ESPN has published Zach Lowe’s annual 32 crazy NBA predictions column, which is always good fodder for discussion. There’s plenty in there for everyone to chew on, including the Rockets finishing second in the West, an MVP for Kawhi Leonard, and many teams looking to get off salaries signed during the cap bubble.
But of course we’ll focus on the Wolves-related predictions.
The Wolves Lead the League in Offensive Rebounding Rate
The Wolves finished third last season, and this year's version will be downright rude in the paint. Taj Gibson punks weak box-out guys. Jimmy Butler's sneaky offensive rebounding was perhaps the first skill -- at least on offense -- that got him noticed. He's not as brash crashing these days, but he's a load.
I buy this. The Wolves are going to play big. They attacked the offensive glass last season led by Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng, along with Shabazz Muhammad off the bench. Those guys all return of course, and Taj Gibson has a career offensive rebounding percentage over ten.
Of course, they have to balance crashing to boards with transition defense, something they’ve struggled with in the past.
Karl-Anthony Towns goes 50-40-85
It's more likely Karl-Anthony Towns goes 50-38-85, but where's the fun in that? I really wanted to pull the trigger on Towns joining Dirk Nowitzki as the only big men in the hallowed 50-40-90 club, but leaping from 82 to 90 percent at the line in one season is a lot to ask. Maybe someday. Towns has a chance to be the greatest scoring big man since Shaq -- and the most versatile ever.
I agree that 38% from three is more likely, but variance could push it up to 40%. (Or down to 35%.) I would bet the under on the three point percentage, and the free throw percentage should be close. Still, the greatest scoring big-man since Shaq? Yes please.
Wolves Trade Cole Aldrich for Jared Dudley of Phoenix
The Wolves need depth and shooting, and the Suns could use more wiggle room Aldrich's partially-guaranteed deal would crack open this summer. They are not getting better than this for Dudley. Minnesota is staring down a hefty tax bill for next season after handing over Scrooge McDuck's vault to Andrew Wiggins; Dudley would add to it. Tom Thibodeau might snare a bench piece now anyway, and deal with next season's tax next season.
Interestingly, Doogie Wolfson tweeted this morning this rumor has some legs. The Wolves have apparently inquired about Dudley’s health following toe surgery this summer.
This whole bit is why I am writing this article. I would love to get Dudley in a Wolves uniform, though like most players the Wolves acquire, it would be about five years after I really wanted him. Still, I was interested last summer when he was a free agent, but the Wolves showed no interest at the time, and he signed with the Suns on a three year, roughly $30 million deal.
Dudley is 32 and not a big minute player (he never really was a big minute player, in truth.) But he’s smart, has a tremendous personality, can shoot the three, and play the small-ball four. He’s not a particularly athletic guy, but he’s intelligent defensively.
He has two more guaranteed years on his deal, and creates tax-line problems for the Wolves (which is not my problem.) But if you can get a useful player at a position of need for someone who is entirely out of the rotation, you do it.
This is a trade that would make me very happy, even if Dudley isn’t quite the player he was at his peak.
What say you?