I’ve had a couple of days to digest the Kevin Love trade, and the one thing I can’t escape is this: take a look at the Wolves’ roster in 2006-07.
2006-2007 Roster (Player – Salary)
- Kevin Garnett – $21,000,000
- Mark Blount – 7,288,165
- Ricky Davis – 6,364,400
- Troy Hudson – 5,603,000
- Marko Jaric – 5,525,000
- Mike James – 5,215,000
- Trenton Hassell – 4,350,000
- Eddie Griffin – 2,700,000
- Randy Foye – 2,448,240
- Mark Madsen – 2,210,000
- Rashad McCants – 1,653,720
- Justin Reed – 1,300,000
- Bracey Wright – 664,209
- Craig Smith – 412,718
(Click Read More… to find out where I’m going with this…)
Minnesota was a franchise in shambles. The team went 32-50 that year, fired Dwane Casey after 40 games only to slump to 12-30 under Randy Wittman, had missed the playoffs three years in a row, and had absolutely no future. Look down that roster again – apart from Garnett, two rookies in Foye and Smith, and an injury-plagued second-year player in McCants, there’s absolutely no pieces a rebuilding team would want to have anything to do with.
That’s what the roster looked like a year ago. It was clearly time to blow things up and make a clean start. And now, thanks in part to the Love deal, the franchise reboot is complete; not only have the Wolves ditched all of the deadwood from that 2007 team, they have dumped every terrible player they had to take back in return.
I have to go back and trace this, just so I can figure out how they managed to do this in the span of only one year. Since the season before last concluded, the Timberwolves:
- Traded Garnett to the Celtics for Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, and two first-round picks.
- Bought out Ratliff partway through the season.
- Traded Green for Kirk Snyder and a second-round pick.
- Allowed Snyder’s contract to expire after the season was over.
- Traded Blount and Davis for Antoine Walker, Wayne Simien, Michael Doleac, and a first-round pick.
- Cut Simien before the season started.
- Allowed Doleac’s contract to expire after the season was over.
- Bought out Troy Hudson, allowing him to go kill somebody else’s team for a change.
- Traded Mike James and Justin Reed for Juwan Howard, then bought Howard out.
- Traded Trenton Hassell for Greg Buckner.
- Released Eddie Griffin.
- Allowed Bracey Wright to head off to Greece.
- Packaged Buckner, Walker, and Marko Jaric off to Memphis in the Love trade.
For all the complaining about Kevin McHale, he’s done something that does not come naturally to NBA GMs – he’s actually committed to rebooting the entire franchise, instead of just tweaking here and there and letting the foolishness continue.
And that’s why I like the Kevin Love trade. In the last couple of weeks, many people seemed to have convinced themselves that OJ Mayo is a sure future superstar, and the only player who can save the Wolves. Somehow, between late May and late June, Mayo went from one of a number of dislikable options at #3 (see the reactions of our own T-Wolves Blog contributors here) to OH MY GOODNESS MAYO WILL SAVE US WE LOVE HIM FIRE MCHALE. I don’t understand this at all.
Ultimately, I think the Wolves had Mayo and Love just about equal on their board. And yet, they managed to take one, swap him for the other, get the only other decent player in the deal in Mike Miller, dump the three remaining obstacles to the completion of their rebuilding plan on Memphis, and take back only Jason Collins’s expiring contract and Brian Cardinal’s shorter-than-Jaric ridiculous deal. (And on top of that, Collins is a defensively-gifted if offensively-inept center, something the Wolves can use.)
Not that it matters much, but in Love and Miller, the Wolves also managed to grab two of about four players in the entire league that might actually like playing in Minnesota. Witness the look on OJ Mayo’s face when the Wolves called his name – he looked like a member of his family had died. That can’t be anything but good for the team.
In just one year, Kevin McHale has managed to turn over his entire team, from a cancer-ridden collection of failures in 2006-2007 to a young and promising group in 2008-2009. And if the worst thing that he had to do to make this happen was trade one unproven player for another (while markedly winning the rest of the trade), then I’m on board.
(NOTE: When not ducking punches from OJ Mayo supporters, Jon Marthaler writes at TNABACG.)