It is August 23rd and the Wolves are back in the news, as it is now 30 days since Andrew Wiggins signed his NBA rookie contract and can now be traded. It didn’t take long for today’s announcement, as Wiggins and Anthony Bennett are on their way to Minnesota for three time All Star, Kevin Love. As had been rumored for weeks, the Philadelphia 76ers worked their way into the deal and will send PF Thad Young to the Wolves. In return, the 76ers will receive Alexey Shved, LRMAM, and Miami’s 2015 #1 pick.
There are a number of pieces to this puzzle worth commenting on, so I’m going to break this up a bit. The future of the Timberwolves is now much clearer and there is some strange light that I’m seeing in the distance.
Au revoir Kevin Love
First and foremost, I think the Wolves did a great job in finding a new home for Kevin Love when all things are considered. He wanted to go play in a specific city and the Wolves found themselves able to acquire a decent haul that provides them with both talent and flexibility moving forward. Love has never been able to get the Timberwolves into the playoffs, has occasionally been considered a stats-focused player, and certainly has limitations on the defensive end of the floor. That said, he is an all-world rebounder, fantastic offensive player and is, in my opinion, the best PF in the game today.
Love has been the face of the franchise since 2010/11 when he became the teams go-to player. Statistically speaking, he hasn’t disappointed. In the four seasons as a regular starter, Love has averaged over 22ppg and almost 14rpg and that includes an injury riddled – knuckle push-ups led – 2012/13 season. While he has been the most marketable player for the franchise, he has not been able to get the club back into the playoffs. There are any number of caveats that can be thrown on this statement, but the fact remains that the Wolves did not make the playoffs during Love’s tenure with the club. His attitude has been called into question and the quotes provided to the media left a lot to be desired.
It was time to move on and we should all do the same. Kevin Love was not the next Kevin Garnett. He was the first Kevin Love, an exciting player that brought some attention to the franchise. Let’s not forget that a lot of this may have been avoided if David Kahn and Glen Taylor just gave Love the max-max deal and/or didn’t agree to his opt-out clause in his current contract.
The franchise core moving forward
Flip Saunders now turns his attention to rebuilding the Wolves once again. There are certainly pieces to work with, including Ricky Rubio, last year’s 1st round pick Gorgui Dieng, and this year’s selection, Zach LaVine. When you throw in Wiggins, there is a lot of promise and potential in the Twin Cities. This is certainly a core group that Wolves’ fans can get excited about and it is a group of players that should be able to grow together with extended minutes on the court next season.
There is one glaring need when looking at that core of four and it is outside shooting. That is where the remaining flexibility that Flip has, or will have in the coming 18 months, needs to be focused on. For those wondering, no, Kevin Martin is not the answer here. He and JJ Barea are the next two players that need to be moved to another city.
The remaining pieces of the Wolves roster
Anthony Bennett had a terrible rookie season, averaging 4.2ppg and 3rpg in under 13mpg. However, he is 21 years old and now has a season under his belt. I’m glad he is staying with the Wolves and was not part of the package that went to Philadelphia, based simply on a “let’s roll the dice and see what we have with him” philosophy. He may not get much better, but he’s one year into his rookie contract so there isn’t much to lose in this situation.
Thad Young just turned 26 years old this summer but has seven years of NBA experience. He is a fantastic athlete who averaged 17.9ppg and 6rpg last season on the 76ers. I’m skeptical as to what Flip Saunders thinks he is getting in Young, but for what the Wolves gave up to acquire him, this was a no-brainer.
(You can pretty much assume that Chris Bosh gets injured this coming season, the Heat sit Wade once this happens and Miami wins the NBA lottery, thereby giving the Sixers this pick. This is what happens when the Wolves are involved in the lottery. The title of a novel based on the Wolves’ history in the lottery would be rightfully named “The Worst”.)
The only other player on the Wolves roster that warrants mentioning here is Corey Brewer. He is likely the only other (relevant) Pup that I see being with the Wolves 24 months from now. His ideal role is an off-the-bench, energy guy in a 8 or 9 man rotation. Assuming Coach Flip doesn’t have a “we must win this game” mentality next season, Brewer should start to become acclimated to this role.
Pinch me, but I think the Wolves received quite the return package for a player that wasn’t going to be here much longer and two guys that underachieved and/or underwhelmed during their tenure in Minnesota.
What do you think Wolves Nation? Are you happy with the return or are you boycotting the Target Center next season? I think you’ll see some exciting basketball being played on the floor, with a good number of speed bumps hit along the way. I’m happy to see this drama resolved, that we have a core group of guys that can grow together and players that could very likely lead this team back to the playoffs one or two seasons from now.
It’s official. pic.twitter.com/cnr7WSoy0k
— Kyle Ratke (@Kyle_Ratke) August 23, 2014