As a truly horrifying thought exercise in honor of Halloween I suddenly found myself imaging that the Timberwolves basketball team was suddenly dissolved and the 15 players currently on the squad were all dispersed to other NBA teams. How this would come to be is unclear: perhaps I would simply awaken from a dream to realize the Wolves never existed in the first place, or perhaps they would be caught negotiating an illegal contract extension with Adreian Payne and an exasperated Adam Silver simply nullified the team on the spot. Regardless of mechanism for this sad occurrence we would want to see the players we love move on to situations that are good for them as individual players. At least I would. Here I will examine each current Timberwolf and try to imagine what other NBA team would be a good fit for each player's skills and/or developmental needs. Keep reading if you dare.
Ok, before I get into this thing in ernest I feel the need to clear something up: the correct answer to the question I've asked, for almost any player in the NBA, is the San Antonio Spurs. Their ability to play smart team basketball with an awareness of each individual player's personal skills is unmatched in the league. Clearly this excersize would be even more pointless than it already is if I just went down the list and assigned each Wolves player to the Spurs so I'm not going to do that. I may land at the Spurs organically for a player or two but I intend to work a little harder than that here in general.
Now that I have cleared up the San Antonio problem I will turn my sights to the first player on my list, Nemanja Bjelica. Bejelica, or Professor Big Shots if you prefer, would do well as a member of the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks do an excellent job of spreading the floor by having three point threats all over the place in their offensive sets. The front court rotation is pretty set with veteran's Al Horford and Paul Milsap but Bjelica's ability to shoot from pretty much anywhere on the floor, combined with his obvious passing skills, would allow him to find playing time without the pressure to succeed that has been put on him here in Minnesota. Besides, the Hawks are going to need to replace DeMarre Carroll's shooting somehow and who better than Europe's reigning MVP?
As a competent back up center Gorgui Deing could fit on pretty much any roster in the NBA which is why we Wolves fans should brace ourselves for a non-stop barrage of trade rumors involving his name over the next few seasons. If forced to choose one team I choose the Washington Wizards because it's likely they will be in need of help at the center position at some point this season given the age of Nene and Gortat and Deing's ability to shoot from the elbow should be a nice match for the probing bombastic point guard the Wizards have in John Wall.
It's difficult to imagine Kevin Garnett playing for any other team this season, especially after the sad news this week of Coach Saunders passing. One team that doesn't seem completely ridiculous is the Chicago Bulls where KG would be allowed to play competitive and meaningful basketball in what could certainly be his final NBA season. It is also interesting to imagine how perfectly Garnett would compliment both Gasol and Noah in the Chicago front court. It also doesn't hurt that KG would, in this scenario, be playing for first year coach Fred Hoiberg, who, we all will remember, was a teammate of Kevin's during Minnesota's brief glory days.
The debate regarding if young players develop better through unearned minutes with which to learn the game or through short bursts with limited expectations will rage on forever. My best guess is that it depends- which is why I am such a terrible internet arguer. What the hell do I know besides that I absolutely don't believe in absolutes! Anyway, Tyus has impressed me this season and it appears that his path to NBA relevance will be to play smart basketball while really learning his own limitations. This is why I have decided that he should go to the Milwaukee Bucks where he would have the chance to learn under a smart point guard coach while having to earn playing time behind veteran, but not superstar, guards.
Zach LaVine would fit in well with the Sacramento Kings where coach George Karl's is known for pushing the pace and where Zach, who is not a point guard, could play next to a playmaker in Rajon Rondo who isn't known for shooting. Also, he would get to play with DeMarcus Cousins which, as far as I'm concerned, would be good for anyone. Also, the whole situation could be hilarious.
At this point in his career Kevin Martin seems best suited as a sniper off the bench for a team that is not necessarily dependent upon him and that will allow him to finally compete deep into the playoffs. For these reasons it's easy to imagine Martin back in Houston where his ability to stretch the floor could open up the court both inside for Howard and outside for Harden, and where he could provide some scoring pop off the bench during those rare moments that Harden actually sits down. It's also to Martin's advantage that he already knows where all of the best BBQ joints are as I can only imagine the extent that trying to sort this out would distract me from a new job if I ever moved to Houston.
Another veteran at the end of a long successful career for whom it is difficult to imagine playing for a young rebuilding team. Then again, he did voluntarily sign with the Timberwolves so I have no idea what to think. Oh well, nothing new there. Anyway, I have always liked Miller and want him to be in a good situation for him which, I think would mean his joining the L.A. Clippers. Now from a purely selfish perspective I would not care for this because, as I said, I like Miller, and I do not care for these Clippers. Still, Miller would give them an experienced point guard to play when Chris Paul is too bust complaining or selling insurance and Miller is known to be an excellent ally-oop passer which means he would probably get to be on Sports Center highlights which I can only imagine would make him happy.
Muhammad is a difficult one to imagine here because, although I like what I have seen from him, I am having a difficult time deciding exactly what his role should be in the NBA. Tough energy guy off the bench seems to be the best answer to this so I am going to assign him to the Indian Pacers who like to play a tenacious brand of basketball under coach Frank Vogel and where Muhammad's ability to go after offensive rebounds and score in the post can help replace some of the void left by the departure of David West.
I'm trying really hard here to take this seriously and not just suggest that Adreian Payne is best suited to go play for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants but I will refrain because I am a
professional amateur obvious hack. In all seriousness, I believe that the best chance for Payne to succeed in the NBA at this point would be if he were given a very focused and clear role on a veteran team. I'm not convinced he is likely to learn a whole lot more in terms of specific skills but I do think his energy could help him carve out a niche if he could harness it and accept that his days as a star player on his respective team are behind him. Because of this I would like to see Payne on the Oklahoma City Thunder. Russell Westbrook could provide him with an example of high energy gone right and Payne would have no room for illusions on a team expecting to play at the highest level in the league this season. Besides, it's probably pretty easy to get from Oklahoma City to Fort Wayne so at least he would be ready if that happened.
In order to write this without making myself sad I am going to imagine Nikola Pekovic healthy. When I do this it's easy to see him thriving on a variety of NBA rosters because of his strength and ability to score in the post. The first thing that comes to mind for Pek is how well he would fit in Memphis as a primary back up to Marc Gasol. Pek obviously doesn't have Gasol's defensive chops (few do) but I believe he can pass well enough to allow Memphis to do their regular thing and that Pek could alternate between being a focus point in the post or a disruptive distraction while sharing the court with Zach Randolph. Please also note that I am not bothering with salary implications in this article as I too find it difficult to imagine Memphis investing $12 million annually in a third big considering what they already have invested in Randolph and Gasol.
There is no doubt that Tayshaun Prince's best basketball is behind him but at 35 years old it's also not inconceivable to imagine him still contributing on the end of a quality NBA team's bench. Prince has played for a championship before and it's always fun to imagine these kinds of veteran players being given one last chance to add to their jewelry collection. For this reason I am going to imagine Prince as a member of the Golden State Warriors. Last season's NBA champs displayed the advantages of having multiple tall and versatile players on the wing who can handle the basketball, defend more than one opposing player, and shoot open threes. Now certainly Prince isn't the player he once was but I think it's possible that he will be able to still do these things at an acceptable level to be useful at the end of the bench for a team like Golden State.
Any team would consider themselves lucky to find Rubio on their roster due to the fact that he is a starting caliber point guard who seems to be the kind of teammate that would make him willing to play with just about anyone- although I suppose his skills may go somewhat unused alongside another ball dominate player in the lead guard position. Regardless of this, I am going to use this exercise as a means for imagining a back court pairing that I have long dreamt of for the Timberwolves. Yes folks, I'm talking about Goran Dragic and the Miami Heat. Having the ability to always have two of Rubio, Dragic or Wade on the court together would give the Heat comfort in knowing they always have two smart basketball players who are are least interested in the defensive end of the court (although I'm pretty sure Wade can no longer work his off the ball rim protection magic). Some readers may suggest that I should have sent Ricky to play along guards more known for their shooting given his well documented struggles in that arena but I say phooey to that; Chris Bosh can shoot. Rubio on the Miami Heat would be fun and I like to have fun. Besides, this is a Halloween article about a nightmare scenario, Ricky Rubio needs to remain a Timberwolf anyway.
Remember when I said I was going to make a point of not simply writing that every single player on the Timberwolves roster would benefit from joining the Spurs but that I might bring them up once or twice if it seemed especially apt? Well, it's time to make good on that promise. Damjan Rudez has one clear NBA skill and only one clear NBA skill and that's shooting the ball from beyond the three point line. The Spurs are well known for allowing players to participate in their offense simply by stretching the floor so that other players can operate. It is also worth noting that, from what little we have seen in the preseason, it appears that Rudez is able to pass well enough to fit in with San Antonio's patented unselfish brand of basketball. Frankly, the jury is still out on whether or not Damjan Rudez is worthy of an actual NBA roster spot but it would appear that, given his individual limitations and skills, if any team can find a way to make him useful it would be the San Antonio Spurs.
Karl-Anthony Towns was the correct choice to be the number one pick in the 2015 NBA draft and all indications are that he is a player that will deserve heavy minutes during his rookie season. He is also the kind of player, and personality, that could help his team develop a clear identify in not only this season but for many years to come. Because of all this I feel that Towns, were he not playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves, would fit in well with the Portland Trailblazers. You may recall that the Blazers lost their franchise cornerstone LaMarcus Aldridge to the San Antonio Spurs this offseason during free agency which means that, despite the presence of the energizing point guard Damian Lillard, Portland is searching a clear team identity for the first time in several seasons. Added to this is the fact that the Blazers do not have much front court depth and it is easy to imagine Towns immediately stepping into a starting role where he and Lillard could attempt to restore the Blazers to NBA prominence.
It's so tempting to use this opportunity to make the case the Andrew Wiggins would be the perfect Cleveland Cavalier, but I'm not really trying to use this light hearted bizzaro post as a means for mockery of other NBA teams and besides, Cleveland again has a chance to win a championship this season so fans of that team have no reason to fret over the obvious reference I would be making. I am, however, going to keep Wiggins in the Eastern Conference by way of the Boston Celtics. Pairing Andrew with young point guard Marcus Smart, under the tutelage of coaching prodigy Brad Stevens, should allow Wiggins to continue building upon his successful rookie season. Boston has some scoring pop in Isaiah Thomas who would take some pressure off Wiggins but who, as a very different kind of player, would not be likely to get in his way. I also am hopeful that Andrew Wiggins will be a very high caliber player and, as a general NBA fan, I feel that the East needs far more of these.
Well, there you go folks. Hopefully we will wake up from this article and soon and realize that it was just a terrible nightmare. The NBA season is finally here, the Timberwolves exist with their roster intact, and we fans should be in for a fun season. Happy Halloween everyone. Here is some seasonally appropriate music for you to enjoy. Go Wolves!