No Playoffs? What’s Next?

With a playoff run out of the picture, will Nikola Pekovic play out the rest of the season?

With a playoff run out of the picture, will Nikola Pekovic play out the rest of the season?

The Timberwolves aren’t making the playoffs. Let’s put that idea behind us.

The Wolves underachieved this year.

It doesn’t matter how many more games they win or lose. Making the playoffs this season was a benchmark - the benchmark - for that nebulous but real concept known as “success.” And this season, the Wolves were unsuccessful.

I’m not going to get into why the Wolves failed. We’ve talked all about the draft picks, free agent signings, the failings of the second unit, Adelman’s rotations, Barea over Rubio, close losses, and everything else, ad nauseum. 

What’s Next?

Lots of Wolves fans will check out. It’s no secret that interest in the team waxes and wanes with the team’s highs and lows. When the team is winning, fans take interest. When it isn’t, they don’t. This isn’t an indictment of fair-weather fandom. It’s just human.

The real question is whether the Wolves will also check out as a team.

Will they play with the same sense of urgency? Will they play with any defensive intensity at all? Will players be more intent on hunting their own shots rather than moving the ball? Will real or phantom injuries result in extended stays on the bench for the likes of Nikola Pekovic (ankle), Kevin Martin (finger), Kevin Love (general fatigue; various leg issues), Ricky Rubio (punishment for not fitting into Rick Adelman’s system), or J.J. Barea (brain)?

Will we get to see more Shabazzketball? Will we get to see if Gorgui Dieng can play extended minutes without getting into foul trouble? Will we get to see if Alexey Shved can run the point and run the pick-and-roll like he did in the 2012 Summer Olympics and the first half of his rookie season? Will Chase Budinger look like a player who can pose a *real* threat to opponents as a three-point assassin? Will we lose enough games not to forfeit our first-round pick to Phoenix?

Now’s the time to find out. We know what the team is. We don’t really know what it isn’t, or what it could’ve been? Adelman hasn’t had the “luxury” of experimenting with unproven personnel this year, except when forced to because of injuries. Will he do so now, or is he too stubborn? If this is his last stand as an NBA coach, will he be too proud to go out by symbolically raising the white flag, running these experiments, and losing more games than if he’d ride out the lineups we’ve seen all season long?

***

Wolves vs. Kings

Don't call it a comeback - at least not until Royce White plays a game in a Kings uniform

Don’t call it a comeback – at least not until Royce White plays a game in a Kings uniform

Tonight the Wolves play the Sacramento Kings at home. Tip is at 6:00 P.M. CDT. Views are on FSN, sounds on 830-AM.

What’s interesting about the Kings?

Demarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas, and Rudy Gay get buckets. Ben McLemore and Derrick Williams can dunk good. And Royce White.

Last week, the Kings re-upped Royce White to a second 10-day contract. White is still an interesting prospect.  Unfortunately for Minnesota basketball fans, White won’t be playing tonight. He’s back in Sacramento working on his conditioning. His first game in a Kings uniform might come on Tuesday against Randy Wittman’s Washington Wizards. I’ll be watching that tilt with as much interest as this one.

Until then, here’s some Royce W. to pregame to.

If you want more dunkage, here’s some Ben McLemore to pregame to.

Enjoy the tilt.

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14 Comments

Filed under Previews, Timberwolves

14 responses to “No Playoffs? What’s Next?

  1. We just got to keep on keepin’ on I guess. I’ll still be paying attention (although slightly less than earlier I admit).

  2. Nate in St. Paul

    Rebuild 3.0 here we go.

    • The big litmus tests are (1) whether they conduct a professional search when Adelman leaves, and more importantly (2) who ends up with the job.

      I don’t think Flip is the best GM in the League, nor do I think he’s the worst. But if they run it from the same playbook you used to lament over at CH (i.e., Glen hands Flip the coaching job with no transparent external search for someone who might, you know, be *better qualified*), I’ll be disappointed to say the least..

      • Nate in St. Paul

        I don’t know how Flip will do with the post-Adelman rebuild. While I personally think that Flip is one of the 5 worst front office personnel in the league and easily the dumbest, I also think that luck plays a larger-than-we’d-like-to-believe part in roster construction via the draft. Maybe the Wolves get lucky in the draft and are able to flip Pek for Larry Sanders. Love is good enough to cover up a lot of mistakes and bad luck. I think it would be a revelation to see him actually surrounded by good balanced talent. Ugh, knuckle pushups really f’d up the wish for 1 good season.

        My bet is that they will end up with Gary Harris and Eric Musselman. Both will be acquired via the same-ol/same-ol busted-ass process that is Papa Glen’s basketball trademark. It probably won’t be good enough to keep Love or to make sense of their god-awful wing situation, but it wouldn’t be terrible. Sam Mitchell and a Kentucky guard would be the worst.

        Hopefully Team Adelman will quit by themselves (and quickly after the end of the season). I don’t think Flip has the bureaucratic chops to axe one of Taylor’s favorites/Hall of Fame coach on his own (or in time for the offseason maneuvering).

        I do think that Flip is going to get presented with a godfather offer for Love from either Philly, Golden State, or Boston.

        • Andy and I were chatting offline yesterday, and I commented that Gary Harris seems like a foregone conclusion. I’m not high on Harris for the Wolves–I don’t think he helps a team as much as you want, unless he falls to a better team that gives him a role that suits him and the team’s system and needs. (SAS is the cliche, always in the back of your mind example, but there are others.)

          Muss would be interesting and far from a worst-case option. I’ve always expected him to get a job and hold it for a while, and I’ve been surprised that he hasn’t gotten another chance after being fired by SAC. (Ironically [I guess], he replaced Adelman in SAC.)

          Sam Mitchell would be an unmitigated disaster. No, no, no.

          One troubling thing about Flip seems to be his (near) obsession with scouting the Gophers and the Big 10. (Part of my rationalization of the “drafting Gary Harris feels inevitable” bit.)

          We both know the Wolves’ *habit*–and let’s just call it a “habit”–of drafting UCLA players. This year, UCLA has a few guys who’d be interesting prospects in the mid- and late first round. Might habit end up being a virtue, for once?

          • You guys are both underestimating what a Mitchell hire would bring in Story Time With Jalen Rose: http://grantland.com/the-triangle/story-time-with-jalen-rose-the-vince-carter-body-slam/

            • I can respect anyone who body slams Vince Carter. That said, I might prefer that Taylor recruit Smitch for a Security position rather as head coach…

          • Nate in St. Paul

            What’s really kind of sucky about this year’s squad is that they could have probably had a similar record without signing Brewer, Martin, Bud, and Pek, and that this would have left them with enough cap room to try and sign Love a Super Friend while having a pick to throw in to any deal, as well.

            Instead, they cashed out for a 9th-11th seed in the west. Hooray.

            My mind knows that you never ever ever trade someone as good as Love but the heart just wants the next rebuild to commence as soon as possible. This year has been a tough watch with a squad that will be pitched by Flip and the ticket salesfolks as a big improvement but was actually inferior to what a healthy 12-13 squad could have done. I don’t want to watch another year of this. Something has to give. I don’t know who they can move at this point. Pek’s overpaid and injured, Rubio is the only competent point guard on the team, and Love is Love. Ugh, this franchise.

            • I go back and forth on this.

              Add a functional, decidedly average backup point guard that knows how to dribble around a pick and initiate ball movement.

              How many more wins above this year’s 41ish total?

              • Nate in St. Paul

                I pay as little attention to college ball as possible and now that I don’t have to run a website with a bunch of draft stuff I haven’t looked too deeply into the matter, but Kyle Anderson and Aaron Gordon are two guys I think I’ve seen in the mid teens on a few mock drafts that would be pretty fantastic additions. That being said, the chances of a rookie wing player moving the needle aren’t that good. Ditto for any guards that might be found in that same spot. Maybe they’ll get stupid lucky with Ennis or Smart falling to their spot.

                Overall, I think a better coach + more Love at the 5 + Pek as a big man Manu + swapping out Brewer for someone like Tony Allen or a toaster would be enough to get them a 7th or 8th seed next year….which probably isn’t good enough to keep Love.

                • I’m a huge Aaron Gordon fan as well (at least as a legit pro prospect), and it seems he’s being almost criminally underrated in the mock drafts. If you’re buying stock, you buy that one unless you want to gamble and lose on a shot in the dark penny stock or end up overspending relative to your RoI. (Flip, if you’re reading, turn off B10 Network and check out Arizona–Gordon’s a real target.)

                  I’m less bullish on Anderson than the CH commenting crew, but he is an intriguing prospect and at the right spot he’d be a solid gamble.

                  In terms of bigger rebuild issues, I wonder what Ricky brings back. There’s a glut of point guards who thrive in today’s NBA, so he’s more replaceable than either Love or Pek at a tolerable cost. (Not that you’ll be able to sign the same exact player – Ricky’s skill set, incomplete as it is, is unique.) The supply and demand issue implies Ricky’s trade value should be lower relative to his actual quality than Love’s or Pek’s. And that’s probably true – it certainly would be, I’d think, in the case of Love – UNLESS you find a GM who *really* values/is willing to give above-market value for what Ricky offers. I’m inclined to think that GM doesn’t exist, or that Flip wouldn’t be able to find him and bargain hard enough to get the return we’d need to meaningfully boost our prospects (i.e., beyond being a 7-9/10 seed the next couple of seasons). But if he could “flip” Ricky for that kind of value for an upper-level guy at the three, I think you do that, and bet that it won’t be as difficult to draft or sign a competent point guard.

                  • At this point, it’s really difficult to even imagine what a Ricky Rubio trade looks like. His value to the Wolves franchise — I suspect — exceeds his trade value by a fair margin. Plus, they’ve got him locked up for the next half decade (insert Love’s contract joke here) and can reasonably talk themselves into his potential if/when he figures out how to shoot a basketball at a professional level.

                    Nate’s stupid-lucky scenario involving Marcus Smart would be very interesting. (I’m less sold on Ennis, but that might just be Orange Wolves Bias.) Smart seems pretty perfect for the NBA rules; a beautiful combination of physicality and flopping ability.

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