Drafting for Fit

There’s nothing funnier, or more disingenuous, than hearing a GM of any sports franchise spew that hilarious, timeless chestnut of draft philosophy, “We aren’t going to draft for need, we’ll take the best player available.”  What a load of BS!  Even though a privileged few of them (recently off titles or with stacked rosters) have actually meant it over the years, most of the time it’s nothing but subterfuge designed to disguise intentions and increase the chance the guy they want is going to be there. 


For all the chatter you hear about taking BPA, go back and look at any draft in any sport.  Teams almost always take a player that fits a position of need.  And why wouldn’t they?  Let’s face it, spending a high draft pick on a position you already have locked down for several years is really, really stupid.  And a waste of resources.  If you’re an NFL bottom feeder with an Adrian Peterson, would you really use an early 1st round pick on another RB if he’s BPA?  Well first, ask yourself this…


Is your name David Kahn?


Yes?  Then of course you draft him.  And just in case you want to trade both him and the already starting All-Pro RB, you draft another one.  Because having “assets” is more important than putting together a cohesive roster with a competent coach. Nevermind that drafted players lose their value faster than a recently purchased Ford just driven off the lot?  Nevermind that your leverage immediately goes out the window when other people know you need to deal.  And nevermind that all the talent in the world can’t overcome an imbalanced roster and horseshit coaching.  The Commissioner himself recommended you, and you don’t have to take shit from anyone…


Sorry, got off on a little bit of a tangent there.  It’s my problem…I’ll deal with it.


So you’re name isn’t David Kahn?  Well then, the answer is quite obviously that the draft is an opportunity to fill holes in your roster, and also that David Kahn is a dick!  You know it’s better to take a player that fills an immediate need on your team.  Who cares if it’s a bit of a reach?  If a guy plays the right position, dominates at the college level, and could contribute right away…then that’s your guy.  If he played in a NCAA Regional close to Minneapolis, then that’s REALLY your guy.  Also, David Kahn is REALLY a dick!!!  Your name is probably Kevin McHale…


As ridiculous as both of these scenarios sound, they’re painfully real for us, aren’t they?  And neither the McHale nor Kahn approaches has worked out too well for us lately.  So, if you don’t draft BPA, and you don’t draft for need, then what exactly is left?  Well, the idea that I’ve arrived at is this: drafting for need vs. BPA is a false premise, and it always has been. The consistently good teams, at least the ones that aren’t able to SPEND their way to success, have figured this out.  The Spurs, Blazers, and Thunders of the world understand that drafting for FIT is far more important than any other concept.


What does drafting for “fit” mean?  Well, that kinda depends.  It means having a clear vision of what kind of team you want to be…not just a marketing slogan.  It means having an identity, playing a style of ball you’re known for, and then going out and getting guys that fit that mold.  When I say Pittsburgh Steelers, what do you think of?  Tough defense, power running game, stable ownership and coaching.  They know who they are, and what they need.  More importantly…YOU know who they are.  That’s why they succeed.  Both in the draft and on the field.


The Spurs take a George Hill, or a Manu Ginobili, and it works out.  The Thunder take Serge Ibaka, or “reach” for James Harden, and it works out. Why?  James Harden wasn’t the BPA.  Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio, and Steph Curry were all available. And he wasn’t specifically a need…the Thunder already had a damn good 2 in Thabo Sefalosha.  But picking him made perfect sense.  Presti understood that he needed a guy like Harden.  A guy that was unselfish, that could score a bit, that would be OK coming off the bench, and that understood it was Durant’s team.  His set of skills just fit exactly what the Thunder’s team concept needed.


Seems simple, right?  So why do our Wolves continually struggle so mightily in this department?  Well, back in the day, accommodating KG and his salary kind of torpedoed finding good fits via free agency.  And Kevin McHale’s propensity to value late 1st round draft picks similarly to toilet paper certainly didn’t help. 


These days, it just seems like we try to fit our team to whatever the Marketing group comes up with.  “United We Run” may have sounded good, but it might go down as the most hilariously misapplied slogan of all time.  Watching Jonny Flynn  butcher a 3-on-1 break once is hilarious.  Seeing it in slow-motion, “Matrix” style clarity eight times in every game makes me both laugh, and want to puncture my heart with a knife.  Watching Steph Curry play, and wondering what could have been, makes me want to do it with a gun.  Last year’s squad had no business playing at the pace they did, yet “United We Run” we did…to miserable failure and embarrassment.


So what can we do to alter our mostly miserable path?  With the arrival of Ricky Rubio, the presence of Kevin Love, and the promise of the 2nd pick in the draft, we are truly at a crossroads moment in our franchise history.  What can we do to ensure that it doesn’t pass us by?  Well, I would argue that we FINALLY need to understand what “fit” means for the Minnesota Timberwolves?  And that understanding that means looking no further than your building blocks.


* Kevin Love – An absolute stud.  Whatever your perceptions of his game might be, he is the best rebounder in the league, a very good 3 point shooter, fantastic at getting to the line, and (gasp) a decent low-post, one-on-one defender (check the tape, he actually maintains his position very well).   His minuses: Lack of a low-post game and an absolutely worthless help defender, as he’s always looking for the rebound.


* Ricky Rubio – Wow, it feels good to finally list him as our player.   A pass-first PG that makes everyone around him better.   Great court vision, good off-ball defender, and (gasp) actually knows how to run and space a fast break. An added bonus: teenage girl attendance at Target Center will quintuple next year.  Value added bonus: Horny teenage boy attendance will increase tenfold chasing said teenage girls.  Minuses: Poor shooter, floppy hair, and also who gives a shit?  Ricky Rubio will actually play here.  Even if he is ½ as good as we expect, he will still be at least twice as good as Jonny Flynn.


* Wes Johnson – Yeah, I already know your “He’s not a building block” arguments.  My response: You are wrong!  The idea that we drafted him at age 23 and he’s already maximized his potential and is washed up is ridiculous.  The flashes of brilliance were there last year, despite playing out of position for a dipshit that doesn’t get him.  He blew up on the Lakers and shut down Kobe more than once.  That’s what this kid is capable of.  If we play him at the 3 where he belongs, and he runs with RR, just watch this flower blossom.


Maybe you’re wondering why I didn’t mention Michael Beasley as a building block?  Well, my first explanation would be because he kinda sucks.  While I applaud his attempts at “Alpha Dog” greatness, the result was pretty awful about 90% of the time.  I’ve watched the NBA for a long time, and guys like Beasley are the siren song that keeps you rooted in mediocrity.  All the physical talent in the world, but not a single brain cell dedicated to using it.  Lost on defense and a turnover machine.  Oh, but he scores 20 points on 30 shots.  Sorry guys, just not the kind of player that propels you on to greater things.


So after all of this soul-searching, where does that leave us?  We have some very good building blocks in Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio,.  We have talent I believe in like Wes Johnson.  We have some good complementary players in Anthony Tolliver, Luke Ridnour, and Beasley.  And we have the #2 pick.  Ahhhh yes, the beautiful, mysterious, franchise changing #2 pick.  You know, the one where we can either take the PG we don’t need, or the combo forward we don’t need..  Totally T’Wolves, right?


Well, if we’re actually reaching a point where we understand who we are, and who we can be, my hope is that we’ll use this pick to somehow acquire pieces that fit our puzzle.  An honest to goodness 2 guard that can play perimeter defense, put the ball on floor, and get to the rim, and the line is one piece.  A center that can play awesome help defense with Love, and run PnR with Ricky is another.  So far, I’m encouraged that Kahn finally understands this.  The rumors of Marcin Gortat and Andre Iguodala make all the sense in the world.  Not only are they positions of need, but they just fit!  Put these guys next to Love, Rubio, and Wes, and competent basketball very well may follow.


If we elect to stay in the draft, then there are two guys that make sense.  Alec Burks fits the profile at the 2 guard.  And yes, count me in on the Bismack-mania.  The idea of watching him come from the weak side to block a shot into the 3rd row makes me smile.  Seeing him on the receiving end of a half dozen Rubio lobs per game makes me…well, that’s better left unsaid.  All of the above players make sense, and they fit, and that’s what I want.


Here’s what I don’t want.  I don’t want to see three small forwards (Wes, Beas, Williams) on the court at the same time next year because it means we got abstract “value” in the draft.  I don’t want to see 2 PG’s (Rubio, Irving) getting extended minutes together because one guy was BPA.  Basketball has been around a lot longer than any of us.  Trying to re-invent it is for fools.  Put out a lineup that makes sense…that fits together and complements each other.  Let’s try that for once.  I don’t care if that means “reaching” in the draft.  I don’t care if that means overpaying in a trade, or for a veteran’s salary.  I want to see semi-competent basketball next year…something that gives me hope for the future.  And I want to enjoy Thursday.  Just once David Kahn, please.  Don’t make me go to bed angry after an NBA draft.   Is that too much to ask?

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