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.

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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.

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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.

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Assessing Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love Trade Scenarios

Andrew Wiggins, future Timberwolf?

Andrew Wiggins, future Timberwolf?

 

Bill Simmons posted a doozy on Grantland today right before lunch on the merits of a trade involving Kevin Love to Cleveland for a package centered around this year’s #1 overall pick, Andrew Wiggins.

All of Grantland’s NBA hitters weighed in on Love-Wiggins: Simmons. Sharp. Trillion. netw3rk, Klosterman (does he still work there?).

I was pretty stoked, at least by what-I-read-over-lunch standards. But after I read it, I left the cafeteria pissed off.

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Will Wiggins be a Wolf? Wolves-Cavs Trade Possibilities

 

Dion Waiters: Eerily reminiscent of J.R. Rider

Dion Waiters: Eerily reminiscent of J.R. Rider. Future Timberwolf?

Andy G: So, LeBron made another Decision. He’s going home to Cleveland; a decision that many in the media began to expect a few days ago. He wrote a great letter explaining everything, published by Sports Illustrated yesterday.

It did not take long after the announcement for the conversation to turn toward the Timberwolves. Specifically, it was previously reported (by Adrian Woj, no less) that the Cavaliers had been pursuing a trade for Kevin Love that would be contingent on them signing James. So, now that they signed James, everyone is wondering about that Love deal…

The obvious player that the Wolves covet is Andrew Wiggins, the number one pick in the most recent draft. So far, the Cavs are reportedly not willing to part with Wiggins. Instead, they’re only willing to go as far as (something along the lines of) Anthony Bennett (LAST year’s top pick) and maybe Dion Waiters and one more guy to make the salaries match up. Maybe they’d throw in a future draft pick or two.

The Wolves, by all reports to date, will not trade Love for the Bennett-Waiters package. They need Wiggins.

So here we are, waiting for Dan Gilbert (or Flip Saunders) to blink.

Let’s start with the big question:

Do the Wolves end up with Wiggins?

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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:

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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

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