31-51. Think about that relative to the stink of a team that meandered onto the court in 2009. More than twice the wins. It still boggles the mind how we all followed a team that won at half of the rate as this season's Wolves. Considering how difficult it was to remain interested in the team these past few months, and how horrendous this season seemed, it has once been far, far worse. Alas, with expectations that rise, when they are not met, apathy strikes at varying degrees. It (hopefully) will not be long before making the playoffs alone becomes inexcusable. Just ask the pre-Sam/Spree Timberwolves. The point is, remember when 30 wins seemed like a godsend? Expectations have risen and apathy strikes yet again. And there is no reason to really blame anyone for it. With this dreadfully-run franchise quadrupling ticket prices for next year, they will have a lot to answer to justify that kind of expenditure from fans moving forward.
But all in all, when you put things into perspective, The Wolves losing their top 2 shooting guards within the first 6 games of the season, Love breaking his hand twice and missing 64 games, the Yahoo interview incident, Rubio missing the first chunk of the season, AK47 and NIkola Pekovic each missing significant time, Coach Adelman missing several weeks for personal matters, Josh Howard and Malcolm Lee tearing ACLs, year 2 of Ridnour as a starting 2, etc., etc., etc. I find it absolutely remarkable and admirable that this team was able to win 31 games, the best non-Garnett season in franchise history. Without our best player in the lineup, while shooting a league-worst clip in 3 point shooting, while battling the above secondary factors. It is very impressive in a conference that is stacked to the brim with quality NBA teams.
So, rather than recount specific events that transpired throughout the season (injuries, Love f-ed up, Roy flopped, we all know these things), the above summary should suffice for those who either paid attention or did so casually. The burning question remains, where do we go from here? With the news that Adelman is still on the fence about returning, we could face a watershed moment for this franchise.
1. The Front Office Dynamic.
Despite recent rumblings to the contrary, count me as someone who would be stunned if David Kahn were not re-signed. That would be the most un-Taylor like move imaginable. Despite the fans, city, President of the United States (maybe), players, minority owners and national media imploring Taylor to dispose of this clown, he sticks to his guns and continues to allow the fish to rot from its deformed head. This guy is exponentially worse than McHale and every day he is in the front office, the odds of the Wolves EVER making the playoffs again dwindle. He needed to go the second he drafted Jonny Flynn over Stephen Curry, a move that still stings and irks anyone who has attempted to follow this team over the past four seasons. However, Taylor has surprised in the oddest of times before, but I wouldn't get any hopes up.
This brings us to Adelman. What a bloody warlock. 31 wins despite what went down. It still hasn't registered fully with many fans how remarkable this is. Sure, he doesn't play Chris Johnson. Sure, he doesn't change his starting lineup even when things continue to fail. But this guy got this team to play their butts off for most of the season. Let us hope that Rick is back next season to lead a healthy version of this team. Gut opinion? Adelman returns.
2. Nikola Pekovic
It is absolutely pivotal to re-sign him. 60 games of Pek is immeasurably better than 82 games of the alternative. The difference between 10 and 12 million per year is arbitrary on an annual basis. Who cares? We as fans shouldn't give two flying Oliver Millers. Get him locked in. He is absolutely fundamental to what the Wolves are trying to do as they compete in the ridiculous Western Conference, and imagining a season without his interior scoring and offensive rebounding is not pretty. Talent costs money. When you have a gem, polish it. Keep it. Don't sell it to a pawn shop or let another person reap the rewards. Keep your gems. Pek is a gem.
3. The Draft
As of now the Wolves will hold the 9th slot barring a lotto miracle. For once, I would like to see this franchise value its draft picks. I know adding another rookie to the regular rotation isn't supremely ideal, but for the Wolves to ever advance far into the playoffs long-term, another home run must be hit in the draft. The team without the addition of an unknown prospect is likely close to reaching its ceiling talent-wise. Sure, Rubio will get better, but until he can hit a shot consistently, well…I won't go there right now. Trade Derrick Williams and our #25 to get into a position to get the player you want if you have to. It may sound like a lot to give up, but such a move would not be regretted if we landed someone like Victor Oladipo, et. al. Value the picks. Get the best possible shooting guard you can get your hands on, and reap the rewards. Tanking is for schmucks, Pistons, Blazers and Bobcats. While the recent news that many quality draft prospects are going back school stings for a team picking 9th, getting a pick in the top 10 is suitable compensation for an under-whelming season. There are ALWAYS good players to be had no matter how "weak" drafts are.
As of now, I’d rather not begin to speculate on free agency/trades until we are out of Front Office purgatory and the draft is completed. So much could change or stay the same over the next month or two. With Adelman gone, it could influence Budinger's status. Kahn leaving could change things (such as ticket sales). Whether we decide to actually re-sign Pek could have a huge impact on who we draft, etc. So many variables. The Wolves will have a few logjams to clear out. Derrick Williams will probably have to go. Luke or JJ will have to go. Maybe even Shved (who had a miserable final two months of the year while displaying an on-court demeanor rivaled only by Darko Milicic), will be moved if the rotation becomes too blogged. The team obviously needs to add a couple of three-point shooters. We can discuss those possibilities when the time is right.
For now, we have several excellent playoff series to enjoy. The West matchups are sterling in entertainment value. The East…well…wake me up when Miami is 12-0 going into the finals. Forget about the Wolves for a bit and enjoy playoff basketball. There will be plenty that goes on this summer, but each decision will have a profound butterfly-effect on the rest of the offseason and next year. It all starts with the lottery and any news on the FO we hear before then.