Wheeling & Dealing on a Tuesday

The Timberwolves made a trade today. And then they made another trade. By off-day standards, this was a lot of activity giving rise to a lot of internet discussion. So let’s sort it out and see what to make of everything that went down.

Trade Number 1

Wolves get:

Gary Neal
2nd Round Pick

Wolves send to Hornets:

Mo Williams
Troy Daniels

Trade Number 2

Wolves get:

Adreian Payne

Hawks get:

2017 1st Round Pick (lottery protected through 2020, after which it becomes a 2nd Round Pick)

Let’s get a few things out of the way before getting into the real meat of these transactions:

The Guards Swapping Uniforms

Mo Williams doesn’t matter to the Wolves. His contract expires at the end of the year and he was providing nothing of value to the development process of this young Timberwolves team. As a shooter, he might help the Hornets who are trying to make a playoff push.

Troy Daniels doesn’t matter. He’s an undersized shooting guard who could not, and never would crack a crowded wing rotation that includes Kevin Martin, Andrew Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad, not to mention Zach LaVine.

Gary Neal — who I like for aesthetic, style-of-play reasons — also doesn’t matter. If his contract isn’t bought out before he ever dons a Wolves uniform, he’ll play out this season and become a free agent.

These three guards are eminently replaceable. None of them would or could impact the future of the Timberwolves franchise in a meaningful way. As for the “present,” well, they wouldn’t have much effect there, either. Not with Rubio back in the lineup to play point guard, and Martin, Shabazz, and Wiggins all in need of minutes on the wing.

The second round pick is an asset, which makes the Charlotte end of the deal a (very) minor win, in my opinion.

Now with that out of the way, the serious portion of today’s events: the trade for the Hawks rookie forward, Adreian Payne. And more controversially, the trading away of a (protected) first round pick to get him.

Some Timberwolves History

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Notes on a Big Win

I don’t have a lot of time to write today, but last night’s win over the Memphis Grizzlies — by far the Wolves’ most impressive of the season — deserves some acknowledgement on the blog. With that in mind, here are some quick notes about the game, and things I’m noticing of late:

  • Ricky Rubio’s fourth quarter was the obvious narrative takeaway from the game. He was having a solid, far from spectacular game, when he checked back in with 7:24 to play and the Wolves trailing by 6. He scared fans to death when he went down hard after a layup, and immediately checked himself out of the game, loudly cursing and hobbling his way to the locker room. The drama only increased when he quickly returned to the arena, to a big ovation, and checked back into the game to play the part of hero. He hit the big three to cut the deficit to 1 with under a minute to play. Then he stole the ball from Zach Randolph, Michael Jordan-versus-Karl Malone style, and was immediately fouled in the bonus. He swished two free throws for the lead, and the Wolves got the necessary stop to seal the win.
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Talkin’ Flip Saunders Blues

PI-NBA-Flip-Saunders-081414.vresize.1200.675.high.67[Eds note: We reached out to FreeDarko author, Timberwolves fan, and friend of the blog, Dr. Lawyer Indian Chief to engage in some TWolves discussion on the topic of his choosing. The email exchange started on 1/25/15, so some of the stats have inevitably changed a bit. Also, Rubio has returned and the Wolves are playing better. But nothing has materially altered the opinions expressed here. Enjoy.]

DR LIC

I guess the question I’ve had is that EVEN if you give [Flip Saunders] a full mulligan on this year, and even if you give him a full pass on the record given its youth and injuries, is there anything that he has shown you that feels like a net positive?  I really can’t think of anything, but you know I’ve long been a Flip-detractor.  Maybe I’m biased?  Maybe the fact that Bazz and Wiggins have improved is something? But how much of that can really be credited to Flip?

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The Michael Beasley File: Dispatches from Shanghai

Michael Beasley played this season with the Shanghai Sharks, which are owned by former NBA great Yao Ming.

Michael Beasley played this season with the Shanghai Sharks, which are owned by former NBA great Yao Ming. Delonte West (right) was also on the Sharks roster.

Vice Sports published an epic meditation today on former Timberwolf Michael Beasley’s season in China. Beasley, who played for Miami last season and spent (literally not much more than) a hot minute in Memphis before being waived and inking a deal with Yao Ming’s Shanghai Sharks, had an interesting season.

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Some Questions about Rubio’s Return

Like everyone else, Ricky wondered why the Seahawks didn’t hand off to Lynch for the Super Bowl-winning touchdown. Tomorrow night, he returns to action against the Mavs.

On Saturday evening at Target Center, Ricky Rubio went through what must have been the most watched individual practice session of any basketball player, this year. Working with special coach Mike Penberthy, about one hour before tipoff versus the Cavs, Ricky shot threes and dribble jumpers before a surprisingly big crowd, for such an early time. This was because LeBron James was in town and, perhaps more importantly, because it was #TheReturn of Kevin Love (and Mike Miller!).

The Wolves had a huge crowd that showed up early, and Rubio was going through a workout on the game floor while his teammates and opponents were getting dressed in their locker rooms.

He was going full speed, and making a lot of shots. His form doesn’t look great, but it does look improved. There is some visual evidence, for those of us who have been able to watch him in these non-televised moments, that he is improving as a shooter. Just not any data. Yet.

That changes tomorrow, when he returns to game action. The Wolves play at Dallas against the Mavs, and Ricky will be playing. Apparently he’ll be under a minutes limit for a while, presumably because he’s not in regular game shape. Who knows how much he’ll play at first (maybe 25 minutes?) but any amount of Rubio action is cause for excitement for this win-starved team that has lacked floor leadership since his injury way back in early November.

A few questions to consider with Ricky Rubio returning:

* Will the Wolves play better?

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Waiting for Wiggins: Day 20 of 30

Andy G:

Rather than write about Love again, I’m just reblogging this one from back in July. It looked back on what I’ll remember most about Love’s time in Minnesota. It’ll be fun to see him play again, tonight.

Originally posted on Punch-Drunk Wolves:

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…

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How Will the Wolves’ Improved Health Affect Shabazz Muhammad’s Role?

kevin-martin-23-kevin-love-42-shabazz-muhammad-15-and-nikola-pekovic-14

Kevin Martin Returns from Injury

Kevin Martin came back to the lineup last night in the Wolves’ victory over the Boston Celtics at Target Center. Martin had 21 points in the win and felt like a spark plug for the team, even though his +/- rating was -3 for the night. (Eds. Note: A fairly meaningless statistic in a single game, especially when close to zero.) I dislike Martin’s style and defense, and his fugly-j, nerdy, weak, aesthetic. But Martin did what he does–score–and the Wolves won. That’s what matters.

Martin was excellent off the bench. A sixth man role might be the one he’s best suited for in the future–if he’s ever going to play an key role on a high-end contender, that is.

Pekovic Also Returns, Thaddeus Young Moves to Small Forward

The recent lineup changes are not limited to Martin’s return. Nikola Pekovic, another of the team’s season-opener starters, is back. This is more unexpected and, frankly, better news.

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