COMMENTARY | If the Minnesota Timberwolves continue the path they are on, there will be inevitable calls for the team to tank it and hope for a high draft pick next year.
Although the team entered the year with high expectations, the Wolves have played inconsistent, sub-.500 ball and are an injury away from missing the playoffs once again (and we all know the Wolves are a bit injury prone ).
Not only that, but if there is one year to tank, this would be the year to do it. Four -- count 'em, four -- one-and-done college freshmen could be potential franchise-changers for the teams that draft them. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, and Aaron Gordon are all expected to come out in this year's draft and teams are already lining up to get one of them. The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, most notably, have put together rosters devoid of talent ostensibly with the intention of securing a player that can become the next LeBron James instead of miring in mediocrity.
Truth be told, this would be a great year for the Wolves to tank. If the Wolves miss the playoffs again this year, it's likely that Rick Adelman -- who is 67 and a wife with a history of suffering from seizures -- will not return. And if he goes, star power forward Kevin Love will likely leave Minnesota, too.
Therefore, if things really start to look bad -- say Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, or Nikola Pekovic get injured for a long stretch of time or the team goes on a 10-game losing streak -- the Wolves would be smart to start shopping Love and try to pull off a decent trade a la when Deron Williams was traded from the Utah Jazz to the then New Jersey Nets or Carmelo Anthony forced the Denver Nuggets to trade him to the New York Knicks.
It's hard to win transactions in the NBA when you're the team trading away the star player, but nobody in the Twin Cities wants a situation like when Minnesota Wild star forward Marian Gaborik left the Land of 10,000 Lakes for the bright lights of Manhattan by joining the New York Rangers in free agency (and we all know the New York Knicks are interested in acquiring Love). Worst-case scenario this season, the Wolves deal Love and try and get some usable pieces to put beside Rubio, Martin, and Pekovic, the latter of whom have signed long-term with Minnesota.
So here's the thing: If the team is reeling and Adelman and Love are on their way out, why not trade Love and limit the minutes of injury-prone long-term investments like Rubio, Martin, and Pekovic in an effort to get a top pick in this year's draft? Think about it: Instead of trying to trade Love for players that are clearly of lesser ability, why not try and land Wiggins or Parker and then another lottery pick by dealing him to a tanking team that is bound to be in position to get Wiggins, Parker, Gordon, or Randle?
Here's why that's a bad idea: Tanking isn't a good strategy!
Let me repeat that: Tanking isn't a good strategy!
Yes, people will say it worked out for the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 2003 because LeBron James took the team to the NBA Finals in 2007, but his team was swept and we all know the story from there. The Cavs never built around King James and he famously "took his talents to South Beach" where he has won two championships with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and the Miami Heat.
Irving has been a smashing success both on and off the court. He was named the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2012 and was an All-Star in 2013, while also playing the role of Uncle Drew in Pepsi commercials and being placed on the cover of NBA Live.
Bennett, on the other hand, is already being called a bust. "This time around it's Irving who's stuck playing the James role as franchise player stuck with a team that has no idea what the hell it's doing," wrote Tomas Rios for Sports On Earth. "Since drafting Irving, the Cavaliers have had three top-four picks and none of them resemble a suitable complementary player."
Recently, in a New York Magazine piece, Will Leitch pointed out that this is not unique to the Cavaliers in an effort to debunk the myth that teams in professional sports should tank in order to get top draft picks.
"Those studs probably entering the NBA next year? Their futures as superstars are far from secured:" Leitch wrote. "It wasn't long ago that John Wall was going to save the Wizards, or Greg Oden was going to save the Trail Blazers, or, gasp, Andrea Bargnani was going to save the Raptors."
So, yeah, for everyone writing that college basketball can't handle Jabari Parker, there is somebody else reminding us that Andrew Wiggins isn't the new LeBron James. All four players could go on to be stars in the NBA; all could fail. The bottom line is that Wolves have to win this year with what they've got.
This team hasn't been to the playoffs since Kevin Garnett left town even though they have tanked every year since -- even if it wasn't intentional. And does anyone need a reminder that Jonny Flynn (No. 6 overall, 2009), Wesley Johnson (No. 4, 2010), and Derrick Williams (No. 2, 2011) didn't pan out in Minnesota? All three players were high draft picks and none of them turned the franchise around. On top of that, Darko Milicic and Michael Beasley were also No. 2 overall picks that floundered with the Wolves.
The bottom line is that tanking only gives you a chance to land a top pick, it is no guarantee that the player drafted with that pick will pan out.
The bottom line is that the Timberwolves have to win now.
Tom Schreier writes about the Twins, Wild, and Wolves on Yahoo Contributor Network. He previously covered Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and can be heard on 105 The Ticket in the Twin Cities. Followed him on Twitter @tschreier3.
- Sports & Recreation
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Andrew Wiggins
- Jabari Parker
- LeBron James
- Ricky Rubio