The Oklahoma City Model

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OKC cashed in with two lottery picks (Luck) but have also developed talent (Ibaka) and made smart decisions behind the scenes (Perkins, Harden). It's all apart of the "Rags to Riches Model" of the NBA

When one Googles the words “Oklahoma City Thunder model”, 9 of the first 10 results are NBA lottery level teams claiming they are going to follow the Thunder’s recipe for recent success. But what is this formula? And is it actually possible for other teams to follow it?

It seems overly kind to the Thunder’s brass to say that Oklahoma City’s success is based solely off making good basketball and financial decisions. After all…the whole franchise at the moment is built off a twice-lucky draft pick in 2007, lucky once because they were able to draft a franchise superstar like Kevin Durant, and lucky again because instead of winning the lottery and picking Greg Oden (the consensus number one at the time), they got the second pick…which turned out to be the real winner.

Not only did the Thunder score on Durant, they somehow won a superstar who was uninterested in the bright lights of Broadway or Hollywood. In the Summer of LeBron, of loud Decisions, documentaries, and even louder commentary, Durant quietly signed a 5 year extension on his current deal with the Thunder. Instead of announcing it on a one hour special on ESPN, Durant announced it on his Twitter feed, informing the basketball world that he was committed to winning a championship for Oklahoma City. No GM in the world could have seen a superstar like that coming.

Likewise, this current Thunder squad wasn’t going to be a true contender to defeat the Lakers or Mavericks out West without GM Sam Presti somehow encountering Boston GM Danny Ainge, the only executive in the league willing trade Kendrick Perkins, a defensive specialist against the biggest, baddest bodies in the NBA, for two players who are currently buried in the bench rotation in Boston. (Ugh.)

So…it’s partially luck, just as Jonah noted when commenting on the league’s bottom-dwelling, small-market squads, who are looking to break the ice just as OKC did. Just ask the Knicks, Clippers, Grizzlies, Timberwolves, Bobcats, or any of the other 8 teams who sucked worse than the 2008 Chicago Bulls, who somehow won the lottery and snapped up current MVP Derrick Rose.

Still, while it may be a bit implausible to ask small market teams to fully follow the Oklahoma City model, given the whole “Kevin Durant, the best scorer in the freaking NBA, totally fell into their laps” thing and all, the Thunder have certainly made many wise decisions, shattering common belief that it was all just luck.

Russell Westbrook was pegged to struggle at the point guard position coming out of the draft in 2008, and Presti was widely criticized for taking him 4th. But while recent accusations about his shot selection are fully factual, nobody can deny that he has been an instrumental part of this OKC team, as well as a deserving All Star this season. His continued development is one of the biggest keys behind the Thunder’s current status as a legitimate championship contender.

Also, allowing Serge Ibaka to develop made the Thunder frontline of Perkins and Ibaka a dangerous combination of athletic and strong. Not only that, but trading Jeff Green and giving Ibaka more minutes at the 4, by far his more natural position, has worked wonders defensively for the Thunder.

So what does this mean for Minnesota? It’s tough to tell. It certainly means some hard questions need to be asked if this team is going to truly contend in the future. The hardest question of all might be this one: can a contender be built around Kevin Love? Let’s be honest: Kevin Love’s free agency is approaching, and he is going to get paid handsomely by someone. Which, of course, he deserves; he had a great season, winning the MIP, becoming an All Star, and significantly developing his offensive game. There is no reason to believe that next year won’t be equally successful. But he’s not a go-to scorer in crunch time. Minnesota still doesn’t have one, as much as we all love Beasley. And given that Love can also be abused on defense, Minnesota will be forced to ask themselves this: How much are rebounds and hustle worth in dollar bills?

Ultimately, it appears the formula for success as a small market team in the NBA is a strange, difficult to define combination of foresight, luck and losing. One needs the wits to realize what will work in the NBA, the luck to acquire it, and the patience to see it through.

But losses in the standings mean losses in the stands, which in turn leads to losses in the checkbook. And ultimately, money runs (and ruins) everything. One can preach about teams needing to lose to rebuild, but in these volatile NBA times, with the lockout looming, the horrifying word “contraction” being thrown around, and small market teams constantly in danger of bouncing from city to city (Sacramento is just the start of things, folks), the biggest question for small market teams actually becomes a bit frightening.

How many franchises can actually afford to improve?

The end of things as we know it?

How about those NBA Playoffs?! Derrick Rose is leading the Bulls like a once-led-by Jordan team did back in the day. Russell Westbrook has established himself as just as worthy and important to the OKC Thunder as teammate Kevin Durant — might there be some jealousy clouding the team’s Playoff hopes? We already witnessed the Hawks of Atlanta beat down Orlando and their muscly-chiseled giant and could very well see Memphis take the Best of the West down too. All that in the opening round, and it’s just heating up.

It’s really unfortunate that these lively and entertaining Playoff games have to be dolefully overshadowed by the unfortunate situation in Sacramento. Some may think nothing of it — Why should we care about what’s going on in a poor basketball town like Sacramento? But when the league’s integrity is at stake, it should be considered a big deal.

If you’re not up to date on the Sacramento situation, here’s where we are now: The Maloof’s, Sacramento’s “proud” owners of their Kings, screwed up, ran out of money, cut the costs of operations throughout the organization and now they’re in a pickle looking for a new arena and a new beginning. Unfortunately, a city as small as Sacramento can’t afford a new arena to please the Maloof brothers’ requests and they’ve explored the option of relocating. “Relocation,” it’s the only word that provides enough motivation in the word itself to bring a community together to fight the stronger powers of the world. So as the city of Sacramento rallies itself to save their lone professional franchise — The Maloof’s already allowed their WNBA team to hit the fan — the fate of the Sacramento Kings is now in the NBA’s hands, as they’re now figuring out if it’s worth their interest to keep the franchise afloat in a dismantled NBA market.

In Sacramento’s case, we’ve quickly learned the fact that smaller-market teams are ruining the NBA’s limelight. By that I mean that they’re low attendance, poor marketing and tendency to withhold franchise players from going to a preferred destination hinders the league and its owners — and in Lebron James’ case, can curse a franchise and its fans. That won’t get you on David Stern’s good side, where he pictures the NBA as joyful as a fairy tale, where Chicago, New York, Miami, Boston and L.A. are all an integral part of each season and postseason.

But we’ve seen this all over, especially as of late with the Kings on the fence and other franchises in limbo. To make matters even more relevant than it blatantly should be already is that it happened in our very own city. Kevin Garnett hoisted this franchise onto his back and hauled it for 12 long, demanding seasons. But when KG left at McHale’s request — and ultimately for the good of the league — the franchise turned into a crippled and demoralized heap of excrement that proved to be more detrimental to the league than helpful. After that, all those involved, especially the fans, grew detached from the situation entirely. And now we’re winding down an awfully similar, and eery, path that the Kings tumbled down. We’re watching operation costs getting slashed, the fan support is decreasing and they haven’t caught a glimmer of luck, or hope, yet.

We’ve seen very similar situations happen multiple times — Seattle and New Orleans most recently — where the NBA’s front office has had to intervene in one organization’s business because either A) Owners go broke, B) Fans grow disinterested for any number of reasons, or; C) The team just flat out sucks. But more importantly, what all these troubled teams have in common is they’ve just failed to catch that break and, honestly, were never in the right caring hands to begin with.

Why didn’t the situation implode? Because Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge showed up. Because owner Paul Allen embraced how deeply Portlanders identified with his franchise and started emphasizing character. Because Allen hired an enterprising front office that used his money as a competitive advantage, buying extra draft picks, thinking outside the box with creative free-agent offers and raiding cost-cutting teams of solid veterans. The team built a good enough foundation to survive a few bad breaks (most recently, Oden and Roy), and now they’re giving the Mavericks everything they can handle in Round 1. Maybe the Blazers haven’t been totally lucky, but they’ve definitely been smart.

Bill Simmons said that here and I advise taking 15-20 minutes out of your day to read the article in its entirety. Anyways, back to the point: Teams in smaller markets are doomed in the NBA. Unless they’re being run by very smart people, such as the Blazers, or have just caught some lucky breaks, such as the Thunder, you’re years in the NBA, or at least in a specific city, are limited at best.

The next question is how can we fix this dilemma. Underprivileged owners in poor markets don’t have the gonads or the resources to survive in the NBA. It could very well lead to a contraction process in the NBA. Would contraction be a bad thing for the NBA? Looking forward both economically as well as the entertainment factor, a condensed and consolidated league could be the best thing going forward. No longer would Stern have to worry about bankrupt owners. No longer would city’s sit through season after season of suffering and aching. No longer would down-to-earth athletes have to make a professional decision about leaving their “home team” because of a “business decision.” The league would flourish in mounds of cash, sponsorships and the overwhelming amount of publicity they’d receive with all the different rivalries that could stem from big name players moving from one big name city to the next.

But at the same time, you can take Minnesota’s perspective and shoot all of those glamours of contraction down. We have the talent to turn things around. We have enough fan support, as we showed during the KG era, to make a statement amongst a league of coast-dwelling, tax-free states that have all the night clubs and warm weather to attract any talent they sought after.

The league doesn’t need to jump to any conclusions: If they find the right hands for a franchise like Sacramento, there’s hope. And if they also hit the lottery like OKC has, they could very well be the Blazers of tomorrow, even in a city as irrelevant to basketball as Portland once was. Minnesota is no different. Given the right amount of time and brains working behind the curtain, any team can be flipped right-side-up.

It’s just a matter of luck and intelligence. Isn’t everything?

Rambis' job status

Yesterday I wrote my reasoning for why Rambis should be feeling the heat of potentially losing his job along with all of his assistants. I’ll be the first to admit that the piece may have been premature, especially after hearing some details form this morning.

ESPN Insider initially reported the potential danger of Rambis’ status of head coach, but since then has started to take a different stance.

Kevin LoveMartell Webster and Anthony Tolliver spoke to the media on Tuesday and they all said Rambis isn’t to blame for the Wolves poor season.

“It’s easy to say when you’re having a tough year,” Love told the Pioneer Press. “It’s not a direct reflection on him. It’s all on us being a young, youthful team. It’s unfair. As a player, I have Kurt’s back.”

“He gets blamed for everything because he’s the coach,” Tolliver said. “He’s doing what he’s supposed to do. It’s up to us out there on the floor to execute the game plan. As players, we have to take more accountability and responsibility for our actions.”

“He’s always putting the work in,” Webster said. “He and the staff never give us the short end of the stick and just throw us out there and say, ‘Whatever happens.’ We’re the ones who have to go out there and play. As players, we can always say the right things, but the proof is how you do on the court.”

Take this how you want, but the players are essentially doing and saying what they’re supposed to. With a GM infatuated with younger, newer players, these guys are supposed to say things like this in order to get the most burn on the court in the final 12 games of the season. No player in their right mind would speak out against their coach at the end of the season unless there was serious turmoil from before that just needed to explode out to the public, but in these players’ cases, all of them are just looking for job security, even Love, who’s looking for a contract extension in Minny (Say he speaks out negatively against Rambis, he could very well find himself following the same path as Big Al).

So no matter what the players say, it comes down to the front office’s opinion.

President of basketball operations David Kahn refuted the report that Kurt Rmabis could be fired after the season and that Kelvin Sampson could be his replacement.

“The notion of Kelvin Sampson is completely false,” Kahn told the Pioneer Press, via the Timberwolves media relations director Mike Cristaldi. “That report is not true in all aspects.”

Rambis didn’t seem too concerned about his job security.

Ok, so maybe the front office, Kahn in particular, won’t go against their beliefs either. Like the players, Kahn, with his best interest at heart, wouldn’t speak negatively against Rambis either. I mean, that’s his guy! He was the guy who hired Rambis in the summer of 2008, hoping for a coach to absorb the blow of some rough seasons in hopes of turning this ship around. If Kahn decided to fire Rambis this summer, all it would show is Kahn admitting he was wrong, which is something no GM wants to swallow.

So what about the guy above the front office? He’s been awfully quiet…

“Owner Glen Taylor cannot be happy with how Rambis handled [the end of Kevin Love's double-double streak] or how he has coached, period,” he wrote. “In fact, I know he’s not remotely happy. I can assure you, the Timberwolves will be looking for a new head coach and a full bench of assistants as soon as the season is over.”

This quote comes from a journalist… from the New York Post. Remember towards the beginning of the season where another New York paper released rumors of Ricky Rubio’s desire to play for the Knicks? I’ll make it simple for you: New York has as many, if not more, bad reporters as good reporters. The last few reports regarding our Wolves coming out from the Big Apple have been malarky at best, so take this with a big grain of salt. Glen Taylor is a tough cookie to crack, some of Minny’s best reporters know that, but clearly the head honcho should be upset — we don’t need some New York article to tell us that. Kahn promised a turnaround in three years, and although we’re not there yet, the Wolves took maybe a half-step forward towards a brighter future, but that may be it. Compared to last year, this year could even be more disappointing because there were higher hopes, so that alone should be enough for Taylor to put his foot down. This ship is his after all, and he indeed has the final say, right? Let’s just hope he steps in, for once, and demands the change needed to take a step in the right direction.

The Tale of King James

Untitled1.png picture by jsteinmeyer11

From the very moment after the Cleveland Cavaliers were ousted from the playoffs, the same question ran through everyone’s mind; “Where will Lebron James be playing in 2010?”

While the sports world, as we know it, continues to spin, the news on James and is whereabouts for next season continue to come into question. They’ve flooded my news feed as well as yours too.The latest team to be identified as a possible destination for the courting of “King” Lebron James: The New Jersey Nets.

Really? The Nets, the worst team in the NBA, have a shot at acquiring Lebron James?

I, for one, am flabbergasted at how many teams have a shot at James this summer. It seems as if the list is up near around ten teams now. Do all ten teams have a legitimate shot at landing him? No. Does it also seem like reporters tend to bend Lebron every which way so that it looks like he could fit any team of their choosing? Yes.

So, let’s play make-believe. Since the Nets are a possible destination for King James, then why can’t the Wolves be too?

Continue reading

Wolf Track – Wolves season in review: Boss promises big changes | Star Tribune

I’m going to wait until the season is “officially over” at then end of this week after the last 3 games to start breaking down everything in review and looking forward, but Phil Miller of the Star Tribune got the offseason started with David Kahn talking about a lot of change on the horizon.

Wolves season in review: Boss promises big changes | StarTribune.com.

From the beginning, Timberwolves boss David Kahn and coach Kurt Rambis called this nearly finished season one devoted to player evaluation and development, concepts that also mean few expectations and little pressure.

All that is about to change.

Still aimed at tying the worst record in franchise history, the Wolves head toward a summer in which they possess three first-round draft picks, hefty salary-cap space and a roster that includes nary a player untouchable for a trade, except perhaps the rights to European prospect Ricky Rubio.

Among the things they’ve learned during these past six months: They lack a game-saving star player and also need a traditionally sized center on a team previously built around undersized power forwards Al Jefferson and Kevin Love.

Hired 11 months ago, Kahn immediately embarked on what he called a 17-month process to transform the franchise. He started by trading away player after player last summer to improve draft positioning and clear cap space.

The maneuvering presented what he now calls an obviously incomplete team that produced the league’s second-worst record and nearly a 20 percent chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft.

The clock is ticking.

“Those 17 months expire in September,” Kahn said. “I can assure you the ballclub will be measurably different by then. It will. Obviously, we’ll have to demonstrate some significant progress next season, whether you want to define that by wins and losses or other measurements.”

Be sure to click and read the whole thing.

What are your thoughts on Kahn’s assessment?

Howls on Curry canceling his workout with the Wolves…

A quick note on the news on Stephen Curry canceling his workout with the Wolves:

Obviously it looks like Curry wants to be a Knick and does not want to be T-Wolf.

So what should the Wolves do if Curry is the BPA (best player available) at #6 on June 25th? Personally I don’t think you can pass on him. Curry is not Steve Francis and is not the type of player who would put up such a fight that he would sit out and not play. He might drag his feet on the way to camp but sooner than later it’s in his best interest to play and be a team guy. Of course this would also allow Kahn to have a nice trade chip especially if the Knicks really want him as much as is being rumored. Could the Wolves trade Curry for say sparkplug and solid six-man Nate Robinson who the Knicks don’t have enough money to resign (once they give Lee a boatload of money)? Or a possible future 1st round pick and either versatile swingman Wilson Chandler or the #8 pick where they could take Flynn? Kahn won’t be able to fleece his old mentor Donnie Walsh the same as others have Isaiah Thomas in the past but you have to believe their friendship will offer plenty of trade talk and options shoud a situation like this come together on draft day.

EDIT 6/13/09: Kahn agrees the skipped workout is not enough to force him to not draft Curry.

State of the Wolves…

So here’s my State of the Wolves:

I like the format Draft Express used in their Off-Season Analysis a few years back so let’s go with that…

Draft Picks:

Picks #6, #18, #28, #45 and #47

Depth Chart:

PG: Randy Foye/Sebastian Telfair/Kevin Ollie/Bobby Brown
SG: Mike Miller
SF: Ryan Gomes/Rodney Carney/Corey Brewer
PF: Al Jefferson/Kevin Love/Craig Smith/Shelden Williams/Brian Cardinal
C: Jason Collins

I put the players in their most natural position here and only used everyone once. Miller could be argued at SF and Foye could be argued at SG but we’ll have more on that later. Notice how goofy this looks?!?!?

This is how the playing time went (Based on the Team’s Minutes per 82games.com) minus Rashad McCants+Calvin Booth who were traded:

PG: Sebastian Telfair (50%) – Randy Foye (24%) – Kevin Ollie (18%) – Bobby Brown (3%)

SG: Randy Foye (37%) - Mike Miller (22%) – Rodney Carney (19%) – Bobby Brown (3%)Kevin Ollie (2%)
SF: Mike Miller (36%) - Ryan Gomes (34%) - Rodney Carney (10%) – Brian Cardinal (8%) – Corey Brewer (6%)
PF:
Ryan Gomes (29%) – Craig Smith (29%) - Kevin Love (21%) – Brian Cardinal (14%) – Al Jefferson (2%) – Shelden Williams (1%)
C:
Al Jefferson (43%) – Kevin Love (30%) - Jason Collins (10%) – Craig Smith (7%) – Shelden Williams (4%) – Mark Madsen (2%) – Ryan Gomes (1%)

Initial Thoughts: The blessing of it is obviously the Wolves versatility at SG, SF, and PF. The curse of it is that we are stacked with a large group of quality “backup” type players (Save for Big Al and K-Love) at these 3 positions that are more like interchangeable parts with no defined role for each on the team. We have too much flexibility. Every player besides Telfair plays multiple positions with some consistency. Gomes is kind of a poor-man’s Odom (maybe a slightly better 3pt shooter) that is a nice player off the bench that gives the team flexibility to play small or big, Rodney Carney another nice 2/3 off the bench that played well with minutes down the stretch, and Mike Miller who had an up and down year with injuries but has the talent to be a starter with a high scoring efficiency from the wing. Foye splits time between the 1/2, Jefferson and Love between 4/5 etc. Jefferson is certainly capable of playing the 5 and with the news he’s looking to slim down this summer I think that will help his cause to be quicker on defense.

Background/Recap:

After an eventless year of rebuilding without KG in ’07-’08, the Wolves started this past season right where they left off with an 0-5 start that led to a 4-15 record which resulted in Head Coach Randy Wittman getting fired. Kevin McHale vacated the front office in a move to the bench that after a slow start learning his new philosophy resulted in a solid month of January at 10-4 that even gave McHale coach of the month honors. The run came to a crashing halt however with Al Jefferson tearing his right ACL on February 8th against New Orleans. The rest of the season was mostly a wash with Big Al out, but the Wolves used the time to groom rookie Kevin Love who by the end of the season established himself as a starting quality PF with the 4th best rebounding rate ever for a rookie. (See here for the evidence and here for the breakdown.) The only other news of note in the second half of the year post-Jeferson was the trade that sent Rashad McCants out of town to the Kings with Calvin Booth in exchange for Bobby Brown and Shelden Williams. (yawn…)

Ultimately the Wolves finished 24-58 which was bad enough to secure the 6th pick in the draft after being un-lucky yet again in the lottery.

Team Needs:

“The Timberwolves are a team without an identity.” (Funny this is a sentence that I didn’t need to change from Draft Express’ 2006 breakdown, ouch. Shows you the quality of GM Kevin McHale was and the general lack of vision within the organization). Even better look at what they had for team needs in ’06 as well.

1) A defensive minded center
2) A point guard
3) Athletic scorers

Amazing isn’t it! In fact I would contend that the Wolves have been in need of a defensive minded center, a pg (other than Cassell’s stint) and athletic scorers since forever. The biggest weakness we’ve had over the past decade in my opinion is that we have no one that can take the ball to the hoop and also get to the line. Here’s a mental exercise for you, picture the Wolves on offense in the half-court (not a fastbreak) and try and visualize one of the Wolves players driving past his guy to the hoop for an And-1. Anyone come to mind? Maybe McCants or Foye once or twice in the last two years but no Timberwolf has had “Can beat guys off the dribble” and “Gets to the hoop and the FT line” listed in their strengths since maybe Marbury was running the point over 10 years ago!

GM’s Strategy:

No one really knows what David Kahn’s draft strategy is or his vision of how to build a franchise. (Other than what you think you might be able to pull out of his open letter to the fans and his first couple of interviews here and here.) However he did have a significant role in building a team in Indiana that featured Stephen Jackson, Ron Artest and Jermaine O’Neal which was a pre-season favorite to win it all before the brawl happened. (And was also with the team when they grabbed Danny Granger after the Wolves passed on him for McCants). So we will see what Kahn’s strategy is, the good news is that moving from Kevin McHale to ANY strategy is an improvement.

Personal Analysis:

First lets look at the 3 team needs:

1) A defensive minded center: Again I reiterate that taking a run at Chris, The Birdman, Andersen would be a good move this offseason. Likewise, Anderson Varejao also could fill this role and is a FA this summer. Both players would bring the energy, rebounding, and tough/active defense to the team that has been missing while we had a constantly rotating door of backup centers fill the roster. (A third option would be “The Polish Hammer” Marcin Gortat of the Orlando Magic who when given minutes has been just as good as Andersen/Varejao) Snagging one of those two would give the Wolves a very solid 3-pronged Front-line with Love and Jefferson where any two of the three could play well. Slot Jefferson in for 36-40 minutes, Love for 30-35 and 20-30 for Birdman/Sideshow Bob and you have arguably one of the top front-lines in the league all of the sudden.

2) A point guard: Certainly the team has a solid player in Randy Foye that some have argued is the teams point guard of the future. However looking at the breakdown of the Wolves 5-man units at 82games.com from this past season notice who the SG is on all of our best ones. Yes folks its Randy Foye. Honestly I’m conflicted on Foye. I think he’s comparable to Leandro Barbosa and Jason Terry and would be a great scoring 6th man guard that can play both 1+2 and would play starters minutes off the bench. Part of me says hes not the long-term solution at PG for the Wolves because I don’t see him creating for his teammates very often. The other side says that paired with the right back-court mate who can create his own shot to go along with a Big Man in Jefferson who is also good enough to score on his own and I think it could work out well with Foye at the point. I think that trading for Hinrich could work out quite well or drafting a player at #6 like Tyreke Evans who can create his own shot and get to the basket at will would also work well. Both players are bigger than Foye and could match up well with SG’s on defense. The other part of me (that says Foye should play SG) says the Wolves should be looking at Johnny Flynn at #6 who fills the role of a more traditional PG and would be an upgrade over Telfair.

3) Athletic Scorers – Again the Wolves haven’t had an athletic scorer since Marbury left town. Drafting Evans, Flynn, or maybe Stephen Curry would change that. Don’t see a ton of trade options for a player that fits this mold either.

Other Considerations:

It’ll be interesting to see what Kahn does in his first month on the job and how he starts building the team and shaping it into his vision of a contender. Personally I think they should bring back McHale as coach for three reasons,1) he connects with the players well can commands their respect, 2) as a result of that connection he seems to do well developing players (especially big men), and 3) because really there aren’t that many better options available unless you can convince a guy like Jeff Van Gundy to come to Minny or sign away a top assistant like Tom Thibodeau from the Boston Celtics.

Looking Forward:

Since we all like to play GM here’s my stab at what I would try and realistically do this summer if I were running the Wolves:

1. Draft Tyreke Evans with the #6 pick in the NBA draft and B.J. Mullens with #18.
2. Trade #28 for a future first round pick.
3. Trade Mike Miller to the Bulls for Kirk Hinrich
4. Sign Chris Andersen, Anderson Varejao, or Marcin Gortat with the full-midlevel exception.

I don’t think anyone could disagree that every one of these moves is completely fathomable for the Wolves to be able to make this summer. The only thing that would need a little luck is being able to convince The Birdman or Varejao to sign with us. The Birdman probably prefers the mid-level in Denver if they offer it and Varejao may command slightly more than the MLE. That being said Gortat might be had by the Wolves with their full MLE.

With these moves the Wolves Depth Chart looks something like this with the percentage of minutes broken down:

PG: Kirk Hinrich (40%) / Sebastian Telfair (30%) / Randy Foye (20%) / Tyreke Evans (10%)
SG: Randy Foye (40%) / Tyreke Evans (25%) / Kirk Hinrich (20%) / Rodney Carney (15%)
SF: Ryan Gomes (33%) / Corey Brewer (33%) / Rodney Carney (33%)
PF: Kevin Love (40%) / Al Jefferson (30%) / Craig Smith (20%) / Ryan Gomes (10%)
C:
Andersen/Varejao/Gortat (40%) / Al Jefferson (30%) / Kevin Love (20%) / B.J. Mullens (10%)

That’s a playoff teams folks! And a fairly good one at that. Notice also how the roles become more defined even and that we basically have a solid 3-player rotation both in the backcourt and in the frontcourt without giving up our flexibility? Then we can fill in at SF whatever player we need based on the matchups that night. This is a solid NBA team in my opinion that could compete in the West right away next year.

That’s my State of the Wolves right now, next up I’ll have a more in depth look at the draft and what the Wolves should look for later this week.

Feel free to leave your comments below or Twitter them to me @howlintwolf. Also I’m up and running over at Ball Hype as well so if you want to give me some love it’s always appreciated.

A Second Bowl of Wheaties for You

And since it’s the inaugural weekend here why not a second bowl of the Weekend Wheaties for you?

  • Thanks to T-Wolves Blog for finding this Big Al interview:
    The “Sludge” marathon for lupus (?) on KFAN today included an interview with Al Jefferson. It’s maybe a third of the way into that link’s mp3 file.

    Al’s take, shorthand version:

    * Offseason in Florida, MN, and Mississippi.

    * Rehab’s feeling “real good,” says he’s feeling confident, it’s getting stronger. Ready for training camp, which was the plan.
    * January. Sigh. Several mentions of January.
    * McHale, coaching: Playing for McHale wonderful, didn’t feel pressure, could play through mistakes. Sitting back and waiting to see what happens.
    * Kahn: Kahn called him, they had a “great” conversation. Made Al feel confident.
    * Al says he “most definitely” wants to come back lighter, and says he and Kahn discussed that. Says he played heavier last year to play the center position. Wants to be more mobile, and being lighter would help the knee.
    * Sludge cannily uses LeBron to bring up defensive improvement: Al tosses Michael Jordan into the comparison. “I’m not there yet, if I want to be that guy…. I have to step up defensively.” Thinks the weight might help him. McHale and Wittman have “talked to him about” that. “80% of it is just a work ethic.”
    * The draft: Al likes “the idea of a great point guard.” Randy to the two, Sebastian backing up with the second unit is how he sees things.

Lots to like from this, that Kahn and Jefferson had a great conversation, that he’s looking to slim down this offseason (always a good idea in today’s NBA, I never understood the bulking up thing unless of course your Ndudi Ebi), and that he likes the idea of bringing in a great point guard and having Foye shift to the two. Kirk Hinrich anyone? (I should be throwing out my version of a “State of the Wolves” breakdown later this week with a more in depth look at the current team and where to go from here.)
  • After deeper reflection on the draft I am now throwing my hat into the “Wolves should use the #6 to make a move” camp. Here’s to hoping Kahn can leverage it in a deal and pick up a solid player that can contribute who’s team is moving him for cap purposes. (A couple of guys come to mind, Hinrich as I mentioned yesterday, Chris Kaman or Baron Davis would also fit nice and the Clips have to do something, not sure on how he fits but Jamal Crawford is a solid player that could be had from GS, and what about the Sports Guy’s hypothetical deal for the Wolves to get Tony Parker? Sign me up for that one.)
  • The Wolves have to bring back McHale at this point right? The players want him (and seemed to like playing for him and played hard) Otherwise who is left to bring in? It would have to be another current assistant (which always seems hit and miss on who pans out) as Flip and Eddie Jordan were both signed, although a guy like Boston Celtics defensive ace Assitant Coach Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t be too bad. Really we need a guy who can develop the young guys and isn’t the good stuff we always here about McHale his hands on development of our bigs from KG to Big Al to Love?