Each year around draft time, I McHale it. I head deep into the Canadian wilderness for five days, away from any form of communication, employment/female obligations, or NBA news. Nothing but a fishing pole and my thoughts. I even drive through Hibbing, Minnesota en route, home of McHale. It is very bittersweet because I often miss out on draft day and the buzz surrounding it, but I make due. However, this year I will be in town for the draft for the 2nd time in about six years, and in turn it should be a pretty exciting day for the Wolves. While I was up north I pondered what I might etch out upon my return and came up with the following. And while the myriad of trade rumors that have materialized are perhaps making some of this irrelevant, I am going forth.
It seems that no matter what happens, the Wolves will trade the #2 selection. I can’t say I disagree with this, for the right package, but there are several negative implications that may present themselves with such a move. Or any move, really, which is why so many seem to have come to the conclusion that having the #2 pick is actually a bit of, dare I say it, a bit of a negative. Any follower of our forum discussions can easily see the direction this team should go in is surprisingly split, with opinions oscillating by the hour (myself included). So what direction should we go in? Does any direction present a clear-cut, obvious solution, especially in lieu of a new CBA with heavier cap restrictions? Not really. Below I will outline three directions the Wolves could go on Thursday, and why each scenario may present its own individual challenges.
Going into this, it bears mentioning the value of the #2 selection as an asset, but also the player attached to it. Too often it seems we fall into this idea that the mystique and allure of a pick number must mean great things, or that it is worth more than present rotation players. But in reality, few draft picks succeed to the level the Wolves need to get over the hump. Many #2 overall picks flop, while many #10 picks prosper. It is all a crap shoot. With that said, what is our best chance to a) upgrade this roster and start winning games and b) maximize the value of the #2 overall selection in a draft, an asset The Wolves have never had?
1. Keep the Pick and Select Derrick Williams
Click read more to see the rest of the scenarios
Leading up to the draft, there is an obvious consensus top 2: Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams. No matter how cute you try to get with your predictions, these two are the picks. No secret formula or silly speculation will change this (unless Kahn is involved, perhaps). And there is no doubt D Will is an intruiging prospect, showing solid range on his shot, power, and a killer instinct attitude the Wolves haven’t seen in a long time (an underrated aspect to Williams). However, with Williams in the mix comes an obvious rotation issue for the Wolves. If there is any position the Wolves have set, it is the 3/4 rotation with Kevin Love, Anthony Randolph, Michael Beasley, Anthony Tolliver, and even Pekovic should not be written off just yet. The obvious question: where would Williams play? Could he succeed here with limited minutes long term? Does it make sense to move Love to Center for example, in order to free up minutes? Not really, hence the challenge. Someone would have to be moved, and it would likely be Michael Beasley.
In terms of Beasley, who showed flashes of brilliance the first half of the year, moving him is not likely going to net us a return that meets expectation. While it makes no sense to set his value comparable to the deal that brought him to Minnesota (that was a salary dump for Miami), Michael Beasley will not be swapped for Andre Iguodala. And in addition, by going with Williams, the Wolves are taking a significant risk in assuming Derrick Williams will play at Beasley’s level from the get-go, a highly unlikely scenario, even considering Beasley’s inconsistent play down the stretch. And let’s not forget Beasley still has plenty of room to grow himself. He is 22 years old, after all. Is it worth the risk? The opportunity cost of Beasley potentially blowing up elsewhere just to take shot at Williams? Eh….maybe not so much.
2. Trade back for a pick in the 3-7 range and pick up another asset.
The most discused scenario here seems to be trading the #2 and filler (filler = important in this whole thing, but we will get to that) to Cleveland for the #4 and Varejao. However, looking outside of this scenario, ask yourself if such a trade would net the Wolves the assets needed to compete next year. So the Wolves trot out with last year’s roster plus, say, Rubio, JaVale McGee/Varejao/Omri Caspi and Kemba Walker/Enes Kanter/Bitchsmack Biyombo? How does this push us in any direction other than closer to no man’s land, a territory potentially worse than we are now? Not to mention the contract or future extensions involved would not create an ideal scenario long term, nor a winning enviromment.
Another thing to factor is the sheer realism of all of these dream deals that are presenting themselves. History suggests for a team to move up a few spots doesn’t exactly require a king’s ransom. Usually another first or a young prospect will do it. I’m not sure Cleveland would even give up Anderson, and even if they would, his contract is awful and not a good one to absorb. On second thought, I’m sure Cleveland is begging us to take Anderson. Nevermind.
But the big key here is the production and opportunity cost of just taking Williams and keeping him. McGee, while a solid defensive center, isn’t likely to produce a heck of a lot more than Darko on the court (assuming a new offense will be in place soon, of course). And then burying Kanter, Biyimbo or Walker on the bench? What is the point? Hello 20 wins. No thanks.
3. Trade for a veteran player
Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala, Monta Ellis, Josh Smith. All of these players would no doubt be excellent additions to the Wolves roster and would certainly help generate wins nearly immediately. This alone gives this concept a tip of the hat from many fans. But this should not be considered without a few major cautions:
a. Contracts. The Wolves are currently all but out of cap room. Any trade we make has to include filler and to that end we aren’t reeking of expiring contracts to trade to teams looking to shed the payroll. This lack of cap space chops off a good deal of leverage from the Wolves’ trading position. While this is a minor plot to the story, the larger caveat here is the looming new CBA agreement, which could drastically impact the ability for the Wolves to retain their core. Assuming we are all in on Love/Beasley and Randolph under this scenario, all three will have to sign extensions within a year. Love will cost the most, and will come at a likely 8-digit annual salary. Assuming Beasley makes strides with a new offense, and AR continues to produce, pencil those in for at least 8 digits annually combined. Add on another 8 digit veteran (all of the above options), and suddenly the Wolves have a tough payroll to navigate. Consider though that one day we will have to extend Wes Johnson and Ricky Rubio. Say three years down the line when the “harder” cap is allegedly going to hit and we can’t resign a key member of our core and have to sign and trade his rights for nothing? Yucky, yucky, yucky.
b. Age. While not as applicable to some of the big man prospects, it bears mentioning that guards generally don’t sustain elite play into their thirties. Is three years of Iguodala enough to right the ship? Some would simply say, “who cares? Get it done.” Preach on.
c. Injuries. Several of our big man targets have struggled with injuries throughout their careers. This is concerning. Especially as it pertains to Bynum. Huge risk. Not sure much else even needs to be said here.
d. A distant D, but loyalty. Kahn committed to Darko Milicic. While this is obviously not a huge deal to a fan, it doesn’t bode well that he would give up on Darko this soon. Not a great thing to do with the kid. While he was not an ideal starter, I have to imagine his game can improve if he were given an opportunity to succeed outside of the right block. He is a faceup, finesse player. Again, minor point, but worth mentioning.
Personally, if a situation even exists, this is probably our best route. Taking on a talented vet would do wonders for the team, and we would have several years to prepare for an incoming hard cap, or to make some consolodation trades (which is a must no matter what). If a package doesn’t exist, keeping Williams would be choice number 2, with a trade back scenario a deep last. This team doesn’t need mediocre rookie prospects and more young players in need of extensions.
So in the end, I ask, what is the ideal scenario? It it difficult to say, all things considered. And I’m glad I’m not making the decision and can instead head to the Huberts bar for a shot of Hennessey when we trade the #2 pick for Raja Bell.