OK, we now know that the 2013-14 season will end up as a disappointment to most Twolves fans. Most of us entered the season expecting a playoff berth and we will not achieve that goal. So, where did we over-estimate? What could have been done differently? What mistakes were made? I'd like to look specifically at Mr. Flip Saunders and the main decisions he made for this season.
1. Let's begin by looking at the biggest issue Flip needed to address coming into the season: Shooting Guard. Luke Ridnour was just not getting it done. Flip brought in Kevin Martin. After a year of this experiment, how does this choice grade out in comparison to the other options available last summer?
When you look at year-end stats, PER, pts. per game, etc., I would argue that Flip brought in the best option available. At the beginning of this season, many of us discussed JJ Reddick (played 30 games this season), Kyle Korver, OJ Mayo, J.R. Smith, Ray Allen, or even trading up to get Ben McLemore or Victor Oladipo or maybe Caldwell-Pope would fall to us or we should take CJ McCollum. Take a look at the stats. If we had the great gift of hindsight and looked back, I would bet that almost all of us would say "Flip, you did the right thing on this one." You really didn't have any better options to choose from.
2. Then we had the issue of a certain "Pek". Flip did what the fan-base overwhelmingly sought and brought him back, but with some hesitation at the price (probably because of health concerns), which he addressed by including some performance clauses in the contract. Don't know if we can scream too loudly at this decision right now.
3. Small forward needed to be addressed. Flip let Andrei Kirilenko go, after attempting to bring him in with a contract that was less than his asking price (partly due again to health concerns). Instead, he brought in Corey Brewer at half the price that AK cost us the previous year. Brewer is certainly not the strongest starting SF in the league, but in hindsight, this switch was not really that bad, given the available options at the time. Corey has also been consistently healthy all season, while AK won't play even half of the games this season.
A. Gorgui Dieng. Looking at the latest Rookie stat sheet on ESPN (link), I think we should be very pleased with this selection and the price we'll be paying for a quality big man for the next 3 years.
B. Shabazz Muhammad: This was the loudest and earliest complaint against Flip's first year at the helm and it seems to continue to stand as a justified concern. Seeing that the entire draft class has been pretty underwhelming, this choice is probably less catastrophic than was first anticipated. However, this choice still seems (to me) to be Flip's biggest mistake in year 1.
C. 2nd Rounders - Lorenzo Brown played in 26 NBA games in his first year (even if not with the Wolves), which is more than most of the selections at the end of the 2nd round can say. Flip didn't do anything too disastrous here.
5. Bringing back Budinger, bringing in Turiaf, AJ Price, Hummel, etc. All of these decisions seem reasonable, although unspectacular. Turiaf was a good deicision, Bud has disappointed somewhat, Price and Hummel are about what you would expect for 3rd stringers.
6. Derrick Williams trade. If the Shabazz pick is the biggest disappointment of Flip's first year, the Derrick Williams trade might come in second. Personally, I don't think a great deal was lost here, but most objective observers would probably grade Sacramento as the winner of this transaction. Flip certainly didn't fleece the Kings here.
So, in the end, in my opinion, Flip did well in addressing the shooting guard situation with the options available to him. He hit on one draft pick and missed somewhat on another (although not as severely as it first appeared because of the subsequent performance of the other options). Is Flip the best GM in the NBA? NO. Is he the worst GM in the NBA? NO. I'd give him a solid "B" for his first year on the job. What say you?