BLOGPRINT FOR THE FUTURE #4

Blogprint for the FutureUnfortunately for Wolves fans, this time of year has
been the most exciting over the past three seasons.  It’s a time to
speculate on what steps your team can make to get back to the playoffs
and start making some noise.  In negative news, the Wolves and their
"braintrust" got the 3rd pick in an advertised two-man draft.  In
positive news, we have positive debate in the forums on what to do with
the pick and it’s good to hear we don’t have to listen to a
country-music station to listen to the Wolves next year.

With all of the debate raging over what to do with the draft pick, it’s
important to remember that the Wolves have to make some decisions on
its existing roster.  Here at the Twolves Blog, we want to continue the
discussions about this teams direction with in our series, the
"Blogprint for the Future," which will include contributions from
various TWolvesBlog contributors and guests, as this team transforms
during the off-season.

Contributors to this edition:

College Wolf from TWolvesBlog
Stop-n-Pop from Canis Hoopus
Bonk from the TWolvesBlog Forums
Jon Mathaler from TNABACG


Previous Editions of the Blogprint:


#1: Our #3 overall Lottery Pick and Wolves Free-Agents.

#2: What is the time frame on the Wolves becoming contenders?
#3: Updated thoughts on the #3 overall pick & KG’s Legacy.


In today’s edition: my esteemed colleagues and I analyze the moves made (or not made) by the Wolves in the draft last week.  Did we like the seemingly (already) infamous KLove/Skinny Miller and Spare parts for OJ Mayo and crap filler solid bench players trade?  What about the way the Wolves utilized their second round picks?  Lastly, we’ve got some general thoughts on the winners and losers in this years draft.

Please click "Read More" for the analysis of this edition’s topic.

[cw]

Blogprint For The Future #4: 

"How do you feel about the moves made by the Wolves in the draft?  In your opinion, could/should they have done anything differently, or perhaps better?

(Optional)  Do you have any additional thoughts on the rest of the NBA draft?  Which teams are the big winners and/or losers?"


BONK:  Since I was gone all weekend and missed the madness on the forums for the 4 days following the draft, I had typed up my initial reaction to the draft night trade player by player.  Sorry for not following the question directly, but maybe this way I am mixing it up a bit and making it interesting.  Or just being annoying.  Regardless….

Mayo – When I first heard about the trade I was really mad.  Once we drafted Mayo, and no trades were announced, I was getting really excited for the OJ Mayo era to begin.  The dude has charisma like few others, and I was excited to have a dynamic, smart, cool, all-around player as the newest addition to our team.  I know saying things like "cool" make me sound like a 10 year old, but there is just something about OJ Mayo that makes you want him on your team, ya know?  I also thought the professor look was a great call for Mr. Juice.  It would’ve been fun to have him on our squad.  And I like his well-rounded game and star potential.

Anyway, he’s gone now so….

Kevin Love – He was my favorite college basketball player last season (aside from Spence Tollackson, of course).  I love his basketball mind and wide ranging skill set.  I love his touch, passing, range, brain, and yes, outlet passing.  However, I am extremely worried that he & Al as our frontcourt of the future does not equal great team success.  I just see this being a liability, mainly on defense, but also in the fact that Al is going to be guarded by 5′s instead of 4′s for the next decade or so.  Our new twin towers share many of the same disadvantages, such as being undersized (to play Center), not overly athletic, and not carrying an intimidating presence on the defensive end.  However, there is hope that Al’s defense is improving, and that these guys are both too smart and passionate of players to be big defensive liabilities (as you saw with Boston, a lot of it comes down to chemistry and team defense.  Too bad Wittman is our coach!).  Oh yeah, and I also love chocolate milk and line beards.

Skinny Miller – I actually really like his game.  I don’t know if he will be here for more than 2 years, so that’s why I think it’s hard to label this as a Love+Miller for Mayo trade.  I am very happy we finally got a bonafide 3 point shooter, and Skinny’s all around game has come a long way.  Bytheway, I have a really good friend who is a manager at one of the most popular bars in Sioux Falls, and he hates Skinny with a passion.  The last time Skinny was there, he had a $100 tab, acted like a cocky jerk to the staff, and left a tip of $4.  I have a multitude of other Skinny Miller stories, being that I lived in SoDak for four years and still have many friends there, but I’ll try to stay on track for now.  I do like The 4% Tippers game, and I think 4% (he) fits fairly well on our team.

The rest of the departed Wolves:  As far as on the court, it’s basically a non-issue.  Regarding their contracts, it’s nice to get rid of them, especially considering The Shimmy wanted a buyout, and Marko was overpriced and had three years remaining.  I was in the strong minority of people who thought Marko was a solid player and could serve as a great utility man for a winning team.  I know.  “Hi, my name is Dan, and I like Marko Jaric.”  Antoine seems like more of a liability than an asset at this point.  Buckner is okay, but doesn’t fit here.  I could see him possibly landing a role as a backup guard playing 6-14 minutes on an above average team in the right situation. 

The rest of the departed Grizz – I honestly don’t even think these guys are really worth a mention.  At least their contracts are shorter than Mr. EuroFlair.  The Custodian is bad, boring, and balding.  Collins is one of the worst players in the NBA in my opinion. 

While we are talking about "the others"- Where this trade hurts me when it comes to these guys is in the off the court/entertainment value department.  Marko was the one remaining dude on the Wolves roster who College Wolf & I have had multiple convo’s with in the clubs.  Now we are down to no one (I guess Foye, but all of our quality interaction with him was during his rookie year) – and this saddens me.  Marko will go down as a Justin Reed All-Star in the coolness/approachability at the club department.  AND now he’s engaged to Lima, and NOW he gets traded.  This is very bad luck for behind the scenes rubes like CW & me.  Walker was probably our 2nd favorite entertainment value guy behind Marko.  The shimmy’s, the shiny suits w/ V-Neck T’s underneath, singing along to the words & rockin by himself in the club, the "Because there are no 4′s" sound bites.  Dangit!  This was a horrible trade in terms of entertainment value for CW & I.  We traded The Gigolo and The Shimmy for the ugliest player in the NBA (who tips 4%, among other things), the baldest player in the NBA with the worst nickname (The Custodian), and the worst player in the NBA!

My final random thought – I cannot believe we got THREE white Americans in one trade!  There are not very many white Americans in the NBA, and we got 3 in one day.  That has to be some sort of record for this decade I would imagine.

So there you have it.  In conclusion, I guess if McHale wanted to get Love all along, at least we got another good player with him.  Thank God we didn’t draft him outright.  I find it somewhat annoying that McHale insisted on getting another “mini-me”, when he already had one in Big Al.  Kevin, you didn’t win those titles in the 80s alone, we can’t make trades only for guys who play like you.  Although on the court the exchange of the contracts/role players doesn’t hurt us (but like I said, I still think Marko is useful, so I think it hurts us a little), it hurts me personally.  I’m pretty sure Balding Brian Cardinal isn’t going to be getting engaged to any Victoria Secret models anytime soon, and all Skinny Miller is going to do at the clubs is leave bad tips.  Regardless, this is what happened so we Wolves fans have to accept it and move on.  Let the Love/Mayo comparisons begin!  I’ll pour out a little liquor for Marko and do a shimmy for Antoine the next time I’m in the club.

Stop-n-Pop:   One year ago the Minnesota Timberwolves were coming off a 32-50 season that ended with its star player on the bench, Ricky Davis and Marc Blount clogging up the locker room, a bloated payroll near the luxury mark, future 1st round picks owed to the Celtics and Clippers because of awful trades, and yet another 1st round selection who was picked to patch together yet another mediocre KG-based lineup more than to fit any sort of cohesive plan that would move the franchise forward.

Fast forward to today and the Wolves are coming off a 22-60 season that ended with its star player being one of the only players in the league to average 20/10, locker room trash like Antoine Walker and Marko Jaric having been kicked to the curb, a salary structure that will allow the team to operate in free agency in the 2010 season, the recapturing of a future owed 1st rounder, and a draft selection that actually fits into what can, for once, be called an actual plan.  In between these two poles lay shrewd personnel moves that brought the team the top 2nd rounder in the 2008 Draft (which was then used to select the consensus best big man in Europe) and moved Gerald Green for Kirk Snyder.

Had this sort of massive change in outlook occurred under the watch of someone named Kevin Pritchard or Donnie Walsh, there would be zero conversation about the relative worth of the transformation.  Zip, zero, zilch.  However, this change was consummated by the same guy who drove the car into the ditch in the first place: Kevin McHale.  Perhaps it’s time to rethink just how much the gravity of KG affected the orbits of T-Wolves personnel decisions after the 1st year of Spree and Cassell.

The Wolves enter next season with a core of Al Jefferson (23), Randy Foye (24), Rashad McCants (23), Corey Brewer (21), Kevin Love (19), Ryan Gomes (25), and Mike Miller (28).  Along with Jefferson’s 20/10, they have 3 players who can hit 40% from 3, 1 player who is expected to grow into a defensive-minded wing, 1 player who showed the ability to be a solid glue guy, and one of the most skilled big men to come from the college ranks in the past decade.  They also have a 22 year old big stashed away in Europe to go along with 3-4 picks in next year’s draft.

Are there legitimate questions about things that have occurred during the past year?  Of course.  Theo Ratliff’s deal should have been moved and the Wolves absolutely FUBAR’d the 34th pick in this year’s draft.  However, for all of you who think that the team missed the boat on OJ Mayo, let me ask you a single question:

Q: What was the most important moment of the 2007/08 NBA season for the Wolves?
A: A coin flip.

Had the Wolves lost their 2nd consecutive draft-related coin flip, they would have received the 5th pick in the draft, Kevin Love, and…well, that’s it.  By winning the flip with Memphis, the Wolves gained the 3rd pick and were able to move salary, questionable locker room presences, and OJ Mayo to Memphis for Kevin Love, Mike Miller, a defensive center and future cap stability.

It’s not Greg Oden, but it sure aint bad.

And who says the Wolves don’t have any luck?  

JON MARTHALER:  Overall, I feel pretty good about the Wolves’ draft – but only because I like the Love trade.  I’ve detailed my feelings about the trade before on the blog, but to some up: the Wolves gave up only one thing in the trade, and that was trading a high-upside swingman – a position at which they are already overstuffed – for a slightly-lower-upside post player, something they needed. And in return, they got the only other decent player in the deal AND dumped three horrible contracts on Memphis.  Sure, they took a couple of throw-ins back, but Jason Collins is a good defensive center – a definite team need – and has an expiring contract.  And Brian Cardinal will help raise Mark Madsen’s self-esteem.  Everybody wins!
 
The second round, though, went horribly.  Yes, I know that Nikola Pekovic was the consensus #31 pick, but I can’t shake my pessimism about his prospects.  As evidence, I’d like to mention the following names: Loukas Mavrokefalidis. Igor Rakocevic.  Gundars Vetra. 
 
And I think the Mario Chalmers trade was an incredibly dumb missed opportunity.  The Timberwolves, as I write this, have zero point guards on the roster; not only are they not certain of re-signing Sebastian Telfair, they’re still looking for a backup PG as well.  You’re telling me that Chalmers couldn’t have filled either of those roles?  Sure, the Wolves picked up two more picks in return, but those two will almost certainly be worse than #34 (in what was a deep draft), and they will come to a team with a long of young players and virtually no roster spots available.  Basically, the Wolves traded a player they could use for two future training-camp cuts, and some cash.  I don’t understand that move at all.
 
Do you have any additional thoughts on the rest of the NBA Draft?
 
Only that the "Must improve:" tag on every ESPN draftee’s profile gives you all the information you need.  For example, the "Must improve: Conditioning" tag means only one thing: "Must improve: Giving a crap."  A few more translations, for future reference:
 
"MUST IMPROVE": REAL MEANING

Professionalism: Needs to stop smoking pot before games.
Attitude: Viewed as mortal lock for three arrests in three years.
Athleticsm: White, but not European.
Three-point shooting: No other real skills; unless he learns to do this, he’ll be in the D-League by next Christmas.
Defense: Needs to learn how to play basketball.
 
Which teams are the big winners and/or losers?
 
Miami looks like a winner to me.  They needed both talent and a point guard, and they managed to grab the second-best player in the draft and a point guard who most people had as a lottery pick.  And New York looks like a loser; they managed to get everybody to hate their draft pick even before he steps on the floor.  That’s impressive, even for the franchise that drafted Renaldo Balkman.

COLLEGE WOLF:  If you didn’t know (or live under a rock), the Wolves were pretty active on draft night.  We traded OJ Mayo + bad salaries (The Toine, Marko, and Buckner) to Memphis for Kevin Love, Skinny Miller + “lesser” bad contracts in Brian “The Custodian” Cardinal and Jason Collins.  We drafted Nikola Pekovic at #31, and then drafted and traded SuperMario Chalmers to the Miami Heat, for two future second round picks and some “cash considerations.”

With that said, I don’t particularly like the Memphis trade, and I hate the way we managed our two valuable second round picks.  I’ll just skip the euphorical foreplay and get right into the analysis.  If you like perpetual mediocrity, then in regards to the players we got, the Memphis trade was FAN-tastic.  Mike “Skinny” Miller is a good player, and I do think he’s a bit underrated.  We needed a consistent 3PT shooter than can stretch the floor, so in that sense he’s a nice addition.  However, he commits a boatload of turnovers and his perimeter defense is laughable.  Is he a player that is going to become a core building block three or more years down the road?  No, he is not.  In fact, I’d be surprised if we still even have him two years from now when his contract expires.  He may help us win a few more games this season, but he will play big minutes at the expense of our other youngsters (namely Brewer.)  I can’t imagine the Wolves are looking to re-sign a 30 year old SG that can’t play defense two years from now either.  Let’s not kid ourselves… we won’t be making the playoffs next season, so any games he helps us win will only worsen our lottery chances for the next draft.  At some point our top 10 protected first round pick that we owe the Clippers is going to come due, and next year could very well be the year.  If you are a person that thought this draft was bad, just wait until we miss the playoffs and LOSE our first round pick.  I hope you have a defibrillator nearby. 

As for the rest of the non draft pick players involved, there is not much to say.  Objectively speaking, the Wolves came out much further ahead in regards to the salary situation.  If any of these five players actually play for either team, the said team is in a world of hurt.  Most people are saying the Wolves came out ahead in the “attitude department,” but I really don’t think Marko was that big of nuisance last year, if at all.  Yes, The Toine was problematic, but we could have just told him to sit at home since he’s an expiring contract.  Cardinal is apparently a great “locker room guy”, but we’ve already got Maddog.  The same could be said about Buckner as well.  Lastly, Jason Collins is possibly one of the WORST players in the entire NBA, and that’s not hyperbole.  I suppose its good news that he’s a “big body” and sets some sturdy picks, but the Front Office Spin Machine is going to be twirling at 1,000 rpm’s if they try to convince the fans that he will be a serviceable player for us.  In the spirit of objectivity, props should be given to our Front Office for our newly revamped salary situation.

The meat of the trade was Kevin Love for OJ Mayo.  I think there has already been a gazillion words  written about these two players, so I’ll keep it short.  Mayo may have duplicated what we’ve already got on the perimeter (McFoye), but I honestly believe he will turn out to be a better pro than either of them.  McFoye’s defense is leagues away from what Mayo can do.  Mayo is a pretty good shooter with outstanding athleticism.  Our perimeter defense was porous at best last season, and he would have done wonders in that facet.  Now the Wolves are possibly even WORSE with the addition of Skinny Miller.  McCants is going to be a free agent after next season, so I just hope we don’t re-sign him to a MLE type deal (or worse), if he has decent numbers in his contract year.  This last bullet point really shouldn’t factor in too much, but Mayo would have done wonders for the popularity of our franchise in regards to “star power.”  I think he would have helped bring back some of the bandwagon and casual fans.  It could be argued that we don’t need those “type” of fans… but I think our Front Office/Glen Taylor would argue that we do need them.

If Mayo duplicates what we’ve already got, well then Kevin Love is the CEO of the Office of Redundancy.  First off, assuming our Front Office will play him decent minutes so that they don’t look like fools; it only guarantees that Big Al will become our de facto Center for as long as Love is here.  As all the rubes know, Big AL is better suited at PF than C.  His offensive stats are not massively different, but on the defensive end he really struggles.  Love is an undersized PF/C who is not a great defender (or even that good really), which creates problems for our front court defense (to go with our now even more suspect back court as well.)   Basically, when it boils down to it, I am not a huge fan of having an undersized front court for the next decade.  I think any contributions Love makes on offense will be offset by the marginal defense played by our PF and Center positions.  And really, that’s the crux of the argument.  Yeah, Kevin Love may have the same combine results as Al Horford and he can throw one hell of an outlet pass, but blah blah blah.  Also, is anyone really convinced that he will have NBA 3PT range?  Do we even want our Center shooting 3’s?  I think I’ve seen enough from Mark “Long Range” Blount and Eddie G. to last me a lifetime.  I don’t absolutely hate the trade thanks to how much we improved our cap position.  Let’s hope we can utilize this toxic clean-up effort come 2010-11.

The worse gaffe of the night was the way our Front Office handled our two second round draft picks.  I know everyone is saying Nikola Pekovic is all that and a bag of chips, but is he really?  Will he translate to the NBA?  Apparently he “wants” to play in the NBA, but he will remain in Europe for at least two more years.  And will he even want to come to the Wolves?  I don’t know why he would want to when he’s living on the Mediterranean Sea, and making top dollar for a perennial contender. 

Even worse was that we didn’t come away with one of these four players with our #34 pick: CDR, Mario Chalmers, Bill Walker, and DeAndre Jordan (among others!)  Chalmers was a pre-arranged deal with Miami, and that was the guy they wanted.  That trade really stinks because we got two future junk 2nd round picks, and some cash for ol’ Glen’s pocketbook.  CDR was one of my favorite players going into the draft, and it boggles my mind that he dropped that far.  He can really play.  Despite Bill Walker’s knee surgeries, he still has outstanding athleticism and would have helped us at the SF position.  Mario Chalmers was a projected mid first (or even lottery pick), and now we look awfully thin at PG.  Lastly, DeAndre Jordan could end up being the steal of the draft for the Clippers at #35.  This is the classic “no risk, monster reward” type scenario.   He gets a small, non-guaranteed contract for possible Dwight Howard-esque talent.  Granted, there is probably a 1% chance that he maximizes his potential… but what do the Wolves have to lose?!?  Instead we freakin gave away our pick for basically nothing.  On top of that, we still desperately need a Center.  Egads.  If it were up to me, I would have used one of those picks on any of the above four guys (depending on workouts or video tape and whatnot), and possibly used the other to trade up for Donte Greene… who I think could become a real baller.  I also can’t believe he fell all the way to #28. 

“Do you have any additional thoughts on the rest of the NBA draft?” 

I really have only two thoughts about the rest of the draft: 1) I thought there would be many more trades than there actually were, and 2) I can’t believe so many quality players fell as far as they did!  If you were a team with few needs and an extra 2nd round pick, there was a bonanza of proven talent available in the second round (and late first as well.)  The two drops that surprised me the most were CDR to #40 (he’s a stud) and DeAndre Jordan to #35 (he’s possibly a monster stiff, but there’s always that small chance…)

“Which teams are the big winners and/or losers?"

Portland:  Possibly the biggest winners of the draft.  It’s almost not fair what they were (again) able to accomplish via smart trades.  The fact that they ended up with arguably a Top 5 talent in Jerryd Bayless is almost criminal.  It’s as if they are playing chess and already know all the opponents moves.  Don’t forget, Oden should come back completely healthy next season.

Miami Heat:  They got easily one of the best two players in the draft in Beasley, as well as a possible hard-nosed point guard of the future in SuperMario Chalmers.  They didn’t mess around with taking offers for Beasley, and I think the best thing they could have done anyways was keep him.  Acquiring Chalmers for two crappy future second round picks and cash is a potential steal.  Mario was slotted in the mid first round on some mocks. 

LA Clippers/Boston Celtics:  Both teams acquired potential monster steals in DeAndre Jordan (LA) and Bill Walker (Boston.)  Maybe I don’t know anything, but I would have loved (!!!) either player with our #34 pick.  Very distressing.

Indiana Pacers:  So… what exactly did they end up with after this draft and the Jermaine O’Neal trade?  Basically: TJ Ford, Brandon Rush, and Roy Hibbert.  Not a whole lot to get excited about.

New York Knicks:  They added Danilio Gallinari.  Good luck with that Mike D’Antoni.

Cleveland Cavaliers:  They added Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun.  And the countdown to LeBron’s opt-out date officially begins now.

Feel free to leave comments and/or continue the discussion below.  Also, there is a discussion thread for this article in the TWolvesBlog Forums.  Feel free to sign up and check it out.


-  CW

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[cw2]

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