First thing’s first. Rejoice!
This is an incredible time in Timberwolves history. For the first time, the Twolves received the #1 pick in the draft. And, for one of the few times in the last decade, they actually used it to take a player that most everyone considers to be not only solid, but rock solid. Take a moment to realize once again that the Twolves currently have the last three #1 overall draft selections on their roster. That’s crazy!
Let me repeat that.
It’s REALLY crazy! While the first of those picks, the one NOT known as “Maple Jordan” nor the other who possesses a tiny doppelganger by the name of “Karlito”, may not remain on the roster, this rare occurace sheds some light on why everyone is so darn excited. You’d think this has to be the most excited a team and its fan base has been when their previous season was such a flop. A sixteen wins after a nearly .500 season the year before, and a team somehow is more excited? That’s unprecedented. The potential of the roster is simply too high for the team and fans not to get excited.
Now of course, by the title of this post, it may appear that am arguing potential is a bad thing, which is not the case. Hell, every rebuilding team in the world wants to amass a roster FULL of young players with potential. Potential is what scouts look for. Potential is the only thing that brings the fan bases of bottom dwelling teams to the arena. The trick of NBA management, however, is not simply gathering players with great potential, but coming to the correct conclusions about the value of individual players.
After all, this is a league where soooo much money is being earned and distributed. When ever money is in the equation, especially ridiculous quantities of dollars, value is something that has to be assessed. It’s simply baffling how much money teams are shelling out for this year’s class of FAs, so with a change in the power level of cash flow, value assesment is even more essential.
In the NBA vernacular, to amass a roster full of such young talent, a team should’ve had to go through a process referred to as “tanking”: intentionally building a roster to lose in order to insure higher draft picks. Now pretty much any Twolves fan who is currently reading this article, understands or has heard of the concept of “tanking”, but I use the above definition intentionally to distinguish be tween two realities, or as it happens to be, two franchises.
While the Twolves may have played bad basketball for the better part OF the better part of a decade, they never actually tried to. They may have jettisoned some veterans, and rested some other hobbled veterans, to allow for the young bloods to develop, but in my mind that’s not tanking. Not when Sam Hienke is doing his thing over in Philadelphia. In short, for my purposes, Sam “#TrustTheProcess” Hienke’s managing style is the only true example of tanking.
Now while at hate it, Philly’s front office has made their decisions easier to make. By taking Jahlil Okafor with the #3 pick, among other players over 6’10”, after investing in the likes of Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, and Dario Saric, it shows either complete insanity, or that they are drafting who they think is the best prospect regardless of position. I mean, Philly has the luxury of looking at the high caliber prospects they have on their roster with a highly critical eye. If they don’t like what they see they can still trade them away, while they’re still highly touted young prospects, further supplementing the large supply of future assets and cap space they’ve already amassed.
While I think this process is really the opposite of entertaining, and (hashtag or no hashtag) would be completely exasperating as a fan, it should eventually work. That is, in theory. So props to tank master Hienke for sticking to his guns.
The Twolves on the other hand, have a roster FULL of young players with great potential, who, if they develop as projected, would each have good reason to demand huge (seriously HUGE!) pay days, and large amounts of playing time.
Unfortunately, in order to reach that potential they need to see the court now. This isn’t tough for Philly. They can shove their non injured duo of highly talented centers into the lime light of the NBA eastern conference, with Carl Landry, “Sauce Castillo” and anyone else who’s on their roster, without having to give playing time to veterans who want to win now. Okafor and Noel are in position to compete with each other and play huge roles.
The wolves, on the other hand, still have holdovers from the Adelmanian playoff push and competition between veteran and young-blood at every position.
That creates a small window of opportunity.
For the 76ers, the danger of potential lies in thinking so much of the future that you may never succeed in the present. In all likelihood, you can’t win in the NBA relying on four players 6’10” or taller. Especially today, when the champs played most of the finals with no one that big on the court.
For the Twolves, they have to find there new core asap, and in order to succeed, they will have to choose between players with high potential, potentially, before they actually reach that potential. Take into consideration as well, that they don’t have a bundle of future assets and cap space to fall back on. They even traded a first round pick for Adreian Payne who, realistically, may not even be good enough to crack the rotation.
I know this is not a new idea. I’m essentially riffing off the definition of potential for a whole post. There is nothing groundbreaking here. There’s always risk in investment and uncertainty in the future, and nothing can be possible without potential. The truth is, the current Twolves roster has a lot of the potential energy for NBA greatness. The front office and coaching staff now have to channel that energy properly to get a positive kinetic result.
We need mad scientist, Dr. Flip Saunderstien, to mix together the individual elements on this roster, to turn it into the proper chemical reaction for NBA glory!
Hopefully Flip Saunders and company walk the line between potential and reality enough to adequately judge the value of the players on this roster. If they find the right combination of players and help them reach their high potential, the Twolves may still be playing in June someday soon.
Then again…If they try to hold on to too much potential energy, it might just blow up in their face.
Potential is great, but it is dangerous. It makes promises that it may not be able to keep. The potential to be a great NBA hooper not governed by the rules of physics like potential energy. Maybe some players never make it to their potential, maybe the wolves unknowingly keep drafting Johnny Flynns instead of their respective Steph Curries. Maybe they run into another Starbury who refuses to play second fiddle to anybody. Maybe, they’ll illicitly renegotiate another contract with Joe Smith.
Thankfully, the current state of the Wolves is even more unprecedented. They have a team of talented players who are happy playing in Minnesota. Rubio want’s to win here. Wiggins says he wants to stay here his whole career, and Karl-Anthony Towns and Tyus Jones are both very positive about the franchise. Combine that with to supremely gifted offensive talents in Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad, who both have confidence levels that are on the verge of breaking through the stratosphere, and you can’t help but wish it was October.
In my next series of articles, in the spirit of this excitement, I will post player profiles of this year’s wolf pack. In these articles I’ll share some thoughts on the player and my admittedly subjective assessment of their value to the franchise.
I’m not a GM, nor do I intend to appear as some brilliant basketball mind. As a 5’3″ customer service representative, my resume isn’t built for that. But I, as a fan, think about the Twolves too much not to at least share my thoughts in effort to facilitate discussion.
Here’s to hope, and to dangerous potential!