Team Name: Minnesota Timberwolves
Previous Record: 24-58
Draft: Wayne Ellington, Jonny Flynn, Rights to Ricky Rubio
Free Agency: Ryan Hollins, Ramon Sessions, Sasha Pavlovic, Jason Hart, Jared Reiner, Devin Green, Tupac Shakur
Trade: Stewart Pecherov, Damien Wilkins; Mark Blount and Antonio Daniels (buyouts pending for these 2).
Personnel: David Kahn, Kurt Rambis, Reggie Theus, Bill Laimbeer, Dave Wohl
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Timberwolves Vice President of Basketball Operations Kevin McHale, Rodney Carney, Jason Collins, Mike Miller, Randy Foye, Bobby Brown, Craig Smith, Mark Madsen, Sebastain Telfair, Shelden Williams, Kevin Ollie
1. What significant moves were made this offseason?
Yikes. I am not even sure a move-by-move recap is worth everyone’s time. Let’s just say the first and most significant move was the hiring of David Kahn. Since his first move of firing longtime local boob/legend Kevin McHale, the team has been in a constant state of transition. Even today I get the feeling there are still a couple moves left before the season begins in two weeks.
In a nutshell, the team has moved its mediocre players in exchange for “future flexibility” and young talent. The most significant trade in terms of players moved was the pre-draft day trade of Mike Miller and Randy Foye in exchange for the 5th pick in the draft (Rubio), Pecherov, Etan Thomas, and Darius Songaila. Pecherov is the only player remaining from Washington. Any and every trade made thereafter was made after counting the beans of the payroll, whether it be for this season or next season, and despite the loss of “talent” on the roster.
Free agent wise, Kahn spelled the longtime assumption that free agents do not want to sign with the Wolves, making aggressive plays for Sessions, Hollins and Pavlovic. Sessions is obviously the most significant pickup, and definitely will help ease the “loss” of Ricky Rubio to FC Barcelona in the short term. If Milwaukee would have matched this offer, especially considering Kevin Love’s 2 month hiatus, it would have spelled early disaster for this upcoming season. With that said, the signing of Hollins will prove to be fruitful if he can come in and play starting quality minutes while Love’s left hand recovers.
In terms of personnel and coaching staff, Kahn could have hit a home run with a Kurt Rambis, Reggie Theus, Bill Laimbeer, Dave Wohl coaching staff. On paper,the group looks top notch.
Overall, it looks like the Wolves have positioned themselves to get further top talent in next year’s draft, owning 3 first round picks (their own, and protected Utah/Charlotte picks). Additionally, we should have anywhere between $12-$15 million in cap space. It is too bad this year is going to be pretty much a wash.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
Well I would have started this one with rebounding, but our sophomore curse (our last 4 first rounders have missed significant time to start each of their 2nd seasons) continued when Love went down with a left hand injury that will keep him out until at least December. Sweet. Regardless, Al Jefferson is one of the best rebounding big men in the league and should at least be able to hold his own. Hopefully his knee holds up.
As a team, we have 2 point guards in Sessions and Flynn who should be excellent at getting into the lane and drawing fouls. However, with the replacement refs calling flagrant 2 fouls for tucking in your jersey, it unfortunately isn’t much of an advantage at this point. Topic for another day.
Post offense should be effective with Al Jefferson and has always been an area of strength for Minnesota.
I can’t believe I am mentioning perimeter defense after years of terrible D, but we have a nice crew of guards in Flynn, Sessions, Brewer and Pavlovic who can lock down on guys pretty effectively. Along with that comes a good combined effort as a team and what appears to be excellent chemistry. This is rare thing in the league today.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Talent. The team really only has a few guys worthy of an NBA rotation, meaning as soon as one guy goes down for a period, the entire town acts as if the sky is falling. The main issue here is the team has been “rebuilding” for so long, and at some point needs to break the bank and bring someone in, otherwise each of our 5 rotation players are going to be too indispensable and the team will implode. Luckily, we seemed to have positioned ourselves for a decent free agency period next summer, so for the 6th year in a row I say, “PATIENCE PEOPLE.” Heavy sarcasm.
Basketball wise, perimeter shooting is going to be a huge problem. Not from a general situational issue, but our shooting is so atrocious that it is going to make things much harder for others who try to play to their strengths. Who is Jefferson going to kick it out to when he is triple teamed in the post? How is Jonny Flynn going to penetrate when he draws the defense into the lane completely and turns it over? It is going to be a challenge.
We have 3 mediocre wing players in Brewer, Pavlovic, and Wilkins. The rotation is going to be pretty tough to define since they all can play solid defense, but not one can shoot the ball with deadeye accuracy.
Our post defense has always had issues with Al and Love, but hopefully the addition of Ryan Hollins helps in this area. It will be interesting to see Jefferson play off of a 7 footer for significant time to start the season. He hasn’t had that luxury in the past.
4. What are the goals for this team?
1. Not surrender our pick to the Clippers. The Wolves owe our first to LA for the dreaded Marko Jaric trade that occured several years ago. It is top 10 protected. Considering this season is a wash, I am not overly concerned. The emergence of Love’s injury helps this case and helps solidify our pick in what scouts consider to be a deep draft. That was a negative goal, but unfortunately the truth.
2. Develop our youth. Wolves fans have long been frustrated when our past regime has failed to play our young guys consistent, meaningful minutes. This year we would like to see our rookies thrown into the fire immediately, for that may be the key to development. Especially on a team pretty much devoid of talent.
3. Form an identity. Along with all the change should come a new identity, especially on offense. Rambis has changed quite a bit from our drive and kick hodgepodge of years past. This is a good thing for us, and should hopefully create a somewhat exciting team to watch this year, despite a black hole in talent. All things considered, it will be good to see a consistent flow and acquisition of players for their compliment to our schemes.
4. Big Al the All-Star. If he doesn’t make it, with Yao injured and Shaq to the East, I declare that the NBA is rigged more than it already is.
5. Stomach the replacement refs. Because they are terrible.
5. Is Kahn the real deal?
First and foremost, the national media has blown the situation completely out of proportion. Wolves fans above all finally have hope. No more trades for mediocre have-never-beens. No more bad contracts. In general, Kahn has received an outstanding reception for his hard work, and candidness with the fans. His true test is going to be next offseason, when Rudy Gay and Joe Johnson are going to be the top free agents (mark my words, the big names will resign with their current teams). Can he pry one of them, draft another big name, and move forward to a respectable record? Who knows now, but based on the guys he signed this season, he certainly will be trying. Just please, no more trading players for nothing like you did Sebastain, Smith and Madsen. That was dumb.
Predicted record: 30-52
Breaking 30 wins is a solid goal and I honestly think this team is better than last year. Losing Love hurts the first 1/4 of the season, but I do not forsee that affecting our final record too much. Anyone expecting more should follow another team, especially considering watching more than 55 games this year will be damn near impossible (local fans got screwed by cable, its bad). In summary, this season is a placeholder for next season, when the front office plans to add significant talent. Any other question (i.e can Al and Love play together in the front court?) honestly doesn’t even matter. Just try to stomach some basketball in Minny this winter and see what happens. I myself, am surprisingly excited to see what happens and will do whatever it takes to watch all 82. So should you.