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. (!)



Filed under Timberwolves

5 responses to “Waiting for Wiggins: Day 7 of 30

  1. Oh, the irony! The Wolves might soon have the last two #1 overall picks after 25 seasons of never landing it, and perhaps a 3rd one in a row if the lottery system is indeed changed and they hover around 30-35 wins. You simply can’t make this stuff up — though I do believe Flip does everything he can to swing Bennett + Barea and perhaps even Mbah a Moute to Philadelphia for Thad Young in a larger 3-team deal. It certainly makes sense and fits his desire to skip the full rebuild route and do a semi-rebuild that ensures a more competitive team this year, rather than a tank fest that could blow up in his face. And hell, all of this is possible ONLY because LeBron decided he wanted to go home. I never actually believed the Wolves could pull off a deal like this when the Summer of Love started. I dreamed of chasing the #1 pick with Love, but I didn’t think it was conceivable. I’ve tried my best not to get ahead of myself, but I can’t help it any longer. This would be a huge break for the Wolves — allowing them to re-shape the roster, get rid of redundant overpaid bench players (if it’s a 3-team deal), acquire a potential superstar on a rookie scale contract, stay competitive in the short term, build for the future, create a new culture, brand the team around a box office dream in Wiggins, etc. And all of this is (potentially) happening in one move. It’s an exciting time. I simply hope we’re not let down. Keep up the great work here!

    • Hey, thanks — and you could be right about Bennett moving to Philly instead of MN. (Though perhaps this lotto reform has the Sixers thinking differently about sending away its last decent frontcourt player?)

  2. Well said as usual.

    I support this but also support a several year implementation. The Sixers have been clear in following a strategy that was sound under the rules as they were/are written. It’s a multi year strategy. I don’t think they deserve to have the rug pulled out beneath them. One more year of funky ping pong ball distribution and then perhaps another with a similar but lessened distribution. After that the Wolves can play for full 9th seed glory. No shame in easing into change.