Tomorrow at 2PM is the trade deadline. Rumors surrounding the Wolves have been somewhat quiet, as we all might have expected. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the fan base would still no doubt love a moderate deal at least.
One thing we have been able to count on is the excellent coverage of all things Wolves, courtesy of the Star Tribune’s own Jerry Zgoda. Jerry was kind enough to take some time off from his busy week to answer a few questions on the Wolves and the trade deadline. Enjoy. And be sure to check out Jerry’s blog, “On the Wolves,” here and keep reading the daily news, where we post Jerry’s work daily.
MR: What can you tell us about the changing of the guard in the front office with McHale being let go and David Kahn’s hire? Is Kahn the real deal, and is there truly a new industrious attitude at Target Center?
JZ: The real deal? Way too early to tell. He certainly didn’t maximize having two Top 6 picks in the draft, not with Ricky Rubio far away until 2011 and Jonny Flynn fighting to find his way in Kurt Rambis’ system while Steph Curry gets better by the week and Brandon Jennings has amazed at times. Kahn’s certainly a hard worker and industrious, but we’ll know a lot more after him after a 10-day period this summer. The draft and free agency will be crucial. If he can turn some of these assets he has accumulated into another high lottery pick or a good young player (small forward, shooting guard) who balances the roster, then at least he’d take a step toward Real Deal status.
PLEASE CLICK “READ MORE” for much more with Jerry below the fold.
MR: Tell us about your (dream?) job covering the Wolves. Do you travel with the team? Any interesting stories to share?
JZ: I don’t physically travel with them – their life is chartered flights and Ritz Carltons, mine is Delta/NW and Marriotts – but I go pretty much everywhere they go. It’s not sitting an office and there’s no heavy lifting and I get paid to go to games everybody else pays real money to attend, so no complaints here. The late nights/early morning flights are no fun, but for some reason I can never seem to get the Star Tribune private jet.
MR: How does the imminent trade deadline affect team morale? The Front Office has made a lot of deals lately. Does this affect the team and its cohesiveness, knowing there is a good chance the Front Office will strike a deal?
JZ: After last summer, everybody knows anybody can be traded. I know there’s an edge to the players right about what will happen, but I can’t tell if that’s curiosity or anxiety. Many of them, I would suspect, might welcome playing elsewhere.
MR: With the trade deadline approaching, do you have any buzz on which specific Wolves may be on the move, or which players/picks/draft rights we are targeting via trade?
JZ: I don’t think you’ll see Kahn trading those assets he has acquired until draft week. The one exception might be trading one of those first-round picks for a guy like Tyrus Thomas, the kind of athletic, young forward they could roll the dice on. The other guy to keep an eye on is Ryan Gomes. A contender might value him coming off the bench and if Kahn/Rambis already have determined they’ll add better players at his position(s) this summer, they’ll deal him now or at draft time rather than pay him $1 million a year for three years if they don’t pick up his contract option this summer.
MR: Who do you think the Wolves should target via trade this month? Is a larger trade involving expiring contracts worth losing significant cap space and future flexibility?
JZ: Kahn has dismissed the idea of using that cap space on guys like Kevin Martin and Andre Iguodala, basically because he doesn’t like their contracts and thinks they’re overpaid. Thomas is a guy who will be a restricted free agent this summer, so the Wolves would have the option of matching any offer or passing if the money gets too rich.
MR: Ramon Sessions has played sparingly this season despite outplaying Flynn at times. His trade value has probably slipped quite a bit. Is he a trade asset, or do you see him sticking around for another couple years? Does he have much value at this point?
JZ: I think he still has plenty of trade value. Other teams know he’s a good player and I suspect raise their eyebrows about how he has been used this season. You’d have to find somebody who considers him a starting point guard probably, at that salary ($4 million a year), not a 21-minute a game player.
MR: Can you comment on the quickly denied Al Jefferson for Danny Granger rumor that surfaced a few weeks back? Furthermore, do you see Al Jefferson on our roster to start next season?
JZ: Wouldn’t surprise me at all if they trade Al at draft time. It would if they do it now, since Kahn has been adamant he won’t trade any of his core pieces until he has had a full season to evaluate them. But why hurry? You’re not going to sniff the playoffs for another two-three years. You don’t need to make the ultimate decision on whether Love and Jefferson can play together, can defend the rim well enough together, right now. There’s no rush on that, unless you’re worried about his knees and want to get the best value you can know rather than take a chance.
MR: Are team’s lining up to barter for Pekovic? Or do you anticipate the Wolves adding him to the roster as a free agent?
JZ: It all depends on what they decide with Jefferson’s future. I cannot see Kahn putting Love, Jefferson and Pekovic all together. Love, Pekovic and a really athletic runner/jumper (DeMarcus Cousins?), now that’d be interesting. I think some teams are intrigued by Pekovic, perhaps more than the Wolves are.
MR: Ricky Rubio is a hot topic these days, of course. Is the coaching staff keeping tabs on him, and do you anticipate he makes his NBA debut as a Timberwolf?
JZ: The coaching staff isn’t, but Kahn and his scouting staff is. Kahn saw him play in Belgrade a couple weeks ago. If I was a betting man, I’d say he never plays for the Wolves and he gets traded for a high pick on draft night.
MR: Any closing comments or anything else to watch out for now and leading up to the trade deadline and this pivitol offseason?
JZ: I’d just say don’t get your expectations too high about the trade deadline. I think late June/early July is going to be extremely lively, interesting and crucial to the franchise’s future.