Archives For Minnesota Timberwolves

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 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.

While most prognosticators (including our very own) still have the Wolves selecting ninth and drafting Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, there is still talk that the Wolves are trying to move up. (That name, by the way is so epic. Its like a Downton Abbey heiress married a Roman gladiator.) Here’s Marc Stein on Truehoop:

The teams working hardest to move up higher in the lottery are the Jazz, the Wolves and the Thunder[...]The Wolves are also trying to get up very high in an attempt to land Victor Oladipo or Ben McLemore. Their trade bait, as we’ve previously reported, is in the form of picks 9, 26 and Derrick Williams. 

We’ve discussed before that Oladipo is the Wolves’ dream pick in this draft and so its not surprising that they’re going fishing in the top five. A couple of things to think about here. The first is the problem of assessing the quality of the draft in general. We seem to know that the top of the draft is relatively weak: there are no LeBrons or Durants up here. But what does that mean about the middle of the draft, a place where many effective role players and even All-Stars have emerged in recent years. Are we really confident that there are no Kawhi Leonards or Ty Lawsons lingering in the middle of the first round? Is KCP more of a Paul George or a Wes Johnson? Oladipo seems to fit the Wolves’ needs perfectly, but should we be concerned about his age, his relative lack of size and the fact that he only shot well in one of his three college seasons? Cody Zeller, a player who could very well still be on the board when the Wolves draft at number nine, rates very well statistically. But he was a big man in college and will likely play a more outside-in game in the pros. Will these stats translate into a new role? Hard to know, right? But obviously important if you’re going to trade both of your first round picks and a young player to move up five places.

All of these issues are in play both in the Wolves’ decision to make a deal and in the likelihood that any team in the top five will take it. Another thing for those teams to consider: just how good is Derrick Williams? I’ve seen almost every game he’s played over the last two seasons and I basically have no idea–and neither, as far as I can tell, does anyone else. Should be an interesting night.

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.

We do ridiculous things when we are 22 years old. We climb trees and then fall out of them. We smash things we find on the street. We punch the pavement. We (“we”) make awful choices and then write long, agonized, hand-written letters explaining/apologizing for/recanting those choices. We are newly birthed into the adult world but still soaked in a purply, emo brain-haze, a volatile emotional soup that spikes the adrenaline and clouds the judgement.

Remember, now, that despite his many years of playing professional basketball as a teen, despite his experience leading his countrymen against the best basketball players in the world, Ricky Rubio is this very age. And its not just Rubio’s bio that misdirects us. He possesses a set of seemingly native-born skills that generally belong to much more seasoned players. His total court-vision, his almost physiological feel for movement and spacing–these are things that are usually acquired only after a decade or so of apprenticeship. Even when he was just a very skinny boy with floppy hair he was able to perform feats that, while not adult exactly (more like sylph-like or even transcendent) certainly belied his age.

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