Timberwolves Season in Review: Part 2

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We’re recapping the Timberwolves 2016-17 season, round table style. In case you missed it, Part 1 can be found here. Here are the final five questions about the season that was.

After LaVine tore his ACL in the 50th game of the season, Towns and Wiggins combined for 54.3 points per game. Their 2-man lineup in that time had an offensive rating of 113.8 – slightly better than the Warriors’ league-leading offense. Should this sample inform the team’s roster or lineup plans going forward?

Andy Grimsrud: This trend has had my attention for the past couple months, since LaVine’s very unfortunate ACL injury. Up until that time, the team’s PR campaign was heavily geared around having three 20-point scorers, each only 21 years old. It was a pretty cool thing. But as LaVine seemed to ascend into a future All-Star type of shooter/scorer, it seemed to come at least partly at Wiggins’s expense. Whether it was was as simple as “there’s only one ball and there are only so many shots for each player” or something deeper in the chemistry, Wiggins and KAT both exploded when Zach went out and they were tasked with carrying larger portions of the offense.

I tried to ask Thibs about this in his season-end presser, pointing out the per-game averages of Wig & KAT after the LaVine injury and asking him if he was surprised by how much of the slack they picked up. His answer — in Thibs fashion — went a lot of different directions, but to paraphrase the essence of it, he said that Wig and KAT were progressing all season and he felt they would’ve scored those same increased amounts even with Zach in the lineup.

Taken literally, he’s wrong — there just wouldn’t be enough shots to go around with LaVine in there, too. But, his general point (I think) was that they are better with Zach than without Zach. He even said, “you don’t just replace Zach.” So, Thibs’s position on this is clearer than most. In clearer, firmer terms than most of his statements, he has clarified that Zach LaVine is every bit part of the team’s core that Wiggins and Towns are.

That’s fine if that’s true — LaVine is young and talented, with a crazy-interesting upside. But I would like to see him staggered more with the second unit that otherwise struggles to generate points. It really does seem as if Wiggins and Towns can handle the offensive workload as a duo, in the starting lineup.

Patrick Johnston: There isn’t a (known) right answer to this question yet, so I’ll unleash a semi-warm take: although Zach LaVine might’ve been the team’s most-improved player this season, there’s a case to be made for him taking on a new role. The role that is most realistic is as “souped-up Shabazz Muhammad”–that is, “high scoring 6th man whose skills can be used to create situational matchup difficulties for other teams. Look, LaVine is extremely popular and marketable, but will the Wolves win more games with him in an outsized role? It depends on whether he can and will play good defense, to a far greater degree than Karl Towns or Andrew Wiggins, who’re both further along than Zach L.

Lucas Seehafer: So, to be blunt, the question is basically “Should Zach LaVine start or be the team’s sixth man?” (see, told ya) and my answer to that is: I don’t know. LaVine, obviously, is a key member of the Wolves’ core and figures to be around for the foreseeable future, but whether or not he should be a starter really hinges on how well and quickly he can pick up good team defense skills. (Quick aside: I think he’ll get a 4-year max, whether the Wolves give it to him or they match, and I think that’s a no brainer despite coming off ACL reconstruction.) As of right now, he and Wiggins have fairly redundant skillsets (and Wiggins’ size is a bigger advantage at the two than the three) and if one had to be moved to the bench, I’d choose LaVine. I think his specific skills (read: chucker) are better suited for the sixth man role and Wiggins has proven to be too much of an offensive stalwart to be moved to the bench. Part of me still thinks LaVine and Wiggins can coexist in the starting lineup, but it all depends on them becoming decent to good team defenders.

Bill Bohl: That’s such a tricky question. It should definitely “inform” their lineup/roster plans, but I don’t think LaVine’s value would be very high this season coming off of a serious knee injury. Without the ACL tear, he’d either have helped prove he can be part of the solution going forward, or he’d be a dynamite trade chip for what promises to be a busy offseason for the team. Instead, he’ll almost definitely be on the team on opening night in October, and that can’t been kicked down the road. To answer your question: yes, the team should incorporate how well they performed after LaVine went down into their decision-making process, but I just don’t know if they have enough data to make a decision on his future anyway, so it may be a moot point.

Tim Faklis: I do think it should impact their lineup plans going forward, especially after Lavine gets back fully healthy (which could take a while). I don’t think it should impact their roster plans, though. I think there’s a way to incorporate LaVine fully without keeping him in the same exact role we saw him in for most of this year. I’m not entirely sure what that is, but I don’t think a LaVine-Dieng bench combo would be the worst thing in the world.

Zach Harper: While many wanted to peg the Wolves’ shortcomings on LaVine (I got a lot of tweets during that good stretch that incorrectly attributed it to Zach’s absence), I don’t think we saw much in terms of team impact. There were stretches in which the Wolves looked better. There were stretches in which they desperately needed LaVine back in that attack. If anything, this stretch without their third scorer showed the Wolves two things, in my mind.

First, it showed that Towns and Wiggins are big time scorers in this league. That their efficiency spiked during this stretch and they played so well on that end of the floor without the spacing Zach provides is impressive. What you hope is that they’ll take that spike in scoring and apply it to making the rest of the team better when LaVine gets back to 100% and on the floor. Second, it showed just how thin this team is when it comes to help around them. Defenses could’ve done a lot more damage in covering Towns and Wiggins after LaVine got hurt. This team should use this time and look to add shooters and cutters into the mix. Give Wiggins and Towns the space to operate and this becomes the norm for them.

Ricky Rubio spent most of the season in trade rumors, but he also turned in career highs in points and assists per game and field goal percentage. Do you expect to see him in a Wolves uniform next November?

Andy: If we parse everything Thibs has said about Ricky (and perhaps more importantly, the many times he omits Rubio’s name in discussions of the team’s “core”) I think it’s reasonable to think that he might be traded. For how (relatively) good Rubio has played for this team — including this past season — Thibs has simply not gone out of his way to shoot down the hot trade rumors or make any sort of major endorsement of Rubio as the team’s point guard going forward. He has spoken COUNTLESS times about the team’s core group of players and it always includes “Karl, Wig, and Zach.” It rarely includes Ricky. Also, there was a 48 or so hour period around the trade deadline when it seemed more than likely that Rubio was headed to the Knicks. Thibs holds his cards close to the vest, but the fact that Ricky took to social media to (passive aggressively) vent about the situation suggests that either: 1) the rumors were legit; and/or 2) Thibs made no attempt to reach out to Ricky to let him know he would not be traded.

Basically, there’s been a lot of smoke.

But, if you look at what Thibs has done — or more specifically, what he has NOT done — i.e., trade Rubio, you have to wonder if he might stick around at least through the remaining two years of his contract. Rubio is considered to have a bargain contract, and yet so many teams are happy with their current point guard situations that he might not have very much trade value. It might not make any sense to trade him if the only reason is shedding salary.

Who is going to replace him, anyway?

It’s a good question. For some reason I think he’s played his last game as a Wolf but that is more gut feeling than anything else.

Patrick: Andy and I just wrote a lot about this. TL;DR: I think he will, but I wouldn’t say he has very much job security here.

Lucas: Man, I don’t know. At the trade deadline, I thought for sure he’d be gone this summer, but then he went on that magical run to end the season. Right now, I think it’s around 50/50 that he’ll be back (or gone, depending on how negative you are). I think the only way the Wolves could justifiably move Rubio is if they somehow end up with the number one overall pick or if they get a commitment from George Hill. I think moving Rubio without getting any of Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, or Hill would be a mistake.

Bill: No, I don’t. I can’t shake the feeling that this will be a critical offseason in free agency, and given Thibs’ longstanding affinity for guards who can get their own shot, he’ll make a move at the point guard position. George Hill? Jrue Holiday? I totally agree with Lucas’ final line – moving Ricky without Fultz, Ball, or Hill in hand would be a huge mistake. But I’ve learned to expect the worst and hope for the best when it comes to the Timberwolves.

Tim: I hope I didn’t watch his last game last week. I’ve written about this topic more than just about any other this season, so I’ll keep this short: There are very few point guards, that will be available this summer, that make the Wolves better than Rubio does. There are even fewer that the Wolves can realistically acquire this summer. I think he should be in a Wolves uni next fall, but I have my doubts.

Zach: I honestly have no idea at this point. Thibodeau seems to have come away very impressed by Rubio and the shooting improvement in the second half of the season gives you a lot to consider in regards to his future. If he can give the Wolves that, is it enough to keep him as the bridge PG until Dunn or somebody else (more likely) is prepared to run the team?

2.5 months ago, I was certain (based on some information) that Rubio would either be traded on draft night or in the first week of free agency. Now, there seems to be some cloudiness regarding that idea. I think Rubio will be in a Wolves uniform if their targets aren’t available to them. Then we’ll do the whole trade rumor thing until at least next February again. I feel like I didn’t answer this question at all.

Kris Dunn quickly proved himself as a dynamic and versatile defensive player. But he struggled in just about every facet of offense. Is it too early to write him off as a viable point guard?

Andy: Well, if we’re talking about this coming season, then I think he should be written off. As in, despite whatever they expected to get when they drafted Dunn, he hasn’t shown any serious ability to run an NBA offense yet. (Well, not unless you count the 16 assists he registered as the starting point guard in the glorified pickup game that was the season finale at Houston. And I don’t.)

Dunn has some clever handles and a lot of athleticism. It’s possible that he’ll put together a basic set of skills that allow him to initiate offense more effectively, over time. But I think his more realistic (and possibly quite promising) future is in the “wing stopper” role. He is a pretty terrifying defensive player.

Patrick: No.

Lucas: Technically, probably, but I don’t deal with technicalities (puts on sunglasses as explosions happen behind me). I’m convinced Dunn will have a productive career as a defense-oriented two-guard and fill in point guard, not as the starting point guard on a good team. He showed this year that he can’t efficiently run an offense and made too many questionable decisions to build my confidence in his future as a starting point guard. That being said, it’s still very early in his career and if he figures out his shot and how to finish at the rim, I could find myself eating some crow.

Bill: Well-put, Patrick. No.

Tim: But he had 16 assists in his last game! Seriously though:

I’m not sure I’m ready to give up on him as a point guard all together quite yet. But we’re going to need to see substantial improvement next year. That’s not to say I need to see Rubio out there in Dunn next year, we need to see basic ability running the point. If we don’t, my doubts will turn into more certainty.

I do think there’s a place for him in the NBA, though. I know the name “Tony Allen” has been thrown around a lot, and I don’t hate it. It does imply that he would never even attempt to improve from deep, however, and I’m not sure how much I agree with that. Dunn has a lot of tools I like: defense, attitude, hustle. He can muck a game up when it needs a good mucking. But I’m not sure he’s a point guard. That could change, but I doubt it will.

Zach: It’s not too early by any means. But there are some smart people convinced he’s already a bust. I wouldn’t go nearly that extreme but he needs a lot of work. It isn’t just shooting the ball, finishing, or getting to the free throw line. He just seems to struggle at creating for others. The final game of the season was fun, but not nearly enough to erase most of this season on offense for him.

There is a general feeling of disappointment in this season for the simple fact that the team won only 31 games after many predicted more like 41 and a playoff berth. What specific trend or aspect of the season disappointed you most?

Andy: I’ll admit that I overestimated the immediate effect that Thibs would have on the team’s defense. I was disappointed to be wrong — or maybe “naive” is the better word — about that. The 2016-17 league spectrum for defensive rating spanned from 100.9 (Spurs) to 110.7 (Lakers). The Timberwolves’ 109.1 was much, much closer to the bottom than the top. They ranked 26th in defense. Making matters worse, it was the “core” group of players who struggled most on that end of the floor. LaVine, Wiggins and Towns each had a D-rating over 110, right around the league-worst mark of the Lakers.

I know it’s a process and youth, inexperience, and adjusting to a new coach and system are all legitimate excuses for an adjustment period. But it was disappointing that they defended so poorly in Year 1 with the defensive guru Thibs leading the way.

Patrick: The failure to sustain that temporary hot streak they had shortly after LaVine got hurt. For one thing, the team had a legitimate shot at the playoffs. For another–and related to the LaVine discussion above–it muddied the water from a developmental perspective, since we still don’t really know what Zach L’s best future role should be. I suppose that will be part of the intrigue next season.

Lucas: I don’t know if one specific thing comes to mind. Obviously, the struggles on defense were less than ideal, but they were also fairly predictable. While frustrating, defense is extremely difficult to learn at this level, and as I wrote about previously, it takes a ton of repetitions in a variety of settings and situations for learning to occur.

I guess if forced to pick one thing, I’d say the bench production was most disappointing. The Wolves didn’t really have anyone on the bench they could turn to to keep games close as the starters took a breather (as a result, the starters didn’t take many breathers). Shabazz Muhammad was probably the closest one, but he was way too inconsistent. I think that might be the biggest argument for moving LaVine to the bench; he could be the leader and explosive threat for that unit. 

Bill: I predicted between 33 and 35 wins in our season preview roundtable, but I was basing that in large part on a perceived regression to the mean, injury-wise, after the Wolves’ extremely healthy 2015-16 campaign. Other than LaVine, and Bjelica, this season’s Wolves were very healthy again (all 82 for Towns, Wiggins, and Dieng, 78 for Bazz, 75 for Ricky). So I guess my disappointment is in the fact they didn’t capitalize more on their principal parts being available for so many games. I get that they weren’t very deep, were learning a new system, etc. But still.

Tim: That run in February was fun, when they beat the Clippers, Warriors, and Wizards all in the same time period. It got us asking “are the Wolves…just…good now?”. That fell off way too fast, and completely fell apart. I was hoping to see more consistency from them, even after a small losing skid. I never saw that team again to close the year. Their job next year will be to find that defensive discipline, and hold onto it this time.

Zach: We should be honest that 31 wins is a disappointment. If you expected the playoffs, then that was highly optimistic of you. Young teams usually don’t win. They struggle with consistency. That’s what happened with the Wolves and that struggle with consistency was highly predictable. However, they lost so many close games in such a consistent way that the 31 feels like it should have been a few more, at least. That they couldn’t crack that code and build toward something more acceptable throughout the season is the biggest disappointment tied to the record.

But I’m with Tim here. That stretch in February where they started turning it around needed to last long. I’m not saying it should have last through the end of the season. I’m not sure that’s realistic. But not just losing their defensive success but losing it in such a dramatic fashion made you wonder if that good stretch was a fever dream. (It might have been.)

Despite the lower-than-anticipated win total, what are the biggest reasons to remain optimistic about the Wolves’ future?

Andy: Towns took the next step toward superstardom, and getting a superstar is the most difficult and important task in the (re)building process. It would be wrong to excuse the disappointment of this 31-win season away entirely — this team has significant issues it needs to address in the off-season, both internally in development (particularly for KAT & Wig to become stronger defenders) and externally in free agency and the draft. But having a superstar is the biggest thing. KAT is effectively under contract for 7 more seasons after this one, if you make the very logical assumption that he signs a 5-year max extension in October 2018. The Wolves have SEVEN years to build around Towns. They can try the Rubio-LaVine-Wiggins supporting cast (with a helpful free agent or 3) and if that isn’t a title contender, they can try something else. Provided Thibs can instill a defensive culture here like he did in Chicago and as an assistant in many other places, a KAT-led offense is going to be very good and the team will win 50+ games every year.

Having one player isn’t enough by itself — just look at the Pelicans and Anthony Davis. But landing a superstar in the draft and controlling his rights for nearly a decade… that’s the heaviest lifting in the rebuilding process and that part is complete here in Minnesota. It’s up to LaVine and Wiggins to become credible Robins to KAT’s Batman and it’s up to Thibs to make it all make sense together.

Patrick: Young talent. A proven coach. A great city. A committed if modest-sized fan base. These are the reasons this season was so difficult when it didn’t work out. But they could be the same reasons to be legitimately excited about the team’s prospects moving forward……

Lucas: I could go on about how the Wolves still project to have a high-powered offense and that the defense will come, but really it all comes down to three words: Karl-Anthony Towns. He’s far and away the best young player in the league right now and will be an All-Star and All-NBA player for years to come. He’s amazing and as long as he’s in navy blue and lime green, the Wolves will have a bright future.

Bill: Karl-Anthony Towns. He’s on his way to being the best player in the league someday. If that doesn’t give you hope, nothing will.

Tim: KAT has the chance to be a once-in-a-generation player. Wiggins could be a multi-year All-Star. LaVine is going to be good, and we have no idea how good yet. Ricky Rubio is still here, and still fantastic. They’ll have a top 7 pick this year, and who knows what will come of that? There’s plenty to be excited for.

Zach: Karl-Anthony Towns didn’t announce his retirement.

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8 thoughts on “Timberwolves Season in Review: Part 2

  1. With LaVine, it shouldn’t be overlooked how much he played with the 2nd unit anyway before he got injured. Until that point, the start of the 2nd quarter was always “LaVine + Bench.” The question of “bench player?” seems overanalyzed anyway; he’s still one of their 5 best players, and there’s nothing in the rules preventing Thibs from staggering the Towns/Wiggins/LaVine minutes so that 2 are always on the floor while still having all of them start.

    How athletic is Dunn actually? He obviously has good height, a great wingspan, and a frame that could turn him into one of the strongest PGs in the league, but he didn’t really show high-end speed, quickness, or vertical explosiveness this season. He can obviously improve technique on his shooting and finishing near the rim, but if he doesn’t have at least one hard-to-guard way to create a shot for himself, then he becomes a guy who, if the starter, the team has to hope starts making league average on his 3s and doing things defensively that outweigh his inability to run an offense.

  2. The LaVine bench thing has been in the air for a while. I have a tendency to snap judge at times, but on the LaVine thing, I’m not in a hurry to move the guy to a full on bench role. I feel like it is premature for that. I mean, do other teams do this? Like worry about too much scoring in their starting unit, try to keep it down to two main scoring threats? I’m not so sure… If our roster looks anything like it did this season next year, we’re going to need some serious staggering. I wonder though… Maybe Wiggins should be the stagger and LaVine and Towns should play most together. Wiggins and LaVine have unfortunately redundant skills (including bad D) but LaVine is the max contrast compliment to Towns (who, being our true star is the start of considerations). We got to see the Wolves without LaVine and get in a stink about how the team looks without him in different ways. What if Wiggins had injured his ACL? What would that have looked like? I get it, LaVine is a more cliche Jamal Crawford type 6th man than Wiggins. And I’m not suggesting we move Wiggins to the bench or even try it. But on some level the idea of moving LaVine to the bench is only a sliver more logical than doing the same with Wiggins. I’m not sure either is a good idea at this point.

    The one thing people leave out about the Rubio thing is this–there are a limited amount of equal or better replacement PGs on the market (and who knows what their exact fit with this roster would really be) and many of them would not be interested in coming here. But lets say we get one, like Hill. He’s not going to be cheap and we are going to have a lot of money coming due to keep our core together and keep trying to improve a shallow roster. You put that together without even factoring in what makes Rubio special and it seems foolish and even dangerous to the development of this team to move Rubio. Who knows what this franchise will do, but I think there is a narrow slit of opportunity for moving Rubio to be a net positive for the franchise at this juncture.

    I kinda hated the Kris Dunn pick right away. So I have to admit I was pretty negative about him from the get go. But what surprised me about him this year isn’t so much that he sucked (I didn’t like the pick and thought he was a reach–I was surprised by how bad he was, just not as much as some) but that he’s not a PG at all. I call him a dude guard. I have two terms I invented for popular guard types these days. Dude guard is a positionless often strong guard with limited skills (think Marcus Smart) who has to earn his check with D or tenacity, and score guard, which is also a positionless guard but with an abundance of scoring skills. He usually is more of a two, but plays point because he’s too small to play SG and his team wants the ball in his hands PG level of time. Not often a very good defender. Dunn is a classic dude guard and has zero score guard in him. He really doesn’t have a pure position at this point, but he’s much less harmful stashed as a SG. When you start using terms like ‘less harmful’ you are in bust territory. He’s a bust right now for a 5th pick—really bad value and potential for that high. But he could get a lot better and it’s only one season. But my idea of how he will be used going forward (whether successful or not) is the surprise. He’s not as advertised. People mostly called him a highly prepared pure PG with some weaknesses but a lot of strengths. He’s not a pure PG and his weaknesses are a bit overwhelming. As gifted as he is on D those weaknesses even bleed into that end. Gjk makes a great point. He’s not that athletic. Quicker guards get around him with ease, and he’s no John Wall in the break. He can dunk better than Rubio, but he’s clearly not a guy with an amazing vertical at this level. But guys without athletic advantages Dunn has are much better at scoring on the drive. He’s got good physique but average NBA athletic ability and no feel for the rim. A pretty big scouting blunder.

    I’ve talked an awful lot about the record in the last few recaps of the season. I think what we need to take away here, and it is a worry, is not simply the record. Depending on who you ask we should have had a few more wins or quite a bit more. It’s weird how close to last years record we were when you think of all the upheaval and the fact that everyone was a year younger (and our best player was a rookie). But we can make a much of excuses to explain it, I guess. What was even more alarming was the lack of improvement throughout the season. We really didn’t build anything to ride into next season with. I guess Thibs stopped doing hack point Wiggins, so maybe we won’t have to start the season with that? Thibs had one job, in a way. Not to get a certain amount of wins, or to the playoffs but to get clear improvement (particularly on D) from this team from beginning to end. He failed at it.

    I like the end of this TOWNS, TOWNS, TOWNS. Was it just me, or did it seem like Thibs didn’t quite get what he has in Towns this season? I mean, there were a lot of elaborate theories explaining his focus on Wiggins (and other things) that basically amounted to ‘Thibs over focuses on some things for developmental reasons’. But if you have to play your roster in odd out of sync ways to get it to develop right (PG LaVine) it just means you aren’t a very good coach. And if you think Wiggins is better than Towns, or more of our ‘superstar’ again, it means you’re not a very good coach. It’s hard to wiggle out of. When I say ‘not a good coach’ I don’t mean that is just who Thibs is. But he wasn’t good this season in a lot of ways. He knows a lot and is obsessive, so there is hope he’ll get better. But he needs to do just that, get better, because what we got from him this year just isn’t going to cut it.

  3. I agree that LaVine can and probably should start. Great teams have multiple scorers on the court in the playoffs and no one thinks that is a bad thing. Teams like Cleveland, Golden State, Houston can find plenty of scoring opportunities for their stars. So should Thibs. However, if the three of them are still woefully lacking in the defensive department, they may need to be broken up to get more stops from the first unit. Also, it is a little scary how those three play together. With a low post threat like KAT, a driving force like Wiggins and a three point shooter like Zack, you should have the makings of a great scoring team, especially with a playmaker like Rubio. It may be that Thibs offense is a to much iso focused, but you would think that those three should be able to move the ball around and find open shots most times down the floor. I would love to see what Pop would do with our young stars in his motion offense.

    I have been a proponent of getting the best talent at the stretch four and a true 3 and D player in Free Agency this year. Don’t overpay for bench players. It would be better for G and LaVine or Wiggins and our first round pick this year, to come off the bench or at least be pushed for starting time, than to overpay for someone that is a fine with coming off the bench.

  4. Since there isn’t a separate KG thread, this seems as good a place as any to share some thoughts about the two articles that came out yesterday. For the most part, it seems like Thibs deferred to the owner when it comes to why KG has zero role in the organization but wasn’t against him having some role.

    From the KG portion of it, it’s understandable why he’s hurt, and he probably chose his examples poorly. Franchise value may not have had much to do with him, but he and Flip are the only reasons Glen Taylor has ever made money with this franchise. His driving of team success and playoff appearances drove revenues and resulted in the full Target Center that we rarely see anymore. If he wanted to be a primary decision-maker in the front office, resistance to that idea makes sense, since that would take any player a lot of time to learn and it’s not clear how well he could’ve incorporated newer technology and analytics. His season and a half here to end his career were also just strange because he seemed to be completely fine with playing half a season for $8 million. Maybe that speaks to his problems with Taylor, but both seasons featured him getting injured and then no real status updates about when he might return, which never happens with other players. Additionally, though the firing of Mitchell was handed poorly, every NBA team would’ve considered Thibodeau an upgrade and made that move if he was interested.

    With Taylor, though, I don’t know if his treatment of KG reflects a bigger problem with him or not, but it’s so strange that he has no interest in dealing with him in a nuanced way, considering how much of the franchise’s success revolves around KG. From saying he “tanked” after trading him to the way this whole thing ended, it’s almost like he takes pleasure in tweaking KG. Compare how they dealt with KG, a guy who took a paycut to extend his contract here in 2003, to the way the Lakers dealt with Kobe, continually paying him the max even after he was missing 60+ games over multiple seasons, and KG is drastically more important to this franchise than Kobe is to the Lakers. Not allowing him as much time as he wanted to take in honoring Flip during the 2015 opener was stupid because there were no real reasons to restrict him and even a raw, rambling message from him was needed much more than no message at all. The montage they showed was more “look at all these famous NBA people who cared about Flip” than it was “here’s what Flip meant to people who knew him the most.” Also, Taylor’s loyalty for front-office bobos seemed infinite (his son-in-law was the team president for over 2 decades, McHale was there so long it seemed like firing him was illegal, and Kahn got 3 seasons), while his loyalty to KG has been extremely limited; arguably, he was more loyal to Kahn than he’s been to KG. Regarding the banner, it’s a smaller issue since they had the jersey patch and the warmup shirts, but Flip should have a banner if they retired Malik Sealy’s #2.

  5. I love KG and he will always be the first great T-wolf, but he likes to have his cake and eat it too. The thing we don’t know is what Glen’s relationship has been with KG, other than KG is verbally upset that he didn’t get his way and Glen paying his (NBA largest) salary and tried in vain to surround him with talent in a cap tied league. A cap that was difficult to manage because KG’s contract was the reason a cap was put into place to begin with. Glen is loyal to a fault, so it seems odd that Glen and KG are at odds, but maybe it was KG that caused Glen to lose his loyalty for his only HOF player. Glen sees how much the fans loved Garnett, so he must have had some reason to think KG needed to go. There was talk between Flip and KG that KG may get a chance to buy into the franchise, but with the price of NBA teams going through the roof, after KG returned, I think Glen knew KG doesn’t have that kind of money and wasn’t going to give KG a discount to buy in.

    As for Flip, it was Flip that wanted Marbury over Ray Allen. Brandon over Billups. Played Sam Cassell to the point of injury to get home court advantage and was part of the brain trust that took so many terrible picks (Will Avery, Ebi, etc). Yet, he never took the heat for those blunders, letting his old pal McHale and Glen be the fall guys. He was always there to say how he saw so much in KG before the draft, but never took the heat when it didn’t go well. Flip was a good guy, but he wasn’t an asset to KG career or Glen’s investment.

    When KG returned, there was very little in the tank. The few times he could muster the ghost of the Big Ticket with KAT and Wiggins and LaVine it was fun to watch. He made them better defensively, but I think letting him go, was the best for the young players. They saw his passion and should try to emulate it, but he was a shell of himself and would have been a distraction from KAT and Andrew taking over this team. At 8 million a year, he was handsomely paid for his contributions. His team jersey should be up there with his dear friend Malik, and some remembrance of Flip would be a nice touch too. I’m sure Glen’s Marketing team will see how smart those dedications would be for a little crowd boost.

    1. Not sure why I bother, but sucked in again, apparently by a member of Taylor’s extended family…
      – This has never been about one person being 100% at fault in that dynamic, but one was a main constant for the franchise’s success. The other has been a main constant for the franchise’s failures. It’s not hard to give one the benefit of the doubt over the other with a lack of information.
      – Additionally, it can’t be overlooked how insulting and hypocritical it was for Taylor to say that KG tanked. His work ethic in practice has been always portrayed as unique for a superstar, his pride in his work ethic is obvious, and the main reason he sat out games at the end of 2 straight seasons in his prime was to reduce the damage of McHale’s mistake and avoid losing a needed lottery pick (which McHale ended up wasting anyway).
      – Implementing the max salary (there was already a cap) after KG was signed to a deal far above it (the tipping point for the lockout, not the sole cause) affected their ability to build a contender. The rest stems from huge front office mistakes, like the Joe Smith illegal contract, which is the fault of the whole franchise because it cost them Googs and Terry Porter along with the 3 1st rounders and additional 1st to replace Porter with Bobby Jackson.
      – Which brings in the Flip/McHale comparison. Separating out who made what decisions while both were here together is useless; the whole notion that Flip and not McHale chose Brandon over Billups came from McHale. There is zero indication that Flip and McHale disagreed about Marbury. That leaves all of the garbage that happened after Flip was fired: Rashad McCants over Danny Granger, Bracey Wright over Marcin Gortat or Amir Johnson, Randy Foye instead of Rudy Gay, Craig Smith over Paul Millsap, Cassell for Marko Jaric and what ended up being the #10 pick in the 2012 draft, a 1st for 40 games of Marcus Banks, Corey Brewer instead of Joakim Noah, Chris Richard over Marc Gasol, trading the #34 pick in a loaded draft (Mario Chalmers, DeAndre Jordan, Goran Dragic all available) for 2 2nds in much weaker drafts (they got Henk Norel and sold the other pick to OKC), firing Dwane Casey for Randy Wittman, and the whole KG trade. We saw what McHale without Flip was like for an extended run. Flip’s second stint featured lower draft picks to begin with, yet he still probably got more for Love and more out of Muhammad, Dieng, and LaVine than they got out of McCants, Foye, and Brewer (the Love and Pek picks happened after McHale was fired as GM and made coach).
      – Flip never took the heat? He was literally the only person in that trio to suffer real consequences. Whatever “heat” McHale and Taylor took was probably soothed by those being the only consequences for their mistakes.
      – There was no “played to the point of injury.” Sam Cassell wasn’t even in the top 20 in the league in minutes and played 35.8 per game that season because Troy Hudson was healthy for 29 games. In the playoffs, before he got injured, he was playing 36 mpg in the playoffs, for a team that had Darrick Martin as its backup. The injury he suffered was either just a sad occurrence or a result of being ill-prepared to survive the playoffs. They don’t win 58 games or even get to the Western Conference Finals if he’s not playing those minutes. Also, Sprewell played hundreds more minutes that season and was only a year younger.

  6. I don’t know/understand the details of the KG situation. I do think it is a shame he has nothing to do with the organization now. That is on the shoulders of anyone currently involved and possibly KG himself. It doesn’t make sense to have had him on the roster this past season, but having help teach the guys D and mentor them would have been nice. Things that happened this season only underline this need. One observation about KG… He is a loyal guy. This personality type tends to be fiercely loyal, maybe to a fault but if you somehow get on their bad side watch out. The grudge holding tends to be as intense as the loyalty.

  7. Personal reactions….
    Coaching – Thibs is winning me over – but still a wait and see for me.

    The good
    – KAT/Wiggins/Rubio/Dieng – (LaVine before hurt) Big minutes, usually consistent, highly productive
    Bjelica/Bazz/Dunn/Jones – all proving to be productive backup bench players. Dunn has a high potential as does Jones, Bjelica perhaps before injury was as good as we will see – Bazz we are still waiting for but I hope we resign him.

    The Bad (disappointment)
    Aldrich/Rush – don’t know how much to blame them, or Thibs rotations, but I had expected more from both these players.
    Payne/Hill/PEK – PEK is done – Hill wasn’t given opportunity – better than he was allowed to show – Payne a couple games showed progress, but don’t know how long he fits into our plans. The athleticism, the college background, the size to be ideal for the wolves, the results not so much.

    The unexpected – Lance Stephenson – again I feel bad that injury prevented him from impacting this roster and perhaps having a chance to stick. Athletic and with some size (weight) that we don’t have with Wiggins/LaVine he might have been a good fit – Omri Casspi, again hasn’t shown the significant impact (not a superstar), but his size and SF/PF flexibility make him a likely player to retain on the roster.

    D-league acquisition should be wonderful – Payne if kept – Jones (if Dunn takes all the backup PG minutes) a couple Draft picks (if Bjelica and LaVine return healthy) should they not get much floor time. All in all it is still time to be hopeful.

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