Since David Kahn took over as President of Basketball Operations in May 2009, we have heard the continual promotion of flexibility, youth, rebuilding, cap space, etc. etc. Shortly after Kahn was able to convince Kevin Love to sign an extension back in January, this all changed, as Love started to provide his own thoughts to the media on how the Twolves needed to start showing improvement and to get to the playoffs. With a decent amount of flexibility and the added pressure of appeasing one of team’s core pieces, Kahn and the rest of the front office had their work cut out for them this offseason. To Kahn’s credit, at least he didn’t take a month off to go fishing …
Here’s my take on the Timberpups offseason.
Heading into Draft week, the Twolves held the 18th and 58th picks. Two nights before the draft, Kahn sent the 18th pick to Houston for Chase Budinger. In general, I hate seeing trades like this. If you have something like this lined up, why not wait until draft night? I understand that Houston was looking for ways to get Dwight Howard, but I still hate the notion of giving up your pick so far in advance. I would like to think there will be a time when the Twolves actually take advantage of someone else’s panic move over the course of a draft night. When this happens, I’ll immediately drive to Shop Rite to stock up on their can-can special.
As for the trade itself, I like Budinger as a complementary wing / role player at SF. If nothing else, he’s competent and that is more than what we can say about any wing on last year’s roster. As an added bonus – based off of his Twitter feed – he seems to have a great personality.
With the 58th pick, the Twolves selected Robbie Hummel, who has had quite the busy summer. Given the moves that the Wolves have made since (we’re getting there, promise), Hummel decided to sign with a team in Spain (Obradoiro). I think that was a wise choice for Hummel given the team’s other moves and the lack of PT that would have come his way, if any at all. More than likely, he would have wound up in the D-League. However, since going over to join the team in Spain, Hummel has since torn his meniscus again and will be out for several weeks.
I had high hopes going into the draft; A. trading Derrick Williams and filler for MKG or Beal and B. trading Wes Johnson for Crowder / anyone worthwhile. The DWill moves were a bit of a pipedream. However, Kahn technically had 34 chances to find a way to get Jae Crowder and trading Wes to anyone in the late first round / early second would have been a fantastic move. Alas, no avail.
This wasn’t the start of the offseason that I was looking for. Beyond Ricky Rubio falling into Kahn’s lap with the fifth pick in ’09, his draft night performances have been 50 shades of abysmal. (See what I did there? Building your female audience 101)
My draft grade: C-
The Free Agency period began with what we’ll call “addition by subtraction”.
The team declined the options on Beasley and Randolph and neither will be missed by fans or in the locker room apparently. Less than two weeks later, the Darko era/error finally came to an end with a juicy amnesty clause. The very next day, Martell Webster was waived and the retiring Brad Miller was sent to NOLA for a future 2nd round pick. Anthony Tolliver remains a free agent and potential target as he has yet to sign with a team. Reports suggest that Tolliver is looking for something beyond the veteran’s minimum, but that offer has yet to come from anyone. Always a class act, Tolliver has been coming in and working out with the Wolves that have already landed in Minneapolis and remains on Kahn’s radar.
With the possible exception of Tolliver, no one in the prior paragraph was a positive influence in the wins column last year. Essentially, a lot of dead weight was lifted and roster spots were opened. Between 7/1 and 7/15, there was an on-going saga that you may have heard about … Nic Batum signed his contract offer from the Wolves after on-going negotiations with Portland became way too much of a circus. While the Wolves were overpaying for Batum, it was a deal that made a lot of sense – a young wing that could grow with the team’s current core group of Love and Rubio.
However, Portland matched the offer and we were on to the next round of moves. During the same time of the Batum saga, the Wolves were linked to two players – Brandon Roy and Alexey Shved. However, neither signed their contracts, with the assumption being that this was done to maintain some flexibility for other moves. This was a smart move by our FO and a classy move from Roy and Shved. You may have already read my thoughts on Roy, so I won’t spend too much time here outside of reiterating how great I think this move could be for the team and if it doesn’t work out, so be it. You can also read the vast majority of my thoughts on Shved in our Olympics post and subsequent comments. I think Shved is going to have the opportunity to show us something in the early stages of the season while Rubio is still recovering and I expect Shved to be a rotational player throughout the year.
Shortly after Portland matched Batum’s deal, the Wolves signed Greg Steimsma to an offer sheet that the Celtics weren’t able to match. Overall, I like the Steimsma signing as it is fiscally responsible and adds a different type of presence to the backup Center spot vs. our MIC, Pekovic. Having someone that wants to play defense is always a nice thing too I guess. (cough, Darko, cough)
In an effort to balance the roster a bit and/or build some additional flexibility (we may never know the full story here), the Wolves sent Wayne Ellington to Memphis for Dante Cunningham. Again, this is another move that makes a lot of sense to me and adds some flexibility to the roster and rotation. I have always been a fan of Wayne, but if Adelman wasn’t comfortable giving him minutes last season, then I need to cut the emotional cord and move on. I wish nothing but the best for Wayne, and note that you didn’t hear me say that about anyone else that was sent packing.
Then Kahn pulled a two-prong attack that came out of nowhere and could actually put him in the running for executive of the year – which is both hysterical and frightening. First, Kahn sent Wesley Johnson packing to Phoenix and I’ll summarize this move with two words – Thank you!!! The subsequent move was signing Andrei Kirilenko, who I essentially forgot all about given his season in Russia during the lockout. While a much shorter term move than bringing in Batum, I can’t think of a better complementary player (that is/was realistic and available) for our frontcourt. AK47 does a little bit of everything on both ends of the floor and doesn’t need the ball in his hands on offense. There are a number of Twolves fans that will point to Andre Iguodala as being a better fit. I’m happy to engage in some back and forth on this, but I’ll leave it at “I disagree” for now.
With just about a week to go before the team opens camp, there are up to two roster slots that could be filled by the front office, if desired/warranted. Tolliver is obviously in the mix for one of these spots. The other has been filled with rumors about another big man (Whiteside is still available…) and/or a SG. This largely comes down to one of two things: 1. someone accepting the veteran’s league minimum or 2. the Wolves making a trade, which would likely send out JJ Barea in my opinion – although there could also be something larger out there with the likes of D-Will or Ridnour on their way out, but I don’t expect that to happen just yet.
My free agency grade: B+, with MMQB’ing potential to go up to an A if Roy/AK47 can remain healthy
Random musings from the summer
Several months ago, Glen Taylor let it be known that he is or has been looking for a partner to buy into the Timberwolves franchise as a minority owner at first, but over time, said person would take over the team and operations. There have been several comments that this person or group had already been selected but the deal has since been opened up to a few more candidates. It will be interesting to see how this process unfolds and who the eventual new owner will be. Taylor has insisted that the new owner will keep the team in the Twin Cities, but we’ve heard this song and dance before. We’ll see how and where this nets out.
It has been said in just about every press conference that the team held this offseason with the newly signed players, but it bears repeating. Rick Adelman has brought a level of respect to this franchise that it clearly has not had since KG left. He is, by far, the best coach this team has ever had on the sideline and players recognize that. With Taylor on his way out and Adelman also getting up there in age, I fully expect this team to continue to try to make short term improvements in order to put itself into contention for a title shot in the next couple of years, even if it means making a sacrifice here and there – see: Derrick Williams being moved at some point between the forthcoming season and the 2013 Draft.
Where the Timberpups stand now
Overall, I have really enjoyed what the Wolves have done this offseason. As mentioned in my FA grade, it really comes down to the health of the veterans we have brought in. If Roy can come in and play 24 mpg or so and be 70% of the player he once was, that’s a huge upgrade for this roster. If AK47 can stay away from any serious injury, I think he’ll stuff the box score like he has in the past and in the Olympics. With good health, these two additions and Rubio’s return puts the Twolves in the driver’s seat to make the playoffs. Yes, you read that correctly. When you throw in the other positive additions (and subtractions) to the roster, I consider this team to be a lock to make the playoffs. No, seriously. Stop laughing. Please.
With everyone healthy, here’s how I view the roster – without using any player twice for positional overlap that will definitely be a major part of Adelman’s rotations:
PG: Rubio, Ridnour, Barea
SG: Roy, Shved, Lee
SF: Kirilenko, Budinger
PF: Love, D. Williams, Cunningham
C: Pekovic, Steimsma
Barring a breakout year and showing a clear ability to play SF, I don’t envision D. Williams being on this team by the start of the 2013 season and I suspect that Barea will be gone by this season’s trading deadline if Rubio is healthy. Ideally, I’d like to see Williams sent out for a legitimate wing in their rookie contract, e.g. Paul George, Alec Burks, MKG or a player of this ilk. In looking to deal Barea, it would be nice to add another complementary role player to the rotation with playoff experience. In fact, I would like to suggest a trade of JJ’s, where we send Barea to Orlando and take back Redick. (I know this won’t happen.)
In any case, there’s a lot of flexibility on the roster above and Adelman will be able to play big, small, and anywhere in between. A big kudos to Kahn and company for turning this team into a playoff contender. Like many others, I believe a lot of this has to do with two main pieces:
- Rick Adelman
- Players got to see a glimpse of Ricky Rubio last year and how he will make others better
My overall offseason grade: B
I have not been this excited for the start of the NBA season in a number of years. I was excited about last year’s season because Rubio was finally here. However, given the overall, positive shift in talent to the whole roster, my expectations are sky high for this year. Is this a good thing? Only time will tell.
What’s your take on this offseason? What would you grade Kahn and company?
Let’s go Wolves!