We’re kicking off our offseason coverage here at A Wolf Among Wolves with a comprehensive roster review of the team from this past season, looking at how each player’s 2014-15 went and what we see for them going forward. One player (or group of players) a day for the next couple weeks, starting with the bench and/or those who have moved onto other teams, and rolling up to the starters.
706 minutes. That’s how many total minutes this motley assembly of spackle and grout played the entire NBA season. To put that in perspective, that’s 14 more minutes than Ricky Rubio, who only played in 22 games. It’s 14 fewer minutes than Adreian Payne, who didn’t play his first game as a Timberwolf until February 20. And of course it’s about one quarter of the total minutes played by Andrew Wiggins.
So here’s the net effect of this piddling quantity of cumulative minutes on this group: Unlike starters or even regular bench guys with whom you, as a fan, form a kind of relationship based on the ups and downs you witness over the course of a season, these guys are like the regulars you see at the coffee shop but never talk to. One guy might seem really nice: he always has his daughter with him and they do cute things like share hot chocolate and get whipped cream on their noses. Another guy might seem like a complete asshole: he gives you dirty looks when you sit at the table next to him EVEN WHEN EVERY OTHER GODDAMN TABLE IS TAKEN. I mean, Jesus: let me live.
But the thing is you don’t know these people. Maybe you have the best sense of Turiaf simply because he was on the Wolves the longest, but again, even with locker room access, you only got the outline of the man: dedicated to his teammates, a constant cheerleader, protective of his friends, but also sharp-tongued, witty.
The rest though? The things that stick out are more anecdotal than anything: the 25-year-old Kilpatrick was signed off of the D-League’s Delaware 87ers because they were the closest team to an away game against the Knicks. Radulica replaced Jeff Adrien to help with size down low given Nikola Pekovic’s injury problems, but then averaged 4.6 minutes per game over the 17 days he was with the team, playing in only half the ten games he was present for. Glenn Robinson — well, they drafted him and kept hanging onto him and hanging onto him and then eventually waived him to make room for Justin Hamilton.
You could easily make the argument that none of these players made any kind of impact on the court but this was — with the possible exception of Gary Neal, who showed flashes before struggling with injury — almost by design. (And even with Neal, his stint with the Wolves felt more like an audition for other teams, a solid done by Saunders to keep him in the league.)
Since the Wolves are rebuilding, think of them like a house you’re in the middle of rehabilitating. Your foundation is Ricky Rubio, in the sense that he is what you stripped down to. Andrew Wiggins is your first floor, the collective of Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, etc. is your second floor. By the end of the season, the house is more or less finished and Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger, etc. are your old furniture that doesn’t really fit in the new place but hey: you still have to have someplace to sit. And the guys mentioned in the title of this post are all the crap in that room to which you keep the door shut. If people are ducking their heads in there when you come over, you just say, “Oh yeah, that’s just storage right now really, kind of, but it doesn’t make any sense right now. We’ll get around to it once everything else gets sorted out.”
There is not inherently anything wrong with having a room full of junk at any given time. Getting a house in order, getting it just the way you want it, is a process, and you might not know what you want to do with that fourth bedroom or alcove in the basement until you’ve got everything else sorted out.
The trouble comes when you never get around to sorting that room out, when it becomes a trove of castoff stuff or worse: a place you keep cleaning out but then never doing anything with, where the leftover stuff just keeps accumulating and getting swept away.
The players headlining this post are already gone or unlikely to return. The real question for the Wolves is whether or not they’re replaced by further placeholders over the course of the next year, players called up from the D-League or thrown in to make trades work without any real intention of hanging onto them as part of the team the Wolves envision themselves becoming. This chunk of the roster is the junk drawer — it doesn’t make any difference who’s in there right now, but treating the back end of the roster correctly over the next year or two could mean having just the right tool when the time comes.