I live in a basketball house. My wife is a die-hard Celtics fan. I, a lifelong Timberwolves fan. Sure there is some times where the house is divided. We both realize we are in separate conferences, so all in all things work out OK. Being in a basketball household, we watch basketball 7 nights a week. A lot of our conversations during basketball season can be about the league. My friends are basketball fans, so naturally most all of my conversations with them revolve around basketball. Euro-league, D-League and if time allows China. From the Front office to stats, I love all things basketball.
This season has been a tough time in the Glenn household. With the Celtics way below their standard, and the Wolves, plagued by injury, not living up to the potential of what this squad should have been able to accomplish. Typically, one of our teams has something that resembles a decent basketball team, this season, not so much. Each game collapse for both of us has seemed like watching a kid eat an ice cream cone on a hot day. You just know that the scoop of ice cream is going to hit the ground at some point, the question is when.
Recently I was so frustrated with my beloved Wolves after blowing the Bobcats game, with JJ “little man complex” Barea playing iso heroics and not getting a call because he’s a serial flopper at the end of regulation, I was ready to say “Blow it Up”. I was on the cliff and ready to jump. The thoughts or Ricky Rubio running a beautiful pick and roll offense, hitting cutting Kirilenko’s, or flying Derrick Williams for alley-op dunks. Or, sweet day dreams of Love and Pekovic dominating the inside and energy of Stiemsma and Cunningham off the bench with Budinger and Shved making the Wolves second unit a formidable foe, were all gone. The alarm had gone off, and all my dreams were shattered by a supposed 6’0” whirling dervish.
I was already saying, “There is always next year”. See I was too quick to be the fanatical fan and lost all my perspective. The realistic facts eluded me because I just tired of Lucy pulling out the football. Walking around trying to brace myself for the next rebuilding project, I was reminded by one of the smartest basketball minds I know, things weren’t so bad for the Wolves. That David Kahn shouldn’t be run out of town just yet.
Just like a good friend, he knew I had had enough, and he talked me from jumping. Here is the conversation that ensured.
After a message I had sent to him saying, “I think I am officially done with Kahn.” I get the quick response of “Kahn didn’t go all Tanya Harding on the players, he put together a really good team.” I had to ask, “But, do you feel he set up the franchise to be successful for years to come in assembling this roster?” My buddy strongly answered “Yes!” He used an exclamation point, which means he was emphatic in his answer. An answer that definitively made me ask “Really? OK, I would ask you to elaborate on how he has done this. What does the team have? Keep in mind financial flexibility needs to be considered”. My wise friend, without missing a beat, provides me with the following reasons as to why things aren’t so glum. “Ok young pieces: Kevin Love – top 10 payer in the league, 24 years old, top rebounder and great outside shooter, nationally marketable star Ricky Rubio – top 50 player, 2nd tier PG in a pg lead league. Elite ticket seller. Worldwide marketability. Makes people want to play with him. Pek – top center in the league. Folk hero. Terrific defensive rebounder, solid post scorer. Quick defensive feet. Shved – promising rookie with flashy game that will sell tickets. Potential to be top 6th man in the NBA. Potential top 50 player. DWill – growing into his potential. Good replacement for Love or good trade asset. Better asset than current usable player. Provides flexibility to trade other front court players. The support crew: AK is essential to success in the short term, great team player, an essential mentor. Provides financial flexibility as he ages. Cunningham = glue guy. “Do dirty work type of player”. Bud – support wing. Lee – potential top defender. Barea – game changing backup pg. Ridnour – trade asset or cap flexibility. Lou and Steamer – merely filling roster spots for this season. We have exceptional flexibility and young experienced talent. Very good overall talent. We have players that are phenomenal at specific tasks”.
Frankly I had forgotten everything I preached in the preseason, and the biggest piece of the puzzle, which had been missing over the last 3 weeks, Rick Adelman. 8th all times in wins in NBA history and 22 years of knowledge and experience.
Ok things haven’t been as bad as I thought. But, what did I know, I was reeling from 6 straight losses and back to back losses against the Bobcats and Wizards. Losing to those 2 teams would drive any fan crazy.
While the topic of trades is going to be consuming the league for almost the next month, the Wolves have said they would like to get more front court help. Chris Johnson, Greg Stiemsma and Pekovic should be enough. Love, Cunningham, Williams and well Lou, if you want to count him, would seem to be enough of a front court presence. It still perplexes me as to why they still talk about wanting another big. The Wing would be the biggest glaring issue.
So know that I am back from the cliff, there are many things that could still turn some things around for this team. Brandon Roy is still a HUGE question mark. What is going to happen with him and his $5.1 million dollar contract for this season? Some sources have said that Roy is strictly being kept around because his contract can be used in a trade. As soon as the trade happens, Roy will retire and his contract will come off of their books. That is a nice trade chip. Take the Orlando Magic, JJ Redick for Roy and a first round pick, gives the Magic’s rebuilding project even more cap room and more assets. Sure the Wolves may have to throw in more, but the real thing the Magic are after is flexibility.
The Wolves desperately need a wing that can shoot from the outside, 30th in the NBA in 3 pt%. Roy was a long shot to do that, but, Redick is only 28 and playing some of the best basketball of his career. His shooting is as good as always, and he’s been able to create his own shot more this season. Something the Wolves could greatly use. If Redick is not going to be an option, the Wolves could use a Marcus Thorton, a long shot considering the state of the Kings, can create his own shot and has a career 58% TS% (True Shooting).
Other possible pieces the Wolves could look at? How about Jared Dudley, The Suns are going nowhere and Dudley has proven to be an effective shooter, 58% TS% for his career. The Thunder may be another place to look; they have an absolute plethora of talent on the wing and not enough minutes. They have Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin, or DeAndre Liggins. All are that 2-3, except Martin who is a 2, and they will run into financial issues depending on what way they want to go. All three of those players can create a shot and would fit well into the Wolves system. An outside thought, the Wolves could look to kill 2 birds with 1 stone with the Nuggets. Look to get Evan Fournier a player that has shown to have a nice outside jumper and Timofey Mozgov. What would it take to get this deal done? I am not sure I know Denver could use some cap relief, so the Roy contract could be a huge bargaining ship, toss in a draft pick or two and maybe we would be close. Look at this point I am almost happy to use draft picks in trades. For the amount of draft picks Kahn has had, he has been unsuccessful for more than he has been successful.
Kahn has proved to be much more successful in his salary cap work than anything. He has shown to be pretty solid in free agency. Despite the Rambis years, which were something I would like to forget, where from the outside, it was pretty clear Kahn and Rambis weren’t working together. Not only were they not working together, they didn’t seem to know where they wanted to go.
So now this year, take out the injuries and the offseason acquisitions’, the Wolves have been better than most in getting solid players in to fill openings. Both Chris Johnson and Mickael Gelabale have shown to be able to play at the NBA level. Combine them with all of the other players the Wolves have on contract for next season, Love, Kirilenko, Derrick Williams, Barea, Ridnour, Rubio, Lee and team options on Cunningham and Stiemsma and that is a solid group. Budinger will need to be resigned as will Johnson and Gelabale, but Pekovic will be the biggest question mark.
While there is still some question marks, the team itself is in pretty good shape. If the basketball gods could just give a reprieve from some of the injuries, and the team would invest in a lot of medical research, things are still looking good for the Kahn era.