Team Name: Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Year's Record: 17-65
The Dearly Departed: Corey Brewer, Jonny Flynn, Sebastian Telfair
The Awesomely Arrived: Brad Miller, Ricky Rubio, Derrick Williams
Team Needs: Roster stability, shot creation from the perimeter, ball security, slower pace, better shooting
1- What significant moves were made during the off-season?
Last season Our Beloved Puppies ended the season with a loss to the Houston Rockets and a starting five that consisted of Luke Ridnour, Anthony Tolliver, Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson and Nikola Pekovic. The year before that the Wolves closed out the campaign with a loss to the Detroit Pistons that was led by a starting five of Ramon Sessions, Al Jefferson, Darko Milicic, Corey Brewer and Ryan Gomes.
Since being hired as the Wolves' President of Basketball Operations, David Kahn has selected over a quarter of the franchise's first round draft picks while completing a flurry of draft-day trades that has almost completely turned over the McHale/Hoistackcock roster he inherited in 2009. Heading into the 2010-11 season, the Wolves had only 4 returning players from the previous year, which was down (up?) from 5 the season before. Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic are the only two players selected by the previous regime. It is very possible that once the NBA gets back into action, the Wolves will have anywhere from 2-3 new starters and only 1 solid contributor from the bygone era.
All of this movement was not without some shape and direction. We have all had our fun with long, athletic and up tempo (especially up tempo defense), but these catchwords were clearly signs along the route that Kahn had chosen for his roster and they almost always (I don't think he had the first clue what he was doing prior to a certain Spanish cash cow landing in his lap) have pointed towards a specific place on the horizon: the Arrival of Ricky.
Well, here we are. Absurd length and athleticism (except for Kevin Love), a good coach and Senor Ricky. Whatever happens this year, it should mark the end of any further letters to fans, windows of opportunity, publicly throwing the coach under the bus before the last game of the season, you name it. This is it. This is the vision. This is what all those trades and first round picks and silly statements have been building up to. Love, Rubio, Williams, Adelman, go. There are no more do-overs. There are no more mass roster purges. This is the group that 32 wins over 2 seasons has brought to our doorstep and, for better or worse, this is the group that needs to be locked up and rolled with.
Outside of the horrendous way in which they handled the Kurt Rambis situation, the Wolves had, for them, something of a pitch-perfect off-season. They brought in the best coach in franchise history, they used the highest draft pick in franchise history on the consensus BPA and they finally came to terms on Rubio's buyout. Of course, with all of these good feelings surrounding the club, the league is currently locked out. Huzzah!
2- What are the team's strengths/weaknesses?
Last year I took some flack for a negative take on the team's strengths/weaknesses but this year my general impression of the team is that they will be modestly better but still relatively terrible. What does this mean? For instance, they will be good on the offensive boards but terrible on Oefg%. They won't have a big turnover differential but they won't cause a lot of them. They will have a better OE/DE ratio but it will still find them in the mid 20s of league rankings. Are these strengths? At this stage of the game I just want basketball and I want it to include ally-oops from the Spanish Cash Cow to either Anthony Randolph, Derrick Williams, Michael Beasley, whoever. I don't give a happy clown shit about strengths and weaknesses at this point. Just give me basketball. Make it better than last year. Include mountains of dunks initiated by a floppy haired Spaniard. I'm happy. The end.
3- If there is no season in 2011, how are the Wolves set up for 2012?
Blake Griffin and the Clips will likely get the #1 pick in the 2012 draft. The end. If you think the lockout is a negative thing for Wolves fans now, just wait until the entire season is cancelled and they finally walk away with the #1 pick....which turns into Harrison Barnes wearing a Clippers uniform thanks to the Marko Jaric trade. Screw you, NBA. The #1 reason this season needs to get going is because the Wolves need to improve the draft position of the amazingly painful pick that will be sent westward next spring. Oi.
4- If you could make one change to the NBA's CBA, what would it be?
Just 1? My pie-in-the-sky wish for the NBA is that it would shorten its season, adopt a more tourney-like post-season, declare war on the NCAA (they are the competition, not the development league--stop playing along with a league that has unpaid workers and massive TV money), and do away with the traditional pro sports ownership model that has very little to do with actual sports. In the real world, I would love to see the players take a 50/50 split with significant changes to the ownership model that would give players a share in the long-term valuation of the franchises. I also want the NBA to allow public ownership of teams.
5- What now?
Well folks, I'm not very optimistic about this season actually taking place. The Wolves brought aboard their best coach in team history, the top draft pick in team history and the most hyped foreign player in team history and they are looking to pair all of this with the 2nd best player in team history. Once the lockout ends, I'll do a proper player-by-player write up but in the mean time I thought we could use a basketball diversion from the lockout and labor talk.
I can't wait to see this team in action. After seeing the Lynx win it all I'm ready to geek out about this squad. After seeing Derrick Williams take apart the worst team in all of basketballdom (duck fuke!) I'm ready to be completely irrational. After watching every single Ricky Rubio YouTube on the intertronz and imagining that Kevin Love gets to play the role of one of the Gasols, I'm ready to get stupid. In the mean time...yuck.
Soooooooo...what are some basketball-related topics you want to talk about during the lockout? Should we go player-by-player? Should we ask for the 10 best questions for the season? What say you? How do you want us to build up to the real season preview?
What say you?