Tuesday, April 22, 2008

T-Wolves Off Season Preview

Yesterday you read Fuzz’s recount of the 2007-08 Minnesota Timberwolves season. I’d first like to apologize for making you remember all of that dreadfulness. Like many of you, I had already blocked this season out of my mind before Fuzz’s nice little jaunt down memory lane. So rather than focus on the extreme negative that was this season, let’s look towards the future of the franchise. This is a very important off season if the Wolves are going to try get regain their form and return to the playoffs in the next few years. The roster is pretty much wiped clean, save for a few building blocks, so it will be interesting to see the direction we take. Here’s what to look for.

Ok let’s be honest here, you don’t lose 60 games and keep a majority of your roster intact the following season. These guys will be here: Foye, Brewer, Jefferson, and McCants. After that, there are no guarantees. Think about that; there are only four guys (out of 14 on the current roster) that will for sure be here next season.

The kid's a stud and he'll be here for a while.

Two others that could join the Core 4 are Ryan Gomes and Craig Smith. Both are restricted free agents, which means the Wolves have the right to match any contract offer they get. It will be interesting to see just how much the team values these two guys. If Smith is gone, that should mean that Chris Richard will stay with the team, but not both. You can’t have two undersized power forwards on your team; it’s a waste of a roster spot. Another player who has a decent chance at being here again next year is Sebastian Telfair. He played well enough at times during the year to get another chance to prove himself. So that leaves Foye, Brewer, Big Al, McCants, Smith or Richard, Telfair, and hopefully Gomes, as part of the franchise in 2008-09. Everyone else could and should be gone from this dreadful team. That means you Antoine Walker, you greedy bastard. And you Michael Doleac/Kirk Snyder/Greg Buckner: the NBDL called and your services have been requested. Mr. Jaric, you and your unfairly hot girlfriend can take off too. On second thought, Adriana stays, Marko goes.

Another picture of Adriana Lima; I'm sure you're upset.

So by my calculations, we have about seven holdovers on the roster (although there is a chance Madsen stays—even though it would make absolutely no sense—so we could have eight). So where does the rest of the team come from? Well, one place is the draft. The Wolves should be adding an impact player thanks to this awful season we all just had to endure. They have the third best chance of getting the #1 pick, and will not pick lower than 6th. We’ll also have the first and fourth picks in the second round, so that gives us 3 of the first 34 picks this June. That’s definitely a great way to build the roster. As for who the team takes, that’s all going to depend on the lottery. (Side note: Fuzz and I think that the Wolves have some very good karma going into this lottery/draft. For the first time in a long time, the team didn't tank at the end of the year to improve their draft position. This good karma has already shown up as we won the coin toss that gave us the 3rd best chance at the top overall pick. If we would have won that same coin flip last year, we would have either Oden or Durant instead of Brewer. Not a bad trade off there. If we get lucky in the lottery, you can thank that win against Milwaukee when we should have been trying to lose.) The top two spots are going to be occupied by Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose (though not necessarily in that order), so we’ll take one of those two if we luck out and get a top two pick.

Wouldn't this look nice in a slightly different shade of blue?

After that, it’s a crap shoot. I’d love for us to get Brook Lopez with the pick if we’re not in the top two, or maybe even Jerryd Bayless, but those are just guys I like. Picks 3-30 in the first round could go absolutely any direction. Pay no attention to any mock draft, because no one has any idea how this year’s draft will unfold after #2.

Another way to build a roster is through free agency. This has to be one of the most impossible things to predict, especially in April. There are a ton of guys who will or potentially could be available this summer, but there are two big variables here. The first one involves restricted free agents. It’s tough to gage how much certain teams value their own players, especially those mid-level type guys. Since they have the ability to match any contract offer, you never know who you’ll be able to get and who will be retained. The other big issue here is that I have no idea what the Wolves philosophy is as far as spending goes (I don’t think McHale or Taylor do either, but that’s another article entirely). Are they going to go after some sort of big name, big contract type of guy? Are they biding their time for a run at a superstar in the next couple years? Are they just going to go after mid level guys and hope they fit a role? Do they roll the dice on a young guy and hope he develops? So many questions, so few answers. As difficult as it is to speculate, here are a few names to keep an eye on: Emeka Okafor, Andris Biedrins, Matt Barnes, Jose Calderon, Ramon Sessions, Carl Landry, and Daniel Gibson.

Is this Fuzz or a future Timberwolf?

The third way to build your roster is via trade. I just don’t see this as being any sort of legitimate option for the Timberwolves. We just cleared out our roster and don’t have any big expiring contracts to deal or impact players that anyone would want. There are only two situations in which I see us making a deal. One, we deal McCants. Like Fuzz said, he is the most polarizing player on our team in the minds of the fans. I get the feeling that the same could be said about NBA GM’s (and possibly within our own organization).

Hate him or love him...

If someone is really sold on him, I could see us moving him. The other situation comes with our multiple high second round picks. Second round picks tend to have very little value in the NBA because those players rarely pan out. If there is a guy slipping down the board that we like, I could see us trading those two picks to move into the end of the first round. Other than those two scenarios, you won’t see a significant trade involving this team this summer.

There are plenty of signs of encouragement for the future of this team. We have our franchise player in Al Jefferson and could possibly add a major compliment to him in the draft. We have extremely solid players like Randy Foye, Rashad McCants, and maybe Corey Brewer. The team played very well during the last couple months of the season too. Ok, maybe “very well” is going a bit far, but in comparison to that amazingly awful start, it was pretty damn good. We’re still not likely to be a playoff team in the next year or two, especially in the Western Conference, but I don’t see us being one of the worst teams in the league either. The most likely scenario has us creeping closer towards 35 victories next year and a push towards .500 the year after. Yup, you can smell the excitement around the Target Center…

Where Mediocrity Happens


Anonymous said...

I heard something about our pick being top 3 protected or else it goes to someone else. Is that true or am I misunderstanding. Maybe the Celtics owe us a pick that is top three protected?

- Jeff

p.s. I loved Dogg's Vegas post. The best part is that I'm convinced that somewhere in the world someone wrote a blog posting about their trip to Vegas that included a ridiculous story about this stranger they came across in Vegas that identified himself only as "Dogg".

Mr. Cue said...

We owe the Clippers a first round pick, but it's top 10 protected for the next two years. After that, they get it no matter where we pick. Hopefully we'll be competitive by then and it won't be a very good pick.

Dogg said...

Thanks Jeff for the props on the Vegas article!

Q, nice work on the article and I have decided that an average center in this league is huge. You need to take pressure off your low post presence so he can go half ass on defense and not guard the other teams premiere low post player. Brooke Lopez is an above average low post player and is a good rebounder/defender. This will take a lot of weight off Big Al's shoulders for years to come.