First of all, let's state the obvious: there is literally no downside to what David Kahn and the Minnesota Timberwolves just pulled off. None. The team had sent numerous signals over the past year that they had little to no intention of resigning Corey Brewer (see Webster, Martell and Johnson, Wes) and they were able to move him a'la Randy Foye and Mike Miller for a usable asset. These appear to be the (only) types of moves that Kahn excels at.
What is remarkable about this deal is that it does two things that actually make sense in terms of actual basketball: Anthony Randolph has a track record of functional play (he even fits the awful term of "having potential") and the team has effectively rented out its cap space and still has enough flexibility to make additional moves with Eddie Curry's deal (and, for example, Sebastian Telfair or Jonny Flynn) before the trade deadline.
- It will be very tempting to play into the "long and athletic" angle with Randolph. It is true that he is both. He also showed some signs of improvement in his first two years playing in an up-tempo style and was good enough to get invited to Team USA's summer camp (where he caught the eye of Tony Ronzone). He's missed a lot of games over his career for one reason or another and he seems best fitted to play at the 4, but he seems to have enough talent to post numbers that are above and beyond what any non-Love or non-Beasley Timberwolf is capable of.
- Randolph is 2 years younger than Wes Johnson. This could be a very good and close-up example for those Wolves fans who still don't seem to get it of why age matters when picking college players. It really, really, really matters.
- It could also be a good example of what types of players actually possess high-level (and here's that word again) potential. Think of player development like evolution and natural selection. Players at this level are only able to develop with the skills and tools they already have. Wanting Wes Johnson to develop into a slashing, high-usage modern shooting guard is like wishing for a turtle to develop a 5th leg. Sorry, he just doesn't have the existing systems to make that dream happen. On the other hand, Anthony Randolph has the types of tools that could make for an extremely high level player. Elite size, athleticism, handle, an ability to get to the line, rebounding, and shot blocking. These are things that can evolve into the upper levels of the NBA while giving the Wolves a player type they don't currently have. This evolution is highly dependent on two things: Randolph's head (he's had some drive/motivation/whatever issues over his 3 years in the league) and the Wolves' player development. You know, his environment.
- With his awesome inability to make anything out of the draft, this is exactly the type of move that Wolves fans should be excited about with David Kahn. Free agents aren't lining up to come here and this leaves trades and the draft as the main avenues for improvement. So far, Kahn deserves an F- for his draft work and a B for his trades. Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph are home runs. Darko and Martell are average. 2 A's or B+'s and 2 C's. Too bad the team couldn't have better capitalized on its 6 first round draft picks (with 3 more on the way) during Kahn's tenure.
- I know Corey Brewer isn't exactly the best player, but he was playing some solid ball this year (at least until Flynn started getting regular minutes again) and he was one of the few guys who tried to play defense and brought it to the arena each and every single night. I think that counts for something and it will be missed.
- It will be very interesting to see how Randolph is utilized in this lineup. Where and when are they going to play him? There are only so many minutes/night for Beasley, Webster, Johnson, and now Randolph. This might require some (gasp) creativity from Kurt Rambis.
- Eddie Curry is now the highest paid Timberwolf.
- Do the Wolves now lead the league in lefty combo forwards?
- The only two things that really get me about this trade are that a) it's not exactly the type of move anyone thought of when Kahn said "singular", and b) it looks as if the Wolves are going to not act upon the tail-end of the Al Jefferson trade's cap space. That is kind of disappointing. As mentioned above, this team needs to rely on the draft and trades to get players in the door. They fail miserably in the draft and they do pretty well on the trade front. They really need a high-usage perimeter player who can score. There's still some time left before the trade deadline. Here's hoping they can make the best of it.
1- Trade for a high-usage guard before the trade deadline.
Kevin Love is a very unique type of player. He's the type of guy who produces a lot while not playing the role of a go-to guy. He's not that guy. Throw in his work on the boards, his ability to run the pick and roll, and his awesome three point shooting, and you have a top shelf player who is just screaming to be placed next to a high-usage perimeter player. Could Beasley be that guy? I'll address that in a bit, but Love needs to play next to a guy who can handle the ball as a go-to scorer with an insanely high usage rate. Who could play this role?
Stephen Curry- The less said about this player, the better. I don't think I need to go into why he'd be a good fit here. It was obvious before the 2009 Draft and it's just as obvious now. Take a quick gander at what Kevin Love did during the last 1/2 of his rookie season. I'm sure the team had access to what he was able to do in pick and pop and pick and roll situations. These two players were meant to play with one another and it's sad that it never happened and probably never will.
- Kevin Martin- Probably the next most perfect companion for Kevin Love. Think of everything Wes Johnson is, imagine the opposite, and there you go. OK, that's kind of harsh. Martin is carrying close to a 30% usage rate right now while having a, wait for it, a .606% TS%. He also carries a 10.2% TO%. Everything the Wolves could possibly want in a Kevin Love sidekick lives down in Houston, TX and he's probably unattainable. Still, guys who can handle the ball at a high clip, not turn it over, get to the line (he averages more per game than Wes Johnson attempted in December and, thus far, in February), and hits a high percentage of his shots are the type of player you want to put next to Kevin Love.
- Monta Ellis- A big contract and not quite as ideal for the job as Mr. Martin or Mr. Curry, but Ellis fits the mold of a perimeter player who can handle the ball with a huge usage rate while being able to score at a somewhat efficient rate. Actually, that's not completely true. He's a volume scorer who is averaging less than a point/play. However, the type of players who fit the bill we're looking for don't grow on trees and he's one of the better ones. The big concern about Ellis is the massive number of minutes he's logging after an injury in Golden State. He led the league last year in mpg and he's at the top once again. He also has a fairly decent ast%/to% rate considering his high usage rate and the pace of play in the bay.
- Nick Young- OK, now we're getting into silly territory. Young's price
tagis probably much lower than any of the players listed so far but he also isn't nearly as good of a player as the players listed so far. That being said, he does have some promise. In a broad sense of what we're looking for with a Lovekick, Young has a .548 TS% from the perimeter, an ok usage rate (24.6%), very low turnover rate (7.7%), and he averages over a point/play. He would be kind of a long shot for this role, as he would need to up his offensive load while maintaining his efficiency, but it's food for thought. After all, this is a post trying to be realistic with what the Wolves can do and a player like Young is right in Kahn and Taylor's wheelhouse: cheap and with risk. Hooray!
- Devin Harris- Do you know that Harris has played 64, 69, and 64 games over his last 3 years? He's also 27. Did I mention we're in silly territory? Anywho, Harris used to be a very nice player. Then he got injured. Still, if he could get back to the player he was (gigantic if), he's kind-of-sort-of-if-you-really-squint the player that would look nice next to Kevin Love. Let's head off to complete gamble territory...
- Rodrigue Beaubois- Currently injured, but he put up awesome, awesome, awesome numbers in his first year in the league and they were kind of the types of numbers we're looking for: usage rate near 25% (not high enough for our purposes, but we're in gamble territory), a TS over 60%....he also played 12 1/2 minutes a game. Again, gambles and he probably can't maintain the huge usage rate while being a scorer, but...well, Stephen Curry was there for the taking. Damn.
- Chris Douglas-Roberts- His usage rate isn't over 20, he's not that great from outside, and he has underperformed thus far as a pro, but he could a) likely be had for cheap, and b) would immediately be the best guard on the Wolves. CDR would also be the only Wolves' perimeter player who sees the value in a thing called "contact".
- Avery Bradley- This one is a super reach. There is nothing at all in Bradley's
NBAstat sheet to suggest that he would be able to handle the type of role the Wolves need at the lead guard. However, he plays behind Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen and his college role is what we're looking at here. Was he held back at Texas because of older players on the team and can he handle a large usage rate? If the Wolves are looking for a cheap option on the perimeter and they are unable to land Kyrie Irving in the draft and Rubio does not come over for another year, Bradley might be a last-man-standing type of option.
- Jeff Teague- A usage rate near 20% with a TS% that has increased by a large amount in his 2nd year in the league. He's basically everything I think David Kahn thinks Jonny Flynn is but...well, not Jonny Flynn. In fact, he may be twice the player as Jonny Flynn, and that could be a good thing for the Wolves. FWIW, did you know Flynn carries a 26.7% TO%? Crazy, I know.
They have a player who is able to produce at superstar (yes, superstar) levels without having superstar-levels of action run for him. They essentially have a gimmie on the roster--a position where they do not have to set aside any out-of-the-norm resources for a guy who produces like nobody else in the league. In a very boiled-down and over-simplified sense, they have a guy who requires as many set offensive plays as Brian Cardinal but who produces like Dirk Nowitski.
The solution for Kevin Love is to surround him with an extremely high usage guard who can a) run the offense, b) hit from outside, and c) run the hell out of the pick and roll. This was as obvious as the nose on my face about 1/2 way through his first year in the league. They have a completely unique player and they don’t seem to know what to do with him.
Kahn’s first thought was that he was a bench player. Rambis thought he was a 6th man and they both went about building around Ricky Rubio. Rambis and Kahn both do not seem to understand that they have a completely unique player who does not have to have anything run for him yet produces like a guy who has everything run for him. Where else are they going to find a player like that? What more could they possibly want? Yet, they continue to build the
Maybe they never really understood what Love was/is (highlights are mine):
The media got fooled into thinking the Timberwolves rated Southern California guard O.J. Mayo and UCLA center Kevin Love even in ability, and that it was going to be tough to pick between them with the third overall choice in Thursday's
Well, there never was any doubt. Wolves assistant general manager Fred Hoiberg verified Thursday night that Mayo was their choice all along.
Hoiberg said the Wolves never came close to making a trade. The truth of the matter is they think so much of Mayo that they wanted him on the
"Our people thought that Mayo had far more upside than Love," Wolves owner Glen Taylor said. "And very important was the fact that Fred played for Tim
Floydat Iowa State, and we knew Floyd[who coached Mayo at Southern California] was going to give an honest scouting report on Mayo."
Amazingly, as I was preparing this post, Kahn dropped this nugget:
I defy anybody to tell me a year ago that they saw this kind of season coming with Kevin. Nobody saw it coming. Who could have seen it coming? Are we ready to make final determinations and judgements on everything that has occurred here in the last 19 months? I think Kevin is the poster child for that.
This follows on the heels of the early-season minutes nonsense that proceeded 31/31:
"Who's arguing that?" Rambis said afterward when asked a question about why arguably his best player watched most of the fourth quarter and didn't have a point or rebound in the second half after reaching a double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds) by halftime.
A reporter replied that he was.
"That's your opinion," he said. "I thought Anthony was doing the things defensively that we need. It was nothing against Kevin. I thought A.T. was doing a good job. I thought that he was moving his feet well. He challenged shots. He blocked shots.
They absolutely don’t get what they have and they need to figure it out in a hurry before he decides to leave and they're left standing with absolutely nothing.