When the Wolves cut Jeff Adrien to sign Miroslav Raduljica, the reaction around the Wolvesdom could be described as perplextion, at best. Adrien led the team in rebounds per 36 minutes and rebound%, and defensive +/-....the two areas the Wolves have faltered in more than any other this season....as well as total net rating. Jeff didn't just play well, he played fantastically.
On top of that, the timeline and execution of the signing was a mess. It was reported Raduljica was being signed for the rest of the year. Then nothing actually happened for a week. Then he was signed, but only for 10 days.
Well, now those 10 days are up, and I think it's safe to say we're more confused than ever.
- Why talk up the team's need for a big man when you already have a very helpful one? (Adrien)
- Why cut him to sign a guy you don't play?
- Why don't you play him when he's here at the expense of (in my opinion) a much more dire team need?
First off, Rad has barely played. The Wolves have had five games since he was signed, but he's only played in three of them. And he's only played 6 minutes a game. And the Wolves won the two games he didn't play in. Hmm.
At the risk of becoming overly-repetative, I just want to reiterate something one more time: Jeff Adrien deserves that last roster spot. One of the concerns I think this move highlights is Flip being mostly a 'looks the part' guy. It seems Adrien's actual production never registered with him; he only saw 'too short'. And I think this factors in with Zach (wasn't productive at UCLA, but 6'5" and jumps really high) and Gorgui, who's playing well, but...
|PER||TS%||Reb%||Ast%||Stl%||Blk%||Opp FG% in paint||WS/48|
|Rudy Gobert||21.2||.656||18.9||7.5||1.8||8.3 (!!!)||37.9 (!!!!!!!!!!!)||.181|
I can't find a way to frame Radulica compared to Adrien in any way except that Rad looks the part. He's tall. He's....tall. But we already established that it'd be nearly impossible for him to actually do more for the team than Adrien already was, and so far that has been the case and then some. And while he had a servicable year of play last season for the Bucks, I can't help but always think about our friend Br3tt11 from Brew Hoop who stopped by just to leave us this comment:
Both players have their separate limitations, however having seen both of them play last year Radjulica simply does not have the foot speed to play in the NBA. An other wise crafty player you just can’t hide that limitation, would much rather have Jeff Adrien.
Were I to make some guesses, I would say that Pekovic's health is a lot more serious then the team is letting on, and that Flip is not playing Raduljica because he intends for him to be here the rest of the year and wants him to 'learn the playbook', the same as Troy Daniels. Neither of which inspire much confidence.
And this whole thing sucks for Adrien more than anyone. Jeff is getting jobbed out of a job he won fair and square because the POBO makes what essentially boils down to a non-basketball decision. There are guys around the league that can't seem to stick no matter what and people ask, "what are they doing wrong?" Well, now you know. Sometimes they do nothing wrong. Sometimes they're just treated unfairly.
The Wolves cut fully functional and helpful player in Adrien to sign Raduljica...who was odds-on going to be not as helpful...to then barely play him at all and watch him be not-good when he does play. That does not make any sense.
And making even less sense, Flip keeps chasing the big man rabbit at the expense of a much-needed point guard. Zach is not ready to run an NBA team, even marginally. We'll leave the debate on whether he ever will be ready for another time, but clearly this is where it stands right now.
I think most of us would agree that the need for a backup point guard was obvious even before Adrien was signed. But lately it's become an inescapable fact. Even Flip has seemingly admitted this to himself, which is why Mo is suddenly playing the minutes of a 23 year old instead of a 32 year old.
In the five game since Raduljica was signed, Mo has averaged 38 minutes/game. He missed the Milwaukee contest, but then played 32 minutes against the Spurs, 44 against the Pacers, and 39 and 36 in back-to-back games against the Suns and Nuggets. And keep in mind, again, Rad has played a total of 20 minutes in that span, including not at all in two of those four.
The Wolves simply need to find a way to run a functional offense, and that starts by playing functional players. No more was this apparent than in last night's win in Denver, when the Wolves got a smart double-double out of starting Robbie Hummel and LaVine was the only Wolf with a negative +/-.
Mo is a functioning NBA point guard, so the offense mostly functions when he plays. Zach is not, so the offense mostly does not when he plays. The Wolves could make an easy move to address this, but instead, several chances to grab a worthwhile point guard have slipped by, while several more still sit in free agency.
St Cloud native Nate Wolters was obviously much talked about after he was waived by the Bucks to make room for Kenyon Martin. Wolters played a great rookie campaign in 2013, before having his minutes cut to almost nothing this year by the combination of Brandon Knight and Kendall Marshall (I imagine the Bucks would probably like Wolters back now with Marshall out for the season).
And Flip said he likes Wolters but "there were no roster spots." Right. Because you yourself used the last one on Raduljica. Who you never play.
Also out there is Will Bynum, who played several solid years in Detroit. Bynum even worked his way into the starting job for a while as Rodney Stuckey repeatedly failed to claim it. Brian Roberts is a guy Eric has mentioned, and for good reason. Roberts has turned in three solid years with New Orleans and Charlotte.
And there's my pick, two-time Israeli MVP Gal Mekel, who won all sorts of praise from the world-class Mavericks staff. Let me just quote you a bit of what the Mavs have said about Mekel
Mark Cuban: "There are basketball skills and then there are skills above the neck. In terms of understanding the game and basketball IQ, he sees it before it happens, and that's rare to find. You don't see that a lot."
Rick Carlisle: [Mekel] has gotten better and better, and he's one of our best defenders at either of the two guard spots. He deserves to be on this roster."
Donnie Nelson: "The future is very bright for Gal. He's got a big upside and is developing ahead of schedule. We wouldn't have even considered this move if it weren't for the unlikely scenario where a player of J.J.'s caliber was available."
I'm big on guys that highly successful NBA show runners saw something in. If Pops sees something in Cory Joseph, then you try to get Cory Joseph. If Morey thought Troy Daniels was worthwhile, then you grab Troy Daniels. When Cuban says Gal Mekel is a high IQ player and Carlisle says he's a good defender, then you try to get Gak Mekel.
And the thing here is, Wolters and Mekel in particular would be moves looking towards the future. You know, #EyesOnTheRise and that whole spiel. Mo Williams is on a one-year contract, and is half here for non-playing reasons. He's not staying past this season. Mekel is a guy you could conceivable have as a backup to Rubio for five years, if not more. And he'd cost nothing to get a look at now. It's a wasted opportunity.
So the bottom line is this: the Wolves cut a deserving player off their roster and passed on the chance to get a likely-helpful one at a position of need in order to sign a guy who's barely played and who's helpfulness is seriously questionable. And that raises questions that go way beyond Rad.