Wolves Fans: Don’t Buy into the Hype

USP NBA: UTAH JAZZ AT MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES S BKN USA MN
Mar 30, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) blocks Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) in the second quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-188444 ORIG FILE ID: 20150330_mta_ai9_073.JPG

Hey Wolves fans – long time no talk! Its been an exciting offseason in which the amount of hype for the Timberwolves has be inconceivable . Why you may ask? Well, the Wolves have one of the most talented rosters in the league with one of the best coaches in league making a return after a year sabbatical. The Wolves have back-to-back Rookies of the year, a two-time dunk champion and a few other former first-round picks all acquired in the last three years. Their talent-level and potential are amongst the best in the league and they are all incredibly fun to watch.

Die-hard Wolves fans have followed Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine develop a nice chemistry over the summer while working out. Fans have enjoyed watching Andrew Wiggins workout videos in which he is adding to his game and having interviews where he says the Wolves will make the playoffs.  Wolves fans saw Kris Dunn dominate in the summer league and then Tyus Jones lead the team to the finals with a Summer League MVP. Wolves fans followed Coach Thibodeau win a gold medal and Ricky Rubio win a bronze medal. Wolves fans were also encouraged that most of the team did not participate in International play this summer to improve their games, namely Wiggins, Dieng and Bjelica.

There is a lot of reason to get excited. The Wolves are finally getting noticed. There will be 19 nationally televised games this upcoming season and the Wolves will finally play on Christmas! Gambling experts in Vegas also have set the Wolves as having the fourth best odds to winning the Western Conference! How can you NOT buy into the hype, right?

Kevin Pelton ran his RPM Forecast though and put the Wolves 11th in West with 37 wins on the season. The forecast doesn’t account for coaching changes, which should probably get the Wolves a few more wins in general. This may be the other end of the spectrum with the forecast, having the Wolves behind the Nuggets and Thunder this season. Although the forecast is fairly accurate most seasons, it is just that, a forecast. The forecast had some ridiculous predictions like the Jazz being the 3rd best in the West, Thunder at 6th and Nuggets at 8th.

There is no question, this is the most excited I have been in a while for a season as a Timberwolves fan. I also understand that it is a process. A question I think all fans will need to ask themselves is ‘Will I be disappointed if the Timberwolves don’t make the playoffs?’ If you answered yes, then you may need to check your hype-o-meter. Take a step back and understand that the road to success is typically a bumpy one. Here are some factors to take into consideration:

The Wolves are still young and inexperienced.

The Timberwolves are putting all of their hope in a bunch of guys who can’t rent a car without an underage fee. The talent and potential is there. The issue lay in the mental game. The pup-pack (nickname I am now using instead of saying KAT, Wiggy, LaVine, Dunn, and rest of the young wolf pack) have their heads held high making playoff predictions because they don’t know better. They haven’t face calamity yet. They haven’t played regular season games that had real meaning yet. In all likelihood, the Wolves will end the season with a starting lineup that has 5 guys who have never played a playoff game. I don’t have the research, but history would likely prove that teams like that don’t make it too far. The logical progression in my head is that the Wolves compete for a playoff first, before making it officially. Ideally, this season plays out similar to how the Jazz’s season played out last year.

There were no major acquisitions.

Cole Aldrich. Jordan Hill. Brandon Rush. In a summer where money was more available than tech help in India, the Wolves couldn’t get a major free agent to sign. All three players will add value and depth to the team and they are all low-risk contracts. That is an absolute win. The Wolves didn’t ‘overpay’ anyone, which is good. But the Wolves also didn’t add any talent that would help the Wolves win more games. They struck out multiple times with guys that could’ve come in and help at least make a significant improvement to the roster. Because of this, the Wolves improvement really relies on what Coach Thibs can do in his first year and the progression of the young guys.

Thibs needs time to teach his system.

A good segway. I think there is good certainty in that the Wolves young guys are going to improve. There isn’t the same certainty in that the team picks up on Thibs’ scheme in the first season. The experience factor kicks in again here where it may not be the easiest to just pick up a new coach’s schemes and run it flawlessly in game situations. There will certainly be growing pains. Literally and figuratively with Thibodeau. Especially with the pup-pack. It may feel like a rookie year all over again for guys who don’t have a high basketball IQ. Thibodeau does not have an active veteran who understands his system that can help implement it like a Jimmy Butler or Luol Deng would’ve been able to do. It is going to take some time to learn. Luckily for the Timberwolves, they have time.

The only major change has been some media hype.

Man – the bandwagon is starting to feel like a freight train. Fans from all over are loving the Timberwolves, including the National Media. As OG Wolves fans, we are welcoming them all with open arms. But the anticipation to see KAT and Wiggins play for Tom Thibodeau is beginning to make people become a little over-ambitious. This Wolves roster is much more of a journey than it is a destination right now.

Injuries could be a problem.

Prior to last season, the Wolves were constantly having injury problems. Insert Arnie Kander. In his one season, he helped Ricky Rubio stay fairly healthy for a season and we even saw some run from a Nikola Pekovic, who should probably be retired. Now, exit Arnie Kander. Insert Tom Thibodeau. Thibs is known to make his guys work. Not a criticism. But it is something I think most Wolves fans will monitor this season. Injuries can set any team back. So just something to point out.

Other teams in the west got better too

The Wolves got better but there are other teams that really got better. The Jazz got a consistent starting point guard in George Hill who fits in perfectly there. The Blazers and Pelicans added some nice talent. I expected the Grizzlies to fall off but they ended up keeping Mike Conley and adding Chandler Parsons. If they can stay healthy with Marc Gasol, they could be pretty good. There are going to be 8 spots for probably 11 teams that have a legitimate shot at competing at them.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know! Get in touch with us on Twitter or Facebook!

The Timber Rebuilder

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2016 NBA Draft: Timberwolves Final Thoughts

Draft day!

It is finally here. Four days after the NBA Finals. It is like the season never ended. It has been stressful to say the least. Not too many moving parts so far and yet we have debated for months.

One thing is for sure, whoever is picked by the Timberwolves tonight will forever be remembered as the 5th pick of the 2016 NBA Draft. Most fans remember their feelings towards a player from when the Wolves drafted Ndudi Ebi 26th overall in the 2003 draft to when the Wolves took Karl-Anthony Towns as the 1st Number 1 pick in franchise history.

One thing that I am reminded of at this time in the year is Flip Saunders. I came across this tweet of just Flip enjoying life right before the 2013 draft.

As the Wolves approach the draft, which is hours away, the rumors are swirling. The Wolves have just added Andy Greer to their coaching staff per Woj. There were rumors of the Wolves being interested in Kenneth Faried, which reminds me of how Thad Young fit in with the Wolves last year. I do think Faried would be an ideal energy guy for Thibs, but if the trade includes moving the 5th pick, I don’t think it is worth it.

Thibs has enlightened us by letting us know that the Wolves value shooting in this draft. To many, this eliminated the idea that Kris Dunn could be the pick, while I believe that isn’t the case. The entire league values shooting right now. It is absolutely a valid concern and the Wolves do need shooting, but I don’t think it eliminates Kris Dunn from being the Wolves pick.

There is a decent chance the Wolves trade the pick today. I don’t feel prepared for that scenario since #WolvesNation has been debating between four guys for the last month. Who is better? Why? Just hours before the draft, I feel like the top four is fairly clear, in the form of personal preference. Here it is:

  1. Dragan Bender

If Bender is available, you have to take him. There are rumors he could fall to 7, which is mind blowing. Bender is certainly a project. But he is a project worth taking on. The Wolves are in a position where they can swing for the fences. If Bender doesn’t work out, the Wolves future is not dependent on his development. They don’t lose much. They also have a significant need for someone to play along Towns long-term. The reason Bender is the most intriguing is because of the skill set he holds. Bender has a solid stroke from outside already. Pairing that alongside Towns and Wiggins will spread the floor and allow the Wolves to penetrate & dish. He can defend and protect the rim as well. How terrorizing would it be to have two big men who can defend and shoot? Bender has also shown that he can pass and handle the ball decently for his size.

Bender happens to also be the youngest player in the draft. If Bender is groomed under Thibs and can be given time to grow with the young Wolves, he can be in the perfect setting to develop. It helps that the Wolves have a decent amount of international players who can help mentor Bender. I don’t believe Bender is that far away from being able to contribute. He needs some experience, weight and confidence. But if he can build those three things up until the Wolves make the playoffs, I think they add a prospect who, I believe, becomes more valuable that Zach LaVine for this team.

Often times the youngest player in the draft usually has success in the league. It is something to keep in mind. The last few off the top of my mind are Devin Booker, Aaron Gordon, Giannis, and Andre Drummond.

2. Kris Dunn

After Bender, I don’t think any of the remaining players are absolute future starters for the Wolves. More than likely, they all end up being solid players off the bench and can step in as starters in the future. The reason I prefer Kris Dunn is because I believe he can come in and compliment Rubio from the beginning. Dunn can play behind or next to Rubio for short stints. Dunn also has a skill set in which he could eventually challenge Rubio for his spot a year or two down the road. It is still an unknown as to how Rubio fits in the grand scheme of things. In the event that Rubio gets hurt or wants out of Minnesota, I would feel comfortable with Dunn as the starting point guard of this team after this season.

The reason I also like Dunn is that I believe he is simply better than Murray and Hield. Dunn possesses an all-around skill set that inevitably translates great to the NBA. His ability to score, play-make and defend makes him a net positive player to have on the floor. If he develops a 3-point shot, he could end up being one of the best players in this draft. If you want to read our thoughts more on Dunn, we had an article here about him last month that was well received.

3. Jamal Murray

The Murray and Hield debate is something I run every day in my head and finally feel comfortable sharing it. I take Murray over Hield as someone who, I believe can become a solid scorer in the league. I think the McCollum comparisons are disrespectful to CJ, but if Murray becomes a poor man’s version of him, I will be happy. I worry about his ability to ever defend in the NBA, which is why I like Dunn more. We also talked about why we like him here. I won’t be upset if the Wolves take Jamal Murray.

4. Buddy Hield

#WolvesNation is crazy about Buddy Hield. I am not as convinced still. Buddy also can’t defend and don’t think he can thrive as a bench player, which is inevitably what is role would be with the Wolves. He requires a high usage and I don’t see him getting it with guys like Towns, Wiggins, LaVine and Shabazz who require the ball to be effective. The only positive of taking Hield for me is that my expectations would be much lower than anyone else we could take.


If the Wolves keep their pick, it will be one of those four. Otherwise I will be shocked. I think there is a 40% chance that the Wolves trade the pick on draft night. The Wolves clearly have goals of making the playoffs this coming season. We mentioned earlier in the offseason that the Wolves should just trade the pick and think that it still makes sense. The Wolves could acquire a veteran who could speed up the process as well as maybe a mid-1st round pick. The Jimmy Butler rumors were just a smokescreen that was probably done to raise the value of the pick in a draft where everyone is trying to trade out.

There are four teams to watch on draft night that have three 1st round picks: the Sixers, Suns, Celtics, and Nuggets. The Wolves may be able to work out a deal that allows the Wolves to acquire a veteran and a later pick. If somehow the Wolves end up moving down, I still love Timothe Luwawu and Wade Baldwin. I don’t know if either worked out for the Wolves, but I will dream. The Wolves do happen to love Ben Bentil, which will be something to watch for in the late 1st round and 2nd round.

For the next few hours, I will be watching for #WojBombs and hoping something crazy happens. As a life-long Wolves fan, especially during the rebuilding phase, the draft is our playoffs. Let’s add another brick to the Rebuild!

The Timber Rebuilder.

PS – I will be at the Wolves draft party. Tweet us if you are going! @timberrebuilder

Game of Zones: Timberwolves Segment Analysis

If you follow the blog, you know how excited I was for Game of Zones to feature the Wolves. Well it is upon us. And if you haven’t watch it, here it is:

Game of Zones is a hilarious series by Bleacher Report that is an animated mix of the NBA and Game of Thrones. This is the 6th episode and is finally featuring the Wolves.

Because it is so hilarious, I decided to review the Wolves portion of the episode through pictures. The still screens are pretty funny to catch the moments because the animations are great. There are a lot of great facial expressions that are captured through the pictures. While there isn’t a ton to analyze, at least going through the pictures can be fun.

It starts with the Blazers singing as KAT watches through a rock of sorts. The Blazers are singing about Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter, some all-time great Blazers.


The Blazers (CJ McCollum) shoots and score and it blows the Wolves cover. CJ has been a lights out scorer and shooter so it makes sense. Damian Lillard then says ‘Well Four-Bar Fridays, who do we have here’. Not sure why they snuck that in, but Lillard is well known for his raps that he posts on social media. They’ve gone viral and they are called Four-Bar Friday where he just drops a couple bars, which are usually nice.


The Wolves realized their cover was blown after the bucket was made. Digging in way too deep, this signified that the Wolves are now in the mainstream. They are no longer a team that just goes forgotten. There officially have some expectations. It was hilarious to see how scared the young pups were when they became noticed.


Some dialogue began with the Blazers’ Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum  and Mason Plumlee. The Blazers wanted to know who the Wolves were…


Wiggins introduces the Wolves. In their best way possible, the young pups start howling, which is arguably the funniest part of it all. The howl was meant to be intimidating, but no where near. It reminded me of the Wolves from the Jungle Book…

Lillard & co start laughing at the Wolves. He asks for their names.


Wiggins introduces himself and KAT as number one picks and rookies of the year.
LaVine goes un-introduced though. Dame then asks what about the skinny one and LaVine responses with ‘I do cool dunks’. He is laughed at. LaVine has a reputation around the league that that is all he is capable of so the introduction was fitting.

Wiggins, the leader of the pack, asks the Blazers who they are. Dame introduces himself and CJ but forgets about Plumlee. They say they are the ‘Brotherhood of one banner’ and Wiggins in the teen-ish way possible exclaims that the wolves are going to get a banner of their own. The one banner was in reference to the Blazers lone championship in 1977.

The quote of the episode is by LaVine who says like a pre-teen, hands on hips and all, that ‘Sir Garnett says Anything is Possible.’ Hilarious because he is quoting KG’s infamous post-championship interview. This played into KG-mentorship deal, where KG is here to groom the young guys. Hilariously, LaVine is living through the ‘Anything is possible’ quote.


The Blazers tell the Wolves they don’t know how to get a championship but could certainly help them with. The segment with the Wolves and Blazers ends and goes onto other funny stuff.

Overall it was hilarious. The surprises was how quite Towns was and how vocal Wiggins was. Generally, Towns has been outspoken and Wiggins has been more reserved. Towns didn’t do much other than lurk and howl. Wiggins was passionate and leading the young pack. LaVine’s character was pretty good as an innocent child.

There also wasn’t any reference to Tom Thibodeau. This was probably because Thibs has gone under the radar after the hire. It is hard to assume his impact, if any, on the team so far.

Hope you enjoy the pictures!

Just How Lucky are the Wolves?

By the end of this, there will be a numerical probability of just how lucky the Wolves were to have this roster.

As we approach the NBA Draft Lottery, Wolves fans are enjoying the recent news of Karl-Anthony Towns winning the Rookie of the Year award Unanimously. There has been a lot of chatter about how lucky the Wolves have been over the last couple years to acquire two great young talents in Andrew Wiggins and Karl Towns. This chatter is warranted. The Wolves have had some historic things happen over the last two seasons, things that would attract a top-tier head coach like Tom Thibodeau to want to work in Minnesota. But just how lucky have the Wolves been?

The young core of the Wolves has accomplished some incredible things in the last two years. The Wolves flirted with being the first team in history to have three consecutive Number 1 picks on the same roster, until the Wolves released Anthony Bennett. Andrew Wiggins and Karl Towns are the first duo to win back-to-back Rookie of the Year awards on the same team since the Buffalo Braves in 1974. LaVine, Wiggins and Towns also set a record against the Cavs being the first trio of scorers under 21-years old to all score 20 points or more in a single game. The things the Wolves are accomplishing over time make you believe that it’s either fate or some serious luck.

The Wolves haven’t always been lucky. And when you’re constantly unlucky, the luck has to eventually turn into your favor. The Wolves have the longest active streak of not making the playoffs, which is up to 12 seasons. That is a lot of opportunities to get lucky and a lot of times ending up not lucky. The Wolves had never won the lottery in its 26-year history prior to last summer, which having the best odds twice. In those years the Wolves ended up with Christian Laettner and Derrick Williams instead of Shaquille O’Neal or Kyrie Irving. There is also the time in the 2009 draft where the Wolves drafted back-to-back point guards at the 5 and 6 spots just to have Stephen Curry be drafted 7th.

All that rebuilding talk aside, the 2016 Minnesota Timberwolves are in a lucky position. But just how lucky? Lets see…

Probabilities to factor in:

lebron

First, it all begins with Lebron James. Lebron going to the Cavaliers in the summer of 2014 is what caused a domino effect of moves for the Wolves. If Lebron stayed in Miami, the Kevin Love trade may have never happened. If Love was not traded to the Cavs, chances are he would’ve been traded to the Warriors for a horrible deal around David Lee or left for nothing in free agency. According to fivethirtyeight.com the probability Lebron James kept his talents in Miami were 49.7%. After that, the Cavs had the best chances of bringing back the hometown hero with 15.8% chances. So the entire Wolves core doesn’t happen theoretically unless that 15.8% chance happens.

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– The next thing that has to occur is that the Cavaliers have to win the draft lottery in order to have something to offer the Wolves for Kevin Love. The element of conspiracy theory occurs with the NBA draft here because the Cavs had a 1.7% chance to win the number 1 pick in the 2014 draft. Those chances are tiny! But it happened. And they took Andrew Wiggins with that trade.

andrew-wiggins-rookieofyear-ap

– Next thing to factor in is Wiggins winning the Rookie of the Year award. The Wolves were lucky to get a talent like Andrew Wiggins to rebuild around. The truth is, he could’ve been a bust like Anthony Bennett the year before, so measuring just how significant of a talent Wiggins could be, the odds of him winning Rookie of the Year should be factored into the Wolves luck. Wiggins had odds of +600 to win the 2015 Rookie of the Year in July behind Jabari Parker, which converts to a probability of about 14.29% according to Sportsinsights.com

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– The Wolves need their own luck with the Wolves winning the lottery. The Wolves were coming off of a serious rebuild in 2014-15 and came away with the worst record in the NBA. This gave the Wolves the best odds of winning the draft lottery in 2015 with a 25% chance. Compared to all of the other things that were factored into this probability, this was the most likely thing to happen. Like I stated earlier, the Wolves had never won the lottery up until this point. So to finally win it was huge.

APTOPIX Rookie Of The Year Basketball

Towns winning the Rookie of the Year award. Unanimously too. Towns had a monumental season posting 18ppg, 10rpg and 54.2FG%. He was a joy to watch on both ends of the court. The Wolves got a franchise changing talent, which is highly unlikely. But in order to measure the Wolves luck, we simply looked at his odds of winning it in the preseason. He was not the favorite out of the gate. Towns ROY odds in August were +650, which is about 12.82% also according to sportsinsights.com. KAT was behind Jahlil Okafor at the beginning of the season as the favorite to win it.

Probabilities that were not factored in:

– The trade for Andrew Wiggins. While it would be nice to calculate what the probability was that the Love-Wiggins trade happened, its hard to put a numerical value on that. The Wolves swapping for talent isn’t really luck either. The Cavs just had to have the necessary talent to get Kevin Love.

– Getting Zach LaVine. Zach has been an integral part of the Wolves young core and getting him at the 13th pick over Adreian Payne was absolutely lucky. Unfortunately, the luck evened out by trading a future first-round pick for Payne.

– Picking other guys. There are the other draft picks the Wolves made like picking Towns over Okafor. Also there is the trading of Trey Burke for Shabazz and Gorgui, which was very lucky. These things were not factored in. The Wolves dodged bullets by making those selections, at this point in time at least. Things also evened out by not taking Giannis or Rudy Gobert with those picks in 2013. Thus, we just called it a draw.

– Landing Tom Thibodeau. The Wolves fortunes took a great turn for the better after the hiring of Thibs, at least on paper. Chances are, getting Thibodeau to coach here a year ago seemed like a long shot. But things fell into place and timing was everything. The Wolves were first-movers in the coaching carousel and landed the big fish. Money also talks in this game, so excluding those odds.

The Calculation:

We now apply probability rules. Being that these happened in sequence, conditional probabilities can be applied. Since these are independent events, the conditional probability, the probability of event A occurring given event B occurs, is equal to the probability of event A. Thus, using the Multiplication rule for N independent events, we can simply multiply all of the probabilities together. This answers the question of ‘What were the chances of all of these events happening together?’ Statisticians might take a different approach to the calculation. So here it is:

P(Lebron to Cleveland) x P(Cavs win Lottery 2014) x P(Wiggins wins ROY) x P(Wolves win Lottery 2015) x P(Towns wins ROY) = Wolves chances of being in current state

Wolves Luck = 0.00123017% Chance of being in its current state

That means, there was a 0.00123017% chance that the Lebron would sign with Cleveland AND they would win the draft lottery in order to draft Wiggins AND that Wiggins would win the Rookie of the Year AND the Wolves would win the draft lottery the following year to draft Karl-Anthony Towns AND that Towns would win the Rookie of the Year the very next season. So basically, what has happened thus far is highly unlikely.

Compare these chances with one person being struck by lightning once in their lifetime. The chance of that happening is a 0.033333%. That means, it is over 27 times more likely that any one person is struck by lightning in their lifetime than how this Wolves team has been composed over the last two seasons.

Boom. Call it luck. Call it fate. Call it the alignment of the stars. Whatever you call it, it is absolutely exciting.

Side Note: if the Wolves win the draft lottery tonight, the odds of 0.00123017% will be multiplied by 8.8%, which is a really small number. Just something to think about.

The Timber Rebuilder

Timber Rebuilder 2016 Draft Big Board v1.0 (Pre-Draft Lottery)

With the draft lottery around the corner, it seems necessary to simply rank the prospects as the Wolves could land anywhere between pick 1 and 6. I have mentioned that I believe the Wolves should trade the pick, but in the event that they do keep it or even trade down, I will rank the prospects from the Wolves perspective.

For the Wolves, young talent is not an issue. If the Wolves do keep the pick, it will be important that whoever that is drafted fit into the long-term plan. The Wolves have some serious deficiencies currently that prevent them from being competitive. There is no one player that can fix them for the Wolves, but it is important to at least understand what the deficiencies are.

First, the Wolves need three point shooting. It’s been an issue for a while now. There isn’t going to be a rookie that solves this issue by himself but they could at least help. There needs to be guys who can help stretch the floor for KAT and Wiggins through the game. There are a few guys in this draft that can help in this category.

Next, the Wolves are very weak at power forward. Conveniently, this draft is as well. It seems like Payne may be a better option than many of the power forwards immediately next season. But it doesn’t mean that we can search. A long-term starter at power forward could mean a small forward who plays stretch four or someone who can move Towns to the 4. The Wolves will need to get creative.

Lastly, the Wolves need scoring and defense off of the bench. The Wolves bench was great early on in the season when Zach LaVine and Kevin Martin were coming off of it, but fell off tremendously when Shabazz Muhammad was the only real threat that started the game wearing warm-ups.

The criterion used was through four areas. Star potential. Can they develop into a starter or more? Are they a high reward? Bust potential. Are they a high-risk prospect? Then I looked at the trends of the game and what the team needs. Shooting. Can they shoot the three and/ or how is their field goal percentage? I ran a regression model at one point to see which college statistics have the most statistical significance on a player’s NBA-career and field goal % was the most important. Next, I will also focus on defense. Not only is defense important to coach Thibodeau but its a growing trend in the league that for a player to be a net-positive player, they have to be able to defend.

Without further ado, here is the Timber Rebuilder pre-lottery/ mid-combine Draft Big Board. I will adjust the rankings as we get closer to the draft. For now, will set at a top 15.

 

1-Ben Simmons

ben-simmons-is-everything-you-want-him-to-be-is-that-enough-1451949518

Star Potential: Very High

Bust Potential: Low

Shooting: Low

Defense: Medium

With ESPN Insider declaring that if the Wolves get the top pick Ingram should be the choice, it should make one more comfortable with taking Ben Simmons first. Ben Simmons’ skill set is very unique and hard to pass up. Simmons is a match up nightmare. He is physically and athletically already at an NBA-level. He can absolutely get to the rim at will and finish around the basket. What makes him unique is that he can get others involved. Before criticizing his shot, its important to note that you don’t have to be able to shoot in order to be good in the NBA. There is a mantra that the only way to beat the Warriors is to play like them and it is not true. I am sure Simmons’ shot and defense will be worked on greatly over his career. If he can become average at either, he will be a scary talent. I love Ingram, but Simmons is just too good of a talent to pass up. As a freshmen Simmons averaged 19 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals a game. That is just absurd. Of all the players in this draft, Simmons absolutely has the highest ceiling.

2-Brandon Ingram

Star Potential: High

Bust Potential: Low

Shooting: High

Defense: Medium

Ingram is going to be great. The kid is a 6-10 small forward that can shoot, dribble, and play some decent defense. He also has a 7-3 wing span. I do believe he isn’t going to be able to see his potential immediately due to his weight and finding a position in the NBA. That discovery will be the make or break of Ingram reaching his potential. You have to be able to stay on the court defensively enough. He is not, and may never be, strong enough to guard a power forward. So as great of a shooter and ball handler as he is, this was the differentiating factor for me with Simmons and Ingram. I have no doubt in my mind that Ingram will be great offensively and be a mismatch for teams. He can shoot amazingly and could be the next Durant. But having height isn’t enough. It will be interesting to see how he develops.

3-Dragan Bender

Star Potential: High

Bust Potential: High

Shooting: Medium

Defense: Medium

The problem with Dragan Bender is he is still relatively unknown. There is video footage of him but he plays against weak competition and didn’t get a ton of playing time. I would find him more attractive if he was willing to spend another year overseas but what it seems like is that he is ready to come over the NBA immediately. That said, I believe he and Jaylen Brown are the biggest risks in this draft. Bender has the highest ceiling of all the players outside of the top two. If he can continue to develop his outside shot, inside game, and defense, he will be something special. He is already a great passer and can handle the ball a little bit. He fits the trend of where the game is headed. He would be a tremendous compliment to Towns at the 4 or 5.

4-Timothe Luwawu

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Star Potential: Medium

Bust Potential: Low

Shooting: Medium

Defense: Very High

What is attractive to me about Luwawu is he seems polished and athletic for a rookie. For anyone outside of the top three picks, he feels like the least likely to not be out of the NBA in five years. The reason being is that there is always a job for a 3-and-D guy, especially at the molding of Coach Thibodeau. His shot has improved to where there is hope he can be an above average shooter in the league, making him probably one of the better shooters on the team. Defensively, he is long, athletic and can guard anywhere from a point guard to small forward. Luwawu seems like the perfect combination of being able to contribute right away and still having a good amount of potential. If the Wolves get the 5th pick and the top three guys are off the board, Luwawu is whom I go with. There is still a month from the draft and I am sure this is the highest Luwawu will be until then.

5-Jamal Murray

Star Potential: Very Medium

Bust Potential: Medium

Shooting: High

Defense: Low

Jamal Murray can shoot and can score. He is also pretty versatile in that he can play the point guard and shooting guard. Adding to that, he is young and could potentially be one of the better shooters in the league with time. That is why I am such a fan. He isn’t the most gifted athletic and struggles defensively for sure. But he has enough size in which he can disrupt an offense or stay with two-guards, even if they are a second point guard. That said, I also don’t believe grabbing him at 5 would be what would happen in a normal draft. Also, scoring in college doesn’t always translate to scoring in the NBA.  That said, he seems like the type of prospect who would potentially be considered one of the better players in this draft five years from now. His offensive game already looks like a seasoned veteran’s.

6-Kris Dunn

Star Potential: High

Bust Potential: Medium

Shooting: Low

Defense: Medium

I am not crazy about Kris Dunn. I do believe he has the same ceiling as Bender nonetheless with less risk. My problem with Dunn is that I feel he used his size to his advantage in college to get to where he is. There is nothing wrong with that but it is not something that translates well at the NBA level.

7-Jacob Poeltl

Star Potential: Medium

Bust Potential: High

Shooting: Low

Defense: Medium

I am a fan of Poeltl, as of late at least. He is growing on me. He is a solid scoring with his back to the basket and within 15-feet. He can be a terror on the offensive boards and a sound defender. He is a prototypical center and reminds me of Vucevic without a jump shot. I think he could be a solid starting center in the NBA. I don’t believe he fits in with the Wolves entirely well nonetheless. The Wolves have Dieng already.

8-Buddy Hield

Star Potential: Medium

Bust Potential: Medium

Shooting: Very High

Defense: Low

Buddy is Buddy. I would not be upset if the Wolves grabbed Buddy at 5. He can shoot the lights out. He can provide an immediate impact on the offensive side of the floor. My concern is everywhere else. How will he react when he isn’t the focal point of an offense? Can he improve his shot selection? Will he be able to defend so he can stay on the court? While I love Buddy, I am more in the camp of ‘Meh’ when it comes to the idea of him playing for the Wolves. I would rather grab Jamal Murray.

9-Jaylen Brown

Star Potential: Very medium

Bust Potential: High

Shooting: Medium

Defense: Medium

I’ll be honest Jaylen Brown scares me. He is a prototypical small forward who is gifted physically. He is quick and athletic. He is also a solid slasher. But he has been so inconsistent in his one year that its hard to justify taking him in the top 5. I am certain as the draft approaches, he will not be someone that moves up. I have him rated fairly low but it is where I think it is worth taking the risk at. I was a much bigger fan of Ivan Rabb but he went back for another year, which will likely benefit him. Brown has some star potential, but his risk is scary to me. Nothing stands out about him. It will be interesting what happens with him the next few weeks.

10 – Wade Baldwin

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Star Potential: Slightly Medium

Bust Potential: Low

Shooting: High

Defense: High

If the Wolves trade down, Wade Baldwin is a player I believe needs to be taken into serious consideration. The 6-3 point guard has a 6-11 wingspan and can do a lot on the court. That is the biggest differential in this year’s draft. He is another 3-and-D guy and reminds me of Avery Bradley, another player I love. Baldwin is capable of guarding both guard positions and has a good shooting stroke. What makes me really excited about Baldwin is that these skills are there. I don’t believe he will be a star in the league, but I do believe he has the least amount of bust potential if looking for a role player. He is slated to go mid-first round, but to me is worth looking at if the Wolves drop to 6. It sounds crazy but I value his skill set. He is going to have to learn to create offense for himself but depending on how he is used, that may not be necessary. Dunn is above him for the fact that Dunn can create for him and others and is more of a true point guard. Baldwin has a lower ceiling but I think his value as a glue-guy on the Wolves would be more valuable than another star. Again, if I am drafting 6th or find a way to trade down, this is who I hope the Wolves are targeting.

11-Skal Libassiere

Star Potential: Medium

Bust Potential: High

Shooting: Low

Defense: High

I instinctively am intrigued by Skal and what he could be. I personally will be very interested to see how he ends up in whatever situation it is he ends up in. He has ‘project’ and probably ‘D-league’ written all over him. But as a team that can take risks at this point, I don’t mind seeing if he can be turned into something that meets the potential many believed he had prior to this one season at Kentucky. A lot will come out about Skal over the next few weeks.

12- Henry Ellenson

Star Potential: Medium

Bust Potential: High

Shooting: Low

Defense: Low

Offensively, Ellenson can stretch the floor and score in a multitude of ways. He is also a very good rebounder. The reason I have him so low is because he can’t defend the 4 or 5 and definitely won’t be able to be on the floor if teams go small, as trends are moving towards in the league. I also am not convinced he is more than a role player in the league. I can’t justify taking a player with that ceiling on the top 10. I don’t think he will be a starter on a winning team in the NBA and so currently, I am fairly low on him. Sorry Minnesota faithful, I hope the hometown kid doesn’t play for the Wolves. Plus, can you seriously trust a Minnesotan who played in Wisconsin? That was a joke…

13- Devonta Davis

Star Potential: Medium

Bust Potential: High

Shooting: Low

Defense: High

Davis is the prototypical project big that comes out of the draft. He has Myles Turner/ Bobby Portis type of potential. He could very well surprise people when he gets to the league. Could be a serviceable big man.

14 – Furkan Korkmaz

Star Potential: Medium

Bust Potential: Medium

Shooting: Medium

Defense: Low

18 years old and from Turkey. Has a solid offensive game and could be a draft and stash option. I like the very limited amount I have seen from him. He is a late lottery candidate.

 

15 – Demetrius Jackson

Star Potential: Medium

Bust Potential: High

Shooting: Medium

Defense: Medium

He is a typical point guard and actually pretty good. The reason I have him so low is because he isn’t a combo guard and right now for the Wolves, that puts him behind Rubio and Jones. He is an athletic freak, which is exciting. I would love to see him as a Spur.

16 – Marquese Chriss

Bonus here. He is moving up draft boards mainly because there aren’t many power forward prospects.

 

Thank is all for now. Again, this will be adjusted after the lottery and through workouts. These boards change so quickly up through the draft and will look even crazier a few years from now. So sometimes it’s not about how right these rankings are, it is about how wrong they will look years from now.

Who the Wolves take will be an entirely different question. A lot depends on where the Wolves end up. The Wolves could trade down and they could somehow win the draft lottery again. Tell me, how crazy would that be??

Until next time.

The Timber Rebuilder.

A Long Term View of the Wolves to Clear up the Short Term

When I disagree with the majority of Wolves fans on a subject, it typically inspires me to write. The stance on the Al Horford is one of those instances. While I love Horford as a player and  a mentor for his Dominican brother Karl-Anthony Towns, I generally don’t see him as a great fit for a couple reasons that aren’t necessarily related to his style of play. Horford is a great player and would definitely serve as a great mentor for the young pups. He is an anchor defensively and can stretch the defense with his shooting ability. He also managed to win a national championship in college dealing with Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer on the team. That is truly impressive.

The reason for being against Horford is long-winded. It took me down a path of the long-term outlook of the team. The team is young and could go in a multitude of directions over the next five years. But its important to look at the roster’s cap space and how it aligns with what the team is attempting to accomplish in that given season. What the team may be thinking about as a top priorities in a given season. Its very idealistic.

To do this, I have to assume a consistent career trajectory for the young players. I have to assume career-changing injuries don’t happen. I have to assume extremely significant moves aren’t made on a year-to-year basis. The outlook is focused on how the current players and assets play into the future. So it’s hard to do. But we will take a stab at it given what we know. First, here are the players’ salaries drawn out through 2019-2020. That is only four seasons from now. (via HoopsHype.com)

PLAYER NAME 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Ricky Rubio $12,700,000 $13,400,000 $14,100,000 $14,800,000 $0 $0
Nikola Pekovic $12,100,000 $12,100,000 $11,600,000 $0 $0 $0
Kevin Garnett $8,500,000 $8,000,000 $0 $0 $0 $0
Kevin Martin $7,085,000 $3,336,000 $0 $0 $0 $0
Andrew Wiggins $5,758,680 $6,006,600 $7,574,322 $9,846,619 $0 $0
Karl-Anthony Towns $5,703,600 $5,960,160 $6,216,840 $7,839,435 $10,191,265 $0
Nemanja Bjelica $3,950,000 $3,800,000 $3,950,000 $0 $0 $0
Anthony Bennett $3,650,000 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Zach LaVine $2,148,360 $2,240,880 $3,202,217 $4,428,666 $0 $0
Shabazz Muhammad $2,056,920 $3,046,299 $4,237,401 $0 $0 $0
Adreian Payne $1,938,840 $2,022,240 $3,100,093 $4,333,931 $0 $0
Tayshaun Prince $1,499,187 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Gorgui Dieng $1,474,440 $2,348,782 $3,384,596 $0 $0 $0
Tyus Jones $1,282,080 $1,339,680 $1,397,400 $2,444,052 $3,573,204 $0
Damjan Rudez $1,149,500 $1,199,000 $0 $0 $0 $0
Andre Miller $1,093,525 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Greg Smith $197,111 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
TOTALS $72,287,243 $63,600,641 $29,650,000 $14,800,000 $0 $0
We will look at seasons in the view of what the team is trying to accomplish as of the off-season. A few things to note. This is a rough outlook. I am not taking exact figures to project anything, just a broad forecast. There will be a lot of generalizations about dollar figures that may not be completely accurate. I am also not a salary cap expert. Just throwing paint and seeing where it sticks. So here we go..

2016-17 Season

Goal: Make the Playoffs

Priorities: Development of Players.

There is no doubt that for the next season the Wolves will want to make the playoffs. The team is young but with a coach like Thibs, its possible to make it happen. The playoff experience in this season would be extremely valuable for the young guys down the road. They will get to taste what it’s like. They will get to build on it for the future. So Thibs and Scott Layden have to be thinking that adding a couple veterans to the team could help boost the Wolves into the 8th spot. Using Flip’s model of mentoring, getting guys that can contribute and teach will be a top priority in Free Agency.

Thibodeau has said the Wolves will acquire players that align with the trajectory of the current roster. So this leads me to believe that whatever player that is signed/ traded for either is young enough to grow with the Wolves or old enough to contribute for two seasons max and fall off the books before the slew of contract extensions begin. This is precisely why I don’t believe Al Horford is the guy for the job. Horford is 29 and has a history of injuries that have plagued his career. With the cap increasing, Horford will seek Max dollars for a long time. With Horford in his prime now, he will regress as his salary increases. I wouldn’t be opposed to offering a Max contract to Horford if he were willing to take one for two, maybe even three years. But if I am Horford, I can get a four-year max offer or better in many places due to the Salary Cap increase.

Speaking on the Salary Cap increase quickly. The entire league more or less has cap space. The Wolves will have a maximum of $28M available this summer. That is going to lead to many players getting overpaid. The value of money is less when everyone has it, right? Save the cap space for someone worth it. KD would definitely be worth it. Other than that though, stick to the plan and focus on making the playoffs.

So who fits into helping the Wolves making the playoffs without burning a hole in our pockets? If I am the Wolves, I am looking at Luol Deng and Jamal Crawford. Deng has been impressive playing the stretch four and has a history with Thibs. His defense is great and a very good 3-point shooter. Outside of Crawford being LaVine’s mentor with their connection to Seattle, Thibs has historically been a fan of Jamal Crawford. Crawford could help the Wolves scoring off the bench and step into the 1 or 2 as needed. A combination of these two guys fill some gaps for the Wolves. They also compliment the team if they decide to trade the 5th pick and Shabazz, as I suggest in my piece for last week.
What to do with Shabazz Muhammad is going to be something figured out over the course of the coming summer and/ or the 16-17 season. Where does he fit on the bench and in his role. Can he defend to be a net-positive player? Can the Wolves maximize his trade value? To me, he seems most valuable packaged alongside a draft pick if being traded. But I also think his ability to score off the bench will be necessary going forward, at least in the short-run.
2017-18 Season
Goal: Make the Playoffs, maybe advance
Priorities: Compete, Development, Retain Dieng
Summer after year 1 with Thibodeau. Fans expectations will likely become a little more realistic. We will also have a better idea of what this team is actually capable of. It will likely be the end of KG’s career, which financially means $8M will open up in cap space. If the Wolves follow the formula of getting cheap, formidable veterans in 16-17, they could potentially make a big splash in free agency this summer to make a push in 17-18. Things to note: LaVine and Wiggins will be 22 prior to the season and Towns will be 21.
A big decision will be what happens with Gorgui Dieng. How does he fit as a piece of the puzzle. Dieng will be 27 prior to the season and will likely look for a contract extension during the 16-17 season or will enter restricted free agency. Seeing a decent amount of cap space in the summer before 17-18, the Wolves could offer a contract similar to what Ricky Rubio received. Dieng will likely be a starter or at least an important part of the Wolves’ rotation. I can see him getting overpaid here, but offers enough to almost deserve it. The question will be, will he get a max contract? Again, this depends on many outcomes of the 16-17 season. But from a Wolves perspective, that may be a trap. The Wolves will need to extend LaVine, Wiggins and Towns who are 5-6 years younger.
The Wolves will likely have some trade bait. Depending on the league cap space environment and what happens between now and then, Nikola Pekovic will be on the final year of his contract for the 17-18 season. If there is a team looking for cap space then and the Wolves can benefit from taking on a contract of equal value to help them in the playoffs, it may be worth considering.

2018-19 Season
Goal: Compete for Western Conference Title
Priorities: Retain Talent
If we do the math, LaVine/ Wiggins will be 23 and Towns 22. This seems so far away but yet these guys stay so young. If you are still reading this from the top, you are awesome and this is why the Horford signing would be problematic. The Wolves will have a lot of extensions to start thinking about prior to the 18-19 summer. Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine would potentially be restricted free agents this summer if not already extended. Chances are Andrew Wiggins would receive a max contract and Zach LaVine close to that. Cap Space will be of essence to retain these guys. The only guys under contract as of now would be Towns, Tyus Jones and Ricky Rubio.
Rubio will be moving into the final year of his contract. He will be 27 going into the 18-19 season. It will be known at this point whether he is a part of the future of the franchise. Health and shooting will be big factors to deciding that by this point. If he proves he is a significant contributor to the success of this team, he will likely look for near max money. Ideally, whoever is signed in the summer of 2016 will be expired by now. Dieng could be taking in a significant amount of money and if the Wolves did replace Pekovic’s salary, there may not be enough pie to go around with LaVine and Wiggins.
Here is where the VERY rough estimates start getting thrown around: Wiggins at $20M, LaVine at $20M, Dieng at $17M, Towns at $8M, and two others accounting for, lets say, $10M (one being Tyus at $3M). That is $75M for 6 players alone. The league will likely have a salary cap of over $108M since the cap is projected to be around that for the 17-18 season once the new CBA is agreed upon.
Long story short, that leaves no less than $33M for the remaining 9 players on the Wolves roster, knowing the team will likely need to extend Towns to a max contract the next summer. This means, for Rubio to remain with the Wolves after this season, he will not be able to get a max contract. So this will be an interesting headline if and when we get to it.

2019-20 Season
Goal: Championship
Priorities: Retain Towns, development
I won’t go into too much depth here but before this summer will be finding a way to keep Towns long-term. The Wolves core will be entering their very early prime years. This is no excuse to not compete nonetheless. The Wolves have to believe that prior to the 19-20 season, if all things go right, they should be competing for a championship.
Chances are the Wolves have a ton of players we can’t predict will be on the roster at this point. So the development of role players, preferably younger, will be important since the Wolves will have money tied up.

Conclusion: If all goes well, the Wolves will not have all the flexibility in the world if they look to hold on to Wiggins, LaVine, Towns, and Dieng. But if they all develop, it may make sense to keep that team together. What we do see is that free agency decisions we make this summer, do impact what the Wolves do in what should be a pivotal summer prior to the 18-19 season when the Wolves should be competing. Ideally whoever the Wolves target this summer are short term boosts that don’t have long-term salary implications.

Where We Were a Just Year Ago

A famous musician from the 6 once said “Time heals all, but heels hurt to walk in” in a song. This musician happens to be a Raptors fan, but this can relate to many of things.

Dissecting this ‘bar’ real quick, the Wolves have come a long way in a year. But it didn’t come without any bumps or bruises. While things typically get better with time, it doesn’t mean it never gets worse first. As we sit and are hopeful for the future for the franchise with the addition of Tom Thibodeau and the emergence of the Wolves young players, it wasn’t always clear we would end up here.

If you didn’t know, the Timber Rebuilder has been officially up and running for a year now. What started as an experiment a year ago, it has turned into a fun ride. I am surprised by the consistency I’ve been able to provide to the blog amongst all the life changing events that have occurred in my personal life in the last year. What I have realized though is that the Wolves community is great. And for a shameless plug, thanks to all that have provided support for the Timber Rebuilder and all of the fans that have consistently read and interacted with the blog.

Back to the purpose of the piece. Its quite intriguing to look back at what our sentiment was a year ago, here in the Timber Rebuilder’s first post. I accidentally tweeted and posted this on Facebook today in preparations for this post. But the Wolves had just experienced a 16 win season, the worst in the league. But there was hope for what Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins provided. A dynamic scorer and promising defender. Then there was Shabazz Muhammad who played great in a season that ended short due to injury. Zach LaVine won the dunk contest and showed flashes of being a consistent player late in the season, although he was one of the worst players getting consistent minutes in the NBA. There were still a lot of insecurities and the Wolves were a few pieces away.

The Wolves were just about to enter the Draft Lottery with the best odds. The Wolves had never won the lottery in its 26 year history. In the top 3 were three outstanding freshmen. Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell. Flip Saunders was known to be in love with the offensively gifted Okafor who recently won a National Championship alongside future Timberwolf Tyus Jones. The Wolves would’ve been happy with any one of those three players, which was indicated by a video during the draft lottery when the team was excited to get pick two. Then Flip was saying ‘I’m greedy, give me one more” and then boom, the number one pick.

From that day forward, drastic change began to re-form the Wolves. Who would’ve imagined that Karl-Anthony Towns at that moment would have one of the best rookie seasons in recent history? Who would’ve imagined that the late Flip Saunders would never coach again? Who would’ve imagined that Tom Thibodeau would take over the reigns a year later? My guess is, very few.

The Wolves in the last year have discovered a lot. Anthony Bennett was officially a bust. Karl-Anthony Towns was not. Wiggins may not be as good of a defender as we expected. Thibs could change that. Gorgui Dieng is likely a part of the long term plan. We still don’t know about Shabazz. LaVine could be the best shooter on the team and the future shooting guard long-term.

The Wolves were then one of the most exciting teams in the league and now more so. So what is in store for the next year? Which player will benefit most from Thibodeau? Will the Wolves make the playoffs? Who will the Wolves draft, if any? Who will the Wolves sign? What is going to happen with KG? Will the Wolves extend Dieng and/ or Shabazz? Will they trade anyone? The biggest question is though: Will we be as excited this time, a year from now?

While this blog post just turned into sounding like the end of an episode of Dragon Ball Z, its a good time to reflect. Timber Rebuilder has been up and running for a year. Its the offseason. And we can’t stop thinking about what’s next. There will certainly be more to come with the draft combine and the NBA Lottery May 17th. Until then…

The Timber Rebuilder.