Goodbye, Brandon Roy
We pretty much knew this was coming. Brandon Roy was waived by the Timberwolves. As had been widely reported, the second year of his contract was non-guaranteed. Therefore, the team chose to waive him and his $5.3 Million remaining on his deal. I’m not the right person to wax poetic on what a great player B-Roy was in Portland. I’m sure plenty of Blazers writers have already done that. His brief, somewhat-awkward T-Wolves tenure was recapped nicely by Mark Remme.
I do think it’s worth pointing out what the decision to waive Roy could mean, in a bigger picture sense. The Wolves could’ve held on to him as a trade chip. A non-guaranteed contract would have value to teams as a salary-cutting tool. But in any deal where the Wolves sent out Roy to bring in somebody else, they’d essentially be adding salary of their own. This is rife with assumptions and speculation but I take this move as a signal — however slight — that the new management is operating under a fixed budget; probably one set below the luxury tax line. I also take the move to signal a desire to retain the big free agents, Nikola Pekovic and Chase Budinger. Again, cutting Roy lowers the payroll and increases cap space and room below the tax line. Don’t be surprised if it’s not the only move in this direction.
The next Kawhi Leonard is probably not walkin’ through that door. So plan accordingly.
Many Timberwolves fans will expect the team to draft a wing player in the upcoming lottery. It’s the position of need, after all. Flip and Rick should ignore the radio callers and message boards and draft without regard for position.
Why, you ask?
Here at Punch-Drunk Wolves, we’ve lauded UNLV draft prospect Anthony Bennett’s game and NBA prospects over and over. For the uninitiated, Bennett is a bulldozing 6’8’’ forward who’s got a nice handle and a silky smooth stroke (ALLITERATION!), with range out to the three.
There are other good players in the draft, sure. See Exhibits A and B.
But suffice it to say that PDW hopes Bennett ends up in a Timberwolves uniform next season. As the months have passed and I’ve watched and read more about potential draft prospects, I’ve become more-and-more intrigued by Bennett as a possible transcendent player, one whose best-case scenario is something like a Star Child combo that’s one part Charles Barkley and one part Carmelo Anthony.
In short, I’ve come to think I might draft him 1st overall. And although that’s a minority opinion, I’m not alone in that assessment.
Here’s the thing: most draftniks currently project Bennett as the likely 3rd or 4th overall pick. That bodes poorly for the Wolves: they’re currently slotted to have the 9th pick, and would have to move up to get Bennett unless they defy the odds in this year’s Draft Lottery, not to mention the franchise’s entire history of bad Lotto luck. And why should we expect any different? After all the NBA has a habit–and I’m just going to say a “habit”–of producing some pretty incredible storylines (2:25). Storylines that tend not to center around the Wolves unexpectedly being in prime position to draft a sure-thing, no-shit, lock to become an NBA star.
Yet the prospect of the Timberwolves drafting Bennett–who, apart from Noel, is possibly the closest thing this draft has to a sure-thing, no-shit, lock to become a star–increased on Tuesday, when Bennett’s agent told ESPN that Bennett would be having surgery on his left rotator cuff on Wednesday. According to the report, Bennett will miss four months.
That’s a crucial period.
Well, how about that. David Kahn is out and Flip Saunders is in, and the appropriate response from sports fans from Minnesota and beyond should be a collective shoulder shrug. Plenty of others have done a better job of eulogizing/pulverizing Kahn than I ever could, and besides I have always been much more of a Kahn supporter than is welcome ‘round the internet. I think he made a bunch of 50-50 gambles on young players and lost every time, took the safe pick in the draft every time (and lost), and talked too much. On the other hand, I have stringently defended his handling of the Kevin Love situation and think he did the impossible by bringing not only Rick Adelman (the most competent coach in the entirety of Minnesota sports during my time on this earth), but also bringing in Kurt Rambis, who if you all don’t remember was *the* heir apparent to Phil Jackson, and a top coaching candidate at the time the Wolves were at rock bottom. This is to say nothing of his post-Jewish-summer-camp-like long-distance courting of a certain Spanish point guard that miraculously brought Youtubio over from Spain.
From Darren Wolfson on Twitter:
Wolfson has more to say on his conversation with Glen Taylor here.
The Wolves ownership situation is important for a few reasons. It was reported on Friday that David Kahn will be let go as President of Basketball Operations. But then the team, Kahn himself, and the reported successor, Flip Saunders, all denied that a final decision had been made. It seems likely that this reported development on the ownership front will have implications for Kahn.
You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last
But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast
Yonder stands your orphan with his gun
Crying like a fire in the sun
Look out the saints are comin’ through
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.
Steve Aschburner broke the story this Friday morning on Twitter:
David Kahn is out. Flip Saunders is [probably] in. (Flip went on ESPN later today and explained that no deal was finalized.) But the big news — the part that sent much of Timberwolves Twitter into hysteria — was unequivocal: The Kahn Era is complete. Done. No more draft picks and no more press conferences. No more “Show of hands?” and no more “Michael smoked too much marijuana.” No more Syracuse. Praise God, no more Syracuse. No matter who takes over the job, the David Kahn reign as President of Timberwolves Basketball can be gravestoned 2009-2013. Continue reading
Plenty more to come on this.
David Kahn at the NBA Draft Lottery. (The fun begins around 2:15) Will Kahn be around for this season’s Lottery?
[This is Part 2 of a multipart season review series. This post looks ahead to the future--mostly next season--and what it might look like. A subsequent post will look at the team's longer term prognosis.]
1. What Should The Team’s #1 Off-Season Priority Be?
Patrick J: Re-signing Pekovic.
You’ve gotta retain a high-quality big who is dominant at times and keeps adding dimensions to his game each season. That’s priority number one, hands down. A second important priority, though, is getting a legitimate shooting guard. This dead horse been beaten elsewhere, so I won’t focus on it here. And the Adelman situation might be more important than both for the Wolves’ long-term outlook. Is he a coach, a GM, or a retiree? More on that below.
Andy G: Ditto. You’ve gotta match Pek.
They’ve gotta re-sign Pek, or match whatever offer sheet he signs. They can’t let a good starting center walk. The team won’t have any options in free agency that could offset losing The Godfather. (If Kirilenko opts in and they re-sign Budinger, they won’t really have any cap space at all.) There aren’t any trade ideas that I can see that could offset losing The Godfather. This is entirely within the team’s control and it’s imperative that they retain a foundational player that happens to be in his prime.
2. How much can a rookie – any rookie, take your pick – actually help the Wolves win next season? Can you parlay that into win-column improvements that are meaningful for contention next?
[This is Part 1 of a season review series. This post looks back in time at the season that was. A subsequent post (or two!) will use what we learned this season to take a prospective look ahead at what the Timberwolves should look like in 2013-14 and beyond.]
1. Season Highlight?
Andy G: Win over the Thunder, December 20, 2012
I’ll kick this thing off. The highlight moment of the season is an easy choice for me: the win over OKC on Thursday Night TNT. It was December 20th, Christmas time. Spirits were high with the Wolves moving to 2 games over .500 (the last point in the season in which this was the case) with a 13-11 record. All of Alexey Shved (the lead guard for the Rubio-less portion of the season), Kevin Love, and Nikola Pekovic were dominant. Pek was pick-and-rolling bigger and stronger than the top team in the West could handle. Love spread the floor with three-point bombs, scoring 28 points along with 11 boards and 7 assists (career high?). He was awesome and looked the part of an MVP candidate. And young Alexey Shved was the orchestrator of everything. Pre-ROOKIE WALL Shved was something to behold and legit reason for Timberwolves optimism. His skillset was on display in that win over Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. Shved had a whopping 12 assists that night. Oh yeah, and JJ was GREAT JJ. He killed it during #WinningTime. All in all, that was a major highlight at a point in the season when the team had statewide interest and expectations of a playoff run.
Patrick J: Concur. OKC, December 20th, or “The Proof of Kahncept Game”
The Wolves’ victory over OKC was one the few games this season at Target Center I got to attend–I was back in Minnesota visiting family and had good tickets with Andy G & co to see what I expected to be an overmatched but spiteful Wolves squad take on the best team in the West, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Good JJ came out in full force that night — the goodest JJ that JJ can be. The rest of the team synced that night, the Wolves snapped a long OKC winning streak. Shved was Olympics Shved, Love owned, and it was basically the team we expected to see in 2012-13, minus Rubio. Imagine the potential of that team plus Rubio. I often do, and it’s a pretty amazing highlight given the way things actually turned out.
2. Season Lowlight?
Patrick J: The K-Love/Woj interview immediately prior to Rubio return.
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor did a long interview with Ray Richardson that appeared in the Pioneer Press on Sunday. There’s a lot there, and it’s worth reading in full: Taylor talks about the status of Rick Adelman and David Kahn for next season, as well as how the Brandon Roy debacle has played out.
Yet much of the interview is cryptic, leaving one to read between the lines for meaningful subtext. My takes are below the fold.