Earlier today, the Portland Trail Blazers matched the offer sheet the Timberwolves made to restricted free agent forward Nicolas Batum on July 15. Minnesota Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations David Kahn released the following statement regarding this matter.
"We are disappointed that Nicolas Batum will not be on our team and wish him the best in the future," Kahn said. "However, we were prepared for the possibility of this outcome and will move forward with our other plans. We are positioned well from a salary cap standpoint and will continue to explore additional roster moves. We are confident that we will make the necessary transactions to improve our team for the coming season and beyond."
Alright, so let's point out a few things about this. Yes, the Batum deal was a long, complicated, drawn-out headache. But that doesn't mean it wasn't worth it, or that it wasn't handled well. Kahn, to his credit, actually managed this one pretty masterfully. The Timberwolves made every conceivable effort to get a guy they liked on the team. Nothing wrong with that. Moreover, they positioned themselves here at the end with a win-win-(win!!!) scenario. Either they got their guy, or they moved forward with a ton of open cap space to sign others (while saddling the Blazers with a contract they themselves admit vastly exceeds what they believe Batum is worth). I would have loved to have Batum on our team. But that's not the way things fell, so we move on.
1) Get Roy and Shved officially signed. I'm not a huge fan of the Roy deal, but signing him has its advantages. Shved however....well, let's just say that my biggest fear over how long the Batum thing was dragging on was losing Shved's commitment to sign here. I think he's both far better than people realize (mostly because so few fans have heard his name, much less watched him play) and sends the message that the team is willing and able to find those hidden gems in free agency when it wants to.
2) Put an amnesty waiver bid in on Chris Andersen. Glen Taylor has gone on record as saying the post is the next highest priority. The Wolves have actively courted Greg Stiemsma (who's been patiently waiting for an offer) and Jordan Hill. I say Birdman is better than either than them. Yes, there's an investigation over his head; I'm not worried about that (sounds like a crazy wannabe groupie problem) Because what Birdman will give you is exceptional production in limited minutes...he rebounds and blocks like a madman (he actually led the league in blks% one year despite playing just 22mpg) He also regularly was part of Denver's best 5 man rotations (going back years, not just this past season) and actually got the Nuggets to score better when he was on the floor, despite scoring at a Ben Wallace level himself. I won't be disappointed by Stiemsma or Hill, but I like the Birdman a lot more than either of them.
3) Pick the wings wisely. The plan B decision pretty much comes down to Courtney Lee or Ronnie Brewer. Lee has a big advantage on the offensive end, particularly from behind the arc. Brewer is better from 2 (ie he's better at basket cuts. Thank Jerry Sloan) and a much better defender, and probably won't cost even half as much. (not to say Lee is a poor defender....he gave Kobe a hell of a time his rookie year during the Finals) For what it's worth, Brewer actually tops Lee in both career PER and career WS/48. There's compelling reasons for both of them. Just understand why you pick one over the other.
4) Sign Pekovic long term. Yes, landing Batum probably meant losing Pekovic. The biggest argument to not landing Batum was to keep Pekovic. Well, we aren't getting Batum, so let's make sure we keep Pekovic. Because if the Batum ordeal has taught us nothing else, it's that Paul Allen is rich and can be very vindictive. If Pek isn't signed to an extension by next summer, you sure as hell can bet the Blazers will be offering him a max contract.
5) Offer a Derrick Williams package to Denver for Danilo Gallinari. Ok, this one is more of a personal wish, and there's no evidence whatsoever that the team is thinking about this. But here's the thing....Gallinari can handle the ball, nail threes, and get to the free throw line. He's everything the Kevin Martin lovers love about Kevin Martin, except white and 6'10". The Nuggets are trying to rebalance their books, and need to rebalance their roster. They have the ability to make the most of Derrick Williams as a power forward, and it'll cost them a lot less.
What say you?