Friday, July 27, 2012

Wolves Retool, Emphasis on the Tool

It's been a wild and wacky off-season for the Wolves.  The one thing you can say about Kahn is he doesn't stand pat.  I appreciate the fact that he's wheeling and dealing and scraping for some players instead of signing the basketball equivalent of Jamey Carroll and quitting. (Yes, I know about Willingham, but stay with me.)  If you're a big dork like me an follow twitter and websites for every off-season hoops rumor you know the Wolves are involved in about half of them.  They didn't always hit on their efforts to land players, but boy are they trying.  In addition, the drafting of Rubio and the play of Kevin Love actually makes players want to come here now!  Can you believe that?  Brandon Roy talked about a white Christmas with his family moving to Minnesota.  That's freaking incredible.

By the way, the basketball equivalent of Jamey Carroll is Toronto Raptor Jose Calderon.

I can do a few things, but I am overpaid and deserve your hatred.

The Wolves moved some malcontents and underachievers for some new white guys and an embattled former star.  Beasley was allowed to walk instead of picking up his $9MM-ish qualifying offer.  He went to Phoenix where he'll likely be allowed to chuck it 20 times a game in order to get them a high lottery pick.  Martell Webster was also jettisoned; and he could be considered the first salvo in what has become a Portland/Minnesota hoops feud.  Minnesota claims that Portland knew that Martell's back was beyond jacked and did not trade in good faith.  They are actually pursuing this with the NBA and asking for a pick (assume 2nd round) for compensation.  I doubt anything comes of it other than some people laugh at Kahn.

The Wolves then made a play for Nic Batum in the hopes of getting a wing that could actually defend someone one-on-one.  They made an pretty massive offer for a player that has a lot of skill and upside, but isn't an all-star least not yet.  The Blazers waited until the zero hour and then matched.  At the same time they also helped facilitate a trade for another potential Wolves target by being the 3rd party in the Courtney Lee sign and trade to the Celtics.  This isn't over, Blazers! *shakesfist*

The Wolves also got Brandon Roy, who apparently has regenerated some knee parts by visiting the Island of Dr. Moreau and getting some injections.  In cripple mode he was near worthless, but he claims he feels better than he's felt in years after the procedure, so we'll see.  If the Wovles get 25 mins a game of  not quite as good as ol' Roy, that's a steal.  Remember Ol' Roy dog food from Christmas Vacation?

So who else is gone?  Anthony Randolph, Brad Miller (retired), probably Anthony Tolliver (as they're out of spots unless they cut some dudes) and former #4 pick Wes Johnson.  Watching Wes Johnson go dunk-a-tron on everyone at Syracuse made me think this was a good pick at the time.  Turns out Wes didn't have any fire in his belly and just kind of coasted through most of his games with the Wolves.  I'm pretty sure Wes is constantly on shrooms; do they test for that? Wes goes to Phoenix (Beasley AND Wes, what could go wrong?) and will try for new life on a career that's been disapointingly poop-stained.  Oh yeah, they traded Wayne Ellington for Dante Cunningham too.

In exchange for these guys, the Wolves brought in a veritable blizzard of white guys. You already know about Chase Budinger coming aboard for the 18th overall pick. In addition the Wolves add a pair of Russians in Aleksey Shved (23) and  Andrei Kirilenko (31).  The Wes trade was to free up cap to get Kirilenko, who Kahn signed toa  2 year $20MM deal. That is a LOT of cash for a guy on the back nine of his career, but there are no other FAs left that can bring what he can and I've been given to understand the second year is a player option in case Andrei wants to go back to Mother Russia and drink wodka.  Plus, Kirlenko has a sweet nick-name (AK47) and a hot wife that lets him go off the farm on his b-day.  Shved is an upside play and I've watched enough youtube to see that he's as slippery as an eel and has good ball-handling and an OK jumper. I've seen clips where he alternates between delivering and receiving alley-oops.  He signed a 3 year deal for about $10MM and I like the play for some sneaky upside.  If he were a draft pick I'd consider him the type of guy that goes in the 15-25 range.  Could be solid; could make you punch your cat in frustration.  Lastly, the Wolves signed backup center Greg Stiemsma to fill their backup stiff position.  Stiemsa has a couple things going for him:  1) he's white and we're apparently trying to set some kind of record with that and 2) he can defend inside a bit.  I think he was a good signing.

The lack of shoulder blades allows Shved to more easily windmill dunk.

So the roster as of now is something like this:

PG:  Rubio (out w/knee), Ridnour, Barea, Jerome Dyson?
SG:  Ol' Roy, Budinger (SF), Shved, Malcom Lee?
SF:  Andrei Kirilenko, Dante Cunningham, Robbie Hummel Figurine
PF:  Love, D. Williams
C:   Pekovic, Greg Stiemsma, Paulo Prestes?

That's an incredible 11 white-ish players.  Although I'm not certain about the guys with questions marks making the team at this point.  That list has 16 and the Wolves need to get down to 15.  In addition, the Wolves had been in talks with Carl Landry to bolster their big man ranks.  I did think Prestes looked decent in summer league play, but no one tries there.  Jerome Dyson sucks (get it?) and I haven't seen much of Lee but the reason he was drafted in the 2nd in 2011 was he can defend, so it might be a good idea to hang on to him.  Dante Cunningham is kind of Jack of all trades type that should be able to provides some defense. 

This season likely hinges on Brandon Roy and Ricky Rubio's health.  As mentioned, if Roy can be 90% of his old self and play around 25 minutes, he's a weapon.  Rubio's recovery from knee surgery appears to be going great and I've heard anything from late September to December for the date of his return.  If he can come back and play like he was playing before injury, this is a team that can get in the playoffs.  There.  I said it.

Roy may not start in the beginning and I could see lineups were Budinger starts at the 2 or at the 3, pushing Kirilenko to the bench.  I also suspect AK47 and D. Williams will share a lot of time on the floor with Williams defending the lesser offensive weapon at either the 3 or 4.  There are lineup configurations here that present post options with Pek, pick an roll options with a number of players as well as some players that love to run.  Budinger, Ak47, Williams, Shved and even Stiemsma can run the floor and will get some alley-oops.  Should be fun to watch. 

Defensively, there are a few players that I consider good passing lane defenders, like Rubio and Budinger.  Pek is good on the blocks just because he's very physical.  Steimsma is a plus defender, as are Kirilenko and Cunningham.  Love is still a turnstyle but he and Pek rebound like the dickens.

Early homer projection based on a healthy Rubio return by late November is a .500 record and the 8 seed.

In closing...

Makes you want to troll the Russian Brides websites...

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