It has been quite the run, but the Batum has finally turned its last turn. What does it all mean? To-the-below-the-fold-mobile!
First and foremost, the Wolves dodged a fairly significant bullet. Nicolas Batum is not a $46 million player. The 2009 Batum is worth whatever money you can throw at a player, but it does not look like the 2009 Batum is, shall we say, the real Batum. As I have said over and over and over and over again, the Wolves will sink or swim based on the play of their Big Three, who are already on the roster: Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, and Ricky Rubio. If this team is going to be a 50+ win contender, it will be based on the play of these three players and they will all deserve Batum or Batum + contracts. If they don't play to that level, Batum isn't going to be the piece that pushes the not-so-Big-Three over the top. He wasn't in Portland (their contender wagon was hitched to Roy, Oden, and LMA) and he would not be in Minnesota. Not having him on the books saves money for the three players who will need it if this thing works itself out like we hope it can.
Second, by failing to acquire David Kahn's big white whale, the team has shed a lot of dead weight. Sure, it could have been shed in a more effective manner, but getting rid of Darko, Beasley, Randolph, Miller, Tolliver, and Webster is getting rid of over 4200 minutes of subpar (in 2011/12) production.
Third, the Wolves are now sitting with roughly $43-44 mil on the cap with what amounts to 4 available roster slots:
1- $5 mil space (for Roy)
2- $5 mil space that can be spent on someone like Jordan Hill or Courtney Lee, or split up into 2 $2.5 deals for, say, Steimsma and Shved
3- $4-5 mil space that brings the team up to the cap
4- $2.5 mil room MLE
There are a lot of really fascinating and productive ways in which this money can be spent. We have a pretty good idea that Roy, Shved, and Stiemsma are as good as done (not as much with Stiemsma as the other two). That immediately wipes out an estimated $10 mil for 3 players ($5 Roy, $2.5 each for Stiemsma/Shved). They are now left with roughly $4-5 mil to get up to the cap + the room MLE. They will likely need another wing player (preferably a ball handler) and a backup big. Again, there are a lot of ways in which this money could be spent. Ronnie Brewer would be a good start. Jon Leuer would be another. If you add Hill, Brewer, Stiemsma, and Budinger to last year's Wolves roster, they would have added 4250 minutes of .100 < wp48 play to the roster for a fraction of the cost of Beasley, Randolph, Darko, Miller, Tolliver, and Webster. This is awesome. It is also much more impactful than 1700 minutes of Nicolas Batum.
Fourth, the whole affair cause the team to "miss out" on players like Jamal Crawford and O.J. Mayo. Minnesota sports seems to breed a special type of woe-is-meism when it comes to having a good idea of what our favorite NBA team can actually do in the free agency market, but I think a good case can be made that the best thing the Wolves can do in free agency is wait out the market to catch players like Ramon Sessions, Ronnie Brewer, Brandon Rush, and Alonzo Gee on the cheap after the big money has been spent on...um...flashier players. Remember, this team needs to replace 4200 minutes of crap more than it does to land another awesome player. Consummate Greatness might want something else but this is what he needs to win. This is not "settling". It is realism that takes full advantage of targets of opportunity. It is realizing that Fred Hoiberg was a bigger deal than Sprewell. And so on and so forth.
Fifth, for once, David Kahn came out looking like the calm, steady, and controlled GM in a professional basketball transaction. No crazy quotes, no weird pressers, nothing. Instead, new Blazers GM Neil Olshey went on and on about bugs and frostbite while hugely overpaying for a modestly above average wing player. He also doesn't have a coach. If Wolves fans want to know what the rest of the league's fans see in Kahn, watching Olshey is probably the closest analogy. The clown king has a challenger to his throne.
Sixth, Nicolas Batum should give his agent a bonus. He got his guy an extra $20 mil over the next 4 years.
What didn't go well?
There is sill no good explanation for the first rejected offer. Olshey continued his clown show yesterday afternoon by floating information about unreasonable bonuses but this doesn't make a lick of sense when we know that there was an issue with Martell Webster's waiver situation. Could there have been unreasonable bonuses? Yes, but what does that have to do with anything?
The team also auctioned off two valuable deals (Webster and Miller) to make an offer they knew would be matched. I get the fact that they had to follow through on the offer sheet so that Batum and his agent wouldn't feel betrayed, but still..., those contracts could have been put to better use than to simply have the offer sheet matched and cap space opened up. If the team was going to make a big splash, those two deals were central to that splash. Unfortunately, as is always the case with this team and obvious windows of opportunity (REMEMBER THEO RATLIFF!!!), they never seem to follow through on that promise.
Wrapping up, the non-signing of Nicolas Batum continues a solid off-season for Our Beloved Puppies. Positions of need are being identified, solid production is being targeted, huge money is not being spent on average production, and future cap space is being saved for the players who need it the most: The Big Three. Hopefully this success via failure will continue.
What do you think about the whole saga?
(Links will be back tomorrow.)