be surprised to see a deal like that go down, though. I’m anticipating, if a trade is indeed made, that the Wolves receive draft picks and young talent in return. Draft picks can seem nice on paper if you get some good ones, but again like Derek said, you never know what you’re gonna get in that scenario and leads one to wonder if it will just lead to rebuilding the team again.

Kevin Love was once the face of their franchise's draft lottery hopes

Kevin Love was once the face of the franchise’s draft lottery hopes

JS: In a perfect world, I think the Wolves get a draft pick this year, a young player with potential and a player who can come in and fill the void Kevin Love left behind, at least in terms of a dependable starter. But this isn’t a perfect world. Far from it, actually. Because this news broke nationally, this could actually give teams the chance to low-ball until the Wolves have no choice but to pull the trigger on a so-so deal.

Regardless of the return, a trade is going to reveal a new path the Timberwolves have to go down for the foreseeable future, and it could be awfully bumpy. Do you think this dawns yet another Post K.G. era? What are there similarities? Differences? And do you think it’ll indeed take another 10 years to get back to a similar point that the Wolves are at now after unloading yet another superstar?

ZB: No, and I’m going to have to look into this some more. I don’t see Kevin Love leaving at the end of next season being anything like post-KG era. Unless the unthinkable happens and the Wolves hire David Kahn again. I think things will eventually rise above mediocrity for this franchise, it’s just a matter of time. The fans have endured enough, it doesn’t get much worse when you think about the past here — at some point things have got to become successful. Or I’m just crazy.

DJ: I think that would entail another front office change and the selling off of Pekovic, Rubio and others to begin a true rebuild. The big difference between what the Timberwolves did now and then will come down to admitting when it’s time to blow it up instead of trying to piece together a fringe playoff team with spare parts. It could be a long time, or it could be a couple years depending on how things play out. But that’s the thing: there really isn’t a whole lot to know yet.

NA: I think the post-KLove Wolves would definitely be in a better situation than the post-K.G. Wolves. If Love is traded before the ‘14-’15 season, I don’t really see the Wolves making the playoffs for a few years still. 10 years? No, probably not that long. Oh, PLEASE not that long! Similarly to the K.G. situation, however, is that the Wolves would once again be without a star. A professional athlete reaching star status in the state of Minnesota is a coveted thing and I think it could deflate some enthusiasm for the Wolves. Rubio just hasn’t turned into the guy we thought he might become, at least not yet, and it would leave the team and the fans looking for someone to step up. In that case, I could honestly see Wolves fans simply hoping for the Wolves to make the playoffs and be content with the rare achievement, but it’s not enough. It’s never enough. And that’s why we found ourselves having this discussion.