So, here we are Wolves fans. The draft is done, the Summer League’s in action, and the roster has 14 players on it.
The off-season’s largest of dominoes have fallen. LeBron’s dramatic home coming, Melo and Bosh’s less dramatic decisions to remain where they were, and Pau Gasol joining the Bulls, put Kevin Love at the center of the league wide talk. Funny thing is, he’s actually still under contract.
We’ve heard that Danny Ainge is gunning for K-Love. We’ve heard the Cavs do not plan on trading Andrew Wiggins, and we still hear about Golden State being a potential landing spot.
So … here we are … still waiting for the Twolves to do something.
All along, Flip Saunders has made it pretty clear that he’s satisfied with the roster, and yesterday Glen Taylor made his opinion loud and clear. That the Wolves front office expects Kevin Love to be a Timberwolf this season. Of course, there certainly remains the possibility that the Wolves front office will receive a trade proposal that is too good to pass up, but clearly, an offer to their specifications has not yet surfaced.
Because of this, I think it’s important for Twolves fans to take another look at the team we have right now. The depth chart looks like this:
SG: Martin/LaVine/Brewer/Robinson III/Muhammad/Shved
SF: Brewer/Budinger/Muhammad/Robinson III
Oh, right … Barea, Martin, Budinger … for better or for worse, these guys are still on the team.
Looking at this objectively, compared to many Twolves depth charts of years past, this looks pretty great.
At point guard, Ricky Rubio is entering a pivotal season in his career. It’s a contract year for him, and if he wants any chance of receiving the max deal he’s asking for, he has to improve measurably. I expect him to do just that. As for back ups, we here are twolvesblog have been quite vocal about our opinions on J.J. Barea and wholeheartedly hope that he is on his way out. But for now, he remains a part of the roster, and at his very best, he can be fun to watch, which at least makes him … tolerable. LaVine and Shved running the point in situations offer the Wolves some options with size. I think if LaVine in particular can hold down the fort for a few minutes as a back up PG than Barea’s role would shrink to “energy guy” … as it should have always been in the first place.
At shooting guard, Kevin Martin is still here. While the money attached to his name is a bit on the high side, and his name has floated around in K-Love trade rumors, lets look at what he brought to the table last seasons. He averaged nineteen points per game. Though he dealt with injuries and was inconsistent, Kevin Martin’s season last year is up their, pathetically, with the very best seasons a shooting guard has had in Franchise history. Now, looking at the back ups, LaVine looks like a capable off ball player. Add GRIII to the mix and there’s a highly athletic player who can defend and shoot a little bit.
I put Corey Brewer in the mix there at SG because I think that’s a position he can defend more than some of our other wing players. For instance if Shabazz and Corey see the floor together, is their really any doubt which of them will guard the quicker/more dangerous player?
Moving on to the other wing position, small forward, we see a lot of similar faces. Truly, in most circumstances theses positions are interchangeable. The only player that I think is pretty locked in to SF is Chase Budinger, who I think has one last chance this year to show that he can play in the NBA. Budinger’s worth really took a hit with his knee injuries, but if healthy, the Wolves could benefit from his outside shooting ability. What I see here on the wing are up grades. I think any of these wing rotations should compete at a higher level than last years team where Hummel and Shved played so many minutes.
The only hole in the rotation, oddly enough, it’s at the power forward position. We do not have a back up PF. People, including myself, have been suggesting that the Twolves could play Gorgui Dieng at PF. We’ve seen some of his comfort level in the high post. He’s shown good passing skills and a comfort level with a Dirk/Duncan-esque post fade-away. But outside of yesterdays 19 rebound performance, the Summer League has been less than stellar for Mr. Dieng. He might be better off focusing on becoming a better center than doing double duty.
The Twolve’s center rotation looks very solid. Dieng having come on at the end of last season appears to be ready to take on some of the load from Pekovic, and Ronnie should be a solid third or forth option. Kevin can swing down there, in the small ball lineups that have become all the rage in the NBA of late, and even Kyrylo Fesenko looks like he could be a positive force on a NBA roster.
Nonetheless, if the Twolves plan is to roll with Kevin Love this season, I’m surprised they haven’t been more active in solidifying that missing piece of their rotation. They need a quality back up Power Forward even if they think that Gorgui Dieng can fill that roll for a few minutes a game. This is why I question their lack of interest in Trevor Booker or Ed Davis. While they are not big name players, they’ve shown that they can be effective at times, and were not by any means too expensive. To me, this suggests that the Twolves front office plans to make some kind of move.
Looking at this roster, the Evan Turner rumors don’t look any bit reasonable. The Wolves have too many players in the SG/SF slot and to be honest, I’m not sure Evan Turner is really that much better than who we have. To me this also suggests that, though they are not actively pursuing trading Kevin Love, they are taking offers seriously and weighing their value.
While I have my anxieties about rolling with Kevin “Talk About the Wolves in Past Tense” Love, and would rather rid Minnesota of J.J. “Going Rogue” Barea, there are some line ups that could be effective and very fun to watch. What Flip did in the draft cannot be over looked. We added two players with good potential and great athleticism.
If this roster stays as it is now, I think the Wolves will be more explosive than last season, have more balanced rotations offensively and defensively, and be lead by a coach who still has some passion for basketball left over.
Now I know this doesn’t mean much, but it was encouraging to watch yesterdays Summer League game against Phoenix. I saw some really great things from the Wolves young guns.
First thing that I noticed, was Shabazz MuHammad’s effort. He had an awful game in almost every way of looking at it, except for his effort. Shabazz gathered nine rebounds and got to the charity stripe nine times. The points and rebounds he was responsible for were absolutely crucial. This is a perfect example of what a player must do when they are not feeling it offensively and exactly the kind of tenacious play that the Wolves lacked last season when it counted most.
Second thing I noticed was Gorgui Dieng’s confidence. Against Phoenix, Dieng did not play as if he was thinking too much. He took the shots he was comfortable taking and he was completely dominant on the boards. While some of his jump shots were not the highest percentage looks possible, I think it’s better to have a player with confidence than one who is too gun shy to try.
Third thing I noticed, was Zach LaVine’s ability to create. Zach had not shown very much to me so far with regard to his ability as a point guard. This last game was something different. Zach shows the ability to hit shots off the dribble. This is a great skill to have. While, like Gorgui, some of his shot selection could use some tweaking, the elevation and purity on his jump shot was awesome to see. He showed the ability to go get a basket, another thing that the Wolves lacked in a big way in crunch time last season.
The one negative that I saw with Zach LaVine’s game is that he seems to get too close to the basket sometimes. I think this is because of his youth, impressive speed and his recent growth. At the speed in which he works he needs to learn when it is the right time to elevated for a dunk. This is all about timing. I’m confident we will see more of him bursting by a screen and hammering the ball down over the defense.
While it’s undeniable that the Kevin Love trade rumors will continue to swirl, we as Wolves fans cannot forget about the team that we currently have. I feel encouraged that the Twolves front office are not panicking right now. They are content to roll with the punches. While it does seem dangerous to hold on to a player that appears to want nothing to do with your organization, it’s also stupid to dump him for less than he is worth right now in the present. And the truth is, Kevin Love is worth a lot.
He says he all wants to do is win. At this point, I’d be content with testing that. With a few tweaks to the depth chart and the addition of a back up PF, this Twolves team, has the potential to compete. While the Western Conference will be extremely difficult this year, this Twolves roster certainly has as more to offer as last years Suns.
I’m excited to see what happens. Hopefully, as the off season continues, the offers for Kevin Love might become more viable. I’d be surprised if Cleveland didn’t eventually cave and offer up Wiggins. But for now, lets think about the team we have. If the Wolves do keep Kevin Love, who would be a good back up for him at PF? How could the Wolves further balance their roster?
And … arguably the most important question … how can they get rid of J.J. Barea!?
‘Til next time,