Archives For 2014 Offseason

Bledsoe

All hell broke loose a little bit ago on Twitter with the report from Fox10 in Phoenix and then Brian Windhorst from ESPN.com that the Minnesota Timberwolves were making a run at restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe with a max contract offer sheet. Bledsoe has been battling the Phoenix Suns all summer long, waiting for them to show up on his doorstep with a max offer. The problem is Rich Paul, Bledsoe’s agent, never set the market for his client like what happened with Gordon Hayward, so there hasn’t been any push between Bledsoe wanting the max and Phoenix offering four years and $48 million.

With less than two weeks until training camps start and no resolution in sight, someone decided to put some pressure on the Suns in a last ditch effort to force their hands. Windhorst says sources have told him the Wolves are making a push at a sign-and-trade with a max offer sheet on the other side of that transaction rainbow. From ESPN:

With just days before the start of training camp, the Minnesota Timberwolves are making a final push to acquire restricted free-agent guard Eric Bledsoe in a sign-and-trade with the Phoenix Suns, sources told ESPN.com.

The Wolves are offering Bledsoe the four-year, $63 million maximum level contract that he has been seeking, sources said, but because of cap restrictions, the only way he can join the team as currently constructed is through a sign-and-trade deal. Bledsoe and the Suns have been in a stalemate all summer after the team offered him a four-year, $48 million deal in July.

Now let’s talk about why none of this is likely to happen and why it’s being talked about:  Continue Reading…

GRIII

The Minnesota Timberwolves have a numbers issue at the moment, but it looks to be a pretty good one. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports is reporting that the Wolves and second round pick Glenn Robinson III have agreed to a guaranteed deal. Robinson was selected 40th in the 2014 draft and puts the Wolves at 16 players with guaranteed deals and 18 players overall.

Continue Reading…

Chairs

Some thoughts on the Wolves’ media and fan meet-and-greet at the State Fair, in bullet form:

– People began packing themselves around the stage nearly an hour prior to the start of the show. The atmosphere was jubilant and peppy – fans cheered loudly for each of the four players (loudest of all for Wiggins) and lingered long after they were done speaking, taking selfies, asking for autographs and hollering praise to Flip for getting the deal done. It was certainly an interesting environment for an introductory press conference – the Fair’s enormity shrinking for an hour into a very intimate, uncontrolled setting. A few barely audible catcalls arose from the crowd and drew chuckles from the guys onstage. Those awkward moments aside, today was a very positive day for everyone involved. The weather was perfect, the Wolves garnered some much-needed buzz, and Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young and Zach LaVine got their first taste of Minnesota’s atmosphere. Continue Reading…

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It’s finally official. Officially official. The frequently discussed deal to send Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers has finally been announced as an done deal.

Let’s look at the breakdown:

Minnesota receives: Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young, trade exception

Cleveland receives: Kevin Love

Philadelphia receives: Alexey Shved, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Miami’s (top 10 protected) 2015 first round pick

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The deal has been discussed off and on for a number of months now, but was amplified when LeBron James made the decision to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers back in early July. After the LeBron announcement, rumors and speculation took off, especially since LeBron left Wiggins and Bennett’s names off of his announcement of guys he was ‘excited to play with’.

Talks with Cleveland were temporarily put on hold after Cleveland signed Wiggins to his rookie deal, due to a rule that makes it illegal to trade a rookie for 30 days after their first contract is signed. Still, reports came out during the waiting period that a handshake deal was in place.

Most saw this deal as the best of potential scenarios for the Wolves, but any trade involving a player like Kevin Love is going to have good stuff and bad stuff.

Continue Reading…

It’s a New Wolves Order

Zach Harper —  August 23, 2014 — 16 Comments

It’s Trade Day for the Wolves.

And while I will miss Kevin Love and his game, I’m very excited about the New Wolves Order. It should be fun.

(Note: There is an awesome Iverson jersey in a pickup basketball game in the above video.)

Here is something I didn’t write about when it happened because, well, I wasn’t sure it was a good idea. A press credential is, after all, something given, not taken. When you’re not a beat guy with a large local or national organization to stand behind you, there’s little profit in pushing the limits, so you stick to your lane. When players are grousing in the locker room and it’s not part of a media scrum, it seems like the right thing to do is keep it off the record.

So let’s go anonymous with this: After yet another loss down the stretch for the Wolves last season (I can’t remember which), one of the Wolves’ players was told that he had to do a meet-and-greet with fans after he was done in the locker room. He immediately launched into voluble complaints — not about fulfilling the commitment, but about the fans themselves.

“Did you hear it out there?” he asked. Continue Reading…

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This Saturday, barring an unforeseen turn of events, Andrew Wiggins will be dealt as part of a pack to the Timberwolves, and Kevin Love will be shipped out to Cleveland to team up with LeBron, Kyrie Irving, and new head coach David “my life is awesome right now” Blatt.

Since the conclusion of draft night this past June, I’ve avoided covering the Kevin Love saga in detail (with the exception of Twitter). Part of it was because I wasn’t sure there was anything to say that hadn’t already been said. Also part of it: my disinterest in over-speculation. Another was my fear of jumping the gun on a deal that doesn’t necessarily end up happening.

Continue Reading…

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If you’re only familiar with Ricky Rubio’s public side — his play on the court, his commercials, the clip of him telling Alexey Shved to change his face and enjoy — you probably think of him as joyous, effervescent, puppy dog-ish. But his demeanor in the locker room is often a bit different. This might be due to change, though, with the impending departure of Kevin Love.

For clarity’s sake, let me say I don’t think Kevin Love is a dour guy. Just as the “Kevin Love” he presents to the general public is one facet of him, so is the “Kevin Love” he presents to the media in the locker room. In the time since I’ve been part of that media, he has been generally surly and for perfectly good reasons. He has at times struggled to present himself the way he’s wanted, partly through his own fault and partly through circumstance. His reaction to this over the past few years has been to more or less shut himself down during the media scrums. In the few situations where I’ve engaged him one-on-one he’s been warmer and more forthcoming, if only a bit.

When it’s been bad, he’s looked completely demoralized. But the norm these last two seasons has been Love seated in front of his locker, head down, not making eye contact with anyone, providing more or less stock answers, except when he’s calling out teammates. He is not, however, generally the last guy out of the showers.

That would be Rubio. Continue Reading…

LoveTraded

The Summer of Love is finished.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports is reporting the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers have agreed to a trade that will send Kevin Love to the Cavs in exchange for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a 2015 first round pick. Also, Love is finally getting his five-year deal with a “firm agreement” that Love will opt out of his deal in 2015 and sign a five-year, $120 million-plus deal. From YahooContinue Reading…

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With the likelihood of a swap with Love-for-Wiggins at its core looking more likely, a lot of fans have apparently shifted their focus for the time being onto what else will come along with this trade exchanging proven superstar for potential superstar. The big problem with moving Love for a swingman is the enormous hole left at the power forward position, especially given Dante Cunningham’s expiring deal (and whether or not the team exercises its option for him, he isn’t a viable starter). Sure, there’s the potential for Gorgui Dieng to get some minutes at the four as a supersized PF next to Pekovic, which could surely create some excellent and interesting high-low action given the passing skills that Dieng showed off in college, but Dieng is also not an every-game starter at power forward.

So the question becomes who the Wolves can get back in the trade to man the four spot, and it seems like people are waffling over the still-raw-but-possibly-better-than-we-thought-last-year Anthony Bennett or the largely unsung and in some cases unknown Thaddeus Young, who could be routed from Philadelphia should they be brought into the deal.

Now if you know me, you know I like Thad Young. I wrote about him for the New York Times and HoopChalk prior to last season, essentially lauding his evolution into a true smallball power forward and noting that if he could add the 3-pointer back into his game — he shot ~35% in his second and third seasons — he could become even better. (Also worth noting that he was most successful from 3-point range on the left wing — Love’s favorite spot.)

This past season he did re-introduce the 3-pointer, but it didn’t go super well. He only shot 31% from 3-point range, but I think it’s worth remembering that he more or less hadn’t taken a 3-point shot in a game for three years (34 3PA in those three years combined) and that he was on an atrocious Sixers team where the offense wasn’t designed to get him 3-point looks. With seven years of experience but still just 26 years old, I still think Thaddeus Young can be a tremendous player in the league, if not a marquee star.

That veteran experience is what I’m more interested in talking about than his specific game, though. It’s true that Bennett looked much better in Summer League than he did at any point last year, and it’s true that he was dealing with a host of physical issues from rehabilitating an injury to his shoulder to sleep apnea (for which he’s since had surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids). There’s every reasonable expectation that, given the right environment, he can evolve into a very good basketball player.

But that’s the sticking point: environment. There’s a natural tendency to look at a player’s skillset and potential and believe it will blossom one way or another, but it’s more complicated than that. Simply put, if the Wolves are already going to be giving heavy minutes to Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, it’s going to be very difficult to also give heavy minutes to Bennett. Three years down the line, a starting lineup with LaVine, Wiggins and Bennett could be great, but I just don’t think they get there if they’re all having to start this season, or even just play heavy minutes.

First and second year players simply need to be surrounded by veterans to reach their full potential. If this trade goes down and if it involves Kevin Martin and if the Wolves feel they need to start Wiggins over Brewer, that means the longest tenured starter would be Pekovic, with four years of NBA experience. Rubio has three, and just barely given that he’s played 180 games in those three years. Young more than doubles Rubio’s experience and nearly doubles Pekovic’s.

Now obviously the kind of veteran leader he can be matters, but so far he’s shown himself to be quiet and steady, plus he hasn’t needed the team to be designed around getting him looks for him still to be the best player on the floor for the Sixers the last two years.

You need balance on a team, not just to be successful, but to grow. Young versus Bennett probably won’t change the win total of next year’s Wolves very much — and I don’t expect them to be good in the sense of making the playoffs either way — but a team on which Wiggins, LaVine and Bennett are all getting heavy minutes would not only be not very good next year, but it would stunt all of their development. It’s better for LaVine and Wiggins to be finding their feet next to a veteran like Young, even if he leaves after next season by not picking up his player option. If he does leave, that’s nearly $10 million in cap space.

The bottom line here is that playing a bunch of potentially great rookies might work in NBA 2K15, but doing so in the real world not only hurts the team’s present prospects but also their future ones. The Baby Bulls of the early 2000s are instructive here. They were not only a 21-win team in 2002 when they had Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry as rookies plus Jamal Crawford and Marcus Fizer as sophomores, but they stayed bad for years.

No matter a player’s potential, growth curves are not inevitable. Developing one rookie is ideal. Two simultaneously is a challenge but possibly worth the payoff if it works. Giving three young players big minutes is likely to compromise all of their development and hamstring the team for years.