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1500 Words on the Minnesota Timberwolves? Say What…

You know what I love… the rumors circulating right now that have the Minnesota T-Wolves potentially trading the number two pick – in a two player draft – for the 4th and 8th picks.  Classic.  Since David Kahn took over running the Wolves, he’s had what might be generously described as a few issues on draft day.  Thus, when the Wolves drew the second pick I thought it was something of a gift for Kahn, as it left him with a no-brainer choice for which he couldn’t really get tarred and feathered.  Even if Derrick Williams ends up a bust, Kahn would get a pass, because everyone would have taken the Arizona forward second.  It’s the way Kevin Pritchard gets a pass on taking Greg Oden over Durant in 2007.  In that respect, the 2nd pick almost seemed better than the first pick, because then Kahn would have had to take Kyrie Irving and face ridicule for still needing a point guard two years after drafting 783 of them, but with the second spot, he could just take Williams and go home happy.

But, foolish me, I underestimated the powers of Kahn.  Of course he can – and probably will – screw this up.

In 2009, he traded  Randy Foye and Mike Miller to the Washington Wizards for Oleksiy Pecherov, Darius Songaila, Etan Thomas and a 2009 1st round draft choice that turned into the fifth pick.  That was the Blake Griffin draft.  It was also the Ricky Rubio draft.  It was a draft densely loaded with point guards.  Here’s a list of the point guards picked in the first round, with their games played and PER:

  • Ricky Rubio, 0, 0.0
  • Jonny Flynn, 134, 7.13 – No, seriously Seven point One Three… even my grandma could maintain a 7.13 PER.
  • Steph Curry 154, 19.44
  • Brandon Jennings, 145, 15.66
  • Jrue Holiday, 155, 15.49
  • Ty Lawson, 145, 17.99
  • Jeff Teague 141, 14.62
  • Eric Maynor 163, 11.73
  • Darren Collison 155, 15.67
  • Rodrigue Beaubois 84, 11.4
  • Toney Douglas 137, 15.23

So, with the first two point guards taken off the board (and no, I’m not counting Tyreke Evans as a point guard, because he’s not), the Wolves came away with a guy who has been regressing in Europe for two years and the worst point guard in the first round.

Bravo!

BRAVO!

They did draft the guy who’s probably the second best point guard in the draft (after Curry), but they immediately traded Ty Lawson to Denver for a 2010 pick that turned into… Luke Babbit (who they then swapped for Martell Webster… Wolves fever, catch it!)  And, just because they hadn’t been quite ridiculous enough by taking three point guards, they managed to select a point in the second round (Nick Calathes).  It was a glorious draft day for Kahn and led to about 23,459 jokes from Bill Simmons.

And yet, 2010 wasn’t much better.  Once again the Wolves had multiple picks in the first round.  Picking 4th and knowing that they desperately needed a pivot, (well, they should have known that, since they’d finished the previous season with Darko as their center, but alas, Kahn thought Darko was the answer and gave him a 20 million deal.  Awesome.) they could have taken DeMarcus Cousins, who has his warts, but is also a beast.  Instead they took small forward Wesley Johnson, who might develop into a solid rotation player.  Then, as you already know, with the 16th pick they took Luke Babbit, before finally rounding out their small forward trifecta with four year Clemson Tiger Trevor Booker.

At this rate of picking one position per draft, Kahn should be able to assemble a full team by 2013, well, except that he bothced the point guard portion of the draft, so he’s going to have to do that one over again… and since Wesley Johnson and company don’t really seem like the small forward answer, he might have to take a small forward do-over, so lets just bump back that estimate until 2015 or so…

Could I have done better?  No, of course not.  Being a GM of a professional team is really, really hard, but… If I had been in charge (and – ahem – with the power of a little hindsight), here’s what I’d have done for the great fans of Minnesota.

In 2009, it was something of a surprise that Rubio fell to the Wolves and I think on some level it too Kahn off guard.  At that point, the Wolves had two options:

  1. Trade the Rubio pick – the Spaniard at that time had tremendous value – and then select Steph Curry 6th.
  2. Keep the Rubio pick, select Curry 6th and pair them together in an up-tempo high octane (read, no defense) backcourt.

Picking Johnny Flynn sixth was not in either of those option.  This isn’t revisionist history either.  Curry was the pick in 2009, just as he’s the pick now.  For the sake of argument, lets say Kahn should have picked Rubio and Curry and then moved Rubio.  What could they have reasonably received for the Spanish point guard?  I don’t know, but certainly the Knicks would have given them 20 first round picks, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and half of Brooklyn… Portland could have made an intriguing offer all foreign offer built around Rudy Fernandez and Nicolas Batum.  Golden State would have offered a package built around Anthony Randolph, which doesn’t look so good now that the Wolves basically received him free from the Knicks…

There was some sentiment back then that Boston wanted in on Rubio and if you remember, there was a time when the Celtics didn’t seem like they were terribly thrilled with Rajon Rondo.  Rumors were being leaked about how the one-armed point guard was “uncoachable” and they were making reluctant noises about re-signing him.  The Wolves might have been able to get one of the best players in basketball for Rubio.

Or, they might have traded Brian Cardinal and Rubio to the LA Clippers for Eric Gordon, Marcus Camby and a 2010 first rounder.  Why do I like this deal more than Rondo?  Well, I think that Gordon is one of the NBA’s most underrated players, besides the Wolves drafted Curry and obviously with my prescient influence they are drafting and keeping Lawson at seventeen.  So, their point guard rotation is kind of set.  Gordon fills a bigger need, Camby only had one year on his contract and shedding Cardinal means that I can never trade him for Darko.  This would prevent me going for drinks with the big Serbian and having his agent slip something into my drink, leading to precarious pictures of me, a goat and a porcelain deity and Darko’s agent blackmailing me into giving him 19 million more than he’s worth.

With the Rubio-Gordon trade, in 2010 the Wolves would have had the 4th and 8th picks – which of course is what they’re trying to acquire for this year’s draft.  Obviously they should have just picked Cousins 4th.  Yes, he’s a head case, but with the right coaching, he’s going to be a stud.  Plus, he’s a legitimate back to the basket center and the modern NBA has all of 3 of those, so if you can grab one… you should.

Eighth is a little trickier.  The Clippers took Al-Farouq Aminu.  Ignoring for a second that a good policy for life is, never do what the Clippers did, Aminu dressed like Urkel on draft day.  When trying to decide whom to pick in the NBA draft, it’s a good idea to avoid the player who resembles this guy.  Personally, I would have taken Paul George, who played well in his rookie campaign and actually has some upside.

Which brings us – in a long, slow way – to the Wolves impulsively trading Al Jefferson away when he had some value.  For the muscular power forward, the Wolves got Utah’s Kosta Koufos, this year’s Memphis pick and a heavily protected Jazz pick:

2012 first round draft pick from Utah
Utah’s own 2012 first round pick to Minnesota (top 14 protected in the 2012 draft and top 12 protected in the 2013 draft). If Utah has not conveyed a first round pick to Minnesota by 2014 and also if Utah’s own 2014 first round is not within the top 9 picks, then Minnesota will have the option to swap their own 2014 first round pick with Utah’s own 2014 first round pick. If Minnesota does not receive a first round pick by the 2013 draft and also does not swap 2014 first round picks with Utah, then Minnesota will receive Utah’s own 2014 second round pick. [Minnesota – Utah, 7/13/2010]

I’m not really sure what the heck all of that means, but I’m pretty sure it says, “Minnesota gets a mildly crappy first rounder or a really crappy second rounder.”  Good stuff.

It’s sort of hard to go back retroactively and say what the Wolves should have traded Al Jefferson for… but given the chance, wouldn’t Houston’s Daryl Morey have jumped in on the Jefferson sweepstakes?  It’s possible that he might have offered something like Shane Battier, Chuck Hayes and Courtney Lee for Jefferson.  Maybe there are some picks exchanged as well, but lets just go with that as the base of the trade.  On its face, it doesn’t look sexy, but it’s three rotation players who are tough, play some D and understand how to win basketball games.  In other words, it’s exactly what a young T-Wolves team needs.

Assuming that Marcus Camby didn’t want to return as a free-agent (and who could have blamed him), the Wolves would have had bucket loads of cap space and thus could still have made the Beasley deal with Miami. Now, they clearly aren’t a prime free-agent destination, but with the rest of their cap space, they could have acquired Charlotte’s Tyson Chandler, since the Bobcats essentially dealt Chandler to Dallas for Erick Dampier’s non-guaranteed contract and some cash. Thus, the Bobcats could have jumped in and offered to absorb his contract in exchange for Corey Brewer, which would have been preferable to the Eduardo Najera and Matt Carroll poo-poo platter the Bobcats accepted.

If the Wolves had made those moves, their roster looks something like this:

PG – S. Curry, T. Lawson
SG – E. Gordon, C. Lee, W. Ellington
SF – S. Battier, P. George,
PF – K. Love, M. Beasley
C – T. Chandler, D. Cousins, C Hayes

They are adorably precocious and probably could handle another veteran besides backcourt presence, but they have all-star talent in Love, Gordon and Curry; they have a dynamic backcourt, a deep bench, some shooters, and a defensive backbone.  Surely that’s better than a 17 win team?

Now somebody explain to me how I just spent 1700 words writing about the Minnesota Timberwolves, that’s crazy like drafting four point guards in a draft and then not having a single point guard to show for it…

 

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