Often times before I post something, I will poke around on various Wolves blogs and especially message boards to get a general idea of how Wolves fans are feeling about the team, a trade, or a rumor. It’s always a fun thing to read many different perspectives on the state of the team. That being said, it is safe to say that up until Portland matched the Wolves’ offer sheet for Nicolas Batum, this fanbase was, generally, excited. Even some of the deeply cynical posters on this site took a temporary positive tone. Glen Taylor was finally opening his pocket books. There “was a plan B if this all fell apart” and fans were motivated, coming up with trade scenarios and good fits, debating the transactions not-to-be in a futile, yet familiar manner. “The Wolves are finally going to be a winning team,” and so on and so forth. Our own macro-perceptions of what would be the Wolves’ offseason were clouded by what turned out to be a complete fools’ errand. An assumption marinaded in wishful thinking. And while this may sound like I am a bit late to the party, analyzing a series of Batum-related events that finally came to a close a week ago, there are still plenty of takeaways that still carry through today:
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1. An increasingly odd amount of fans actually thought Nic Batum was going to be a Timberwolf. I want to clear one thing up first: Kahn did the absolute, right thing hotly pursuing one of the top free agents in this class. Job well done. Bravo. But the pursuit itself wasn’t the issue. Let me put it this way: you shouldn’t hand out a participation ribbon to someone who takes three days to finish a marathon. Kahn took way too long, and put a bakers dozen worth of eggs into a small basket on a guy who had little to no chance of being acquired without significant value out. Rhetoric was spewed all over town about what was offered in an sign and trade, and we will never know for sure what really went on in the discussions between the two Q-list GM’s involved. We can plead ignorance. But the two most important principles remain: 1. This move had a very low potential rate of success from the very beginning. 2. Kahn waited a week too long and it potentially cost him two excellent acquisitions in Courtney Lee and Luis Scola. Let’s throw in another for good measure. 3. There is a reason no other team pursued Batum. Why? Because other FO’s knew it would be a waste of valuable time in a fluid situation where ‘windows of opportunity’ open and close by the hour.
This entire thing was confirmation bias to a T from a fan’s perspective. We saw what we wanted to see. From both ends of the “will he?” or “won’t he?” be a Wolf spectrums. But in both foresight and hindsight, this thing was a total shot in the dark and it didn’t work out. No one should be surprised. At all.
2. There was not, and is not, a comparable plan B. As logic would have it, the general assumption is that when Plan A fails, you move on to Plan B. Shoot for the moon and land among the stars or so the old saying goes. Well, Kahn missed the stars too and is headed for a parachute-less nosedive straight for earth (where Glen Taylor will somehow rescue him with pillows and fairies yet again). While one could correctly argue the Batum deal would have been extremely cost-prohibitive long-term, the reality is the expectation of the fan base thought Kahn was going to move right on into Andre’ Iguodala, Josh Smith, Luol Deng, Kevin Martin et. al. trade discussion territory. Well, sorry to burst the proverbial bubble, but those players will not be boarding a flight to Minnesota any time soon unless it’s to play for their current team or another team that will acquire them in an absurd, cents on the dollar trade package that will cause Wolves fans everywhere to run straight for the nearest highway and directly into oncoming traffic.
However let us remember that, while underwhelming, the players acquired to date this offseason will make the Wolves a better team this next season. We can hang our hats on a playoff berth. It’ll probably happen. The problem is the Wolves are headed straight for no-man’s land, and that is an awful place for any franchise to be. Why? Because that is good enough for this ownership group.
3. Many think there still is a plan B. Courtney Lee, OJ Mayo and Ronnie Brewer signed contracts well below their perceived market value. They are not Minnesota bound. Lee inexplicably wasn’t even offered a contract by Kahn (likely due to the timing of the Batum offer sheet) and Ronnie Brewer signed with New York on a 1-year deal worth about a million bucks. Needless to say, this offseason has been a pretty big disappointment to date, but mainly relative to the initial expectation of a big move. It’s always about a big move. The Big Move always guides expectations and leads to crushing disappointment for those who spend hours devising Andre Iguodala trade scenarios deep into the night. A big move will never come until Love demands a trade. And even then, Kahn will probably just let him sign outright with the Lakers so he can maintain his precious “flexibility.” (of note, the tone in this paragraph shifted considerably because I was in the middle of writing it when I found out Kahn missed out on Ronnie Brewer. Related news: Adam Morrison is still available)
4. The can is being kicked again. Batum was the only plan. Kahn thought he was going to get him. He didn’t, and now the Wolves are left nearly completely empty handed. Some rumblings came out this morning that the Wolves were going to keep their cap flexibility in an effort to make a big move some day down the line. Shocker! Related: the sky is blue. Keep the fan’s hopes alive. Translation: look for 1-year contracts from here on out.
How frustrating. A big move will not happen so long as Kahn is a member of this front office. He doesn’t have it in him.
The reality is, the Wolves are a better team this year than last. The odds are good that the Wolves can hold their own as a middle ranked team in the western conference even with Rubio out of action. While Rubio was a big part of the collapse, there were a myriad of other factors that lead to an awful March and April that aren’t meant for this piece. Good news, of course. However, the problem is this always seems to be good enough for Glen Taylor and his ownership group. First round exits are always ok. They are above standard. There will never be a push to add high-priced talent to get over the hump as long as Glen Taylor is running this franchise. Never. it has been the same song and dance for nearly 20 years with a single Sprewell and Cassell year as an exception. If the Wolves are winning and casual fan interest is high (ticket sales), additional large contracts will not. be. added. “But what about Batum” you say? Batum in would have equaled a big contract to Pek out next summer. And despite these musings, I think that may have been a bullet dodged in that regard. Pek is excellent.
This is the Garnett era all over again. A good era, but highlighted with broad strokes underachievement by the group of owners and a GM who just don’t seem to get it.