One of the TWolves Blog Forum members, paginingstanleyroberts, produced a very thorough post yesterday which analyzed every single move that Kevin McHale has made while running the show for the Timberwolves. As the title of this article suggests, this compilation covers a staggering fourteen years of front office moves for the Timberwolves. It’s a great history lesson and a really nice way for Wolves fans to get a look at the big picture and see exactly why this team is where it currently is. I felt this was clearly something that deserved to be promoted from the forum and onto the front page for everyone to see.
I got to hand it to “paging”, the man has endurance. I attempted to compile something similar back when this blog first started. The idea was to do a post for each year and I’m pretty sure I made it to about 1996 before getting bored. Well, either that or I got too depressed. As you’ll see, this list starts out with a move of sheer brilliance and proceeds to get progressively more painful. If you’d like to avoid high blood pressure, chest pain, and the re-opening of old scars, maybe you’d better skip this article. However, if you’ve got the stomach for it, you can proceed with caution as it really is a very well-done list.
1. Draft Kevin Garnett: A. No explanation needed.
2. Draft Jerome Allen (2nd): C-. Good enough to stick for a year.
3. Draft Mark Davis (2nd): C-. See previous. Both were picked late in the round.
4. Sign Sam Mitchell: B+. He was inexpensive and productive on and off the court.
5. Sign Terry Porter: B+. See above.
6. Trade Christian Laettner and Sean Rooks for Andrew Lang and Spud Webb: B-. Dumping Laettner was good, and Lang became the third player in the Marbury-Allen deal. Talent-wise, it didn’t match up.
7. Replace Bill Blair with Flip: B. Made team a consistent winner but didn’t pull off any playoff upsets.
1. Draft Ray Allen, trade him and Lang for Stephon Marbury: C+. Ultimately, this hurt the team. However, most people during that draft thought that while Allen could be good, Marbury (paired with KG) could be special. Anyone who thinks the Wolves shouldn’t have done this trade but should’ve kept OJ Mayo needs a history lesson.
2. Acquired Cherokee Parks from Dallas by removing the lottery protections on the pick they sent them for Sean Rooks two years earlier: C. Parks played some good minutes for them, and the pick ended up not being in the lottery.
3. Traded Isaiah Rider to Portland for James Robinson, Bill Curley, and a 1st round pick: B-. Getting rid of Rider was important, and Robinson and Curley were contributors for 1-2 years. Who they chose with the pick shouldn’t factor into this grade.
4. Signed Dean Garrett: B+. No one expected anything from him, yet he was serviceable for several years.
5. Signed Chris Carr: C+. Started 30-some games during the 96-97 season.
6. Signed Stojko Vrankovic: C. Wasn’t a great player, but he was capable of starting for half a season. He also became the first Euro in a long line of Euros to look like a chain smoker.
7. Signed Reggie Jordan: C. Not great, but became important two years later when the team was shorthanded against Seattle in the playoffs. Contributed for 3 seasons.
1. Drafted Paul Grant: D. They didn’t miss out on any superstars by taking him, but there were at least a half-dozen guys who would’ve contributed more than he did. They were able to throw him in to the Marbury-Brandon deal.
2. Drafted Gordon Malone (2nd): F. Who? That’s why it’s an F.
3. Traded Vrankovic to the Clippers for Stanley Roberts: C+. Roberts started a lot of games and was a decent contributor. He was also in the last year of his contract.
4. Signed Tom Hammonds: C. Played big minutes during the playoffs that year and was a contributor for 3-4 years.
5. Traded Doug West to the Griz for Anthony Peeler: B-. Peeler played great in the playoffs that year and came up with some big games at other points in his career.
6. Lost Dean Garrett to the Nuggets: F. For reasons stated later.
1. Drafted Rasho Nesterovic: B. Was productive but didn’t seem to mesh well with this team. Flip jerked his minutes around a lot. Signing him with two games left in the ’99 season cost them a year of his services and indirectly led to the Michael Olowokandi Experiment.
2. Drafted Andrae Patterson: C. Was with the team for a few seasons, and the guys drafted after him weren’t world-beaters.
3. Lost Tom Gugliotta: D. He didn’t want to be here, but if it’s true that McHale turned down a deal that would’ve sent him and Peeler to the Lakers for Eddie Jones and Elden Campbell, well, then, all I have to ask is why. Why, Kevin, do you insist on hurting me so?
4. Signed Joe Smith: B-. The original deal was a good one. I’ll treat the later shenanigans separately.
5. Lost Terry Porter: F. Apparently, the reason they didn’t sign him was because they were spending all of their time on Googs. Um, isn’t there more than one person dealing with these issues?
6. Traded a 2000 1st-round pick, Micheal Williams, and the rights to Zeljko Rebraca in a three way deal for Bobby Jackson and Dean Garrett: C. Jackson and Garrett were productive but not enough to warrant giving up the pick. Rebraca later became a good player off the bench for the early Ben Wallace-era Pistons.
7. Signed Malik Sealy: B. He became a very good contributor off the bench and as a starter. Rest In Peace.
8. Traded Marbury, Grant, Carr, and Curley (who was waived and brought back); got back a 1st-round pick (Wally Szczerbiak), Terrell Brandon, and Brian Evans: C+. It wasn’t a great trade because of who they lost and what was lost with it. Interesting side note: the deal allowed the Wolves to choose between 3 options — an unconditional 1999 first rounder, a top 3-protected 1999 first-rounder and a 2003 first-rounder, or a 2000 first-rounder (If the ’99 pick landed in the top 3) and a 2003 first-rounder. They chose option one and ended up with the 6th pick, which they would’ve had and had the 2003 pick if they chose option two.
1. Drafted Wally Szczerbiak: B-. He was a good player for the Wolves, but they passed on some better players to take him.
2. Drafted William Avery: D. He was inconsistent, but I don’t know how well the team tried to develop him. There were options after him.
3. Drafted Louis Bullock and sent him to Orlando for cash: F. I hope that cash comforts Papa Glen at night, because he passed up on Manu Ginobili. To paraphrase Bill Simmons, I will now jam my finger into the nearest electrical outlet.
4. Re-signed Terrell Brandon: B. He was productive for them, and that long-term deal allowed them to make another move that will be discussed later.
5. Re-signed Joe Smith: B-. More on this later.
1. Drafted Igor Rakocevic: C. Unlike the guys drafted after him, he actually made small contributions for a few seasons.
2. Joe Smith’s former agent leaks the illegal deal to the commissioner, who voids Smith’s contract, forces him to play for another team, and strips the Wolves of (ultimately) 3 first-round picks: F. I wish there was a lower grade for this. This was the worst personnel move of the past decade. I still think, though, that Taylor made this deal and gave McHale immunity for taking the fall.
3. Lost Bobby Jackson: F. Here’s a good rule: don’t trade a first-round pick for a guy and then let him leave as a free agent two seasons later.
4. Signed Chauncey Billups: B-. Was a good backup and a decent starter. In his first year, though, he was routinely torched defensively and was a streaky shooter.
5. Signed LaPhonso Ellis: C+. Did a good job of replacing Smith.
6. Signed Reggie Slater: C+. Putting him in the starting lineup may have been what pushed the Wolves into the playoffs.
7. Signed Felipe Lopez: C+. Came in with no expectations and hit some big shots for the team that year.
1. Drafted Loren Woods: C-. He wasn’t great, but there wasn’t anyone better after him, and he did contribute during the early days of the zone defense.
2. Signed Joe Smith: C+. Didn’t play as well in his second stint here, but he did have some value to them in 2003.
3. Signed Gary Trent: C+. Did some good things for the Wolves in his 3 seasons here.
4. Traded Dean Garrett and a 2nd-rounder to Golden State for Marc Jackson: C+. Jackson started slow but also played well off the bench for the Wolves the next season. He did a good job of guarding Shaq in the playoffs.
5. Signed Robert Pack: C-. Needed a PG after Brandon went down, but he couldn’t shoot anymore and wasn’t explosive.
1. Drafted Marcus Taylor: F. Drafted after Taylor? Luis Scola and Rasual Butler (not great but still in the NBA).
2. Lost Chauncey Billups: D. The only thing that saves it is that Terrell Brandon would’ve been the better PG if he were healthy. Still, though, this hurt them in the long-term.
3. Signed Troy Hudson: C+. Gave them some bang for their buck on the first contract. Plus, his rap career will entertain us for life. Sh-sh-sh-sh-shut ’em down!
4. Signed Rod Strickland: C. Was a good value for the year.
5. Signed Kendall Gill: C. Ditto.
6. Signed Mike Wilks: C. Became a surprisingly good player when injuries hit. He knew he couldn’t shoot, so he didn’t shoot.
1. Drafted Ndudi Ebi: F. Next.
2. Drafted Rick Rickert: D. There wasn’t anyone after him available. For me, he became the first sign that KG was extremely frustrated; however, it was funny to hear that he got punched in the face.
3. Traded Joe Smith and Anthony Peeler for Sam Cassell and Ervin Johnson: B+. Cassell’s attitude in the second season keeps this from an A.
4. Lost Rasho Nesterovic: F. He was an underrated player.
5. Signed Michael Olowkandi: D. It was amazing that a guy picked #1 in NBA draft would be so bad at 2-foot shots. He deserves credit for playing Shaq decently during the Western Conference Finals.
6. Traded Terrell Brandon’s contract and Marc Jackson; received Latrell Sprewell: B+. “Feed my family” keeps this from an A.
7. Signed Mark Madsen: C+. Has made some contributions.
8. Signed Fred Hoiberg: B-. Was a very effective player until having to retire.
9. Signed Trenton Hassell: C+. Decent starter for several years.
10. Signed Darrick Martin: C. Played an unexpectedly important role after Cassell was injured in the playoffs.
1. Drafted Blake Stepp: D. Only one other guy was drafted after him, and he didn’t do much either.
2. Signed Eddie Griffin: C-. He was a disappointment but made some contributions. Rest In Peace.
3. Signed Anthony Carter: C+. Started and played well for them for two seasons. Limited player but still effective.
4. Re-signed Troy Hudson: D+. Played well for a season after the new deal and then went downhill. Sh-sh-sh-sh-Shut ’em down!
5. Matched the Blazers’ offer sheet for Trenton Hassell: C-. I liked him as a player, but the Wolves always found guys like him for 1/4th of the cost.
6. Signed John Thomas: C. Came from nowhere to play in the regular rotation.
1. Drafted Rashad McCants: C-. Everyone and their mother knew that Danny Granger was a steal at that pick.
2. Drafted Bracey Wright: D+. Did some good things in his second season. The guys drafted after him? Andray Blatche, Ryan Gomes, and Amir Johnson.
3. Traded Cassell and a 1st-round pick to the Clippers for Marko Jaric and Lionel Chalmers: D+. Jaric made some contributions, but his ability was overrated, and they cut Chalmers. They could’ve traded Cassell’s expiring contract for a better player during the season if necessary. The pick also brought us two obvious tank jobs and subjected fans to the horror of Mark Madsen shooting 3s.
4. Lost Sprewell: D. Not a big deal, but his expiring contract could’ve been used in a deal the previous season that might’ve helped them back into the playoffs.
5. Re-signed Griffin: D. Had part of a good year but then fell out of favor and they had to buy him out.
6. Re-signed Madsen: C-. I don’t care how good of a guy he is; $2 million is too much for a guy who doesn’t suit up every night.
7. Traded a 2nd-round pick to Detroit for Ronald Dupree: F. Why?
8. Traded Szczerbiak, Olowokandi, Dwayne Jones, and a first-rounder to Boston for Ricky Davis, Mark Blount, Marcus Banks, Justin Reed, and 2 second-rounders (one Miami’s): C. Wally was a jerk with a big contract. Eventually, they were able to move Blount’s contract. All except Banks contributed to the .500 start in 06-07 (yes, it’s pathetic that that’s considered a positive).
9. Traded Nikoloz Tskitishvili to Phoenix for a second-round pick: C. It’s not like it will hurt the team.
1. Drafted Brandon Roy and traded him to Portland for Randy Foye and cash: D. Foye could still become a good player. Roy could still become hounded by chronic injuries. Right now, though, huge mistake.
2. Drafted Craig Smith (pick from Boston): C. He’s a good player but is on the wrong team. The Wolves passed up Paul Millsap, Leon Powe, and Boobie Gibson.
3. Drafted Bobby Jones and traded him to Philadelphia for a future second-round pick: D. Jones has been in and out of the league, but they passed on the same guys as they did with Smith.
4. Drafted Loukas Mavrokefalidis: I. If he starts one game with the team, I’ll buy a custom-made jersey with his name on it.
5. Signed Mike James: C-. He was okay but disappointing. He and KG weren’t a good match.
1. Traded Mike James to Houston for Juwan Howard: D-. They saved money on the deal but little else.
2. Drafted Corey Brewer: C-. Has done some good things, but I thought he’d be better, especially since a lot of people thought he’d go higher.
3. Drafted Chris Richard (pick from Philly): D. Marc Gasol and Ramon Sessions were both available. He might still contribute; if they had a roster opening, I think he’d be brought back.
4. Traded KG for Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, their first-rounder back from the Wally-Ricky trade, and a future first-rounder: C+. This grade could go up.
5. Traded Trenton Hassell to Dallas for Greg Buckner: C+. Shorter contract, better fit for the team last year.
6. Traded Davis and Blount to Miami for Antoine Walker, Michael Doleac, Wayne Simien, and a first-round pick: B-. Everyone said Blount was untradeable. This grade could also go up depending on what happens with the pick.
7. Traded Green to Houston for Kirk Snyder and a second-round pick: C-. Snyder played decently, and they continued to stockpile picks.
2008-09 (So far…)
1. Drafted OJ Mayo and traded him, Walker, Jaric, and Buckner to Memphis for Kevin Love, Mike Miller, Jason Collins, and Brian Cardinal: C-. Disappointing so far, but it’s too early to give a lower grade.
2. Drafted Nikola Pekovic (pick from Miami via Boston): C-. He might’ve been the best player available. I hope he will be worth it.
3. Drafted Mario Chalmers and traded him to Miami for two second-rounders: C-. Chalmers is decent but gets helped because his backcourt mate is Dwyane Wade. How the picks turn out will have an effect on whether this goes up or down.
4. Re-signed Gomes: C+. The contract was reasonable for a player of his ability.
5. Re-signed Telfair: C+. Ditto.
6. Re-signed Smith: C-. He’s mainly here because he likes playing here. Is productive but is too similar of a player to other guys on the team.
7. Traded basically nothing to Philadelphia for Rodney Carney, Calvin Booth, Utah’s first rounder, and cash: A-. Any time a person gets something for nothing, it’s worth it.
What does this show? A GM who has made a lot of average moves, some good moves, one great move, some bad moves, one really bad move, and some potentially bad moves. Not all of these were his responsibility, but they tell an interesting story. Drafting has been below-average. Player development has been below average. Trades have been good when the deals are small, but average to below-average when the deals were bigger. Free agency has been good in the sense that they mainly get players on the cheap who have performed better than what they are paid.