The Offseason Thus Far
After a few intense Twitter battles with those caught in the deep throes of despair regarding the Wolves offseason, I decided to piece together everything I know about what the new regime has done so far. I did this mainly to see if it is really as bad as some might say, or if we’re just conditioned to assume everything the front office does is terrible unless proven otherwise.
A little background on me: I love basketball, but I've never written about it before. My favorite player growing up was Charles Barkley. At one point in my life I owned a Christian Laettner headband. I like advanced metrics/stats (at least the ones I understand) but I have a degree in English and math was never my strongest suit. While I trust the numbers (like a good Google boy with a slide rule), I don’t usually write about them. The CH community has a number of people who do this extraordinarily well. I am not one of them. So while I may throw one in here or there (just to make sure you’re still paying attention), it’s not going to be my focus.
With that said, here we go:
Nikola Pekovic (Knock on Wood) – While reports of an imminent signing may have been premature, everything I’ve heard points to Pek coming back to reclaim his spot atop the pile of skulls. This shouldn’t be a surprise, it’s what the front office has been saying forever and it appears Pek wants to be here, possibly even telling other teams so, if you choose to believe that (seems foolish to me and would only serve to drive down his own value, but I could be wrong). It doesn’t look like a big-money offer is walking through the door any time soon, but if it does, the Wolves will match. Expectations for Pek will be high in 2013-2014, as is expected with a massive salary increase. As one of the Timberwolves “Big Three” (I just threw up in my mouth a little), Pek can no longer fly under the radar if the team underperforms.
Chase Budinger – The Wolves only got 23 games from Bud last year, but apparently it was enough to earn him a multiyear deal at $5M+ annually. He can shoot and he’s a good athlete, or at least a good enough athlete to take a flying leap over a 5’ 10” rap mogul. He fills a hole at the wing spot, and although he’s more of a 3 than a 2, the Adelmans have stated in the past that the positions are nearly identical in their offense. The biggest question mark here is if he starts at the 3 spot or if he winds up a 6th man and Brewer lands the starting gig. I imagine their minutes will be pretty even regardless, especially for the first part of the season. If Bud plays some D, he could take some minutes from Brewer, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up.
Andrei Kirilenko – To Brooklyn for an insanely low dollar amount that: 1) He would have never taken to stay here and 2) Is probably only a portion of what he is being paid under the table by the Russian mob boss who presently owns the Nets. There are a variety of potential reasons for AK to leave Minnesota. He may not have liked it here. He may have wanted to play for his fellow countryman/the aforementioned mob boss. He may have wanted to play in a larger market (with more potential partners for his annual freebie). It may have just been a matter of pride after opting out of a guaranteed $10M and realizing that the market for his services wasn’t as robust as he had hoped. Either way, it’s a big loss on the defensive side of the ball. However, he is 32 and injury prone (or always slightly banged up, if you’d rather put it that way). The Wolves will miss him in 2013-2014, but will probably be glad they’re not paying him $7M+ in 2015-2016 (with Love/Pek/Rubio all making huge dollars at that point), which is probably what it would have cost to keep him here (just guessing 3/21, but who knows?).
Luke Ridnour – It had to happen in order to fill holes elsewhere. You would have hoped to get something of value in return, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. It appears that what the Wolves are essentially doing is swapping Ridnour for Corey Brewer. Is Brewer considerably better than Ridnour? No. But he is younger and fills a need. We’re not sure if Brewer can consistently guard wing players, but we KNOW that Luke can’t. I would have preferred to see Barea leave over Ridnour, but it doesn’t appear that there was much interest on that front.
Greg Stiemsma – Seemed like a nice guy, but you have to think you can replace his production for less money with Dieng.
Mickael Gelabale - Nothing to see here. Move along.
Shabazz Muhammad – While many may not consider drafting Shabazz a “gain” per se, he is a new player, so I am including him. He doesn’t project to be very good and probably won’t play much, barring injuries (crossing fingers, pretending last year never happened). The CH consensus on Shabazz is pretty well known, so we’ll just leave it at that and say I hope we’re all wrong.
Gorgui Dieng – He’s tall. He plays D. He blocks shots. The people of Louisville would take a bullet for him. That’s about the extent of my knowledge about Dieng. Oh, and he’s going to get a LOT of minutes unless the Wolves sign another big.
(UPDATE: As I’m writing this, I see the Wolves are close to signing Ronny Turiaf, who should help to limit the expectations for Dieng in year one.)
Kevin Martin – This one’s been analyzed to death. Yes, the Wolves gave 4 years and big dollars to a 30 year old player who may or may not be on the decline. However it fills the team’s biggest hole, which is the ability to shoot the 3 and if he can start getting back to the charity stripe with the frequency of his pre-2012 career, his value skyrockets. I’m not going to beat a dead horse, everyone knows the deal. It’s a lot of money on a risky player. Remember when all the Wolves needed was JUST ONE LEAGUE AVERAGE WING!?!? I miss those days.
Corey Brewer – Depending on who you ask, he’s either a defensive stopper or a liability who gambles too much on D. He might be a classic 3 and D guy (at least Grantland thinks so) or an offensive train wreck who doesn’t have the defensive skill to make up for his inability to score. We know that Flip likes him. We know this team needs defensive help in a very real way with the loss of Kirilenko. We know that he takes too many 3s and misses too many 3s, but seems to have a knack for hitting shots in the corner. It’s tough to dispute that he is being paid too much. Tony Allen does basically everything better than Brewer for the same amount of money annually, however, like AK, it comes down to: would Tony Allen play for the Timberwolves for $5M/year? Probably not, so the Wolves are gambling that at 27 years old, Brewer can grow into a better shooter who plays more consistent D. Also, obligatory pet goat reference here. Still funny, right?
Lorenzo Brown – Second round pick. Good size. Bad shooter. Don’t see him making much of an impact this year, but he should make the roster.
So…Where does that leave us?
C – Pek/Dieng/Johnson
PF – Love/Dante/DWill
SF – Budinger/Brewer/DWill/Dante/Muhammad
SG – Martin/Budinger/Brewer/Barea/Shved
PG – Rubio/Barea/Shved/Brown
Or something like that.
I think it’s safe to say that (if healthy) the Wolves have league average or better players at every position, one sure-fire superstar, and one potential superstar.
Is the team markedly better than last year? No. They sacrificed defense for scoring, but they’ve added depth as well. The draft could have been handled better. It was a panic move and I think Flip has acknowledged it as such (which doesn’t excuse the behavior, but I appreciate the honesty). I’ve given up hope that this organization is going to be the best, or even one of the best, or even in the top 10. Let’s just shoot for league average. If the Wolves can get league average production from the front office, they’re going to be OK. Try to win more than you lose. This offseason they’re about even. Losing AK and drafting Shabazz looks bad. Signing Budinger and Martin, and resigning Pek to a reasonable deal ($13M annually or less) looks good. Brewer? Tough to say. They paid too much, but he has value. Dieng could be a good piece.
Maybe it’s the years of losing, or the countless astonishingly bad decisions, or maybe just the downright bad luck, but I find myself cautiously optimistic about the 2013-2014 squad, if only for their ability to be average. It’s rallying cry of sorts, “BE AVERAGE!” If you get the expected production from Love, Rubio, and Pek, and average production everywhere else, that should be more than enough to get this team back into the playoffs.
The sky is not falling. We don’t need to panic. Everything’s going to be
OK average. And right now, that’s good enough for me.