October 22, 2008
As the NBA preseason marches on, Ball Don't Lie looks at all 30 teams, outlining off-season transactions, projecting win totals, spinning tracks, and much, much more. It's a fun, hot mess. Next up, the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Last Season: 22-60
Key Players Added: Kevin Love (draft-trade combo), Mike Miller (trade, Griz), hair bands, Jason Collins (trade, Griz), Brian Cardinal (ditto), Rodney Carney (trade, Sixers), John Kerry (black magic; trade, Sixers)
Kelly Dwyer's Endless Grey Ribbon: It’s been batted around for a while, so I’m hardly breaking new ground, but it is worth bringing up one more time:
Everyone on this team is 6-8. 6-feet-8-inches tall. It’s nutty.
The team’s go-to scorer and rebounder? 6-foot-8.
The team’s lovable rookie and post-feeder? 6-8.
The team’s designated long-range bomber? 6'8".
The team’s muscle off the bench? 80 inches tall.
The team’s lithe, hopefully do-it-all second year small forward? 6-foot-8.
The team’s bench banger and teller of fabled championship stories of yore? 6-8!
Purdue’s all-time steals leader and Minnesota backup to backup power forward? 6-foot-8.
Calvin Booth? 6-11. What a prick.
Having a go-to height isn’t the worst thing, usually. The second run of Chicago Bulls championships came with four defensive Dobermans (Jordan, Pippen, Ron Harper, and Dennis Rodman; who was listed at 6-8 but was the same size as MJ) who were 6-feet-6-inches and could all switch and cover four positions.
But a bunch of 6-8 plodders? I’m not sure. Technically, these days, 6-8 is undersized even for the power forward slot. Teams shoot over Al Jefferson all the time, and now he’s going to play center for long stretches?
I like a lot of the players on this team. I think taking a risk on Love over Mayo (the team didn’t need another 6-8 guy, but it really didn’t need another shoot-first hybrid guard in O.J.) and grabbing some eventual cap space was a solid move. Jefferson’s a stud, and it’s great that the rest of the NBA has caught up to what we were saying in 2005. And the team has heart. It tries, in spite of what often looks like a little lack of faith in coach Randy Wittman.
But at some point, things are going to have to turn around. The team had major issues trying Jefferson in the pivot last year with Craig Smith alongside him, and I don’t see why that’s going to change this year, in spite of Love being way better than Smith offensively. Offense isn’t the issue, so throwing out the fact that "we have Miller, and Love passing!" isn’t the issue.
And let’s make one thing clear, I am always in favor of forcing the other team to adapt to you. If an unorthodox setup is the only option at this point, then go with it, and make the other (better) team beat you on your terms. Not theirs. That’s what the Timberwolves are about to try this season, and while I like it, I know it can’t last.
Now, on to the happy stuff. The Wolves finally gave into the rebuilding process during the summer of 2007, two years too late, but soon enough to grab a 23-year-old beast in Jefferson who they promptly signed through 2013. Starting next summer, the team will have a fair bit of cap space depending on what they try to do with the team’s litany of undersized shooting guards (let’s just be honest, here) in Randy Foye and Rashad McCants. McCants can be an unrestricted free agent next summer, and Foye can be signed to a contract extension if the Timberwolves so please around the same time.
I’d be a little careful with these guys. Just because you drafted them, it doesn’t mean you should retch at the idea of losing them and getting nothing in return. Bring them back if the terms are right, by all means, but hold their feet to the fire. These guys may score a bit, but they’ve projected to be pretty average players overall; and if you don’t get it by your mid-20s (Foye is 25, McCants 24), it might be too late.
Jefferson’s going to be 24 years old around this decision-making time, as well, so it’s not as if time is an issue. The guy is going to be over 22 and 10 until 2018, so chill and don’t extend the contract hell the team has been under for 11 years now just for the sake of handing what seems like an up-and-coming youngster a contract.
This season should be an improvement. A healthy Foye and a healthy (or, at least, fully-rehabbed) McCants will mean quite a bit. Adding Miller for next-to-nothing will be huge for a team that had to hand minutes to Greg Buckner and Marko Jaric last season. Jefferson will only get better, Love will play well until he hits a Brian Wilson-in-1978-sized wall in February, and the offense will perk up.
I just don’t see anyone on this team making any stops. From one to five. They’ll blow by Ryan Gomes, blow by Mike Miller, blow by Foye and McCants, and shoot over Love and Jefferson. Corey Brewer has all the appearances of a stopper, but he’s just "kind of solid" defensively at this point, and his offense is so horrible that you hope the Wolves won’t have to resort to playing him big minutes. This team sort of reminds me of another Bulls team, the one from earlier this decade. Adding another young player and hoping for the best, but still not making enough stops to create a ten-win jump in the standings.
The win projection is a bit of a drag, but that doesn’t mean things aren’t on the right track.
Expected Record: 27-55
"I Love You, Love":
"I know, man. I know."
Real Talk, Blog Talk (aka excerpts from other blogger team previews):
Canis Hoopus: "What are the team's biggest strengths? Outside shooting and rebounding. ... the Wolves will be able to trot out a lineup with Miller, Foye, and McCants — three players who finished last season in the top-20 of three point shooting. Last year, the team often found itself with a backcourt triumvirate of Telfair, Jaric, and Corey Brewer. Even with Foye or McCants on the court, opposing defenses were able to sag off of poor shooting players like Chris Richard, Antoine Walker, Michael Doleac, and Gerald Green. This season, the Wolves should be able to place solid rotations on the court with at least 2 outside shooting threats. This should open things up for Jefferson and Love on the inside."
Empty The Bench: "Rebuilding teams and small market teams only succeed when they make good use of their inevitable surplus of high draft picks. Kevin McHale has made only one great selection in his 14 seasons in Minnesota, and it was drafting Kevin Garnett. Since then his track record on draft night is the worst in the NBA. It started back in 1996 when McHale swapped Ray Allen for Stephon Marbury and continued without fail into recent years with draft-night decisions like trading the rights to Brandon Roy for Randy Foye and selecting Rashad McCants over Danny Granger. Let’s not even get into the Joe Smith fiasco that cost them five first-round draft picks (even if two of the picks were ultimately returned). In between those more publicized gaffes McFail has compiled a first-round resume that includes first-round busts Ndudi Ebi, William Avery, Radoslav Nesterovic and Paul Grant."
HOOPSWORLD: "While there are some really nice pieces in Minnesota, this just isn't a team that can compete in the West. Last year a big problem for them was point production. The Timberwolves were 11-38 when they allowed their opponents to score over 100 points last year and unless Wittman can convince Foye to put his offense second and everyone else's first they still could have problems keeping up with a high scoring pace. It's important to remember that this is a team still fully in the rebuilding process and simply being competitive is priority number one right now. It's going to be extremely tough for them though, because nearly every team in the West is more talented than them on paper. The same can be said for the majority of the Eastern Conference as well."
TWolves Blog: "I'd personally like to see the team turn the corner and plant the seeds of a winning culture. I'd like the players to stop having potential and start showing real results. I'd like to see Randy Wittman establish a clear pecking order and once and for all determine which of our glut of young guards are keepers and which ones can be sent packing. To sum things up, I'd like this team to show some unquestionable improvement and start heading in the direction of a team that's going to contend in a few years down the road. In an ideal world the Wolves would win enough to create some buzz and finally get the people of Minnesota interested in their basketball team again, yet lose just enough so we don't send our 1st round draft pick to the Clippers. If we're not making the playoffs, we may as well finish in the bottom ten which would allow the protection to kick in on the pick we owe them from the Cassell/Jaric trade. Finishing 11th to last would be akin to shooting ourselves in the foot."
Corey Brewer Tours Istanbul, Turkey:
Associated Wax: A Tribe Called Quest, The Love Movement
Michael Bay's Twitter Season Projection:
michael_bay: Just field dressed a wolf. With my teeth. After eating lamb.
about 2 hours ago from web