With apologies to Flip Saunders, let’s talk a little bit about how and why, despite their new/old boss’ insistence to the contrary, the Wolves cannot avoid a rebuild.
Maybe Zach LaVine is Michael Jordan (he’s not), but even M.J. had a sub-.500, non-playoff season in his rookie season. Given the current state of the roster, a Kevin Love-less squad will otherwise look nearly identical to the 2013-14 version, which, of course, also didn’t make the playoffs.
What happens when you take one of the top-six players in the league off of a roster that won 40 games with said superstar? We don’t know for sure yet, but it won’t be pretty.
Exactly how bad the Wolves will ultimately be depends on which organization the Wolves send Love off to, but I think we can agree that they won’t be replacing Love with exact, equal on-court value. Yes, a package from the Bulls that includes Nikola Mirotic, Jimmy Butler, and Taj Gibson could very well send back three starting-caliber NBA players, but it’s tough to assume that the Wolves would automatically lose a superstar and improve on a 40-win campaign overnight.
Getting back Wiggins? Sure, it could very well be boon in the long run, if the Canadian forward turns out to be anywhere near as good as many folks seem to think he will end up being. But he won’t be LeBron James in Year One — and guess what? King James won 35 games in his first season, and as mentioned, Jordan himself won just 38 games and missed the playoffs.
It sure sounds nice, especially to the sheep in the fan base, to hear the president/head coach claim that the team will not be rebuilding, and that they won’t be conceding the idea of taking a step backwards in 2014-15. But don’t be fooled. A Love-less team will not yield more than the 40-win total of a year ago. There is zero chance.
Which isn’t to say, of course, that a Ricky Rubio-Wiggins-Nikola Pekovic trio couldn’t get the Wolves to the precipice of the playoffs in a couple of seasons. Rubio-Wiggins is a great place to start. But this roster, plus a rookie that struggled with Big 12 competition mere months ago, isn’t going to be better than a Love-led squad.