Timberwolf Stupid: pay for Gasol

Long ago in my first year Torts Law class, we broke up into groups of three, then each group paired with another, one group representing the plaintiff, one the respondent. We were then charged with the task of arriving at a settlement, based on the same set of facts for each pair of groups (there were about twenty "settlements"). My group acted as plaintiff, and I argued logically, vehemently, and tirelessly about what we deserved. The respondent fought back but soon enough gave in after I compromised a little.

When we submitted our settlements, ours was 5x what anybody else got. The professor just kind of stared at us and said:


I've also played in various simulation leagues, and in each you have, among others, the

1. Alphas: their guys are the 'best," they deserve the most, and they'll need your 2009 Jose Bautista or 2012 Derrick Williams garbage as a side item to be able to do the deal.

2. Omegas: not well-informed, not committed to a strong strategy, willing to give even more to just get the deal done, even when the minutiae of the deal is in the other team's favor.

The fact that the NBA isn't "fantasy" doesn't mean the same people in charge don't exist. In fact, I'd argue there are more of these type in actual leagues than in good fantasy (simulation) leagues. Good simulation leagues are usually comprised of people who've had success at strategic team development.

The first thing Omegas appear to do when strategizing is determine their limitations and then acquiesce to them. Well, my players are older, if I'm going to win this league, it will have to be soon. The couple prospects I have probably won't be enough to win a few years from now. So instead of going with an overall strategy of developing a well-rounded team that can be tweaked here and there to seriously compete (and with noise/luck win), they go all-in with the top guys they have, terribly overpaying for the additions.

I find usually that Omegas a) overestimated their guys or trade targets because they didn't understand variation (statistician's word for the whole premise of statistics), and b) just like everyone else, get hit with bad luck and/or injury. At that point, the whole strategy goes to hell, because they went all-in, and there's nothing there at the end but a pile of crap. In statistics we prefer robust estimators (strategies here), because you never really know what your ultimate data will look like.

Extend this to the Timberwolves. They are exactly the Omegas. They are going all-in with almost total disregard for the future. As fans we almost start to agree with them because we recognize how unable these managers would be to actually implement a successful all-around team development strategy. Yes, Adelman wants to win now. That has very little to do with whether or not the very end of the bench is comprised of 2nd-round draft choices. Imagine coming out of this draft with very affordable Jae Crowder and Will Barton. If Adelman declared to POBO after training camp that they'd never be able to play in this league, he can put them in a three-piece on Darko's second-row seats. Their contracts aren't guaranteed, and they're well worth that risk. Of course, this takes a certain amount of intellectual ability and the willingness to open one's mind to "new" analytical concepts that would identify a Crowder or Barton. I mean, why would you go after Crowder or Barton in the first place?

Omegas often have assets that aren't necessarily crucial to them. They can use these assets to potentially better their team. Often the assets can be held in reserve to maintain the strength of the team going forward. With Alphas, these assets are bought low and sold high...with Omegas it's almost strictly the opposite. Alphas immediately recognize Omegas' assets. Not understanding variation, Omegas will almost always undervalue or overvalue their assets. The Twins are prime examples of this. There is talk of extending Francisco Liriano now that he's pitching to good results. Though they might also undervalue him due to his volatility. I'd be shocked if they get the B prospect they should; they'll make a mistake one direction or the other. TWolves do this, too, of course.

So what are the Timberwolves assets? I made a list, order not significant, of those they could trade to build a better team, potentially, dating back pre-Bud:

  1. Derrick Williams
  2. 18th pick in 2012
  3. Memphis pick in 2013
  4. Wes Johnson (bear with me)
  5. Michael Beasley***
  6. Other Beasley-like assets (Darko, potentially Webster and Miller)
  7. Potential Salary Cap relief for 2013-14 (Laker-centric)
First, the difference between 5 and 6: Michael Beasley is an extreme basketball talent, as well as a potential one-year QO offer. The others are just contracts (Darko) or contracts and filler (Webster). Why does it matter that Beasley is an extreme basketball talent when he's a bad NBA basketball player? Very simply, because the Los Angeles Lakers have determined he is worthy of an important place on their club.

As for Wes Johnson, I included him separately from Webster because he's Wes Johnson, and there is the outlandish possibility that one or two teams out there might see him as worth taking a flyer on. He's guaranteed salary, too, and will not be bought out or dumped. If Beasley is signed to a QO to trade to the Lakers, then two of Wes/Webster/Darko should be dealt along with him for salary purposes.

So let's say that Pau Gasol is a worthwhile target for the Wolves. I'm not absolutely sure of that and in fact fear he is not. But obviously the Omega we depend on thinks he is the missing ingredient to a championship run the next two years. What do the Lakers need, and what do the Lakers want?

The Lakers are Alphas, they want the world. And like me going after the huge settlement one day years ago, they're going to act like they deserve the world. My mother always told me that if you want something, if you expect something, then you need to ask for it. I'm absolutely amazed the low number of people who have this mindset (for positive or negative reasons). So often people complain about their plight without actually seeing if things can be changed. It's almost like they'd rather play the victim. Alphas have the opposite mindset. The rest of the world gets mad at Alphas because they seem to get everything they want, but I guarantee it's mostly because they ask for it. Best lesson ever, Mom. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not an alpha dog in this world, and I don't pretend to be, but when I'm in negotiations, I'm purely Alpha. If I want to leave work every day at 3pm so I can drink beer and watch Sportcenter, I'm going to ask for it (and probably get it because I asked).

So here I will identify the wants, needs, and the "get it because you can" items in a Laker request.

Needs: The Lakers have two problems: salary cap hell and resulting lack of talent. Whether the Wolves give them the minimum salary back or match Pau's salary, it doesn't matter for 2012-13 because they're too far over the cap to have it matter. 2013-14 is the key here, so as long as we're giving them expiring contracts, we might as well make it as much as Pau's. The Lakers are setting themselves up for a couple different possible scenarios. In 2013 they are either going to add monster talent to go with Kobe in his last few years, or very simply, they're going to amnesty Kobe then and start all over, something they as Alphas can do. Either way, it doesn't affect the Wolves. The Wolves will provide that 13-14 relief by trading $20 million in expirings. Let's find $12 mil of it with Darko, Brad Miller, and Wellington. The balance is in the next section. Darko and Miller get dumped, Wellington is an end of bench type.

Wants: The Lakers have a strange fascination with Michael Beasley. Let's think of the ways they might get Beasley on their team. Sign as a free agent? Sorry, they cannot do that. They might actually have a mid-level exception, but given they are going to have to accept salary back from the Wolves, and given that Beasley would want many years if he signs for an MLE, far and away the best scenario for the Lakers is to get Beas in trade from the Wolves, paying him 8 mil for one year and maintaining the 13-14 flexibility.

If you stop right here, you should realize that a fair deal would be struck under these terms.

Get it because you cans: Well, this is what separates the Alphas from the Omegas. As most of you have heard rumored, the Wolves wanted to move Williams for the second pick, presumably to then move to the Lakers in a Pau deal. This is, of course, absolute excess. You just freed up your whole organization to rebuild (which as Alphas you can actually do efficiently), and you got a guy you want. Pau actually has no value over that. He's a good player on the downside. Tell the Omega all you want that he'll help your team, it shouldn't matter. The Lakers already received fair value. However, the Lakers are going to make the argument that the Wolves actually aren't giving anything up. The Lakers can say that they can still play with Pau this year and trade his expiring the following year. The first is legitimate, but the second isn't. If they trade Pau before the 13-14 year, they'll have to take on salary for that year. So the Lakers wanted the second pick in the draft or whatever Williams could bring BUT more fair is the Memphis 2013 pick, which the Wolves should give up because otherwise they really wouldn't be giving up anything.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of teams that would probably be willing to trade a tangible asset for Williams at this point. Again, an Alpha would make the most of it, the Omega doesn't really know what the hell he is doing. No matter what you think of Williams, though, his value is much, much higher than the 20th pick in the 2013 draft. We've seen what that's worth to Omegas.

Back to the list of assets. The 18th was used for Budinger, and I'm not extremely happy with that because, as SnP says, the Wolves will end up with another middling contract if they re-sign him. Williams is truly the best asset you have, and there is absolutely no need to throw that in a Laker deal. The goal should be (and should have been in this draft) to end up with a well-rounded team that, as a side benefit, can survive Love leaving after 2015. I saw zero sign this week that this simple concept is of any importance to the Wolves.

Okay, pay something for Gasol, but he's not a superstar anymore. He's a declining star who's worth taking on if you don't have to pay too much. If someone beats the offer of Beasley on QO, other expiring contracts, and the Memphis pick, so be it. There are other ways to get better. Unfortunately, I doubt that the front-office Omega has a clue.

By the way, I never did get that law had to know a bunch of other stuff, too, not just how to get what you want. :-)

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