Archives For 2013 Offseason

Milt Newton, Flip Saunders, and Bobby Jackson (via Getty)

Milt Newton, Flip Saunders, and Bobby Jackson (via Getty)

We’re seeing a new era with the Minnesota Timberwolves organization that seems incredibly basic and yet at the same time is still relatively revolutionary in terms of forward thinking in the NBA. There have been mixed reviews with the job that Flip Saunders has done with the roster building this offseason, but in terms of moving the Wolves forward in other areas, it’s hard to find fault with at least the spirit of his ideas.

The front office and coaching acquisitions for the Wolves this season are significant. Flip Saunders took over for David Kahn and immediately started looking for ways to improve the organization, not only from a roster standpoint but also, from a health and development standpoint. As I wrote on CBSSports.com earlier this month, the Wolves’ lack of health this past year and in year’s prior with major injuries have been a topic of discussion and investigation by Saunders. Whatever the status quo around the organization has been isn’t working in terms of keeping its players on the court, so Saunders wants to find ways to invest in getting out ahead of the problem.

Minnesota is also expected to announce the hiring of Milt Newton as the team’s new general manager and Bobby Jackson as the team’s player development coach. Continue Reading…

Kidd_Rubio

As noted by Phil Ervin over at Fox Sports North (as well as Kelly Dwyer, Tom Ziller and nearly everyone else involved in covering basketball—thanks, August!), Flip Saunders was recently on KFAN 100.3 saying that Ricky Rubio needs to make shots. “Being a bigger scoring threat,” he said about the goals for Rubio’s third season, “being able to knock down shots, which will make the game much more easier for him.”

This is not news for Wolves fans, and probably not even for NBA fandom at large. What was often discussed in media row last season, though, was just how much better the Wolves really need for Rubio to be at scoring the ball, whether through shooting or finishing at the rim. After all, he would of course be a better, more useful basketball player if he could shoot the ball like Steph Curry, finish like James Harden, defend like Kawhi Leonard, block shots like Anthony Davis and celebrate like Kent Bazemore, but not every player is going to be a Swiss army knife of talents, nor should we expect or need them to be. Continue Reading…

Terrible Love

Steve McPherson —  August 15, 2013 — 4 Comments

If you have not yet read Jonathan Abramsprofile of Jonny Flynn over at Grantland, I recommend you go do that instead of reading this. It’s typically superlative. Abrams does a fantastic job showing the rollercoaster that Flynn’s professional career has been, but there was one part in particular that resonated strongly with me.

“That second year was my toughest year because I never went through something like that, where basketball is your main problem in life,” Flynn said. “Usually it’s your safe haven. Usually, you play basketball and you get away from everything else. But basketball being the biggest problem of my life, being a young kid, I couldn’t handle that. That was a really, really low time in my life, which it shouldn’t have been. You hear people say, ‘You’re in the NBA. You’re getting a check. You’re doing this. You can get your parents a house. Your sister’s good. Your family’s good.’ But when you love basketball, you just want to be able to play. The money is great. Once you get everything out of the way, once you take care of your family, once everything happens, it’s about basketball. During that time, it was tough.”

Most of us are never going to make a living doing what we love, and of those that do, a vanishingly small number will be paid very, very well (as the sixth pick in the 2009 draft, Flynn made just under $3 million his rookie year and just over $9 million for the life of his contract) to do something we not only love but are among the very best in the world at. I certainly don’t belong in the latter category, but judging from Flynn’s story, it seems like it can only be more fraught with distress than what I attempted, which was to be a professional musician. Continue Reading…

Art by Steve McPherson

Art by Steve McPherson

The Wolves have come to an agreement with restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic on a five-year deal worth a reported $60 million.

After a long and seemingly uneventful negotiating process in which the Wolves initially waited for the market to be set by an outside suitor with an offer sheet, they finally set the market themselves by offering a reported four-year, $50 million deal which Jeff Schwartz, Pek’s agent, apparently said was no good. He secured a longer contract for his client while taking less on a per season scale with the hopes that the incentives included in the deal will push Pek’s earnings beyond the $12.5 million from the Wolves reported initial offer. It’s a gamble, but it’s also a smart one. We’ll get into that in a bit.

I think most of us are glad the Wolves retained Pek because the alternative didn’t seem great. There wasn’t much of a Plan B in terms of what to do if Pek left because I don’t really believe that was ever going to happen. They couldn’t be forced into a sign-and-trade. They couldn’t lose him if they didn’t want to. Even Pek keeping the qualifying offer and playing out next season meant the Wolves still had him and his Bird rights. It was just a matter of how much and how long.

There are concerns about the length of the deal and what it means for the Wolves moving forward. Let’s get into the things said by Flip Saunders yesterday and the realities of the deal itself.  Continue Reading…

The Bruise Brothers

Steve McPherson —  August 14, 2013 — 1 Comment

BruiseBrothers_full

“We envision Pek and Kevin Love being the ‘Bruise Brothers’ and forming one of the best front courts in the NBA for a long time to come.”Flip Saunders

From the Wolves:

The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced the team has reached an agreement in principle on a contract with restricted free-agent center Nikola Pekovic. Per team policy, terms of the agreement were not  disclosed. ‘Retaining Pek was our No. 1 priority this offseason and we’re very excited that he’s chosen to continue his career in Minnesota,’ said Wolves President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders.
Meanwhile, Marc Stein is reporting at ESPN that the contract is a five-year deal, worth $60 million “and potentially up to an additional $8 million in incentive-related bonuses.”
The deal was clinched, sources say, when Minnesota offered a fifth year. Initial indications are that neither side possesses an option in the new contract, making it a straight-up deal for the next five seasons for the 27-year-old.
Now, it’s hard to speak definitively until we know for certain about the option status of that fifth year and about the details of those incentives. But if the deal really is as Stein says it is, another fully guaranteed year and extra incentives strikes me as too great a concession on the Wolves part to a player who, remember, had no meaningful bargaining leverage. (Although we can certainly speculate on the effect of Kevin Love’s looming free-agency–and the fact that Pekovic’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, also represents Love–on the negotiations). The cumulative effect of those little things–the extra year here and there, those extra few million–can be disastrous down the road for small-market teams under this Collective Bargaining Agreement.

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.

Photo credit: Jeremy Rincon, @jermcon

Photo credit: Jeremy Rincon, @jermcon

Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Shabazz Muhammad has been sent home from the Rookie Transition Program for violating the policy of not bringing any women back to your room during the four-day program. The rookie program has been around since 1986, created by the NBA and NBPA to help incoming rookies learn about everything from character to portraying a positive image of yourself to financial responsibility to learning how to keep leaches out of your inner circle, life, and bank account.

It’s something rookies need to experience without distraction and one of the rules to help prevent distraction is to keep potential hook-ups out of the picture during the event. Unfortunately for Shabazz Muhammad, he’ll have to repeat it next year because he was sent home after he brought a female guest into his hotel room on Tuesday. From Jeff Zillgitt at USA TodayContinue Reading…

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.

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.

Continue Reading…