This post is going to be an ultimate analysis of the Wolves from last season's team all the way up to next season's team. I am going to try to update the post with any feedback I receive and also as time goes on. This took me a lot of time to get out so please provide useful feedback, analysis, ideas, or constructive criticism that can further aid the progression of this post. I will change my numbers if it's helpful to the post and general consensus disagrees with me. It's a long one, so set aside some time for it or take it in pieces. I will start in chronological order with last years team (Because those who don't learn from history....) up to next years team (Are we doomed to repeat it?).
Our depth chart for the 2008-2009 season plus a rough estimate of player rating out of 100 rounded to the nearest 5 with a +, -, or = (or a combination) if they are trending upward or downward (please don't look too into this unless you think I am just that far off):
Coach: Wittman for 19 games and McHale for 63
Total Salary: $58.8M (please correct me if I am wrong on this, couldn't really find a reliable source)
*McCants and Booth for Williams and Brown: All pretty insignificant over the course of the year
As we can see, we had about 4 players at PG, 3 at SG, 4 at SF, 7 at PF, and 4 at C. Obviously, some are counted twice and some *could* play another position and might have during the season, but not enough to include (such as Brewer at SG). Booth probably played less than 10 total minutes while he was here and McCants was an enigma...or maybe it was just that no one knew how good he was except for himself... I don't know! We ended this season with 24 wins. According to basketball-reference we actually took 205 more shots over the course of the season than our opponents and shot 188 fewer free throws. Almost all of this discrepancy was due to the 162 more offensive rebounds we got over the course of the year despite having 137 more turnovers (still, we are +25 possessions here). Defensive rebounding was actually in favor of the opposition by 97 (which could be in part due to the other teams just making 123 more shots than us despite shooting so much less).
My point in all of this is that we lost A LOT of our turnover contributors (of course we also added some, especially Flynn if summer league is any indication) while keeping our most consistent rebounders in Love and Big Al. On the other hand, we also lost our two best efficiency shooters (Craig Smith and Mike Miller). Then again, Mike was one of the lowest volume shooters on the team and both he and Craig were defensive liabilities. On this same case, we lost some of our lower efficiency scorers in McCants, Telfair, Madsen, Collins, Willams, and Brown (not really, but hopefully he doesn't see too many minutes). So hopefully we lost/don't use 6 of our 7 lowest efficiency scorers (Brewer being the seventh) while only losing two of our better ones. What we can gather from this, is that if we can increase our offensive efficiency, we should be able to outscore opponents based just on available shot attempts. Obviously there are other factors involved that we also must improve and remember, this is against the league average, not the playoff teams. Below, I will list the main players we lost from last year and some of the main things he brought to the team and maybe how they hurt the team.
Foye: He brought a mixture of hope and dissapointment, not because of himself as a player, but because of how he was acquired. He had flashes of stardom (4th Quarter Foye....remember that? I bought in...damn), but never really put it together on a consistent basis. In January when we had our run is when he was playing his best, shows us what could have been. His defense...wait... what defense? Not much to talk about there, it was painful. His ceiling is an Al type player with less skill though. He has a nice offensive game, but no real defense to make him contribute enough to a team that wins. Good 6th man, but hasn't proven he can play against starter-level talent.
Miller: Great shooter! Wait a second... he knows how to shoot?! He never did what we wanted him to do and what he got paid for doing. For some reason he never got his shot going in MN, but he did hustle a lot. I can't count how many times I watched him get up painfully off the floor last year. Another weak defensive player, but not a huge liability as long as he was making the open shot.
The Rhino: Absolute beast of a man. Fun guy. Probably kept our guys' heads up in the locker room during the rough patches. As a player though, besides his efficient scoring he didn't contribute much else. He was a liability on defense, giving up almost as much as he got from his own man plus more by not playing help D.
Bassy: The fourth bad defensive player in a row. Great assist to turnover ratio though! One of the better in the league. A guy I wish we could have given a better chance. Foye overshadowed him for most of the time here. Has a lot of talent and is still pretty young. Personally, I hope we can get him back some day when we need a backup PG. Not a great shooter or finisher, which kind of ruined his career, but still a solid backup. Big Al wasn't happy to see him go and specifically said so so that is never fun to hear. On a side note, I finally made it over to the Clipper's site and found the introductory videos and I was sad to hear Bassy's most of all. He really appreciated his time here and even said he was sad to go (not the prototypical kind either). Smith was his usual self and joking around, but really happy to be back home.
Madsen: What more can be said about Madsen? I hated watching him play. I understand why people like him, so do I. But I don't know why so many people wanted him playing on the team. I for one would be happy if he came back after his contract is up though. Not as a player or a coach, but as a replacement for Wally Szczerbiak's youth pastor brother (not really...) who is always at the Target Center talking during breaks and trying to convince me to gouge my ears out with my straw. Seriously, anyone else know who I am talking about and agree?
McCants: Absolute enigma. The only benefit he brought to the team was instant offense....sometimes. Other times he would try to do too much, but couldn't. I've made the joke a lot around here, but I really don't think McCants realizes why he isn't making $8M per year. He wants to be the best, which is nice to see in a player, but he doesn't know how to do it and he doesn't realize that he isn't even close. I wanted to like this guy so much from when we drafted him, but I just never could relate to Rashad. I still remember the "last game" of his Wolves career (he played afterwards, but you knew he was done here). I believe he had just missed 2 semi-guarded 3s in the last few possessions, then he came down the floor and missed another one. Everyone in the Target Center was booing him. He lost his composure, he was benched for quite a few games and never looked comfortable in the offense after that. Couple games of playing and he was traded. Side note: I heard he would stiff valets when he would go out on the town.
Coaches: Wittman....ugh. Awful. McHale was a little better, but not tremendous. He had the respect of the players, which is always a plus. Neither of these two seemed capable of drawing up successful plays. I have ranted about this elsewhere, but I hated seeing our PF catch the ball at the top of the 3pt line 10 seconds into the shotclock and look around aimlessly for whoever got open first. Wittman can be summed up by the game against the Celtics at home where we were slowly losing our lead and we lost the game in the last 20 seconds because we let them score four straight off turnovers, one of which was because Brewer couldn't get an inbounds pass and Witt didn't have his witts about him to call a timeout.
No one else is worth talking about besides maybe Carney, but I will talk about him in present tense when I get to this year. Speaking of which:
Our depth chart for 2009-10 with projected ratings according to my trends (Some are just complete guesses! Thanks in advance for not judging them too harshly). Also for this year, special thanks to TheEvilProfessor for his help and collaboration on this part, I am adding a letter grade for a combination of how we believe that the guys (at least the ones who will matter to the team) help or hurt the rest of the guys on the court on offense and defense and also a little bit based on their own talent for defense (proper rotation only goes so far I guess...). This will be the two letters after their rank and trajectory marks, first offense and then defense. I will also give trajectory marks to their ability to improve or otherwise at being a teammate. I rated all rookies very poorly on defense because rookies have consistently struggled with the adjustment in their first years.
SF: Ryan Gomes (70=+, C=+, CD=+)/Corey Brewer (70+, B+=, AB=+)/Oleksiy Pecherov (XX+=, CD+=, D+=)
PF: Kevin Love (80++, B+, C++)/Al Jefferson (85+, B=+, CD+)/Darius Songaila (65=, C=, C=)/Ryan Gomes (70=+, C=+, CD=+)/Oleksiy Pecherov (XX+=, CD+=, D+=)/Brian Cardinal (50-)
Coach: Kurt Rambis (Just for fun: 70++, C++, B++)
Total Salary: $61M (Again, found a couple different numbers, but all were pretty close to this)
Strengths: Rebounding, front court, coach?, potential, Euros, youth, shot attempts, expirings
Weaknesses: Defense, wings, winning culture, number one option, perimeter players, steals/blocks, scoring efficiency, ability to get to the line, high foul rate, and fast break points (historically)
As you can see, I think we will have a decent upgrade at the C and PF spots just because of further development and because I think we replaced a bag full of garbage with a bag full of garbage and a quarter. As for the guard spots, I think we have had a slight downgrade in talent, but a large upgrade in potential. At SF, I think it will stay about the same with Gomes there and if Brewer improves a bit, but I also think that this is the spot we will be focusing on in FA next year. I left off rankings for Hollins and Pecherov because I admit that I know very little about them, but I do think they both have room for improvement!
A few bets I would be pretty comfortable putting a small bit of money on:
I'm going to back up a step here to take a look at how our roster got from where we were last year to where we are now. I give a "net talent" amount which I estimated based on FMV of these guys. I'll try to keep updating the changes in FMV as they occur to have a different perspective on Kahn's success/failure so far. Probably not gonna take into account those second round picks unless they turn into the next Arenas or Monta Ellis. The trades:
For this year, going back to the efficiency I was talking about from last year: Love will most likely improve from his rookie season, hopefully Brewer will too (it's technically still his second season), and maybe there will be less pressure on Big Al with Flynn and an outside shooter who actually shoots in Ellington. We can only hope that those two are also efficient scorers, if not this year, then next. In the past, Big Al has not been an efficient scorer in the past, but I believe that is partially because he has been consistently double and triple teamed and also because he was asked to shoot more than he should have been. We also have Gomes coming back who we know what he brings to the table. Average efficiency with whatever volume you ask of him. Also, with Gomes at SF and Brewer at SG, we would probably be one of the top 5 rebounding teams in the league (and I don't think Flynn is any rebounding chump for a PG). In TOs per 36 minutes, we lost our top 6 (assuming Brown doesn't play), so that is good news! Assuming Flynn can control his TOs better than he did in the summer league, we should be a lot better off there as well. From these three numbers (shooting efficiency, rebounding, turnovers), we can deduce that our team will possibly improve by quite a decent amount this year even with a loss of talent. I believe our new coach will also help to improve these numbers and hopefully even our team defensive ratings.
Here are some things that focus on the contributions players make besides their basketball ability.From a monetary perspective, a nice thing that can be said of our roster is that apart from our expiring contracts and Songaila, we really don't have any players that are well above their deserved pay range. Then again, taking away those players we are left with only six other players and our Euros. Still, those eight are some very nice building blocks. We have some great leadership potential in Flynn coming in. Whether he is a star or a backup some day, he will still be a very good locker room guy. We have a poor man's version of a glue guy in Ryan Gomes and a nice defensive stopper for 1-3s in Brewer. Hopefully Brewer can replace Gomes as the glue guy AND defensive stopper though as ideally, one guy could cover both of those categories. We have our knock down shooter in-the-making in Ellington. What we lack that all contenders have includes: a team identity, team defense, team cohesiveness, a true number one option, and... well... a coaching staff.
Of course no analysis would be complete without a discussion on Rubio. First of all, the advantages and disadvantages with him being here or not being here. If he were to come this year: we would get immediate gratification, he would have a year to fit in with the team and see if the Flubio experiment could work, he would get to adjust to the NBA game sooner rather than later, and ticket/jersey sales would increase. The disadvantages: his contract is up sooner and he might leave sooner, he would take development minutes away from Flynn and Ellington, less anticipation, and we would have a better record and worse pick next year (maybe). The advantages if he doesn't come: we get a better look at him (maybe he doesn't develop and we never have to pay him), he is older and better when he does finally come here, we have him at his prime, and we get a better draft pick and a better look at Flynn and Ellington. The disadvantages: we don't know how he will fit with Flynn, our team would start growing without one of the main pieces, hype dies down among casual fans, and less income for Glen. We all talk about saving money in these trades, but how often do MN fans get to talk about how a player might get to bring money in to the organization? Ticket sales and jersey sales are obviously boosted the second Rubio comes over. Our international exposure is also increased and the likelihood of our players making allstar appearances increases (think Houston). Even our national exposure will increase when Rubio arrives. Seriously, how many people out of MN do you see walking around in Wolves jerseys? Even KG had trouble bridging that gap.
Speaking of national exposure, that's another area of Kahn's job so far that he has helped us with. Before Kahn, MN was a team that you did not want to go to. The national media had us pegged as a disaster team with Memphis and LAC. Now there is something else to talk about. The Wolves are becoming relevant again. I know we all complain about how we are perceived by media, but I have read a few articles lately that make us sound kind of good. Like we are getting somewhere and now we are being recognized for it. Here's the kicker though: We haven't actually gotten anywhere yet! That's at least worth taking on Songaila's contract next year by itself. That being said, Kahn has had a certain amount of luck on his side. At least, so far it's luck. Maybe it won't be if Rubio turns out to be the worst player drafted in the top 10. He's also lucky that our expectations are so low. But what he has done is gotten us Kurt Rambis. A coach with a resume for once! He has also give us a concrete plan that he has so far followed through with. He gave us Flynn who the rookies are saying could be runner up for ROY and he already is the best playmaker of the draft, with Jennings being the only one anywhere close to him (check out NBA.com, they have their annual rookie survey and Flynn sounds pretty good in there). Speaking of luck, the Wolves have NEVER moved up in the draft lottery. Considering how many times we have been so close to the bottom, that's crazy! We even dropped two spots into Laettner when Shaq and Zo were available... who else thinks it's about time the Wolves get some lottery luck? Let's hope Kahn cahn bring it to us! This post is getting long so maybe I will do another post about the possibilities if we lucked into Wall or Favors.
I was planning on going past where we are to where we could be, but I feel like this is long as is, so maybe I will just do it in a separate post based on the response to this one, I can always combine the posts later. Which of you that actually made it all the way through think that I should keep this post updated as trades go and as we figure out for sure what we will get from the players we acquired and what we lost from the ones who left? Thanks for reading and please please please leave some thoughtful and helpful analysis and ideas to update or alter places where I might have been lead astray.
That being said, how about we just trade Big Al back to Boston for KG and a thank you card for the championship. Trade Rubio's rights to Houston for Battier and Brooks. Ship Flynn and Utah's pick off to Detroit for Rip Hamilton.Sign Bowen and Iverson to short term deals. And make a push this year? Our starters would be A.I, Rip, Battier, Love, KG with Gomes, Brooks, Bowen, Hollins, Pekovic, and Ellington coming off the bench. Think we got enough expirings to get it done?!