Archives For Benjamin Polk

The conversation around Nikola Pekovic’s contract negotiations has been robust around here. That is a great thing. That said, I want to make a point about Big Pek’s production over the past two seasons and what effect playing with good players has/will have on that production.

It should first be noted that Pekovic is not a great defensive rebounder. This is a little strange to me since he is so incredibly strong; one would think that he would be able to hold perfect rebounding position on every shot. This is probably one area in which his lack of length and leaping ability really hamper his production. And as many people have pointed out, his defensive rebounding numbers were a bit lower when he played alongside Love two seasons ago. This makes sense because defensive rebounding is a zero sum game; if, like Love, you grab every single defensive board out there, there are going to be fewer to go around for your teammates. But Pekovic’s offensive rebounding numbers were actually higher two seasons ago. As a matter of fact, he was second in the league in offensive rebounding rate that year.  The fact that teams pay Love so much attention on the offensive glass means that Pek has more space to grab boards of his own. So I think you can expect his offensive rebounding numbers to go up playing with Love this season.

And, for what its worth, his usage rate was only slightly lower last season than two years ago, when Love was gobbling up offensive possessions like he was Bernard King. Of course, the Wolves did not have a volume perimeter scorer like Kevin Martin that year. But, if you ask me, the Rubio-Pek pick-and-roll is so effective and plays so well to both players’ strengths, that I don’t think you’ll see them stray too far from it.  What’s more, that pick-and-roll should be much more effective with shooters around to space the floor. Remember how clogged the lane became whenever Rubio would prepare to drive last season? That problem should be cleared up. Though his volume will probably drop, I think you’ll see Pekovic score more efficiently this season.

All of that said, what commenter Mac and others are saying is true: Pekovic’s agent truly has almost no leverage in this negotiation. Accepting the qualifying offer means sacrificing at least $6 million during Pek’s prime earning years. That’s money that, depending on his production and health, Pekovic may never recoup, even after he becomes an unrestricted free agent next year.

Lets talk about what constitutes breaking Timberwolves news in early August. Lou Amundson is still unsigned? Ok, not bad but I think we can probably do better than that. Money is the crux of Nikola Pekovic’s contract negotiation? Ok, let’s run with it. From Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500:

But one central issue remains, according to sources: money. The Wolves are offering Pekovic a four-year, $48 million extension. [Pekovic's agent Jeff] Schwartz wants more. In fact, at least initially, a lot more. One league source said his opening asking price was in the vicinity of $15 million/year.

This is actually less troubling than it seems. According to Wolfson, Schwarz is likely simply attempting to create bargaining leverage with which to negotiate an incentive package into the deal–most likely continent on Pekovic’s remaining healthy. As Wolfson points out, Pek’s only other option is to accept a $6 million one-year qualifying offer and then become a free agent after next season. But it makes no sense for an injury-prone big man entering his prime earning years to leave that much money on the table (unless, say, a Russian mafioso has delivered his mom a suitcase full of cash).  It’s remains a near-certainty that Pek will sign a deal by next month.

Wolves in Summer

Benjamin Polk —  July 24, 2013 — 5 Comments

Past NBA Summer Leagues have been characterized by a distinctly midnight basketball feel. Stripped down strategic approaches; players unfamiliar with each other and their systems; the deep desire to show and prove–all of these things have typically led to a kind of league-wide Nellie-ball fever. Breakneck pace and hypertrophic scoring were the rule. But the vibe was different this year. Perhaps  the presence and success of the D-League Select team, a group of grown men playing for their lives, added a note of seriousness to the proceedings. Perhaps it was the fact that teams like Phoenix had loaded their roster with experienced NBA players. Or maybe it was simply as David Thorpe suggested: The vogue for strongside pressure defense took the air out of the ball. But for whatever reason, defense (and competitiveness) enjoyed a bit of a renaissance while offenses were less manic.

As for the Wolves, their Summer League contingent shot the ball well, especially from distance (47.7% overall, 42.5% from three) which was an incredible relief to see from any team wearing a T-Wolves jersey–and I don’t care if those jerseys are ridiculous short-sleeved practice jerseys that make the players look like eight-year-olds or if none of those players ever step onto the Target Center floor.  They defended energetically and frequently well; they turned the ball over at an incredible volume. That’s pretty much the recipe for a 3-3 team, which, ultimately, who cares. In any event, here are some observations from the week.

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Garbage time, blown calls, awesome plays, victory celebrations: All of these just got a lot more fun, because Flip Saunders has signed the exceptionally enthusiastic, spectacularly bearded Ronny Turiaf for two-years and $3.2 million. (That’s the veterans’ minimum in case you were worried.) Turiaf isn’t really a good player or anything; I’d quote you some stats but there’s not really much to see. He’s a nice guy to turn to if your team needs a burst of frantic energy, or if your coach wants to change the flow of the game by making it suddenly frazzled and chaotic or to change up the defensive looks on an opposing power forward. Mostly, though, Turiaf is a bright, pulsing orb of positive vibes. That is a nice thing to have.

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For weeks we have been speculating that either Luke Ridnour or J.J. Barea would be on the move in order to fill the team’s many non-point guard related needs. We’ve also been hearing for a few days now that the Wolves were attempting to regain the services of one Corey Brewer, either by signing him outright or via a sign-and-trade.

Well, according to multiple reports, the both events have come to pass. In a nimble bit of salary cap ballet, the team orchestrated a sign-and-trade for Kevin Martin and sent Ridnour and his expiring $4.6 million deal to Milwaukee. This created the cap room needed to sign Brewer to a three-year deal reportedly in the $15 million range.

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A few notes here annotating Zach’s excellent summary of the Wolves’ first round.

It’s important to remember just how much uncertainty plays into these decisions. Especially when you’re drafting in the middle of the first round, and especially in a draft as zany as this one, GM’s are constantly recalibrating their matrices of risk and reward. There’s no occult knowledge here, no hidden absolutes. The draft game is a set of shifting uncertainties. In all likelihood, someone taken in the middle of the first round will become a Kawhi Leonard or a Larry Sanders or a Ty Lawson. And when they do we’ll all heap scorn on those pathetic GM’s who missed out. But: anyone here know who that guy is yet? Neither do I.

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The Wolves have taken Andre Roberson of Colorado with the 26th pick. Again, I would be very surprised if they walked out of the draft with three guaranteed contracts on their books, but just for fun, or in case I’m wrong somehow, here are his college stats, as per Draft Express.

Update: Sure enough, the Wolves appear to have sold this pick to the Warriors (who then moved it to OKC). Makes sense since they didn’t want another guaranteed deal on their hands…but I wonder why they didn’t manage to wrangle a future late-first round pick out of the deal.

Update Update: Turns out Malcolm Lee and a 2014 Golden State second-rounder were also part of this deal. All about cap space it appears. So long Malcolm Lee.

 

 

The Wolves also got the 21st pick in that Utah deal. With it, they drafted Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng. Here’s his vid:

Not to speculate, but my guess is that this means a) the 26th pick is getting moved and b) we’ve seen the last of Greg Stiemsma.

That didn’t take long. The Wolves have traded Burke to the Utah Jazz for the the 14th and 21st picks in this year’s draft. And with that 14th pick they chose…Shabazz Muhammad of UCLA. Here’s what Zach had to say about him earlier this week:

Here’s what I like about Shabazz: he can score (I think getting more scorers on this team can only be a good thing), he can shoot (not a deadeye but he’s not Wes Johnson either), he’s a good spot-up shooter (Rubio safety valve option?), he gets to the free throw line, a huge part of his game is getting out in transition (Wolves want to run), he rebounds well enough, and I think his wingspan turns him into a player with the potential to be a good defender. He only goes left, it seems but I still think he has the ability to become a well-rounded scorer. He also moves incredibly well without the ball and can post up a bit.

Here’s what worries me about Shabazz: he’s a bit of a tweener when it comes to playing shooting guard or playing small forward (which will plague him until he learns how to defend), he doesn’t pass at all (it’s both good and bad because he can’t be Derrick Williams out there but he also doesn’t turn it over much at all either), he’s not someone that generates a lot of turnovers (but that could develop), not a great athlete (length could make up for a lot there but he has to be quick, more than explosive), and he can’t shoot much off the dribble.

And here’s his DraftExpress video:

Now here’s a surprise–as if this draft wasn’t already full enough of surprises. In a move not a single mock draft that I’m aware of predicted, the Wolves took Michigan’s Trey Burke at #9. Now Burke was a great college player, but this is a strange pick for the Wolves for many reasons. So strange, in fact, that I would be shocked if they didn’t trade Burke before the night is over (if they haven’t already. So: more analysis later. Meantimes, here’s the DraftExpress profile vid of Burke.