Waiting for Wiggins: Day 12 of 30

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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:

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Waiting for Wiggins: Day 11 of 30

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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.

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Waiting for Wiggins: Day 8 of 30

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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.

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Waiting for Wiggins: Day 7 of 30

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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. (!)

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Waiting for Wiggins: Day 5 of 30

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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.

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Waiting for Wiggins: Day 4 of 30

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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.

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Waiting for Wiggins: Day 3 of 30

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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.

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