A quick Google search for Zach Lavine reveals a few things. He is 19 years old and from Seattle Washington. He went to UCLA. He is really, really good at dunking. It will also very soon reveal just how thrilled the young man is to be playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Just a word of advice, kid: If you have just been drafted and there are TV cameras staring right at you and you are trying at all to impress your new employer and fans, I recommend not bowing your head on the table in utter heartbreak and then repeatedly mouthing the words, “f___k, man” like your girlfriend just broke up with you (and also killed your dog). And anyway, cheer up dude, the cross-country skiing is great out here. (Also you might get to play with Kevin Love for part of training camp.)

As far as the Wolves go, this seems to me to be an example of the Wolves going with the player they considered to be the best available and not making much of an attempt to move the needle in the short term. If there were any thoughts that the team were trying to impress Love enough with an instant rebuild to entice him to stay (I know, I know), this probably puts those to rest. Here is Zach Lavine’s Draft Express video:

And here is some more footage of him dunking, if that makes you feel any better:

Ricky Rubio once implored Alexey Shved to change his face and be happy. I’m not sure he had this in mind.

I’ve been pretty hard on Shved over the last year because he immediately began struggling once the rest of the league apparently got a basic scouting report on the Russian guard (as it was explained to me by a couple of different scouts). Developing a better attitude and refining the skills that got him to the NBA level are what we should be hoping for as he enters his third NBA season.

I’m not sure becoming a Narnia villain accomplishes that, but let’s see how the bold strategy pays off for him, Cotton!

It’s worked in the past for NBA players:

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Well, not ALL NBA players…

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Kevin Garnett got traded.

Not like, recently, but he got traded back in 2007 when the dream of the Minnesota Timberwolves putting something significant around one of the greatest all around players ever to lace up the kicks had been taken off of life support. Because of the soul-sucking numbness that trade caused 25-year old Zach Harper (YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT! THIRD PERSON TALK, SON!), the eventual trade of Kevin Love hasn’t left me devastated or annoyed or angry. It’s just been something that we all knew was a possibility when David Kahn put the Wolves in the situation of three years with an opt out.

I won’t pretend I was outraged at the time. I wrote that it put pressure on the organization and it was something that would force them to become good or risk losing him. I’m a big fan of forcing the cream to rise to the top because it weeds out who belongs and who doesn’t belong. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for the Wolves. Their two best chances at making the playoffs came the last two seasons. In 2012-13, they were decimated by injuries and couldn’t field decent teams. In 2013-14, the Wolves simply weren’t good enough and the clock was ticking on Kevin Love’s free agency.

Love will be traded. He’s not going to stay. And it’s on the Wolves’ management/owner/coach to bring back the best return in a deal that will almost always be a losing cause. Therein lies the problem of the entire situation.  Continue Reading…

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The NBA Draft is exactly one week away, and as of now, Minnesota holds the 13th, 40th, 44th and 53rd overall selections. The Wolves’ standing in the first round could change if they pull the trigger on a Kevin Love trade, which seems more and more likely the closer we get to June 26th. Their second round selections could be used on players the team feels could fight for a roster spot, or they could be packaged to move up, or used on international stash prospects, or they could be sold, as often happens with later picks in the draft. The point is, there’s a ton of uncertainty. A lot could change between now and Draft night, but until the wheeling and dealing begins, all we can do is look long and hard at the prospects that may be available when the Timberwolves’ turn comes around. Continue Reading…

FlipConference

The Minnesota Timberwolves are holding a press conference at 1pm CT on Friday and it’s going to look something like the picture above.

President of basketball operations and part-owner Flip Saunders confirmed to multiple media outlets he’ll be the next coach of the Wolves. We don’t know how long he’ll be the coach. We don’t quite know who will be on his assistant staff (although Sam Mitchell, David Blatt, Sidney Lowe, his son Ryan, and Chauncey Billups are being floated as possibilities, and you’d assume one of those guys would be groomed to take over). But we do know this is what the Wolves came up with when they couldn’t get Dave Joerger to be the coach and had to go back to the drawing board. Continue Reading…

MbahaMoute

For two-plus years, we talked about the expectations of Derrick Williams. The NUMBER TWO PICK IN THE DRAFT had to be a star because that’s what you are when you’re picked so highly in a draft. It doesn’t matter if the draft is good or the draft is bad. It doesn’t matter if you’re supposed to be a project or you’re supposed to contribute right away. It doesn’t matter if the team has a spot in the rotation for you now or if it is going to make you wait a short while to get in there and prove you belong.

We like that number of where he was picked because it’s part of the NBA lottery. And throw the word lottery into something and we’ll start expecting to get rich quick. That’s just the culture, especially in sports.

What are the expectations when you’re traded for that NUMBER TWO PICK IN THE DRAFT though?  Continue Reading…

How should a superstar be? Should he be a grudge-carrying sociopath like Michael Jordan? A mercurial loner, a la Kareem? An ebulliant cheerleader like Magic? Or a Duncan-esque Buddha? Should he be a high-volume one-on-one scorer or a group-first facilitator? We tend to talk as if there is one way to be great in the NBA, a set template that every elite player must follow. We measure success in championships and then retrofit our champions such that they suddenly, upon winning, fit that very template. Dirk, for instance, miraculously transformed himself overnight from a beta-male into lionhearted champ, without changing an ounce of his game or personality. Kobe went from bratty wunderkind to Jordan’s heir to petulant ball-hog and back to Jordan’s heir again, all in one career. For some reason, we seem more comfortable molding superstars–and all players, really–into templates that are familiar-unto-cliche than in appreciating the overflows of wild identity that make them so fascinating to begin with.

So: Kevin Love. When the collective mind attempts to process the idea of Love as a superstar, said mind melts. Love crashes the computer. First of all, as Ricky Rubio, in his perfectly plainspoken way, put it last month, Love is not a leader. He is a little sulky on the court and tends to retreat into his own bad mood when things go wrong. He’s not a primary ball-handler and so doesn’t drive the offense in the way that the league’s other elite players do. He leads the Wolves’ simply through the force of his production, but he doesn’t project gravitas like LeBron and Durant and Chris Paul. What’s more, he doesn’t really look like an elite player (and I don’t mean what you think I mean). Love is among the first wave of superstars to fully exploit the margins of the most high efficiency spots on the floor: the three-point line; the paint; the free-throw line. And while Kevin Durant gets a similarly high yield from those spots, Durant comes by that yield in more recognizably superstar-ish ways (if a 6’10” human bird with an impeccable handle could ever be called recognizable). He slashes to the hoop out of isolations; he takes leaning, Jordan-esque, off-the-bounce jumpers.

Continue Reading…

Just Returns

William Bohl —  June 2, 2014 — 14 Comments

2013 NBA Draft Lottery

This weekend, Kevin Love took a well-publicized trip to Boston, feeding the frenzy surrounding the bizarre courtship that’s underway for him, a player under contract for the 2014-15 season. Some may view the jaunt to Beantown as little more than a 25-year-old multimillionaire kicking back in one of America’s finest cities; the more cynical among us look at it as a calculated maneuver to inform the Wolves front office (and, perhaps, the fan base) that he’s already begun to move on. Continue Reading…

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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 2013-14 went and what we see for them going forward. One player a day for the next couple weeks, starting with the bench and rolling up to the starters.

As a human, Corey Brewer is about as steady as they come: good-natured, jovial, with a broad smile and an easy manner, quick (but not overeager) to crack jokes in the locker room, nearly always willing to talk. It’s hard not to be won over by him. After his 51-point outburst against the Rockets late in the season, he said, “I felt like I was in high school again! Everything was going in, but I was just playing, I wasn’t even thinking about it until somebody was like, ‘Yo, you got 44. You can get 50 tonight.’ I was like yeah okay whatever. I actually got 50!”

But on the court — and that 51-point game folds neatly into this point as well — calling Brewer mercurial does a disservice to mercury. If a player like Kevin Love is a noble gas — destined for a double-double nearly every night, more or less immune to the vicissitudes of individual matchups — then Corey Brewer is francium, an element whose most stable isotope has a half-life of 22 minutes. Continue Reading…

Kevin Martin2

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 2012-13 went and what we see for them going forward. One player a day for the next couple weeks, starting with the bench and rolling up to the starters.

Kevin Martin came to the Timberwolves via a July 11th sign-and-trade deal, inking a 4 year, $27.75 million contract, and immediately became the best shooting guard in Minnesota history. For a team that ranked dead last in the NBA in perimeter shooting in 2013-14 and in the bottom half of the league in free throw percentage, K-Mart was a sight for sore eyes. Employing unconventional (though effective) shot mechanics, the tenth-year man from Western Carolina brought a 38.5% career mark from outside the arc to Minneapolis. Between Martin, a healthy Kevin Love and a healthy Chase Budinger, the Timberwolves had every reason to hope their offensive woes would be solved, at least partially, by the sheer force of success from three-point land. Observers also wondered if his ability to get to the foul line (where he converts 86.9% of the time, 24th-best in NBA history) would return after a year of being utilized primarily as a spot-up shooter in Oklahoma City.

The results were somewhat mixed. Statistically, Martin turned in a season on par with his per-36 minute career averages. He scored 21.5 points, grabbed 3.4 rebounds and dished out 2.0 assists on 43/39/89 shooting splits. Over his decade in the league, those numbers are 20.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists on 44/39/87 splits. On the surface, he seemed like the same guy he’s always been, but once you look a little closer, you begin to see that wasn’t exactly the case.

Continue Reading…