Monthly Archives: July 2014

Waiting for Wiggins: Day 7 of 30


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


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


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 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



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


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.


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


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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