Tonight, the Wolves took on the Utah Jazz, who I assume like to claim that their 24-57 record is as hipster ironic as their name. This was the 82nd and final game of the season. The Wolves came into the game at 40-41, needing a win to solidify a .500 record on the year and make sure that the $80 Flip spent licensing the trademark to the "It's 50/50" catchphrase (not to mention the monogrammed hand towels and rap star-esque chain medallion) didn't go to waste. The players, coaches, and fans all knew what was at stake. This was the biggest game of the season. I may or may not have made some of that up.
I'm not gonna bore anyone with a detailed recap of this game. It wasn't that good. I'll stick to the highlight points.
First of all (and by far most importantly), Kevin Love for some reason decided to sport a Val Kilmer Doc Holliday moustache tonight, and I support this decision so much I would take an unpaid leave at work to campaign for it door-to-door.
Second most importantly - the pregame commentary on FSN included some banter about how "you never know when Brewer is going to go off for 51." Technically, that is true. You never know. Brewer's game the other night has actually caused a rift in the universe, and I fear that the only thing that can right this anomaly and save us all from a total collapse of the space-time continuum is a 70 rebound game by Shved. God help us.
Nobody on the Wolves ever at any point even remotely attempted to guard Richard Jefferson. This level of total disrespect pleases me. #RIPJeffersonsRidiculousContract
Turiaf had a great first half with 8 points off the bench. I have no comment, I just figured that this was a good segue into my pitch for a cooking show hosted by me and Turiaf. Ronny, have your people call me directly (I have no people).
JJ got a DNP. Thank you, Adelman. I needed that. That's what I call a Hall of Fame decision.
The Jazz are not good, and this is not accidental. They have tanked their way into a likely top 5 pick, so......mission accomplished Utah! Gordon Hayward is due a new contract - is he gettable in a sign-and-trade for Martin + our #13 pick? Who says no? If we throw in a second round pick? I like Hayward, give him to me.
Overtime? Seriously? Double Overtime? Seriously?
Technically, we lost this game. But I don't really feel like we were ever really too invested. Like they say, the one who cares the most is the one who gets hurt. As far as I can tell, that was Utah, so we win by default (the best way there is to win). We can walk out with our heads held high and our hips 'a swingin.
But Still......(Season Recap)
Well, here we are. Another season wrapped up, and we have entered into the 10th straight summer with no Wolves presence in the postseason. Turns out it's actually the 10th cut that is the deepest.
Overall, this season was a massive disappointment and a vast underachievement compared to the roster talent and preseason expectations. Many of us expected the Wolves to win somewhere in the ballpark of 50 games and possibly make the a top 6 playoff seed, avoiding a first round series against the upper echelon Western Conference juggernauts in OKC and San Antonio.
That didn't happen. Despite a promising start of 7-4 including a blowout of OKC, the Wolves quickly fell into a habit of losing "close" games decided by 4 points or less, losing their first 11 of such games before finally finding a way to get a W in a nailbiter (you may remember that game on the road against Golden State, one of the marquee wins of the season). In addition to issues with close games, the Wolves simply had problems taking care of business against weaker competition. The Wolves lost a whole slew of games against the League's cellar dwellers, including losses to Cleveland, the effing Wes Johnson led Lakers, Boston, Sacramento, Atlanta, New Orleans, New York, Orlando, and Charlotte. It's tough to make waves in an already stupid hard Western Conference when you lose that many games to inferior squads. There were a lot of maddening, pull your hair out losses this year.
Thinking back on this has gotten me all worked up. Please excuse me for a moment while I go to my quiet place and work out some of this anger.
All right. Back to business.
The aftermath of this underwhelming season is going to be interesting, because the Wolves thew all the chips they had on the table last summer in order to make a push for relevance. Flip Saunders & Co. signed starting center/carnivore Nikola Pekovic to a massive 4 year extension; brought in a 30 year Kevin Martin on an expensive 4 year deal; and threw bags of money at Chase Budinger and Corey Brewer - who have been perpetually injured and mediocre, respectively. The Wolves also extended former #2 overall pick Derrick Williams in a move which was presumed to render him a more trade-friendly asset. Ultimately, D-Will was flipped before the trade deadline for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who has served a limited role this season - averaging just 14 minutes and collecting a number of DNPs.
Add in the draft where Flip swapped a top 10 pick for a Shabazz Muhammad (whom they supposedly didn't want) and a Gorgui Dieng. Despite a highly questionable process on draft night, Flip may have actually "won" the draft (isn't there some saying about a blind squirrel being broken but still finding nuts twice a day?). The rookies showed flashes of promise when given floor time, particularly Dieng, who posted 9 double-doubles as well as a .138 WS/48 (2nd best among the 2013-2014 rookie class). Although definitely not without flaws, with a little work, Shabazz may also be able to find a way to be a contributing rotation player due to his ability to be a bully on the glass. We'll see.
The Wolves will need to make some serious decisions this summer. Odds are we're getting a new coach. That process should be......interesting. The team will have the opportunity to sign Ricky Rubio to an extension, locking him in long-term as a Wolf. Rumors have been circulating that Rubio's agent expects Ricky to command an 8-figure salary, which could be problematic in negotiations given the shooting and scoring issues in Rubio's game. For most of us, we understand that Ricky is an elite perimeter defender and a special facilitator on offense. Still, it remains uncertain whether the front office holds his value in the same regard. Personally, I think Ricky is resigned long-term for something like 4 years/$32-35 million.
However, any and all offseason predictions can go out the window if things take a turn for the unexpected regarding the looming Kevin Love 2015 player option for the final year of his deal in Minnesota. This ticking clock on Love's contract leaves a window for Flip to do something drastic, and is probably the biggest wild card in the NBA right now.
In other words, Flip could cut the brakes.
Let's talk about Love for a minute. I will preface this by saying that David Kahn and Glen Taylor's decision to not give Love a 5 year max deal could ultimately go down as one of the biggest blunders in Minnesota sports history - and that's saying something in a town shared with the Twins and Vikings. On top of not locking down the franchise's best player for the maximum number of years, the contract was structured so Love could opt out of his final year as a free agent. After spending six years in a Target Center dumpster fire, if he remains with the team, Love will have the ability to walk out as a free agent following next season. I don't need to tell you how stupid it is for a mid-market team to not sign a superstar player for the most possible years, AND leave the door open for him to walk away early as he is just entering his prime.
This has once again made me upset. I need a minute.
(sigh). There will undoubtedly be a lot of phone calls coming in to the Wolves front office over the next few months with various offers for Love, and Flip will have to give some consideration to the good ones. The team has minimal cap flexibility or tradeable contracts to make any significant waves in the offseason, and it's historically unlikely that our 13th pick in the draft will elevate the team much in the short term. In essence, there is not much that can be done to improve the roster. The only feasible way to make a big splash to build around Love would be to blow up the rest of the roster core, which would likely mean shipping out one or both of Ricky and Pek. Short of that, we are probably going to be looking at a similar roster next year. There is no reason to think the West is going to cool down very much next year, so the expectations for next season would then likely be about the same as they were for this year - at best a tough battle for a bottom seed playoff spot followed by a likely first round playoff exit. Is that enough to convince Love to stay? I'm not sure, and I doubt the front office is either. Flip will need to make a decision as to whether we should roll the dice, gun for the playoffs in 2015, and pray Love re-signs, or "cut the brakes" and deal one of the top 5 players in the NBA in a mega trade and start a (hopefully quick) rebuild. A Love trade could seriously change the landscape of the NBA for the next half decade, much like the Garnett trade to Boston which is still having significant ripple effects (think about the Nets and all those forthcoming Boston picks over the next few years). Much like the Garnett trade, it is highly unlikely that the Wolves bring back anything close to equal value.
Man, Love trade talk bums me out. I didn't intend for the tone of this to go so solemn. Timberwolves, right?
End of the day, this season has been the most fun as a fan since as long as I can remember. It's definitely been a roller coaster ride, full of magnificent blowout victories (suck it, Portland!) and inexplicable losses with me screaming at my TV as a blown defensive rotation leaves Rudy Gay to hit a wide open dagger three. Me personally, given the choice - I'll take that roller coaster ride every time over the thrice weekly fastball to the nuts that was the Rambis years. It could have been better, but it could have been much, much worse. This season was an objective moral victory and good start, and may be the beginning of this organization finally turning things around. So, what will the future hold? At this point, it's anybody's guess. I'd say it's about 50/50.
Til next time - Elavator Music