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

A Dunn Deal?

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The title is cliché, but wanted to take the opportunity to use it before it was over-Dunn. Get it? Yes I did it again. A quick shout out to @kadung1 for his tremendous Wolves photoshop work as well. He put together the image. Go give him a follow on Twitter. 

The Wolves have the 5th pick, officially. So the smoke is finally beginning to clear. The Wolves will likely shop the pick but it should be of no surprise to any executives in the league that this is a two-man draft. In comparison to other years, the value of a lottery pick may be low due to natural supply and demand. Many teams in the lottery, especially the Boston Celtics, will look to trade their picks. There is also a group of prospects between 3 and probably 15 where they are merely the same level of talent. 

One prospect that is becoming more and more intriguing by the day is Kris Dunn. I will be the first to admit, I wasn’t a fan midway through the season. I still think there are some major holes in his game. He can’t shoot and I believe he made a living of taking advantage of his size to get to the basket. What is also concerning is that he has had a series of shoulder injuries in his career. His camp has already declined to provide information on his physical to Boston and Phoenix, the two teams picking before the Wolves. It could be strategic since both the Celtics and Suns have point guards that are foundational to their franchises. 

Before diving into this discussion, Britt Robson wrote something similar, but I still had a good amount I wanted to get off of my chest. Please check out his piece. 

Why is Dunn growing on me? For a few reasons. First off, I love defense. More important than that is Thibs loves defense. If the Wolves keep their pick, I have to imagine that the player that is drafted is a player that can play defense. Dunn is a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year where he averaged 2.6 steals this last season. Dunn’s 6-4 athletic frame paired with a 6-10 wingspan is something that could disrupt opposing ball handlers.

Dunn also can rebound, pass and score. Not only was he the Defensive Player of the Year, but he was also the back-to-back Big East Player of the Year. This season he averaged 16.4ppg, 6.4apg and 5.2rpg. His advanced stats are also nice. He has an offensive rating of 106 and defensive rating of 95 while having a 28% usage over the last two seasons. What really makes him stand out though is that his offensive and defensive Win Share and Box-Plus-Minus are basically equal. That means he is a damn good two-way player. To be honest, he may be the best two-way player in the draft. 

Dunn is also growing on me because I really dislike risk, especially in the draft. Dunn is an experienced player who has played two seasons at a high-level. He is one of the most NBA-ready players entering the draft. At 22, he can still grow with the other Wolves young players. He could be a starter in the league but could also have a Marcus Smart-type of role for the Wolves. 

Speaking of his role, there is a reason why Dunn is eyeing the Wolves roster. He isn’t only interested in the plethora of talent that is on the roster. He believes he can break into the rotation and earn a significant role with the team. Before withdrawing his name from the draft last season, DraftExpress.com projected Dunn to be the 13th pick in the draft. You know whom that is ahead of? The 24th pick, Tyus Jones. You have to imagine that Kris Dunn’s camp is eying Tyus Jones current role as the backup point guard. Dunn can score and defend better than Jones and both are probably at the same level in terms of being a ‘floor general.’ 

The other thing that isn’t mentioned enough is Ricky Rubio’s future. A disclaimer is that I love Ricky. I am a part of the problem though. I can’t imagine this team as performing better without Ricky Rubio. Dunn could be the future starting point guard of the Wolves. And if he is capable of being that, as Robson mentioned, it’s a good problem to have. There is the possibility that Rubio and Dunn can coincide in smaller lineups or in a ‘death’ defensive lineup with Rubio/Dunn/Wiggins/ Dieng/ KAT. 

The reality of the situation is that, the Wolves don’t really need another wing or another sub-par power forward. The Wolves could use some consistency and security at point guard. Picking Dunn could mean that Shabazz has a future for at least another season with the Wolves. Dunn’s scoring could also be extremely helpful off of the bench alongside Shabazz. Adding Dunn is making more sense by the day.

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.

Wolves All-Time (Missed) Draft Picks Team

In Light of the recent 2009 Draft T-shirt (as seen below) that appeared at Tuesday’s game against the Spurs, we decided to publish the Wolves All-Time Missed Draft Picks Team.

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via BleacherReport

If you are a Wolves fan, you probably look back at every draft and think ‘We could’ve drafted X instead of Y’. Its natural. All decisions are inherently easier in retrospect because, well the choices have played themselves out in which you can see the final product. I am sure there are reasons why we picked the player we picked over the player that would get drafted later. Its life. The point of this isn’t really to prove ‘what could’ve been’ but really just to have fun with it. The draft is essentially a crap shoot and no one really can tell who will be a star and who will be a bust.

The reason this is so interesting to look at for the Wolves is because the Wolves have the longest active streak without a playoff birth. It is now going to be 12 seasons in which the Wolves haven’t made the playoffs. Thats A LOT of lottery picks. Fortunately, the Wolves finally scored a number one pick in Karl-Anthony Towns and acquired a couple the summer before in Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett.

So, we will pick a player that could’ve been draft at each position. A player that could’ve been a Timberwolves, but the Wolves went in a different, usually wrong, direction. Rules are the player needs to have been picked after the Wolves pick and only one player per draft. I try to make it a similar position so it is realistic, but in the event that it isn’t, it needs to be a viable option for the Wolves at the time. So without further ado, I present to you, the Wolves All-Time Missed Draft Pick Team:

PG – Stephen Curry (2009 Draft. Wolves Drafted Johnny Flynn 6th overall)

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KAAHHHHNN! Ah, the one that hurts the most. Thank you David Kahn. Its good to tear the band-aid off quick here because none of them hurt as much as this one. The Wolves shockingly picked two true point guards back to back in Ricky Rubio and Johnny Flynn. Curry was taken 7th right after. It didn’t make any sense 7 years ago and doesn’t make sense now. Steph Curry would lead the Warriors to a championship and win MVP last season. He is the best player in the league today and breaking every 3-point shooting record possible. And Johnny Flynn has been out of the league for a couple years now. Demar DeRozan and 7 other more capable points than Flynn were also available. The T-shirt that appeared at the Wolves game was a wonderful reminder of this disaster. Of course Curry never worked out for the Wolves which indicated he didn’t want to play here. This one will always hurt.

SG- Kobe Bryant (1996 Draft. Wolves Drafted Ray Allen 5th overall)

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This one isn’t fair. We drafted Ray Allen then traded for Stephon Marbury. Which isn’t bad at all. You couldn’t predict Marbury wanting out. Kobe and KG could’ve been beautiful together. But many teams didn’t take a chance on Kobe and it seemed like  Kobe was headed to the Lakers in some way, shape, or form. But out of respect to Kobe, we technically did pass on him. So he makes the team.

SF – Kawhi Leonard (2011 Draft. Wolves Draft Derrick Williams 2nd overall)

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Derrick Williams was a clear 2nd best talent in the 2011 draft after the Wolves had gotten jumped in the lottery by the Cavaliers out of nowhere to take Kyrie Irving. But Kawhi Leonard is an absolute stud now after winning Finals MVP and a championship with the Spurs. Its always hard to tell if Leonard would’ve developed into the player he is today if it wasn’t for the Spurs Organization. But if you want a consolation prize, there were many other good players in this draft that went later. Klay Thompson and later on Jimmy Butler were all taken to name a couple. Derrick himself seemed to be his own biggest hurdle. He was stuck between a 3 and 4, couldn’t defend either, and never could solidify himself in the league.

PF- Shawn Marion (1999 Draft. Wolves Drafted Wally Szczerbiak 6th overall)

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Tough one here. Wally was absolutely a solid player in his time in Minnesota as he made the All Star game once. But the Matrix was among the top players in the league for a while. Marion was versatile enough to play the 3 and 4 and did so much on the court, namely play defense. There was always a lot of speculation as to how far the Wolves could’ve gone with KG and Marion on the same team, especially during the 03-04 season. Marion could’ve easily played in the role of Trenton Hassell alongside Garnett, Sprewell, and Cassell. The main reason Wally didn’t start that season was due to injury, which plagued his career and is unforeseeable, and being a liability on the defensive end. Could the Wolves have won a championship with the Matrix on that team? We will never know. The second option here would’ve been the Wolves draft Donyell Marshal over Juwan Howard.

C- DeMarcus Cousins (2010 Draft. Wolves Drafted Wesley Johnson 4th overall)

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Paul George would be the other option. But Cousins was absolutely an option at pick 4. The Wolves needed a center as Darko was the starter and Al Jefferson was on his way out. Cousins has put up monster stats and is probably the best center in the league today. Wes Johnson was an absolute bust. This should be an easy one to agree with.

 

Do you agree with who made the Wolves All-Time Missed Draft Picks Team? Let us know!

Why We Expect Rubio and Shabazz Gone This Summer

IM GEHRZ • JGEHRZ@STARTRIBUNE.COM

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JIM GEHRZ JGEHRZ@STARTRIBUINE.COM

The trade deadline is about 24 hours away and the main swirls of trade rumors have been around Ricky Rubio and Shabazz Muhammad for the Wolves. There have been rumors that the Wolves are listening to offers for Rubio but that he is going nowhere by tomorrow (it would make for an awkward Ricky Rubio Bobblehead night on Saturday). Several teams have reached out to the Wolves with strong interest in Shabazz Muhammad as well. While nothing looks plausible at this point, the summer will possibly present some new possibilities.

There are many micro and macro reasons why I expect the Wolves to trade Rubio and Bazz this summer. Lets start with the macro.

The league is moving towards a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in which the Salary Cap is going to rise a significant amount. A majority of the league will then be under the salary cap which means there will be a lot more flexibility with trades. Contrary to how teams approach the trade deadline, many teams will be exploring new strategies and looking to refresh their lineup. Typically during the trade deadline, deals are done by teams either in sell-mode or buy-mode. The summer is a more open canvas, especially with the salary cap increase.

Speaking of canvases, the Wolves seem to have an outline to a master piece without an artist to finish it. Flip laid the groundworks of a future championship contender and the Wolves don’t currently have the decision-makers in place to make deals to build around Towns, Wiggins, and LaVine. Chances are, the GM and Coach are for the Wolves this coming summer will have some major decisions to make. This team can start competing next season.

The biggest decision will come around Ricky Rubio. Personally, I think trading Ricky Rubio would be the biggest mistake this team can make. Outside of Towns, Ricky gives this team the biggest chance to win. His shooting woes seem to be overly-magnified as he makes everyone around him better. But the Wolves may take a different direction this summer. There are, what are perceived as, decent point guard prospects in the draft in Kris Dunn and Jamal Murray. The Wolves may look to add a solid back up point guard in Free Agency and try to play LaVine at the starting point guard position. I think either of these would be huge mistakes.

The only way I would be comfortable with moving Rubio this summer is through a trade that brought a better point guard to the team, maybe an Eric Bledsoe? I would imagine if Rubio is traded, the Wolves would try to bring in a point guard that fits better with their young core. This could be done with pairing Rubio with a guy who has some trade value, like Shabazz Muhammad.

Speaking of Shabazz – what is going to happen with him? As the season has played out, his ceiling with the Wolves is looking like a 6th man type of player. There is definitely an opportunity elsewhere where his role could be bigger. The tipping point though is his contract situation. Bazz will move into the final year of his Rookie Scale contract and will be eligible for a contract extension this summer into next season, if the Wolves choose to do so.

The Wolves will need to do some soul searching here. Gorgui Dieng will be in the same situation as Shabazz, but all signs point towards the Dieng getting an extension. He has played well alongside Towns and continued to improve his game. In the 2017 summer, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine will also be eligible for contract extensions. The summer after that, the Wolves will also look to lock in Karl-Anthony Towns. As flexibility is important when it comes to cap space, Shabazz may need to be traded while he still has some value and isn’t lost for nothing in free agency.

Looking forward to the summer, Muhammad will likely be used as a deal sweetener. Whether he is added to a deal that moves Rubio or as a piece that is dealt with to move up/ down the draft boards, Muhammad will likely be used to enhance a deal to favor the Wolves. Shabazz will be a low-risk, high-reward type of player who will be in the final year of their contract for a team and can be brought back if a team likes what they see in Shabazz.

I would hate to see Shabazz leave. He seems like the kind of player that has a significant role player-role on a contending team that can have series changing games. Unfortunately, his shooting hasn’t developed into what the Wolves need and neither has his defense. For those reasons, it has been hard to play him alongside Wiggins for long stretches of time.

The Wolves would be doing an injustice if they didn’t capitalize on Shabazz’s value this summer by adding another asset better suited for their young core. I still hope that the Wolves can figure out how to use Rubio still, but it may be time to part ways and add a piece that can benefit the Wolves long term as well. The trade rumors have started now as the trade deadline approaches. And while the Wolves will more than likely not make a trade by tomorrow, this summer could be a lot different.

The Timber Rebuilder.

Start a Team with Davis or Towns?

For Karl-Anthony Towns, the present is absolutely a gift. When Towns was drafted, he was picked mostly on his IQ and potential instead of what he could immediately bring to a team. Many didn’t expect Towns to start, let alone be a front runner in the Rookie of the Year race. Now the internet is making arguments that Towns should maybe even be an All-Star.

KAT is producing at levels that puts him in line with Hall of Famers. Towns has a PER that should end up in the top 10 all time for a rookie here. Towns is doing this despite playing only a year in college whilst many others on this list played at least a couple years of college basketball before entering the NBA. To add to that, Towns is playing less than 30 minutes, much less than most of those on the previous Rookie PER list. Towns’ combination of potential due to his age and production is uncanny to what the league has seen before.

While it may not be saying much, Towns in a short time-span has been the most productive player on the Wolves’ young team. All advanced statistics point towards him being the most valuable player on the floor for the Timberwolves. He has been consistent for the most part in this young season. He is second on the Wolves in scoring and leads the team in rebounds, blocks, and field goal %.

The cremé de la cremé of NBA prospects though happens to be Anthony Davis. Davis was in contention of the MVP award last season in only his third season. Davis put up monstrous numbers, putting up 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks a game while leading the Pelicans to the playoffs. The unibrow has been more exposed though this season as the team has struggled to gain traction and improve any. Davis is still managing to put up similar numbers nonetheless. Davis is an outstanding defender, incredible rim protector, and can score in multiple ways. Both guys are products of the University of Kentucky, in which their head coach John Calipari prepared both of them to carry NBA franchises.

So, if you had to build a team around one of these guys, Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns, who do you take?

A couple of things immediately. There isn’t a right answer to this question. Both are incredible assets. There are many variables to the ‘starting a franchise’ question. What is your team’s strategy? When do you want to win? Who are the players around this specific player? Many more. Just have fun with the debate.

The obvious choice is Davis. Anthony Davis has a few things that edge Towns right away. Davis is a better player now. He is a better scorer. Better rebounder. Better shot blocker. He is a sure thing. To mitigate risk, the easy choice is Davis. He is still very young at only 22 years old. He has tons of potential still. He is developing a jump shot and can safely put the ball on the floor for a big man. He is also a freak athlete, which can be a gift and a curse as his career progresses.

Towns has a couple things going for him, but nothing that truly gives him a great advantage over Davis today. The case for Towns is heavily dependent on his potential on both ends of the floor. Towns could be about as good a defensive anchor as Davis. Towns’ offense game though is more versatile as he could be better at creating his own shot already. Towns also has a jump shot that demands respect and extends over the 3-point line. Towns being a defensive presence that can shoot is one of the most unique combinations a player at his position can possibly be.

While many would end the debate there, there should be a case made for Towns even over simply his potential. As mentioned before, the dependence on Davis’ athleticism can sometimes be a hinderance later in his career. Seeing the drastic drop off in athletic big men’s games like Dwight Howard, Amar’e Stoudemire, or even Kevin Garnett, can be alarming. Towns have less dependence on his athletic ability and more so on his basketball IQ suggests that his game could have the longevity in his career similar to that of Tim Duncan and Dirk. A lot of times athletic players are forced to reinvent their games midway through their careers while more IQ reliant players seem to have more consistency in the long run.

Most GM’s in the NBA would probably take Davis because it is safe. But a more bold, forward-thinking GM would probably build around Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns is a more high risk, high reward choice. I would imagine that more than 1/4 of General Managers by next season will want to start a franchise with Towns over Davis.