I know there are a lot of not-Bill Simmons fans out there, and that a lot of the trade rumors flying around are getting ridiculous, but he did just come out with a pretty insightful 'ESPN trade-machine' article.
First, I think it is a really good read because he breaks players into 'values,' similar to the tier system a lot of teams use during the draft. The link to the article is here:
One aspect that is interesting is how much coverage the Wolves are getting these days, and how much of a secret liking Simmons has apparently taken to them (even though he stills gets his jabs in).
A few of the more interesting parts below the fold.
Simmons values Wes Johnson as a 'fifty cent piece,' which is equal in value to our #2 pick (roughly), and goes by this definition:
50-cent piece: Borderline All-Stars, former All-Stars, and up-and-comers, which covers everyone else from no. 28 to no. 49, plus Ellis, Jason Terry (we can't leave off the captain of the Irrational Confidence All-Stars), Shawn Marion (the LeBron Killer!), Jrue Holliday, Marcin Gortat (don't laugh), Paul George, Arron Afflalo, Brandon Jennings, and Evan Turner (gulp).3
I won't say 'I told you so,' because Wes hasn't actually done anything yet, but it does seem we have given him a little more grief than he deserves, and that his value is higher around the league than just a trade throw-in. Remember, an article came out recently that stated the Wolves were absolutely not going to trade Wes or Beas (along with Love and Rubio obviously).
Moving on, he proposes a half-dozen fake trades revolving around the Wolves. All of them interesting, and mostly already covered to some extent, but the most intriguing scenarios are trades #5 and 6.
TRADE NO. 5: Phoenix trades Marcin Gortat (50 cents) and Jared Dudley (quarter) to Minnesota for the no. 2 pick (50 cents), Jonny Flynn (dime), and Nik Pekovic (dime). Final tally: Phoenix (70 cents), Minnesota (75 cents).
Winner winner chicken dinner! Phoenix rebuilds around the local kid (Derrick Williams) and whatever they get for Nash when he finally breaks; Minnesota gets a real center (check out Gortat's March-April splits if you don't believe me) and a proven swingman who helps its chemistry and joins forces with Love to form a multimedia superpower (Dudley); and Jonny Flynn goes from the most screwed-up situation possible to Steve Nash Point Guard Camp. Everybody wins! Now I'm feeling it … one more trade!
My initial reaction to trade #5 was that is stinks. I really don't like the idea of giving away the #2 pick and not getting a pick back. But if you think about, at best we get a mid-lotto pick in some hypothetical trade-down. Gortat seems as valuable as any player we might draft, and comes as a known commodity; a legit big man who can bang and play defense.
Likewise, we shed some fat, and get a decent 2-guard (maybe overvalued by Simmons), who can at the very least shoot and provide a winning attitude.
I am not in love with this idea, but I do feel it is better than the often cited 'status-quo' of drafting Williams and running with it, or trading back for varying assets and a risky pick. However, the real gem is trade #6.
Good god, we have an actual basketball team in Minnesota! I can't stop using exclamation points!!!! Let's see … Gortat and Darko Milicic at center; Kevin Love and Anthony Tolliver as rebounders; Wesley Johnson, Austin Daye, and Anthony Randolph as the scoring forwards; Jared Dudley as your glue swingman; Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour as your point guards; Ben Gordon as your scoring 2-guard and crunch-time guy; and we haven't even used the no. 20 pick to stash a foreign prospect yet. Just mail the 2012 Executive of the Year Award to my house. Thanks.14
Now I know the general idea here is a bit far fetched; two back to back trades that only really work if both are pulled off, but I think the general idea is correct. We need to trade our assets, our picks and young talent, for veteran help. Imagine if we did run out a team with the lineup he cites at the end:
Gortat and Darko Milicic at center
Kevin Love and Anthony Tolliver as rebounders
Wesley Johnson, Austin Daye, and Anthony Randolph as the scoring forwards
Jared Dudley as your glue swingman
Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour as your point guards
Ben Gordon as your scoring 2-guard and crunch-time guy.
It's weird because none of the trades are a total win for us, but look at the outcome. A legit team with an identity, obvious rotations, and a man for every situation. What this really shows is that we need addition by subtraction. We have young talent coming out of our eyeballs, so much so that we can't even draft Derrick Williams. If we can just skim some of the fat, pick 3-4 guys we want to grow with, and surround them with older, somewhat flawed, but still skilled players, we could have a winning team for the first time in centuries (estimate).
I don't know what will happen, but after weeks of agonizing over the draft class and all the trade scenarios, it is just starting to feel that the only way out is by going deeper in. We've got to play the game. We aren't going to win by cheating the system (Beasley, Randolph, Darko), no matter how good the risk/reward ratio seems. We are going to have to take back some overpaid, oddball player like Gordon because we know what he is and there is one aspect of his game we really need. At the same time, we are going to have to trade the #2 pick and Beasley, because we just don't have room for either. To a point the stock-piling of talent sounded good, and I was a big advocate, but with Ricky coming on board, we (and he) need a real team with actual players, no more rookies, and no more talented-but-maligned.
As a closing thought, think again of our patron saint - The Oklahoma City Thunder. Yes, they scored big with Durant and Wesbrook, and to a lesser extent Harden and Ibaka, but then they built carefully around them. Our top players are obviously not as good as OKC's, but not so much that we shouldn't be winning or making the playoffs. The problem is we don't have a team around our best guys, and the Thunder do. The rest of the Thunder is filled with role players and journey-men. Guys who can shoot the 3 in a tight spot, and guys who have legit size and take up space. We don't need to gamble and win, and have a starting 5 of all-stars, we just need to pick our guys and run with 'em.