Wolves Summer League Recap

Zach LaVine was a highlight reel for the Wolves in Vegas (NBAE, Getty Images)

Zach LaVine was a highlight reel for the Wolves in Vegas (NBAE, Getty Images)

The Minnesota Timberwolves finished the Las Vegas Summer League with a 2-4 record. After losing their first three games, the Wolves were the last seed at the start of tournament play only to pull off an ‘upset’ by defeating the Phoenix Suns in the first round. The Sacramento Kings knocked the Wolves out of the tournament the next day – and wound up with the league championship. The Wolves finished their stay in Las Vegas with a victory over the Pelicans last Friday.

What did we learn in Las Vegas? How did our Pups perform, particularly those that are more likely to be on the opening night roster? Let’s take a look back at #WolvesInVegas with a ranking of the top performers on the squad and what implications said performance may have on the Wolves this forthcoming season.

Gorgui Dieng

He didn’t lead the team in scoring, but Gorgui was the most impressive performer on the Wolves roster in Las Vegas. He averaged 11.5 points and 10.2 rebounds in the six games, all of which he started in. Worth noting the Dieng started at both Center and the Power Forward position, perhaps the early signs of giving him minutes next to Nikola Pekovic this coming season. I fully expect Dieng to play a big role with the Timberwolves in the 2014/15 season as he looks miles ahead of where he was in last year’s Summer League.

Zach LaVine

The 1st round selection was a highlight reel in Las Vegas – from his pregame dunks to daily, in-game highlight or two. He was consistent across the six games, scoring in double digits in each and finishing the tournament averaging 15.7PPG to go with 4.3RPG and 2.8APG. His shot selection was a little questionable at times, but I think we will see that all season long. First, because he is probably going to have the green light from Flip and second, because Ricky Rubio is going to be a great sidekick for LaVine.

Most importantly, to me at least, LaVine has said all the right things since draft night. His initial reaction may (or may not) have been a mistake, but he is certainly ready to make the most out of his opportunity to play in the NBA and for the Timberwolves. Finally, LaVine showed flashes of ability to play PG, so the Wolves have that in the back pocket for the coming season.

Going back to the highlight reel for a second, this dunk sealed the deal for the Wolves in their victory over the Suns and is just a very small sample of the hops LaVine possesses. LaVine threw down the gauntlet for next season’s dunk contest during All-Star Weekend, saying, “I’m definitely going to be in the dunk contest, know that. I haven’t lost a dunk contest for a long time … So I have some dunks in my package.”

Alexey Shved

Shved only played in two games during the Wolves’ time in Las Vegas, but I thought he was the third best player on the floor for the club. He averaged 15PPG, 3.0RPG, 2.5APG, & 1.0SPG. Alexey was active, and playing within himself the vast majority of the time. That said, he only shot 39% from the field and was 1-8 from 3PT range. If Alexey is going to be a role player for the Wolves, he needs to be more efficient in the scoring department.

Kyrylo Fesenko

When the Wolves announced the roster for Las Vegas I didn’t foresee anyone not named above or Shabazz Muhammad, making the opening night roster. Fesenko changed that perception. Assuming the Wolves trade Kevin Love and don’t get back additional big men beyond Anthony Bennett, there is going to be a need for a big body to play behind Pekovic and Dieng. Fesenko might be able to fill that end of the bench, six fouls when you need them role.

Kyrylo averaged 8.4PPG and 5.2RPG in his five appearances. Despite not playing many minutes, when he teamed up with Dieng on the floor, there were close-to-dominant minutes on the floor for the Pups.

Shabazz Muhammad

Muhammad led the Wolves in scoring at 16.2PPG. However, he shot just 37% from the field (26-70) and was 25-34 from the FT line (74%). Muhammad averaged 5.8RPG, but only 0.6APG. You see how this is going? For every good, there is a bad. I fully expected Shabazz to lead the team in scoring, but I was hoping to see a much more efficient product on the floor.

I have no idea where this is going with Shabazz, but I will say that if the Wolves pick up Andrew Wiggins and another wing in a trade, I don’t expect the Wolves to do much more than pick up Muhammad’s option years and either find a trading partner or let him walk.

Glenn Robinson III

Somewhat similar to Shabazz, I was expecting a decent showing from Robinson and I’m left feeling a little bit underwhelmed. He looked a step slow out there a number of times and was inefficient from the field (15-39, 39%) and from the FT line (12-19, 63%). Essentially, everything I mentioned in our draft recap holds to form right now. It is likely going to take a few seasons for Robinson to show signs of being a solid, regular contributor in the NBA. Whether or not that comes with the Timberwolves is TBD.

Brady Heslip & Matt Janning

Heslip and Janning had a handful of nice moments between the two of them during the tournament. Both showed the potential to hit the jumper and could catch on with another team looking for that as a specialty at the end of their bench. I don’t see any scenario that makes sense for them on the Wolves roster, given the number of guaranteed contracts the team already has on the books.

What were your overall impressions on the Wolves in Las Vegas? Nothing really surprised me per se, there were items that I am happy about (Dieng and LaVine) and some that I want to see a better performance by (Muhammad).

Glenn Robinson III Shows Strong Potential for Wolves

(photo credit: lockerdome.com)

(photo credit: lockerdome.com)Am

Among the seven rookies slated as part of the Timberwolves’ summer league roster is second-round draft pick Glenn Robinson III. The forward’s physicality was raved about prior to the Draft, and although only in his first week of practice, he looks to make a big impact with the Minnesota squad. Robinson III does have some areas to improve upon technicality-wise, but his athleticism and energy are exactly what head coach Flip Saunders aimed at.

“They add a lot of excitement to our team,” Saunders said of Robinson III and first-round pick Zach Lavine. “They’re going to become fan favorites. They’re our two highest-jumping guys right now — I do know that. We want to take that athleticism and turn them into basketball players … and with our team they’ll have good success.”

Robinson III started all 76 games of his two-year stint with the University of Michigan. During that time, he averaged 12 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. At the end of his sophomore year, Robinson III had totaled 912 career points. The forward is no stranger to pressure, as he  helped U-M to its first outright Big Ten regular-season title in 28 years. 

Now, at just 20 years old, Robinson III is taking in the NBA experience. He posted the following on Twitter Monday:

GRIIITweet

Timberwolves web editor Dane Mizutani gave a recap of the first offseason practice, saying it was far from “a casual offseason workout.”

“I’ve always believed that basketball is a game of reaction,” Saunders said. “We have to simulate pressure and demands of what’s going to happen in a game in a practice. We try to make it as difficult as we can to try and make it as close to a game time setting as possible.”

Practice ended with a scrimmage between the summer league starters and the summer league reserves, and Mizutani reported that the competition level was high. In the end it was the startersRobinson III, Lavine, Alexey Shved, Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammedwho took the game.

“It’s a whole different level … and this is definitely the most competitive and amped-up practice [I’ve been a part of] physically and mentally,” Robinson III said. “It’ll take a little adjustment to get to but I thought we all did fine.”

The newbies will have the next two weeks or so to find their groove and become accustomed to Saunders’ coaching style. They will play with and take passes from more seasoned bench players, and now is their chance to prepare before they start practicing with starting point guard Ricky Rubio. Robinson III said he has spent a considerable amount of time viewing tape of Rubio’s technique and highlights, and he is looking forward to playing alongside him when preseason starts up in October.

There’s no guarantee that either Lavine or Robinson III will start, as the Wolves also carry veterans Chase Budinger and Corey Brewer who each have considerable experience running the floor with Rubio. However, it’s clear that Saunders has a long-term plan in mind for this year’s draft picks—and it involves regular-game minutes. 

According to the Star Tribune‘s Jerry Zgoda, Robinson III “believes both he and LaVine can help the Wolves ‘speed the tempo up a little bit’ with the Rubio running the show with the ball in his hands.”

Come October, it will be interesting to see how this new-look squad operates under Saunders’ return.

Kevin Love: Trade-or-Stay Scenario Remains Unclear

The 2014 NBA Draft has come and gone. Many people figured that a transaction involving Kevin Love would be almost certain on Draft Night, and yet the All-Star forward is still very much in Minnesota.

With the summer league games approaching and various other trade rumors floating about the league, what is the latest buzz when it comes to K-Love?

(photo credit: dimemag.com)

(photo credit: dimemag.com)

Golden State out of the Picture?

The Warriors initially looked like a probable trade partner for Minnesota, as the two teams were in discussions about a deal that would involve Kevin Martin and Love in exchange David Lee, Klay Thompson and draft picks from GS. However, the two squads reached a stand still when Golden State decided it was not willing to part with Thompson as part of the deal.

Part of the problem may be this: whatever team acquires Love will take on his contract, which includes runs only through the end of the upcoming season. Should the Warriors—or any other team—grab Love for 2014, they would want some sort of reassurance that the forward will not walk after one season anyway. ESPN said the following:

“Any team that trades for Love [...] will need assurances that the 25-year-old is prepared to stay there for the long term. Love’s intent to become an unrestricted free agent in July 2015 is the reason Minnesota has been forced to consider trading him and makes it highly unlikely any potential suitor would offer anything of value to the Wolves without assurances Love wants to sign a new contract with them.”

 

Other Big Names Affecting the Trade Scene

One thing is for sure: Love is not the only big name looking for a new deal and a possible new home. When the news surfaced that LeBron James would exercise his early-termination option, Love found himself no longer the headline on the SportsCenter sidebar. While many feel that James will ultimately end up re-signing with Miami, that doesn’t stop the slew of teams from offering deals and hoping to land the star. Some of the squads—Houston, LA, Chicago—have also been mentioned as prospective teams for Love, and it seems likely that conversation with him will be on hold until it becomes clear where James will end up. 

Carmelo Anthony is also looking to leave his current roster. The forward averaged 27 PPG for New York last season, and he is certainly a hot ticket item as well. Although Love and Anthony play different spots, it seems more probable that a team will make the run for a LeBron/Anthony deal rather than a Love/Anthony deal. In addition, the number of franchises who could afford to add more than one of these names to their roster is incredibly low.

And, just to add one more complication into the mix, it was reported today that Houston is offering a four-year, $88-million deal to Miami Center Chris Bosh.  Bosh’s decision will certainly affect James’ (or vice versa), and I have a feeling that things will start falling into place very quickly when the 2014-2015 Heat roster is established.

One interesting option here would be Love and James playing together. Although it may seem a bit far-fetched, NBA fans can’t dismiss this idea completely. According to Fox Sports, “if James chooses to leave Miami and return to Cleveland, the Cavs still feel they can obtain [...] Love in a trade if need be.”

Until James and Co. makes the call, Love will either have to settle for a city not in the hunt for LeBron, or be patient—not something he holds a strong record with.

 

 

 

 

Timberwolves Draft Recap 2014

Zach LaVine may or may not have reacted well to being drafted by the Timberwolves.  You can decide for yourselves.  (ESPN)

Zach LaVine may or may not have reacted well to being drafted by the Timberwolves. You can decide for yourselves. (ESPN)

Setting the stage:

I set expectations pretty low for Thursday night and still found myself disappointed with this franchise on yet another NBA Draft evening. Going into the draft we had heard a few rumors that Kevin Love was going to remain on the club beyond Thursday night and that there may have been a promise from the Wolves Front Office to another Bill Duffy client, Zach LaVine. I found neither of these rumors to be a positive for the franchise, yet, here we are post-draft and both have come to fruition.

Here are a few thoughts on the Timberwolves’ selections: [Read more...]

Potential Pups Targets in the 2014 NBA Draft

nba-draft

Let’s pretend for a second that the Timberwolves aren’t going to move up in the 2014 NBA Draft on Thursday and they will have the 13th selection in the first round.  There are a lot of moving pieces here, namely Kevin Love and his status on the team.  (Without hijacking this write-up, I don’t think Love will be on the roster by the time Friday rolls around.  In fact, at this point, I hope that he is not on the roster come Friday because I don’t want to hear about Love trade scenarios through February 2015.  Please spare us this scenario!)

Here are several prospects that have my attention and where I have netted out after browsing the web, looking through mock drafts, etc.  I’m not going to include any thoughts on the obvious big three at the top of the draft or those that continuously appeared in the top 8 or so (e.g. Exum, Smart, Randle, Vonleh, or Gordon).  Those players aren’t going to be around at #13 when Flip gets to make the selection for his coach and staff.  (See what I did there?) [Read more...]

A Kevin Love Roundtable – What Would You Trade For Love?

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Rather than creating our own trade scenarios and proposals for Kevin Love’s (potential) departure, we have decided to reach out to the writers and fans of other teams and asked them to give their best offers for the Timberwolves All-Star. For each offer, we have provided our own thoughts and likelihood of acceptance and have picked the best one at the very end. I want to thank all of the bloggers and fans that have contributed to this roundtable. Enjoy!

Los Angeles Lakers

Johnny Navarrette (@JohnnyNav), Laker Nation
 
Timberwolves receive: Greg Monroe (Sign & Trade)
Lakers receive: Kevin Love
Pistons receive: 7th pick in NBA Draft (LA would select a player for Detroit)
 
Trade Description

The bad news for the Lakers is that they have limited resources this off-season outside of the #7 pick in the NBA draft and ample cap space.  The only players currently under contract are Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Robert Sacre.  The purple and gold will continue to make a push to acquire Love, but they will need to get creative.  While three-team deals are hard to make, that is the best option for the Lakers to get a deal done.

For the T-Wolves, losing Love will hurt, as you don’t replace a player like him.  With Greg Monroe, you are bringing in a 23-year old power forward that averages 14 points and 9 rebounds in four seasons.

After years of mediocrity and lottery appearances, it is not unreasonable to think that Minnesota hopes to bring a player in which helps the team move forward, instead of draft picks that could take a few seasons to develop.  With players like Nikola Pekovic, Ricky Rubio, and Kevin Martin in place, becoming a playoff team is not too far off.  Adding Monroe to the mix might be the best return in terms of  player quality and impact.

Our Reaction

John: I don’t hate this deal as part of the backbone of something a bit bigger, i.e. draft picks. The Wolves can’t get “just” Monroe in a deal for Love, there has to be something included for a future pick or two.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Charles Chaney (@ThunderObsessed), Thunder Obsessed
 
Timberwolves Receive: Serge Ibaka
Thunder Receive: Kevin Love and Timberwolves’ 2014 first-round pick
 
Trade Description

Throughout Oklahoma City’s history, Sam Presti has rarely made a trade where he didn’t think of the long term effect of the Thunder. For Oklahoma City to acquire Love, it would have to be something where Oklahoma City probably robbed the Wolves. Of course we would see power forwards swap spots. However, Oklahoma City would force the Wolves to give up their first round pick among maybe Alexey Shved to sure up the bench. Is Flip Saunders is that stupid, then I believe Oklahoma City would be Lovin’ it. GET IT.

Our Reaction

Alex: Having to part with both Love and their 2014 first-round pick would be too steep a price for the Wolves to pay, even for a player of Ibaka’s caliber. It would be awfully tough to get the better end of a trade with Sam Presti, as his conservative approach will likely keep the core of the Thunder together until Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook get closer to the ends of their respective contracts. And while the Thunder’s sense of urgency to win a title now could spark some interest in trading for Love, he would not be an ideal system fit and would likely compromise the current roster balance that has been carefully structured to get OKC to where they stand right now, which is a perennial Western Conference Finals contender.

Houston Rockets

Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles), Crabdribbles
 
Timberwolves Receive: Chandler Parsons, Robert Covington, Jeremy Lin and Terrence Jones
Rockets Receive: Kevin Love
 
Trade Description

Parting ways with Love would inevitably set the Minnesota Timberwolves on a rebuilding track, so acquiring young assets is key for them, and that’s exactly what they’d get in this trade.

Robert Covington went undrafted in 2013, but he was named the Rookie of the Year in the D-League for the 2013-2014 season, and he flaunted his potential to be a nice spark plug off the bench along the way. Terrence Jones developed into a versatile defender in his sophomore campaign and made strides as a scorer, too. He’s far from a finished product, but his length next to Gorgui Dieng could be devastating defensively. And while Jeremy Lin coming on board for $15 million hurts financially, it would only be for one year, which takes the sting out of it. On the bright side, he could serve as a nice backup to Rubio and would be able to play the two in small ball line-ups.

Finally, seeing as the Rockets have declined Chandler Parsons‘ fourth-year team option, making him a restricted free agent, this trade assumes that he signs a long-term contract, probably in the vicinity of $8-$11 million a year. The Timberwolves would only have around $40 million committed to their roster in 2015-2016, so they could afford Parsons’ new contract — not to mention Rubio’s, too — and still have room to bring in someone else.

Our Reaction

Alex: Chandler Parsons would become arguably the best small forward Minnesota has ever had in the history of their franchise, and Terrence Jones displayed last year that he could become a very good player in this league. It is Wolves fans’ worst nightmare to give Love to a Western Conference rival, and putting Love in the same frontcourt as Dwight Howard would create one of the best scoring and rebounding pairings in recent memory. Nonetheless, the Rockets have talented young players to offer Minnesota who are ready to play right now, which is attractive to a franchise that has a long history of missing on their draft picks. I would love to see how a young core of Rubio, Parsons, Jones, Pekovic, Dieng and Muhammad would fit together.

Phoenix Suns

Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet), Hoops Habit
 
Timberwolves Receive: Eric Bledsoe, reacquire own 2015 first-round pick 
Suns Receive: Kevin Love
 
Trade Description

The Suns are one of the few teams in the NBA that can actually make “The Godfather” offer the Wolves are looking for. Phoenix would love to keep their hands on Goran Dragic AND Eric Bledsoe, it doesn’t seem like they’d be able to get away with it for a player like Love. This deal gives Minnesota and up-and-coming star and their 2015 first-rounder back. Giving up the Dragon seems heartless after being Phoenix’s best player the past two seasons, and Suns fans could tell themselves Bledsoe’s knees are a risk. The only caveat is Bledsoe would have to agree to a sign-and-trade and give him something close to a max deal to make the salaries work. Putting together a Gerald Green-Channing Frye-Markieff Morris-two first rounders offer would keep the Dragic-Love-Bledsoe dream trio intact, but it probably wouldn’t be enough for the Wolves. But by giving up Bledsoe, the Suns would need to think about whether or not they’d have enough left that Love would want to re-sign in 2015 and therefore, whether it’d be better to have Love and lost than to never have had Love at all.

Our Reaction

Alex: This would be a very intriguing offer for the Wolves to mull as it offers a rising superstar in Bledsoe as well as a possible future rotation player in the 2015 first-round pick. Bledsoe proved for the Clippers that he can play just as well at shooting guard as he does running the offense, although he functions more comfortably as a point guard. With Rubio’s future in Minnesota slightly cloudy, Bledsoe would provide great insurance for the Timberwolves while making the Spaniard expendable. I ultimately see Rubio sticking around in Minnesota for a fair price, and having Bledsoe as a running mate in the backcourt would instantly improve Minnesota on both ends of the floor.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Wade Foley (@WFoleyNBA), More Than a Fan Cleveland
 
Timberwolves Receive: Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Grizzlies’ first-round pick, Heat first-round pick
Cavaliers Receive: Kevin Love
 
Trade Description

Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers seemed improbable until he told The Big Lead, a USA Today blog; on Wednesday that he doesn’t think the Cavs rumors are outlandish because they have a great young foundation.

I still think Love ending up in Cleveland is very unlikely seeing as he has stated that he’d like to play in a big market. Having a relationship with Kyrie Irving doesn’t hurt, however, and the two would make a nice scoring duo. If I were David Griffin, I wouldn’t consider relinquishing the number one overall pick for Love unless there was a guarantee he would re-sign with the Cavs, and it’s highly unlikely they would get this guarantee. My offer to the Timberwolves would be Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, The Memphis Grizzlies’ pick (1st round pick to Cleveland protected for selections 1-5 and 15-30 in 2015, 1-5 and 15-30 in 2016, 1-5 in 2017 or 1-5 in 2018 or unprotected in 2019) and the Miami Heat’s 2015 first (top 10 protected) OR replace Varejao with Dion Waiters and Jarrett Jack. The Timberwolves could potentially be getting two role players that are still on their rookie contracts, a veteran guard or big off the bench, and two future firsts to rebuild with. Also, if Love truly decides he wants to play in Cleveland, it seems like he would push for a trade there while the Cavs refuse to budge on the number one pick. That way he could play alongside Irving and Joel Embiid/Andrew Wiggins. It’s doubtful this will be the Timberwolves best offer, but from the Cavs’ perspective, this should be as good as it gets without a guarantee.

Our Reaction

Alex: It is no secret that I am enamored at the prospect of swapping Love for the first overall pick and a few young assets, but it is unclear if the Cavs would be willing to offer as much. I am a firm believer that the 2014 NBA Draft will be the best since 2003 (which sported the likes of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and others to the NBA) and I think that Wiggins, Parker and Embiid are all can’t-miss prospects. Minnesota must face the reality that their superstar will likely not be returning to the Twin Cities, but with this difficult predicament brings an opportunity to draft yet another once-in-a-generation type of talent.

It is no guarantee that the Cavs would be willing to offer the first pick, but they have done a good job of stock-piling first-rounders and would likely dangle multiple middle to late first-round picks before offering up the top selection. If I am Flip Saunders, I do not settle for anything but the first pick + Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. With LeBron’s future in Miami up in the air, the Cavs could make a power move by acquiring Love, thus offering LeBron a chance to reconcile with his former stomping grounds while forming a formidable big three consisting of himself, Irving, and Love (not to mention plenty of young talent surrounding them).

Milwaukee Bucks

Alex Skov (@AJSkov), Behind The Buck Pass
 
Timberwolves Receive: No. 2 pick in 2014 draft, Larry Sanders and O.J. Mayo
Bucks Receive: Kevin Love
 
Trade Description

With the No. 13 pick, the Wolves’ luck is to have done enough to get into the lottery, but just out of reach of any of the marquee names in the draft. There is no room for error if the franchise keeps Love, but that’s not the case if the Timberwolves deal him for a package built around the No. 2 overall pick, where a (theoretical) star will be ripe for the taking. This pick would give the front office breathing space to take the best player available or an immediate contributor/role player at no. 13.

Although O.J. Mayo is coming off an underwhelming season, he is still young (26) and averaged over 11 points per game in each of his six NBA seasons. Mayo could contend with Kevin Martin for the starting shooting guard spot, if the coaching staff so wishes, and allow the organization to figure out if Alexey Shved is a part of Minnesota’s basketball future. Larry Sanders would add an almost strictly defensive presence to the already center-heavy roster, though he could end up as one of the league’s premier shot-blockers if his focus returns to hoops. John Henson could be substituted for Sanders in this scenario, adding more of a scoring threat to the Wolves’ get, but Dieng is already the resident developing lanky big man in blue and white.

 Our Reaction

John: I’ve always been a fan of Mayo but the past two seasons have left a lot to be desired and I’m falling off the bandwagon.  I’ve never been a huge fan of Larry Sanders but he clearly has his backers.  Overall, this deal is pretty appealing with the #2 pick in this year’s draft plus those assets.

Flip Saunders and the Wolves have too many second round picks in the 2014 draft, I would start to throw one or two of those in the offer and see if we can get the Bucks to agree to a clause that would allow the teams to flip first round picks over the next few years (for the Wolves benefit of course).  With that clause thrown in there, I’m not sure you are going to find a better offer out there.

New York Knicks

Brandon Rushie (@AyoRush), The Knicks Wall
 
Timberwolves Receive: Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert
Knicks Receive: Kevin Love
 
Trade Description

Hate to be that guy, but I see no scenario in which Phil Jackson convinces Flip Saunders to ship his all-star forward to New York. The Knicks have nothing substantial to offer in return. Yes, Tyson Chandler is still a capable starter at the 5. Iman Shumpert, despite his offensive shortcomings, is an athletic wing defender who can hit the 3 at a decent clip off the catch. But the T-Wolves are already deep at both positions, and if the selling point is simply the cap relief of a few expiring contracts, how much good does that actually do them with their only marquee player on his way out? With the Suns, Bulls, and Lakers in the mix, there’s just too many better options out there for Minnesota.

Our Reaction

Alex: With so many other offers out there, I cannot see the Timberwolves settling on such a meager return. Shumpert, once a highly coveted swingman, has not progressed over the past few years and Chandler is no longer the player he once was.

 
 
In addition to the bloggers above, John wound up asking a few friends that are fans of a few teams on the east coast because, well you know, East Coast Bias.  Here are their offers:
 
David Corsaro (@DavidCorsaro) – Brooklyn Nets Fan
Timberwolves Receive: Brook Lopez
Nets Receive: Kevin Love
Reaction

John: I absolutely hate not getting future picks from the Nets, which actually could be worth something in the longer term, but not something I want to wait around for either with just Brook Lopez coming back.

Jeff Agress (@JeffAgress) – Philadelphia 76ers Fan
Timberwolves Receive: Michael Carter-Williams, Thaddeus Young, #10, #32, and #39 in 2014 draft
76ers Receive: Kevin Love
Reaction

John: Well, not receiving the #3 pick is a non-starter for me in discussions.  Aside from that, as mentioned earlier in the write-up, the Wolves already have too many second round picks, so there is no reason to accept those picks in this year’s draft.

MCW + #3 + salary filler might wind up being a decent deal for the Wolves two to three years from now.  While I don’t like the following at all, #3 + Thad Young + future picks and salary filler would be something for consideration … if, and only if, Flip knows Love is a goner.

Michael Pinto (@mpinto316) – Boston Celtics Fan
Timberwolves Receive: Kris Humphries, Joel Anthony, Phil Pressey, and #6 in 2014 draft
76ers Receive: Kevin Love and Ronny Turiaf
Reaction

He lost me when Jeff Green OR Kelly Olynyk were not included.  So I actually went to the trade machine and plugged in the following deal:

Timberwolves Receive: Kris Humphries, Jeff Green, Kelly Olynyk, and #6 in 2014 draft + the right to flip first round picks in 2016-2018 (or similar)

Celtics Receive: Kevin Love, JJ Barea, and #44 & #53 picks from 2014 draft

You knew I would find a way to trade JJ Barea before the end of this write-up, didn’t you?  What better way to send him off with Kevin Love so they can be teammates forever?

 

Best Offers

John: Well, I like the trade that I drew up with the Celtics, but that isn’t going to happen.  From the offers received directly from others, I like the Bucks offer the most.  That said, I doubt the Bucks would take a gamble on renting Love for a season because if he isn’t staying in Minnesota, I can’t imagine he’ll want to stay in Milwaukee.  (I hate this entire situation.)

 Alex: I want to see the Timberwolves make a trade that nets them established young players instead of acquiring several first-round draft picks, as the franchise has previously had so much trouble turning first-round picks into successful NBA players. The trade with Houston centered around Chandler Parsons and Terrence Jones strikes me as a handsome return as Parsons has established himself as one of the top young swingmen in the game and Jones proved last season that he has serious upside stretching the floor at both forward spots. However, if Cleveland is willing to offer up the first overall pick along with some complementary young talent (namely Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson) then I would be willing to take a chance on the number 1 pick which would end up being either Andrew Wiggins, Jabrari Parker or Joel Embiid. This would give the Timberwolves their best opportunity to grab a player who could potentially turn into a player of Love’s caliber or even greater.

What Sam Mitchell’s Past can Tell Us about His Present as an Assistant Coach with the Wolves

Long-time NBA assistant coach and one-time NBA head coach Sam Mitchell has officially joined Flip Saunders’ staff as an assistant coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves, as was confirmed by Mitchell himself.

After spending just four full seasons as the Toronto Raptors head coach, from 2004-2008, before being fired midway through the fifth season of his tenure, it is difficult to get a feel for what Mitchell’s coaching philosophy is or what he might bring to the Wolves’ staff given the small sample size of games he spent at the helm in Toronto.

Of course, the responsibilities that come with being an assistant coach are far different than those of a head coach, but Mitchell will still try to bring his philosophy and ideas to the staff, so it is important to try to understand both the way he thinks about the game he has been a part of for so long in myriad capacities.

Although we don’t know much, here are some questions that we have general answers to from Mitchell’s reign as the Raptors head coach.

What did his offense look like?

The easiest answer here is a jumbled, chaotic mess. In his four, full seasons as an NBA head coach, Mitchell never ironed out a clear-cut offensive game plan, and that was ultimately a big reason why he did not last long. Toronto’s offense trended in an interesting direction over the course of Mitchell’s tenure. That is towards more mid-range jumpers, leaving less shots to be taken at the rim and behind the arc.

With mid-range jumpers generally one of the least efficient shots on the court for a player to take, Mitchell’s team trending that way as his time with the team progressed was at best odd and at worst downright stupid. There is no way to know if Mitchell was telling his team to take more mid-range jumpers, but part of being a coach is, at some point, telling your guys to stop taking bad, low-percentage shots or finding a way to put them in situations to get better, more efficient looks at the basket. Mitchell seemingly did neither, which is a sign of poor coaching.

To get a better feel for which direction Mitchell’s Toronto teams trended offensively, one must notice how the spots on the court where shots were being taken changed from the time he got there up until his termination.

Field Goal Attempts Restricted Area Mid-Range Three
2004-05 23.9 27.6 20.5
2005-06 23.3 28.0 19.8
2006-07 22.8 30.7 17.9
2007-08 22.9 33.9 17.8

In the table above, it’s easy to see that Mitchell’s teams began to settle for more mid-range jumpers as opposed to putting their heads down and getting to the rim or pulling up for more efficient three-pointers. As a result, Mitchell’s teams shot far fewer free throws in his last season as head coach than they did in his first. In the 2004-05 season, the Raptors were 18th in the league in free throw attempts. In the 2007-08 campaign, the Raptors had dropped down considerably to rank 30th, or dead last in the NBA, in free throw attempts.

Free Throws Free Throw Attempts
2004-05 25.6
2005-06 25.5
2006-07 24.2
2007-08 20.2

What did his defense look like?

We know little about what Mitchell’s actual plan on offense was as a head coach, but we know even less about what his defensive scheme entailed. Looking at the numbers below, it’s easy to see that the Raptors’ defense improved under Mitchell’s guidance, which is really impressive given how few players he had on his roster that made their name as defensive stoppers.

Defense Defensive Rating League Rank
2004-05 105.9 24th
2005-06 109.7 29th
2006-07 103.2 12th
2007-08 104.3 14th

Was he a player’s coach or an X’s and O’s guy?

Mitchell was never known to be an X’s and O’s guy. He liked to have his team work out of the horns set on offense, but it didn’t seem to work for the Raptors under Mitchell like it is supposed to given the increasingly poor looks his teams got offensively. Horns is an extremely versatile set, and it’s hard to argue that Mitchell’s teams should not have been able to do a lot more offensively by leaning on that set as much as people say he did. Admittedly, it is difficult to tell just how much his Raptors teams utilized horns given the lack of film from his time as a head coach. Mitchell is also not known as someone that could draw up a jaw-dropping play out of a timeout, which is an assignment that is not uncommon for NBA assistant coaches to draw.

There is no unanimous feeling coming from Mitchell’s former players about him. Several guys, i.e. Vince Carter, Rafer Alston, Charlie Villanueva, and Morris Peterson have all either said something negative about Mitchell or been thought to have had a run in with him at some point while he was in Toronto. However, it also speaks well of Mitchell that he got so much out of players that left a lot to be desired on the court. He was always able to get guys to buy into his “system” for the most part, which was play tough and give great effort. Getting guys to do those two things, not X’s and O’s, won Mitchell his one coach of the year award after his team had a major turnaround from a 27-55 record in 2005-06 to a 47-35 record in 2006-07. He was able to milk the most out of the likes of Anthony Parker, T.J. Ford, Jorge Garbajosa, Rasho Nesterovic, etc. That’s no small feat, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. Maybe that will be Mitchell’s role as a Timberwolves assistant – player mentor, confidant, talent developer, and team morale builder. Those skills, while unmeasurable, are important nevertheless.

How did the front office affect his relative success or failure as a head coach?

From 2004-2006, the first two seasons with Mitchell in charge, the Raptors general manager was Rob Babcock. Interestingly enough, Babcock is now Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Timberwolves. That might give those two some connection, and that could mean something. Maybe not though. After all, Babcock did not do Mitchell any favors roster-wise in Toronto. In 2004, Babcock drafted Rafael Aurajo, who turned out to be a complete bust, with the 8th overall pick in the first round. The very next draft, Babcock took a flyer on another guy, Charlie Villanueva, who turned out to be another colossal disappointment.

The bleeding to Mitchell’s roster didn’t stop there. Early on in the coach’s tenure, Vince Carter was traded for what turned out to be nothing useful in return. Of course, Mitchell might be partially to blame for Carter’s departure. The two were rumored to get into a fight not long after Mitchell arrived north of the border. Additionally, temperamental guard Rafer Alston was signed to a five year deal in 2004, and he and Mitchell reportedly never saw eye to eye.

With all these poor roster moves and decisions made by management, it’s easy to see how Mitchell’s teams stagnated and piddled around the mediocrity line, a state with which the Wolves are far too familiar. Yes, he deserves a fair share of the blame, but at least part of his squad’s offensive woes and mediocre defense should be attributed to the hand he was dealt in his four full seasons. A coach can only get so much out of a limited roster. It will be really interesting to see what, if anything, Mitchell can do for the development of a guy with great talent such as Ricky Rubio. In four years under Mitchell, rare talent Chris Bosh didn’t improve as much as he probably could have under different circumstances. Bosh was already really good when he started with Mitchell, but his best two seasons in Toronto were admittedly his last two, once Mitchell was out of the picture. Maybe under different circumstances, with a better roster surrounding his star, Mitchell could have done more for Bosh’s development. As a former NBA small forward himself, maybe Mitchell is just who the Wolves need to get through to Shabazz Muhammad to help him reach his potential. Certainly, it seems like player development might be one reason Saunders added Mitchell to his staff. Remember, he does have a knack for getting a lot out of very little. He’s proved that.

Overall, Mitchell might bring just enough to the table with his big personality and motivational skills to justify his addition to Minnesota’s coaching staff. He has shown a general lack of expertise when it comes to offensive and defensive schemes, but that is not all his fault. His rosters in Toronto tended to be chock-full of either bad, overrated, or aging players.

After Mitchell’s name swirled around as a potential candidate for the Timberwolves’ head coaching gig before Saunders appointed himself to the position, Saunders will surely be keeping a close eye on him to develop a better feel for his basketball philosophy and what he brings to the table. Maybe this is an audition of sorts for Mitchell where Saunders is trying to see if he is capable of being the head coach down the line. Who knows? Right now, we hardly know anything substantial about Mitchell and what he brings to the table as a coach because we have limited information to go on, so we’ll just have to wait and see how this plays out.