Author Archives: Andy G

Waiting for Wiggins: Day 29 of 30

Wiggins-Calendar29

We’ve been “officially” waiting for Wiggins for 29 days now, but it’s really been longer than that. The very moment that the Cavs won the draft lottery, they entered the Kevin Love Sweepstakes.

That was my instant reaction on Draft Lottery night, during the little commercial break between the 4th Pick and 3rd Pick announcements, when it first sunk in that Cleveland was moving up and landing yet another top draft choice; this time, in a stacked draft year. The thought was that the Cavs might prefer Love to their top draft choice, whether it be Wiggins or somebody else like Joel Embiid, so that they could pair franchise guard Kyrie Irving with another All-Star and start winning some playoff games.

It turned out that was not quite enough. No, Love was not going to Cleveland — well, he would not agree to re-sign there, next year — until they added LeBron James via free agency. Once that small step was completed, this thing became realistic.

What has been shocking from the Wolves-fan perspective is how Flip Saunders — by all accounts — has twisted his leverage-less position into one of immense power. His player made it known to all that he will not be a Minnesota Timberwolf beyond 2015, when he can exercise his option and become an unrestricted free agent. In this fact scenario, Flip is supposed to be more of a beggar than a chooser, let alone One Who Dictates The Terms.

For this reason, I thought there was a strong likelihood that the Wolves would have to send Gorgui Dieng — one of the best players from the 2013 Draft Class — back to the Cavs in order to land Wiggins.

Instead, the Wolves — by all accounts — will not be sending Gorgui anywhere. Instead, they will also be receiving Anthony Bennett, and a future first round pick from Miami that they will then turn around and send to Philadelphia with Alexey Shved and Luc Mbah a Moute for Thaddeus Young!

Here are the pertinent Woj Bombs from late last night, which provided rock-solid certainty to what our local beat guys have been saying for a while now:

So, for a player who has semi-publicly announced his intentions to leave in one year, the Timberwolves are going to acquire:

2014 1st Overall Pick Andrew Wiggins
2013 1st Overall Pick Anthony Bennett
Thaddeus Young, one of the league’s top ten power forwards

I don’t really understand how this happened. Or is going to happen tomorrow, I should say. I know that it obviously required a great deal of good fortune, including and probably not limited to the following:

* The Cavs having so much lottery luck to hoard young talent that a rebuilding team would desire;
* The Warriors refusing to a mega-deal involving Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and David Lee, for Kevin Love and Kevin Martin;
* The Cavs signing LeBron; and
* LeBron requesting, maybe outright demanding, that the Cavs immediately trade for Love, even if it means losing Andrew Wiggins.

Now, you can #WellActually all of this and point out that the best player in the deal is going to Cleveland so this is not as great as I’m making it sound. But the point is, given the circumstances, this is absolutely the greatest return imaginable and will go down as one of the biggest trades in NBA history. Maybe even THE biggest, if it leads to a Cavs title and a successful, sustainable rebuild in Minnesota that includes long-term success.

When Flip Saunders was hired as the Wolves President of Basketball Operations, there were mixed reactions, but few seemed legitimately excited about it. I know that I wasn’t. But the big-picture task for him to be judged on was his handling of Kevin Love. By the time Flip was hired, Love had already done his Woj interview and everybody understood his frustration with this organization. Bill Simmons had gone on record saying that Love would be traded. This seemed like a likely possibility and it was something that Flip had to be ready to handle as best as possible.

In matters of NBA front office moves, we talk about things like “process versus results,” and luck, and it is easy to define an executive’s legacy however you’d like. Even the San Antonio Spurs — the league’s Gold Standard for operations — required incredible luck in winning the David Robinson and Tim Duncan draft lotteries. And with Flip Saunders right now, you can certainly obsess over the fact that he would’ve pulled the trigger on a Klay Thompson deal had it been offered, or you can obsess over the fact that landing Andrew Wiggins required so many other huge dominos to fall first. That’s fine.

But the manner in which Flip has executed the details of this trade — not giving up any additional assets of note, waiting out the 30 days to allow Wiggins contract to be absorbed without others, and going out and acquiring Thaddeus Young without giving up Anthony Bennett in the process — unquestionably demand respect. The only tactical strategy that I can think of that might have given him undue leverage is that he and Glen Taylor have ALWAYS maintained that they would just as soon keep Kevin Love and try to make the playoffs next year. They were thought to be crazy, but it might have been just that perceived craziness that gave them an upper hand in negotiations.

Who knows.

In any event, it sounds like the formal deal goes down tomorrow and it’ll be a new day for Timberwolves fans.

In honor of Flip being ready when the proverbial “shit went down” with Kevin Love, here is some Cypress Hill for you on this Friday morning:

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Timberwolves

Waiting for Wiggins: Day 23 of 30

Wiggins-Calendar23

Patience is a big part of this Waiting for Wiggins, thirty-day period of time. It is required of the teams involved, as well as their fans and media.

Patience, or, more accurately, IMpatience, is also a big reason why I think that trading Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins is a good thing for Timberwolves fans. (Even if we somehow knew that Love would stay here long term.)

Allow me to explain.

I read recently that on a typical day, people today “take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information, five times as much as we did in 1986.”

That sounds entirely crazy, until you think about the ways we consume information today. Television and cable news, internet stories, emails, and for a lot of us, especially Twitter. There is a good conversation to be had about whether the quantity of information we consume comes at the expense of the quality or depth of it, but regardless, it is difficult to dispute the fact that people digest a larger amount of raw information today than we did in the past.

I think it logically follows that these new sources of media, especially Twitter, have caused people to have a harder time with information-consuming or even entertainment-observing tasks that take a long time. I’m not going to do the research to back this up, but I’m pretty sure people read fewer novels than they used to and probably even watch fewer movies. Instead, TV series’s have become all the rage. 45 to 60 minutes is a more manageable time segment than the 120 required for a full-length feature film, or the dozens of hours required to finish a book.

In sports, baseball was “America’s Game” for almost a full century.

No more. The season is long and the pace is slow. Joe Sports Fan prefers football, which has plays that last only a few seconds before providing a 30-second break. Or basketball, where the games are about 1 hour shorter than a baseball game, and much more packed with action.

What does this have to do with Kevin Love and Andrew Wiggins?

Nothing, and yet everything.

I got bored last year. Maybe you did, too. NBA seasons are long. Too long. And last year’s team quickly established its identity as a first-quarter dominant, fourth-quarter dominated, front-running team that could be counted on for lopsided wins and devastating collapses. We kinda knew what we had after 30 or 40 games, and it was a team that would not be a serious playoff contender, even though it had spent all that it could reasonably be expected to, on veteran players.

With the impatience that I, and I suspect a lot of sports fans these days have, I did not look forward to watching a slightly-tinkered-with version of last year’s team for another 82 games. That team’s identity would be a Kevin Love-centric offense, where he makes jumpers, draws fouls, and delivers a few cool passes. Its identity would also involve foul-averse defense that seems to struggle disproportionately against the league’s better teams, in a game’s most critical junctures.

The Wolves could’ve added Mo Williams as backup point guard, and talked themselves into the idea that they were now ready to roll for that high-40s win total that eluded them last year.

I just would’ve been bracing myself for disappointment, especially knowing that there would be nothing very new or interesting to observe over the course of another marathon regular season. (Note: Zach LaVine’s dunks would not be seen on the game floor during a gunning-for-the-playoffs season. I’m not even sure they will this year, during rebuilding.)

With Andrew Wiggins, the Impatient among us get to see something new and cool. Sure, he’ll struggle as a rookie. He’ll have some 4 for 16 shooting nights, and cough up the ball when dribbling into a pack of defenders in the paint. He’ll get beat backdoor when his head is turned away from his man, and he’ll probably get exhausted physically over the course of a season that is more than double the NCAA’s length.

But Wiggins will also do some things that we have never seen before. He’s a 6’8″ wing player with once-per-decade physical attributes. Over time, with the right attitude and coaching, we’ll begin to see new wrinkles in his game. Maybe it’ll be isolation stuff like Kobe, or maybe it’ll be post-up stuff like Carmelo. Maybe his sheer height versus guards will allow for some “shoot right over him” plays, like Durant and Dirk.

The possibilities are endless, which makes this whole thing so much fun.

Of course the ironic thing about this post is that, while impatience is a good reason to trade Kevin Love to the Cavs for Andrew Wiggins, I and many others will be preaching that fans need to exercise just the opposite as the kid develops into a veteran star player.

Oh well, that’s another post for another day.

One week to go.

 

Comments Off

Filed under Timberwolves

Waiting for Wiggins: Day 20 of 30

Wiggins-Calendar20

I suppose one of these posts should be about Kevin Love.

He is the centerpiece of the Wiggins trade after all; at least in one direction. Love is also the second greatest player in Timberwolves franchise history and one of the ten — maybe 4 or 5, depending on who you ask — best in the league, right now.

But I don’t feel like writing about how great, or not, that I think Kevin Love is at basketball. Too many people (including me) have spent thousands upon thousands of words doing that for the past six years. He is, as Bill Simmons pointed out in his lengthy Friday column, an unusually polarizing player. At this point in his career, Love is probably most closely identified with disagreement.

Along with that polarizing nature and in some cases in cause of it, here are a few things that I will remember about Kevin Love the Timberwolf: Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Timberwolves

Waiting for Wiggins: Day 15 of 30

Wiggins-Calendar15

I’m laughing out loud, reading this story out of Toronto.

Link here.

Hat tip to William Bohl for tweeting that link, last night.

Before the dust has been able to settle on Woj’s bomb yesterday — the one reporting the details of the Love-for-Wiggins/Bennett trade, agreed to in principle — this writer out of Toronto has already jumped ahead to the day that Andrew Wiggins will apparently force his way out of Minnesota so that he can return home… to Toronto!

It’s the tone of it that is so great though. Just completely smug, taking shot after shot at Minneapolis as a city and the Timberwolves as an organization.

Again, from a Toronto Raptors fan. While the Wolves lost young Starbury and are about to trade away Kevin Love, the Raptors… well, the Raptors lost Vince Carter in his prime in the most overt, get-me-the-fuck-outta-here display by an NBA star in recent history. They lost young Tracy McGrady. They lost Chris Bosh. Perhaps it is precisely the psychological damage from that history that frames the writer’s reference for that nonsensical piece of trash.

In any event, give it a read if you’re in need of a good laugh.

1 Comment

Filed under Timberwolves

Waiting for Wiggins: Day 14 of 30

wojbomb

Leave a comment

by | August 7, 2014 · 8:36 AM

Waiting for Wiggins: Day 13 of 30

Wiggins-Calendar12

Cleveland, then Miami, always LeBron James reporter Brian Windhorst was on the BS Report podcast yesterday, with Bill Simmons.

Link: http://grantland.com/the-triangle/b-s-report-brian-windhorst-plus-a-transcript-of-brian-and-bill-on-a-possible-midseason-nba-tournament/

At about the 25-minute mark, Windhorst digs into (well, strongly hints at) the Kevin Love-to-Cleveland process and timeline.

Give the full pod a listen when you get a chance.

Leave a comment

Filed under Timberwolves

Waiting for Wiggins: Day 12 of 30

Wiggins-Calendar12

As the reports of a Love-for-Wiggins trade framework continue to flood in, we are beginning to learn more about the rumored details on the fringe of the deal.

Specifically, it was being floated by local beat reporters yesterday that the Timberwolves would prefer to end up with Thaddeous Young of the 76ers, rather than Anthony Bennett of the Cavaliers.

I’d rather have Bennett, for a few different reasons.

First, Bennett has the potential to become a star offensive player; the type of combo forward that draws double teams and makes life easier for his teammates. Getting him early on his rookie scale contract is more valuable to a rebuilding team than adding a solid, established veteran like Young.

Second, Andrew Wiggins might become a bust — or at least something below a star-level player. If you agree with me that Bennett has some potential to hit that star level — and I realize many do not — then perhaps you agree that you’d rather take more than one “home run” swing in this trade. There is some chance that Bennett becomes a star and Wiggins does not. There is also some chance that BOTH become stars. (And in ways that complement each other! And Canada!) I’d rather see the Wolves thinking that way, with this trade.

Third, if the Wolves acquire Young, then he is presumably the starting power forward, and Gorgui Dieng remains a bench player. That is not the worst thing in the world — especially since Dieng’s best long-term position is center. But considering that Young shares Gorgui’s biggest offensive flaw — perimeter shooting — I don’t really see much benefit in limiting the young player’s reps in the interest of competing harder to win with a veteran like Young.

Fourth, and finally, I don’t think adding Young to the rest of this roster moves the needle in a meaningful way. I don’t think the Wolves are going to be good next year, after a Wiggins trade. I also don’t think the Wolves are going to be terrible next year, after a Wiggins trade. I think they’ll be staring at something like 28 to 32 wins. After adding Thad Young, I guess I’d bet on the high end of that range, but not much more. I think Rubio, Pekovic, Brewer, Budinger, and the rest of the remaining roster are good enough to prevent an all-out tank-fest. And I don’t think Young is the guy to carry a 40+-win team in the West on his back. He does not space the floor in a way that might mesh well with Rubio. I dunno, getting back to points 1 and 2, I just think it makes more sense to take another big swing than to convince yourself that one or two seasons of Thad Young will have a lasting positive effect.

Then again, if Flip pulls off the Wiggins thing, perhaps we will have to cut him some slack on the details:

2 Comments

Filed under Timberwolves

Waiting for Wiggins: Day 11 of 30

Wiggins-Calendar11

Today is the eleventh day of Waiting for Wiggins, and if Adam Silver is paying any attention at all to this ongoing storyline, it should be the last one.

The commish, who already showed off his executive-power chops in dealing with Donald Sterling, should allow an exception to the “30 Days” rule that is holding up the Andrew Wiggins-for-Kevin Love trade. The only reason to passively enforce the rule, as he has been doing, is that creating exceptions to collectively bargained rules creates a precedent. On more important matters — ones that the players association care about — that is a big problem.

But here’s the thing about this Wiggins deal:

I don’t think there is a single person who would object to allowing an exception. Certainly the Timberwolves and Cavaliers organizations would welcome a waiver. The players involved — Kevin Love, Andrew Wiggins, probably Anthony Bennett, and possibly a few others — would, too. They would like to know where they will be playing, next year. Other teams and owners shouldn’t care. Not very much, at least.

Also, what is the point of the rule in the first place? To prevent end-arounds the “Stepien Rule,” that prohibits trading away first-round draft picks in consecutive seasons? If so, then why limit the waiting period to just 30 days? 30 days does not prevent a trade like this one; it just deters it and makes the entire process uncomfortable for the players. But when the teams are determined to make the deal — as Cleveland and Minnesota seem to be — it just makes for a very awkward month; one that includes Rookie Photoshoots where the number one overall draft pick is forced to wear a jersey that he will never actually don in a real game. And everybody knows it.

Did you see Wiggins on SportsCenter yesterday? It was one of the more awkward interviews you’ll see. He looks a little depressed about the whole thing. LeBron hasn’t even called him. It’s like he doesn’t have a team, because the one he is actually going to play for cannot even contact him without flagrantly violating the tampering rules. (Well, except for other Timberwolves rookies. Wiggins and Zach LaVine seem to be developing a friendship. Yesterday, that included an informal dunk contest that ended up on the internet.)

And what about Kevin Love? He cannot play in the World Cup for fear of an injury. Paul George just sustained a devastating leg fracture during a Team USA scrimmage. If Love were to get badly hurt in this 30-day window, the Cavs trade would fall through.

I’m sure they’ll just wait it out and make the trade on August 23 or 24. Glen Taylor said as much to the Pioneer Press.

But after watching that Wiggins interview on SportsCenter, it just set in how ridiculous all of this is. If Commissioner Silver is paying attention, he should step in and contact the Cavs and Timberwolves. If each expresses a desire to execute an Andrew Wiggins trade, he should allow it to go through immediately. Stop the silliness, so that one of the league’s bright future stars can be a part of a team already.

Leave a comment

Filed under Timberwolves

Waiting for Wiggins: Day 8 of 30

Wiggins-Calendar7

On Monday I linked a David Aldridge column about the rise of Canadian basketball; specifically in the number of Division 1 and NBA prospects hailing from Canadian cities like Toronto.

Today, I have to link to a fantastic Grantland feature story from yesterday about New York City basketball. The Mecca in Decline, by Jordan Ritter Conn, analyzes the degree to which The Big Apple is no longer the hotbed of hoops talent that it once was. It produces fewer NBA players than at any time in history. It produces much fewer pros than other parts of the country, and that’s without even controlling for its massive population. Conn talked to many New York hoops junkies to get insight and theories about the cause of the city’s decline. (Or is it not a decline, but simply everyone else catching up? Is there a difference?)

What is the ideal environment for kids to become great basketball players?

It’s well worth your time to give that a read.

Along those same lines, Ethan Sherwood Strauss wrote a piece for TrueHoop last year about the influx of second-generation NBA players (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Love, to name a few) and why that might be happening. I remember thinking Strauss was on to something with that piece, and it fits well as a follow-up read to Conn’s, from yesterday.

Oh, and if you’re in that sliver on the Venn Diagram of Punch-Drunk Wolves readers who have never seen Hoop Dreams, then go watch Hoop Dreams. I watched it for the gazillionth time on Saturday. It’s on Netflix Instant right now, if that helps. It’s required viewing for any self-respecting hoops junkie.

That is all for today. Happy Friday. Only 22 more days to go.

Leave a comment

Filed under Timberwolves

Waiting for Wiggins: Day 7 of 30

Wiggins-Calendar7

One week down, three more to go.

I had a fairly long post drafted last night for Day 6, but decided to scrap it.

It was about tanking. “Riggin’ for Wiggins,” as the concept was (ironically, in hindsight) referred to, for most of the past year.

The post mentioned the report that the league plans to address tanking by balancing out the lottery odds. It argued that tanking is a serious problem for the NBA, but also that the league is right to regulate parity to the high degree which it does, compared to other professional sports leagues. The post referenced an English Premier League club, Southampton, that is apparently losing all of its good players during this offseason (I say “apparently,” because I don’t really follow soccer, but a good friend does and explained this to me.) because its (comparatively) poor owners prefer the cash to be made in sales to, you know, having a good team. It must be frustrating times for Southampton fans.

The post was going to maybe compare the NBA with Major League Baseball, and point to the fact that the Yankees have been able to *purchase* title contention for the better part of the past 25 years. If I wanted to look farther than Minnesota’s own Twins for a counterexample of a team that has long been sellers rather than buyers of elite talent, I might have done some Google searching for “Montreal Expos talent exodus.”

Okay, I just Googled that, and quickly found this article from the mid-90s. You get the idea.

The basic point of my post was:

Tanking is a problem that the league needs to address, but the league is right to regulate talent distribution to a high degree, like it does. Intentional losing is terrible for basketball, but so is a free-market sports system that removes hope for smaller-market fans by allowing rich teams to buy all of the best players.

To quote the great netw3rk, “Hope is the most basic unit of the sports social contract.” I cannot imagine following a sports league in which only a few clubs out of many have a legitimate chance to win.

I scrapped the post because none of it seemed original.

Anyway, I just summarized it in pretty good length right here, so you get the idea, but in fewer words.

The potential for a small bit of originality lies in the reported details of the lottery reform, and how they might actually lead to more luck for the Timberwolves, beyond the huge amount they are experiencing with this Wiggins-available-because-LeBron-went-to-Cleveland phenomenon.

As Brian Windhorst reported, the reform is, “an attempt to squeeze the lottery odds at either extreme toward a more balanced system in which all 14 teams have a relatively similar chance at the no. 1 pick.” The idea is to remove the incentive for non-playoff teams to get REALLY bad, and thus get the best chance at a top draft pick. It sounds like the new rules — if implemented above the objection of the Philadelphia 76ers — would make it so teams with records of, say, 30-52, might have a similar chance of winning the lottery as teams that win half that many games while putting out a dumpster-fire basketball product; teams like last year’s Bucks and Sixers, and like the Timberwolves of the Kurt Rambis Era.

This could be lucky for the Wolves, next year, because they seem well positioned — assuming a Love trade happens — to be one of those “30ish” win ball clubs. As Britt Robson titled his post, yesterday, “It’s entirely possible the Timberwolves won’t be terrible this season.”

After the Mo Williams signing, the Wolves are poised to roll with a playing rotation that includes some legitimate talent (Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic), a slew of capable veterans (Kevin Martin, Mo Williams, Chase Budinger, Corey Brewer), and some intriguing young prospects, like Wiggins and Bennett, as well as Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad, and Zach LaVine.

It would take some serious Flip Saunders magic to turn this into the playoff team that he reportedly desires. But that team should not be terrible. Not as long as Rubio and Pek play healthy and up to their reputations as better-than-average starting players.

So if the Wolves do go out and win 32 games while losing 50, don’t be so sure that they’re locking them selves into that “Basketball Purgatory” of recent NBA past; that zone where teams struggle to improve without top draft picks.

If Adam Silver gets his way, the Wolves can play at that level and still have a chance at a Number 1 pick; their third one running after Bennett and Wiggins. (!)

5 Comments

Filed under Timberwolves

Waiting for Wiggins: Day 5 of 30

Wiggins-Calendar5

Okay, not every one of these can be [even partially] about Andrew Wiggins.

Not much new has happened on the Love-Wiggins front. Which is a good thing. Everybody assumes that Love for Wiggins is a done deal and only less important details will be discussed between now and August 23, when the trade can be executed. Love has even withdrawn from Team USA and the basketball World Cup, which was reportedly at the request of the Timberwolves. They cannot afford a Love injury that would ruin a favorable-given-the-circumstances trade with the Cavs.

Speaking of that Team USA…

Derrick Rose is back.

Scratch that.

According to reports from today’s practice, Derrick Rose is BACK.

Every basketball fan should hope this is true and Rose returns to his MVP form. Because, you know, it’s more fun with more players of that caliber to watch and appreciate. Rose has been one of my personal favorites since his Memphis season, so I’m paying extra attention to this now-public recovery process from his pair of serious knee injuries and surgeries.

Pushing it forward to the next NBA season — and assuming this Love trade goes through as generally suspected — that Cavs-Bulls rivalry will be IN-TENSE. Joakim Noah is coming off of his best career season; one in which he made First Team All-NBA. The Bulls added Pau Gasol as a third big man. (While Gasol slipped considerably over the past two seasons, the idea of him playing limited minutes in a bench role sounds like an unfair advantage.) The Bulls drafted Doug McBucketsDermott, who seems like he might become one of the greater shooters in the league in a short period of time. They also welcome prized Euro prospect Nikola Mirotic, and bring back gritty defenders Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler.

If Rose is ROSE, the Bulls will be a 60+ win powerhouse and difficult for a Cleveland team — even one with Kyrie, LeBron and K-Love to beat in a playoff series. The coaching in that matchup will be first rate with Tom Thibodeau and David Blatt. In a completely different way than Spurs-Thunder of recent seasons past, that Eastern Conference slugfest could be its own version of basketball porn.

I hope to see it, with Rose playing like old — er, I mean, “young” Rose.

Only 25 more days until Wiggins, folks. Stay patient.

Leave a comment

Filed under Timberwolves

Waiting for Wiggins: Day 4 of 30

canada

If yesterday’s podcast was an end around having to write something new every day for 30 straight days, then today’s link to a David Aldridge column is in downright Throwaway Post territory.

In any event, DA wrote a great piece for NBA.com today about Canadian basketball, and its ongoing rise to prominence on the International Basketball scene. You might recognize the two gentleman pictured atop the post.

Aldridge describes how a combination of factors — the Raptors and Vince Carter, immigration, dedicated AAU leadership — have caused Canada to produce some of the world’s best up and coming talents.

Anyway, give it a read to learn more about the basketball culture that groomed Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett.

Link here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Timberwolves

Waiting for Wiggins: Day 3 of 30

Wiggins-Calendar3

 

The Punch-Drunk Podcast has been on hiatus for a while. But now it’s back. With more discussion of Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Kevin Love trades, and the upcoming season.

Wiggins-Bennett 2016. That’s all.

Leave a comment

Filed under Podcasts, Timberwolves

Waiting for Wiggins: Day 2 of 30

Wiggins-Calendar2

Coming up with 30 different writing topics for 30 consecutive days is going to be a challenge. With that in mind, I’m going to seek inspiration and help from my stack of basketball books. Today, I skimmed my highlights from Earl Monroe’s autobiography. Pearl has a lot of #nsfw content in there — one of the reasons I enjoyed it — but we’ll stick to bball, today; specifically, Monroe explaining how (and when) he improved his ball-handling, and what it did for his game:

The biggest thing that happened for my game between my freshman and sophomore years at Winston-Salem was that my ball-handling skills improved considerably. I really got a lot better over the summer of 1964 playing in Philadelphia every day, nonstop, with the Trotters and other teams around the city. I practiced my dribbling a lot when I was home, and then I kept it up when I returned to Winston-Salem, doing three or four hours of drills a day. It was all starting to pay off. My outside shooting had improved also through constant practice, so I knew by then that if I could get to a certain spot on the floor, I could make that shot. But this required having a great handle–you know, dribbling skills–because by then I could make my jumper. So my dribbling got me wherever I wanted to go on the court and that improved my offensive game and scoring potential tremendously.

First off: Pearl wasn’t joking. His points per game jumped from 7.1 as a freshman to 23.2 as a sophomore. (And 41.5 as a senior. (!))

Second: I’m tying this into Andrew Wiggins content, because: a) the biggest concern with Wiggins is his ball-handling ability, and how that weakness could limit his potential as a scorer; and b) Wiggins is at the same stage of development (just finished freshman college season) as Pearl was when he says his handles tightened up and elevated his scoring ability.

pearl

Earl Monroe did his damage off the dribble.

The indispensable Draft Express website has great videos for each top prospect that show clips demonstrating the player’s strengths and weaknesses.

If you watch the Wiggins tape, you’ll notice a few things about his ball-handling:

* His effective plays involve quick, snappy decisions with only 1 or 2 dribbles. He shows the ability to use his athleticism efficiently. There isn’t anything flashy about one or two hard dribbles, and Wiggins does not seem to be the sort of improvisor that a Monroe (or, more modernly, LeBron James or Dwyane Wade) was. But Timberwolves fans have also seen explosiveness go to waste with unnecessary flash. (Think Gerald Green, Jonny Flynn, and Derrick Williams.) Sometimes having great physical abilities — even ball-handling paired with athleticism — can be counterproductive when players get “dribble happy” and/or force difficult shots. I don’t anticipate Wiggins having the same problems that plagued D-Thrill.

* Wiggins has a post-up game, and a footwork and cadence reminiscent of Carmelo Anthony on his square-up, step-back fadeaway. IF, and this is a huge if, far from certain or even likely… IF, he can pair that step-back footwork (and accurate shooting, with it) with a strong dribble drive game to the hole, he’ll be impossible to defend with only one guy.

Like Melo.

That’s a sneaky aspect of Wiggins’ game that shows huge offensive upside. There aren’t a lot of outstanding post scorers in the NBA, and the rules seem to encourage smaller-than-seven-footers to explore the post, with square-up action. Like Carmelo, and LeBron, and Wade, etc. If Wiggins can polish up those skills over the next 3 or 4 years, look out.

* His handles are most shaky out on the perimeter, crossing over and doing skill moves with the ball. This hurts the “young T-Mac” comparisons quite a bit. T-Mac was — or became, anyway — an elite ball-handler for a player of his size. Paul George would be a current comparison of Wiggins, but George also has a nice handle that continues to improve. If Wiggins is ever to become a primary faciliator of offense, from the perimeter, he absolutely needs to improve his dribble moves beyond “two hard dribbles and shoot.”

Anyway, watch the video for yourself and form your own conclusions. Feel free to share them in the comments.

1 Comment

Filed under Timberwolves

Waiting for Wiggins: Day 1

Wiggins-Calendar

In case you missed it, the Cavaliers signed their (and the league’s) top draft choice, Andrew Wiggins. The ink was spilled on Thursday, and almost every report makes quick mention of the fact that the signing triggered the 30-day countdown until he can be traded legally under the NBA’s arcane rules.

Since this month-long wait will occur during late July and early August — probably the slowest four weeks on the basketball calendar — we thought it would be fun, or at least help pass the time, to do a daily Waiting for Wiggins series. We’ll hit on random basketball stuff until the Wolves are finally allowed to acquire their next star. Some it will involve Andrew Wiggins. Some of it won’t.

We might as well kick this thing off by discussing the fact itself:

Andrew Wiggins signed with the Cavs, yesterday.

What does this mean?

First, I guess it means that he is a Cleveland Cavalier, and not a Minnesota Timberwolf. Not yet, anyway. In case you haven’t been following this storyline religiously on Twitter, I’ll share the basic salary-cap rules at issue that have probably held up a trade between these two teams:

The Cavs, having signed LeBron James to a huge contract, don’t have enough cap room to just absorb Kevin Love’s $16 Million/year salary. So, when these teams trade and Cleveland takes in that money, it also has to send out a package that [basically] offsets it. Unfortunately for the trade’s sake, Cleveland does not have one big, bad contract that would help facilitate the deal. (Think Theo Ratliff’s Expiring Contract, one of the 20, maybe 10, greatest Wolves assets of all time. Theo Ratliff’s Expiring Contract actually doubled as a pretty good rim protector when he was healthy and the team took a night off from tanking and decided to play him. I digress.)

This set of circumstances requires the Cavs to send back a lot of players to offset Love’s salary. And, before he signed, Wiggins’ salary counted for exactly $0 in that equation. With that in mind, it was very difficult to execute a trade. It would have likely had to include Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Dion Waiters, and Tristan Thompson. That’s a lot of rotation players. I’ve already written how I suspect the Cavs will want Gorgui Dieng in a Wiggins trade, and a lot of that had to do with the fact that a 4 for 1 deal like this one would gut the Cavs depth; specifically, their frontcourt depth.

Now that Wiggins has signed, his contract — worth about $5.5 Million for next season — counts toward offsetting Love’s in the math of the deal. The downside is that league rules require that a signed first-round pick cannot be traded for 30 days. Hence this post series.

I tweeted my basic reaction to the situation at Canis Hoopus’s Tim Faklis, yesterday:

Why am I impatient about it?

I dunno. It’s July and I need more hobbies.

Why am I worried about the month-long wait?

I guess because it just gives Cleveland that much more time to grow attached to Andrew Wiggins. That means Cavs fans and the organization alike. The 30 days could also be enough time for Golden State to reconsider Klay Thompson’s value. What if they swoop in with Thompson-Lee-Barnes for Love-Martin? Many believe that Flip would prefer that deal to this one with Cleveland, even though his entire fan base feels differently.

Those are the basic reasons for concern: That Cleveland will reconsider, and that another team will intercept Flip’s interest during the wait.

But if Flip can hold his fire for the next month, the Wiggins trade can be a simple one. Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett. (Eds note: since the trade machine will not allow me to use Wiggins right now, I can’t confirm this, but it might require 1 throw-in guy like the ones Cleveland just acquired in what was rumored to be a Love-trade-facilitating move.)

I remain optimistic that this deal will get done, because it makes so much sense and it is what the big reporters are reporting. It is made much easier and simpler with Wiggins under contract.

But now we have to wait.

4 Comments

Filed under Timberwolves

Notes on a Scrimmage

While the world continued to wait for LeBron James’ next Decision, Timberwolves fans in Minneapolis stepped away from Adrian Wojnarowski’s Twitter account for 90 minutes of intrasquad scrimmage. The Wolves invited fans to watch the summer league roster run up and down for [just shy of] three quarters of loosely-regulated, but pretty intense basketball. Eyes inevitably fixed on high flyer Zach LaVine, the team’s latest lottery pick. But Shabazz Muhammad and Alexey Shved also logged big minutes. So did rookie Glenn Robinson III. Gorgui Dieng did not (illness).

Here are a few notes. I shouldn’t have to say that any praise — or criticism, really — comes with the caveat that this was a team scrimmage in July; one replete with players that will never play a second of *real* NBA action. Tonight was about seeing what guys looked like in the truest “eye test” form.

A few brief observations:

Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Timberwolves

Wolves Draft Review

GR3

The Wolves drafted Michigan Wolverine, Glenn Robinson III, with the 40th overall selection in Thursday’s draft.

So, on Thursday night the Wolves drafted Zach Lavine (Eds. Note: That’s how we spell it here.) and Glenn Robinson III with their first and second-round draft picks. Lavine infuriated fans with his alleged response to the Wolves selecting him. Robinson III looked happy to be selected at all. What to make of this?

Zach Lavine

Patrick J: I like the Lavine pick. As I argued before the draft, when you’re in the position the Wolves are in now, you go big or you go home. Zach Lavine may or may not turn out. That’s hardly the point. The Wolves are entering a period without Kevin Love. From that positition, you draft the guy you think has star potential–even when there are players who might help you more next season. (Ahem, Gary Harris, ahem.)

Britt Robson, reporting on the Wolves’ selection of Lavine, wrote this:

But the most significant thing Saunders said about choosing LaVine spoke to matters of context and ambition. “Sometimes you have to try and hit a home run. Some players that are ready-made, they are only going to be doubles hitters. This guy has an opportunity to be a home-run type player.”

That captures it pretty well. Does it mean I align with every idea the Wolves management has? No. But in this case, they made a defensible and possibly an unusually good pick.

Andy G: I’m not as bullish on LaVine as you are. He’s drafted to (basically) play shooting guard, yet he didn’t even average double figures in his lone college season at UCLA. Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Timberwolves

Does Ricky Deserve a Supporting Cast?

Is it reconcilable to consider Ricky Rubio to be a good NBA point guard, and at the same time object to trading Kevin Love for established, highly-paid veteran players like the ones rumored to be involved in the Golden State negotiations?

That’s a long, awkwardly-phrased question that might require a couple of readings to understand, but it’s one that I’m asking myself in different forms as the draft approaches along with the deadline to trade Kevin Love for maximum available value. It seems that so much of one’s opinion about a given Love Trade hypothetical turns on what that person feels about the Wolves roster aside from Love.

Can Rubio lead a good team?

Next season will be his fourth as an NBA player. He’s plenty experienced and is now pretty far removed from his unfortunate knee injury of March 2012.

Consider what Bill Simmons wrote in his 2012 Trade Value column, shortly before his ACL tear:

23. Ricky Rubio
Poor Ricky played himself out of the top 15 with a ghastly shooting slump (he’s down to 35.5 percent shooting for the season) that mushroomed these past eight games (17-for-69), a swoon that would feel like a bigger deal if Jason Kidd didn’t shoot 38 percent for his first three seasons. Special players figure it out. Rubio sees the floor differently. He’s always a half-step ahead of everyone else, especially defensively. His unselfishness is genuinely infectious in a Bird/Magic kind of way; along with Rick Adelman (it’s 1999 Sacramento all over again for him), that’s the biggest reason why the Timberwolves have morphed into the league’s best passing team. And you can’t deny his effect on Nikola Pekovic (a stiff last season) and Kevin Love (now a franchise guy). Watch the Wolves every week and you can’t help but mutter, “Those guys look like they’re having fun.” Yeah, because it’s fun to play basketball with Rubio and Love when Adelman is coaching you.

Of course, you can pick apart Rubio’s “impact” pretty easily with advanced stats, which actually makes me feel better about basketball as a whole. I’m glad Ricky Rubio can be picked apart. I’m glad he’s the 33rd best point guard in PER right now. That reinforces everything I believed about those numbers in the first place. Sometimes, they’re going to be a little … off. They should be used to accentuate what we’re watching, not to single-handedly shape opinions or beliefs. You can’t fully measure how teammates relate to one another and fit in with each other; even the five-man plus/minus stat (which I like) only goes so far. We’ll always have players and teams defying their metrics. Kyrie Irving is better than Ricky Rubio — we can all agree, right? — but I’m not sure this particular Timberwolves team would be better with Kyrie Irving. That’s why I love basketball. It doesn’t always make sense. And by the way …

A. Minnesota is going to make the playoffs unless somebody gets hurt.

B. Rubio could shoot 30 percent the rest of the way and still be the second-biggest reason it happened. So there.2

That version of Rubio — healthy, and running a high-ball screen offense suited to his skills — seemed extremely valuable; possibly more valuable to his team than even Kevin Love. He was a great defender and an only-one-in-the-league passer who saw stuff that nobody else could even imagine. He was a real weapon.

But then he got hurt.

And then the NBA stopped locking out its players, which allowed full off-seasons, which allowed brilliant coaches like Rick Adelman to install their preferred offenses. In Rick’s case, that was an offense that cared little about point guard dribbling and creative passing. It prioritized careful entries to the high post and perceptive, timely cuts down the baseline for opportunistic layups against reckless defense. As effective as it was, it was not good for an improvisational wizard like Ricky Rubio.

Before I beat that dead horse too much, I’ll get to the question here:

Is it time for the Wolves to make a decision on Rubio and the point guard position?

Should they at least consider drafting a point guard in the lottery?

A step further: Some of the potential Kevin Love trades involve mid-lottery picks. Would it be crazy to pull the trigger on one and draft Marcus Smart, who might be a future star point guard (in a more conventional style)?

Forgive me, here, as I’m just trying to follow the logic of strenuously objecting to the idea that Love should be traded for veterans that command a salary befitting their performance, and that Rubio (and PEK!) should be surrounded with a reasonable supporting cast in the next few seasons.

If the best option is to rebuild and slash payroll, what does that say about Ricky Rubio?

3 Comments

Filed under Timberwolves

Six Questions About Trading Kevin Love

As you already know, Kevin Love is on the trading block. Where he plays next season remains an unanswered question, but we are beyond the period of speculating whether or not the team is answering phone calls and entertaining serious offers. Given Love’s extended silence that followed the report that he will leave Minnesota next year as a free agent, it is safe to assume… well, exactly that. If he is not traded, he is going to leave Minnesota in 2015. He eventually made a brief ESPN appearance which did nothing to change this perception.

Flip Saunders and the organization have the option of keeping Love for one more season in hopes of attaining that elusive playoff berth that has escaped them for the past decade. More likely, they will trade Love for whatever they can get right now, or at least some time before February’s deadline.

I have not written much about these rumors (well, beyond the Twitter machine) for a few reasons, but primarily because it’s a dilemma that leaves me faced with way more questions than clear answers or opinions. With that in mind, I’ll rattle off some of them and share some reactions; reactions that vary from knee-jerk opinion to ones with a bit more factual basis and analysis.

1. Must the Timberwolves trade Kevin Love?

Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Timberwolves

“Flip Hires Flip,” and The Thing We’ll Have to Get Over

Washington Wizards v Chicago Bulls

In case you missed it (and at this point I doubt anybody reading this site missed it) Flip Saunders has been named head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves. He actually appointed himself leader of the sideline from his lofty perch where he currently sits as president of basketball operations. This is the second time that Saunders will coach the Wolves. He is the franchise’s career wins leader by a huge margin from the days when he led from the sidelines the teams led by Kevin Garnett on the court. They made the playoffs a bunch of times.

Purely on the merits: Saunders is a decidedly satisfactory basketball coach. He’s coached good players to pretty good seasons. He’s coached great players to very good seasons. He’s coached undeveloped players to terrible seasons. He is respected but not necessarily admired. For more on What Hiring Flip Saunders Means, check out Andrew Sharp’s piece for Grantland, or Britt Robson’s for MinnPost.

The part that I need to write about today is something I’ll try to avoid harping on too much in the future. Beating dead horses is a hobby of mine and many other writers – particularly ones that devote their time and energy to this frustrating franchise – but it gets tiring and is usually not fun to read.

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Timberwolves