It’s always interesting to read what the outlook is for NBA teams from the perspective of someone who’s close to them. So I asked a few of the team-specific blogs to write a piece on what the future holds for their team.
First up is the inestimable College Wolf who writes out of TWolves Blog. One of the things I like about the TWolves Blog is it’s honesty. Anyway… here’s the piece:
This off-season is shaping up to be of the most vital in the past decade for our Minnesota Timberwolves; if not the most vital. Whatever happens with the draft and the following free agency period, could literally determine the future success (or lack thereof) for our hometown heroes.
When it boils down to the nitty-gritty, this is a team with too many questions and not anywhere near enough answers.
Do I have faith in our Front Office and Coaching Staff to make the correct off-season decisions, as well as lead us to contention in the future?
To put it bluntly, no, I do not.
Who are the Wolves going to draft with the #3 overall pick? I don’t think our brain trust can even answer that right now. We have too many holes to fill, and are not in a position to do anything other than selecting the “Best Available Player.”
However, with our 7-headed selection committee, will they be able to agree upon who the BPA even is? Heaven forbid we trade down so that we can fill a “need”, with a lower lotto pick and by acquiring additional “assets.”
The post-draft time period only brings more uncertainties: which players on our extensive free agent list (Ryan Gomes, Craig Smith, Sebastian Telfair, Chris Richard, Kirk Snyder, and Michael Doleac) do we retain?
Which do we let go?
Is Randy Wittman even the right man to lead this team? I don’t think so… but he’s got two years remaining on his contract, so I think he’ll be sticking around for the time being.
The most crucial of all off-season decisions is deciding what is to be done with our #3 overall pick in the upcoming draft. This will be the highest pick the franchise has ever had (along with Christian Laettner in ‘92), and hopefully it is the last time we have the “honor” of drafting this high in the lottery, as merited by performance.
It’s my belief that OJ Mayo is the next ‘BPA’ (after Rose/Beasley), as his athleticism and defense is clearly superior to basically every other guard in the draft. He can shoot from downtown with aplomb, and his maturity no longer seems to be in question. However, the problem is that the Wolves need a “big man” more than they need yet another combo guard, as some mock drafts having us taking Brook Lopez or Kevin Love.
Word on the street has Kevin Love flying up the draft boards, and especially seems like a “Kevin-McHale-type-guy.” I actually think Lopez will prove to be a bust of epic proportions, nor do I think Kevin Love will be a good fit alongside Al Jefferson. For starters, Al Jefferson’s ideal (and most dominant) position is that of PF. However, if we draft Kevin Love, Big Al will basically become our de facto Center for the next 10+ years. Neither player is very strong defensively; and a front line of two guys less than 6’10” will be too much of a defensive liability to make up for what they could possibly provide offensively.
People are also overlooking the fact that if we draft Mayo, we could then trade one of Randy Foye or Rashad McCants for additional assets; either in the form of more draft picks or players in a position of need, such as Center. For a plethora of reasons, I am not a big fan of “McFoye”, and would be ecstatic if we could trade either player for an additional first round pick, or perhaps a young, promising Center.
Additional assets held by the Wolves include two sought after second round picks (#31 and #34), as well as future first round picks owed to us by the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics.
Any Front Office worth their salt should be able to package some combination of the four picks into at least one additional first round pick in this draft, for which we could draft a number of players that would help this club immensely.
As people may or may not know, second round picks do not require guaranteed contracts, whereas all first round picks do. Many teams with salary crunches often look to trade out of the first round, or sell off their first round picks completely (such as the Phoenix Suns the past three drafts.)
With this in mind, the Wolves should be able to package any of these four picks and/or players to move back up into the first round, where there will be many talented players available.
If we draft Mayo #3, we should look to pick up a big man such as: Roy Hibbert, DeAndre Jordan, Robin Lopez, Marreese Speights, JaVale McGee, Darrell Arthur, Alexis Ajinca, and/or DeVon Hardin.
If (heaven forfend) we draft or end up with via trade of our #3 pick, Brook Lopez or Kevin Love, we could still trade back up into the first round for some excellent wing players such as: Chris Douglas-Roberts, Nicolas Batum, DJ Augustin, Donte Greene, Bill Walker, Mario Chalmers, and/or Pat Calathes.
As you can see, there is a nice selection of players that could possibly be available in the mid to late first round. It is up to our Front Office to best utilize our assets, to come away with as many future “core players” as possible from this draft.
Of course, this domino effect all hinges upon what the Brass does with our #3 pick, as it will dictate what other players we acquire/trade/draft.
Therefore, draft night for the Minnesota Timberwolves will truly be a dynamic and “seat of your pants” event for our decision makers. It all depends on which players drop, which players are still available where, and what trades are offered (or accepted), if any at all.
As I already pointed out, the Wolves also have several free agents. It is tough to get a read on what the Front Office will/should do with these players, because each potential re-signee is largely dependent on possible draftees, as well as which other free agents are signed first!
If I were in charge, here’s what I’d do with each:
- Michael Doleac – Due to roster space and because of the way that he wobbles when he runs, I would not bring him back under any circumstances. We should be able to pick up a better/younger/cheaper Center by trading back up into the mid to late first round of the NBA draft.
- Sebastian Telfair – Depending on who we draft, I would explore bringing him back at the “right price.” He’s certainly not worth the full MLE, but he’s still young (23 yrs old) and has potential. If we draft OJ Mayo or perhaps Mario Chalmers/DJ Augustin/etc, I don’t think I’d bring him back. If we don’t draft a point guard, I’d offer him something around the 4 year, $15 million dollar range, at the most.
- Kirk Snyder – I like some of the things that he showed us towards the end of the year, but I do not feel that he is someone that will help take our team to the “next level.” Due to limited roster space and a plethora of draft picks in the next three years, I would not make him an offer.
- Ryan Gomes – I would bring him back under almost any circumstances, as he is a restricted free agent. He’s versatile, plays very solid defense, has great character, and a high basketball IQ. As long as he is not offered more than the MLE by any club, I would match the offer. If he is not offered a contract by another club, I’d start with something like a 5 year, $25 million dollar contract. Coincidentally, that would keep him around the same number of years as Al Jefferson.
- Craig Smith – If Gomes is re-signed, I would not re-sign Craig Smith unless we do not draft any big men at all. Alas, that would mean our draft was an utter failure.
- Chris Richard – If we draft a center (as desperately needed), I don’t think we bring Richard back unless he is willing to accept the minimum. Being that we need a center more than we need an undersized backup PF, there is slightly more need for Richard than Craig Smith.
It may sound like it, but not all is “doom and gloom” with this young Wolves club. We’ve got a potential cornerstone building piece in Al Jefferson, and the jury is still out on recent lottery picks Randy Foye and Corey Brewer.
I think Gomes is a great player to have around as a “glue guy”, who will solidify our lineup/rotation, and provide many more smart plays than he will mistakes. On top of the #3 pick in this year’s draft, we are also owed first round picks by the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics in the upcoming drafts. After the next two seasons, the financial/salary situation will become clearer and more favorable, as a ton of guaranteed/dead money will finally be leaving the books.
A few obstacles that remain include our Coaching Staff (something must be done, Randy Wittman is NOT an upper echelon coach!); our need for at least one more “star” player; and the fact that the Western Conference is really, really, dang tough.
Some people argue that teams such as the Suns, Nuggets, Mavericks, and Spurs are getting older and slowing down, thusly opening up potential playoff spots to new teams. However, a number of good young teams are on the rise in the Western Conference as well. For example: the Golden State Warriors, New Orleans Hornets, LA Lakers, and Portland Trail Blazers, among others.
The Western Conference will continue to remain hellaciously tough, and it’s up to the Wolves to improve, rather than hope other teams simply experience a decline. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but our organization faces a steep and winding road ahead of us.
The first step starts this Thursday night at the 2008 NBA draft. We need to make it count and draft some quality players, if we ever hope for the Wolves to get some bite to go along with their bark.