In lieu of a game wrap (which would only be notable for the fact that Charlie Villanueva understands the importance of having a good time entertaining the fans and is our new favorite player), I thought it would be a good opportunity to begin our series of posts that wrap up the season. In this post, we'll review our season preview and take the 30,000 foot view of this particular vintage of Los Wolves.
One of the things that stands out about the season preview post is this quote:
Best of all, Kahn has made the Wolves interesting again. The process has been full of goofy quotes, funny interviews, nearly weekly roster moves, and the entire Ricky Rubio saga, but the bottom line for Kahn and the Wolves is the results:
- Their core is good and tremendously young.
- They have drafted the 2 best Euros in the past 2 drafts and stashed them overseas.
- They have 3 likely 1st round picks in the 2010 draft.
- They will have in the neighborhood of $15 million below the cap in 2010 free agency.
- Chances are, they now have a functional point guard on their roster.
This thing is clearly still a work in progress (the team needs help on the wing and the Rubio situation still needs to be resolved one way or another) but it is also clearly pointed in the right direction.
Is that the big take-away from this season? The new POBO was willing to stand directly in the line of fire, say interesting things, and amass as many resources as possible heading into the 2010 off-season. If Kevin McHale were still at the helm of this franchise, I think a 15-win season would have been the last straw for many, many, many fans no matter how well the lotto balls land in May. Landing a top pick, using the cap space to take a run at a young restricted free agent, and/or using it in a mid-season unbalanced trade...that's about as good as it could possibly get for the Wolves and I think Kahn gets this.
Rebounding. Rebounding. Rebounding, and more rebounding. Kevin Love is one of the league's top 3 rebounders, Al Jefferson's game is built to be close to the bucket and he collects a net positive on the offensive boards, and Corey Brewer can hold his own at either the 2 or 3. If there is a player from last year's squad to get a little chippy about his departure, it is Mike Miller. Despite not shooting the damn ball, Miller was a verysolid defensive rebounder and it will take a well above average effort from Pavlovic, Brewer, and Gomes to match Miller's efforts on the glass at the 2/3.
Looking at the lineups from the two years, it's kind of easy to see where Miller/Gomes > Gomes/Brewer in terms of rebounding at the 2/3:
Net Production by Position
Net Production by Position
In theory, the Wolves should also be a very good free throw shooting team this season. Last year Ramon Sessions had the 25th best FT/FG rate in the league at 36. Kevin Love was 18th at 39. Big Al was all the way down at 154 with 19. By all accounts in college, summer league, and his small sample of preseason games, Jonny Flynn has all the makings of a high-contact guard who will draw a lot of fouls in an up-tempo system. Last year the Wolves had one fairly legit threat of getting to the line at a high rate: Kevin Love. This year they have 3 players who should draw a ton of contact with one guy (Jefferson) who will have a modest rate but a high volume due to his number of touches.
Defense, wing play, turnovers, and outside shooting. I don't really know if there is a good way to break this down in much greater detail but the Wolves are still going to have problems on defense; their 2 and 3 will be manned by a rotation of Corey Brewer, Wayne Ellington, Sasha Pavlovic, and Ryan Gomes, and their backcourt will be led by 2 point guards who will be in their first year with the team. David Kahn has been pretty frontal in his assessment that Gomes and Brewer are both in put up or shut up years. Pavlovic is on a 1-year contract. Nothing is promised or owed to any of these players and if they can't figure it out this year, I think it is becoming more and more obvious that when the Wolves do cash in their draft/free agency chips, it will be for a wing player. At media day and during camp both Gomes and Brewer said enough to make everyone well aware of the fact that they too know the score.
Shot Clock Usage
3- Free throw neutrality (or more). They came close on this one. Really close. (See above.)
Big question for the year:
Did David Kahn screw the pooch on draft night?
Let me begin by giving a simple yes or no: No. However, the (excellent) addition of Ramon Sessions begs the question of whether or not the Wolves could have walked away from the Draft with Rubio and, say, Demar DeRozan instead of Jonny Flynn. Sure, it would have been a big bet to wait out for Sessions, and who knows what would have happened with Sessions' negotiations if Rubio stayed in Europe and Flynn wasn't sitting there as a sure replacement, but..well, it's pretty hard to ignore the fact that the Wolves had two big first rounders and a free agent signing over the summer and they were all at the same position. Yes, it's at a position that has killed the Wolves since the days of Sam Cassell but isn't there a nagging little thought in the back of your head that is whispering "it could have been done better?" I think Kahn has done a terrific job but it will ultimately depend on which point guard(s) stick around in 2-3 years and how much he can get with the one (or two) that gets sent away. Will that equation end up being more valuable than the previously mentioned Rubio/DeRozan/Sessions combo? Who knows?
I cannot say it enough: The 2009 Draft will 150% depend on which point guard is around in 2-3 years and what the team was able to do with the left-overs. Kahn is all-in on Rubio. If Rubio comes over and plays and is a good player, and if Flynn is able to accept a role as a 6th man spark plug off the bench, then the draft could be a huge success. If Rubio doesn't come, and if Flynn turns out to be a 6th man spark plug as a starter...well, then we're talking miserable failure. Ultimately, Kahn gets an optimistic "incomplete" from me for the following reason: He understands the superstar rule. You need a great player to win in the NBA and, more often than not, you need to luck your way into one. This team has been completely awful this year (it has a legit argument for the worst team in franchise history...which is, again, a subject for another wrap-up post), but the take-away is this: They maintained cap space, 3 1st rounders, and 2 stashed Euros for a big off season. They didn't lose the Clipper pick. They will have a legit crack at John Wall. They can be the biggest players in the draft. The caveat here is that this is the last year where I'm buying this approach to team building. I'm not going to stick around for another year of hoping for a top pick and some magical cap space. It's off to Thunderville if they hit next year's trade deadline with a ton of cap space, no new significant additions, and nothing more than a rehash of The Blueprint 2.0, I'm done. That's not a threat. It's just someone who is tired of seeing significant assets go to waste. From buying out Theo Ratliff to not making any moves this year at the trade deadline to ticket pitch after ticket pitch laced with talk about millions of cap dollars, I'm going to take one more try at kicking the ball away from Lucy's hold.
Perhaps the most embarrassing part of the season preview is this:
Projected finish: 31-51
Some of the better comments from our readers:
- Which is the big problem: offense or defense?
- Stats overview.
- Is this the worst team in franchise history?
- Individual player grades.
- A Ricky Rubio FAQ.
- Hoopus Draft Board.
- A look at free agents and possible lopsided trades.
- A look at what could change over the summer.