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Some Kind Words About Flip Saunders

Recently the rumor mill began to suggest that the Minnesota Timberwolves were in the process of orchestrating a three team trade that would, in essence, trade Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins and Thad Young. Immediately I recognized this as a better outcome than many of the other Kevin Love rumors circulating at the time and, at some point, I declared that if this did in fact come to pass I would publicly say nice things about Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations, Flip Saunders. Well friends, I am writing this post now to make good on that promise.

Rob Carr

Initial Words

Now before I get to the kind words I want to get something out of the way. I am not interested in turning this into a backhanded compliment of sorts so, in the interest of overall sincerity, I think I should be upfront about a few things. I confess that I have been critical of the Saunders hiring. It was my opinion that Flip had kind of run his course as Timberwolves head couch during the Kevin Garnett era and I was not thrilled to see his return to the front office, or the sidelines, and certainly not both. My opinion on Flip since his re-emergence has been that he has been ok at best. I admit that I was not enamored of most of his moves last season. I am notoriously skeptical of expensive long term contracts (I'm looking at you Troy Hudson) and last summer seemed to have far too much of this.

Kevin Martin is one of the few NBA related things I disagree with Hoopus lead-bot Eric in Madison about. I get why he made sense, and I understand what people like about him, but Kevin Martin is exactly the kind of one dimensional player I have always disliked. Eventually I was able to talk myself into being happy about what he offers the Wolves but I still can't say I feel good about it. With Corey Brewer we have a player I like a little better (despite his being worse) but that contract; yikes! I think Flip's hands were a little tied in when it came to Chase and Pek, but the end result was still a lot of long term money spent on contacts that might eventually turn sour.

Flip's drafting has also been a sore spot for myself and plenty of other Timberwolves fans. Personally I still don't have the wherewithal to maturely discuss what happened in the draft last season and this year was not really that much better. I was pretty distraught when the LaVine pick was announced but I will admit that since then I have found him a pretty easy player to talk myself into. Anyway, enough of the negativity. This post is about kindness and that is what I will deliver. I just felt it best to get this part off my chest so that my criticisms didn't creep into my kindness. Nothing worse than that, right?

Kind Words

Anyone who has been paying attention will know that kind words are not especially difficult for me. I tend to see the good in people and am willing to interpret most visible negative human attributes to the natural struggle of living. This truth does, however, need to be contrasted against my personal history as a sports fan. Still, the recent Kevin Love trade in which Flip Saunders managed to turn Kevin Love into Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Thad Young and a trade exception, while also getting rid of two burdensome contracts, has earned him unwavering kind words and kind words he shall receive.

First lets start with a neutral but important truth: Flip Sanders is not responsible for the Kevin Love mess. This honor goes to Flip's predecessor David Khan and perhaps probably Flip's boss Glen Taylor. In fact all indications are that Flip made every reasonable attempt to reconcile with the second best player in Minnesota Timberwolves history. Despite the words I wrote above, last summer was a clear attempt to go all in and build a team that made sense around Kevin Love. Savvy internet historians may even find posts from my evil twin Slowbreak praising the roster balance and good sense behind the overall approach that Flip took as he attempted to build a cohesive basketball team.

This brings us to now (I probably skipped s few steps).  I have spent all summer convinced that the end result of this Kevin Love drama would be David Lee and Klay Thompson. It had gotten to the point that I was just hopeful that the final details would include JJ Barea. Flip proved me a pessimist. Apparently his patience paid off and he deserves credit for it.

Now Flip Saunders is not one to mince words. Okay, okay, that's too much. He's exactly the one to mince words, but despite my prior criticisms, his overall persona is likable enough and I don't recall ever reading that he has a cache of dead bodies in his basement. Who amongst us can claim the same? (Don't answer, plead the fifth). Regardless, this trade really is remarkable and I for one feel obligated to admit that I am impressed. Let's take a quick glance at the details:

Kevin Love: Love is the best asset in this trade by far but the circumstances that forced his trade are not on Flip Saunders' shoulders. Kevin had to go. Flip tried to flip that. I really believe that he did but that particular rock was rolling back too fast right on the steepest part of the hill.

Outgoing Contracts: I love outgoing contracts. Who doesn't? It would have been nice to send JJ out but that's splitting hairs. I loved Alexy, and I sure hope Coach Bee never leaves us, but this is good news. It really is. The roster needed some pruning and this is a good start.

Anthony Bennett: I know many people are down on Bennett, and that his last season was horrific. How he became a number one overall draft pick is a complete mystery. Still, I think we can see this as an interesting asset. Sure he is overpaid, and of course we will pick up the contract, but it's not like he we will be on the hook for 3/30.  They say he lost weight and that a change of scenery will do him good. I guess we will find out. Personally I think he is a fine risk to take at this point. What the hell, right?

Trade Exception: When I first saw this reported I assumed it was a reverse typo. After all, the Wolves send this kind of thing out right, they don't bring it in. Perhaps it will help us move JJ. Can it be used this summer? Anyone? Bueller?

Thad Young: I'm excited? Are you excited? I get that he could be a rental but that's better than a shitty long term contract. If he works out maybe we can pay to keep him. If he doesn't we can let him move on. I don't see how this is anything but good news.

Andrew Wiggins: Plenty has been written about Wiggins and I will leave it to smarter people than myself to sort out the exact pluses and minuses. I have no real solid basis for this claim but, based on what information I was able to process, Wiggins would have been either my first or second pick in this June's NBA draft (Jabari Parker if you are wondering). Of course this doesn't mean he is a guaranteed star, far from it, but Wiggins is an easy prospect to get excited about and we fans should feel free to be excited. Perhaps his handle will hold him back and perhaps his defense will propel him forward. Regardless it will be fun to find out.

Final Words

So that's the deal. Well done Flip. I would be lying if I said I expected better. I have to admit that I am impressed and I am more than willing to give you, our president of coaching and basketball operations, the benefit of the doubt here. Perhaps stubbornness on the part of Golden State saved you but that's speculation at this point. The truth is I will probably never know for sure and, given the end result here, I am more than willing to let that meme go. I'm proud of you Flip and I look forward to seeing what you have in store next. Good Barea trade? Prudent Ricky contract? Sensible rotation? This is my favorite sports team Flip Saunders and it's in your hands and right now those hands appear lightly dusted in gold. Today I am with you Flip, keep up the good work.

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