- I suppose the biggest news locally is that Kevin Love has come out and said he won't sign an extension with the Wolves and plans to test free agency after next season - which means there's no chance in hell the Wolves end up signing him. It was somehow both completely expected and a huge stomach punch at the same time. Kahn really fucked us by not giving Love that fifth year (plus the whole out clause thing), and the only hope was that Flip could somehow trick him into staying. Looks like it didn't work, so it's time to shift into getting as much as the Wolves can for him. I would prefer it happen prior to this year's draft since it's so loaded, but Love wants to go to a contender and it's hard finding one of those with both young and promising players and draft picks, and assuming nobody will trade for him unless he agrees to sign a long term deal with them Love's going to need to be on board with his destination. Some possibilities:
- LAKERS: The long rumored destination given Love's ties to LA, this is going to be a tough one to make work. The Lakers have a ridiculous amount of money tied up in Kobe ($30m) and Gasol ($19m) and would almost certainly have to include Gasol to make the money work and that does the Wovles very little good. They also have basically zero interesting young players with the possible exception of Kendall Marshall. They do have the sixth slot in the lottery in this year's draft, but they've already traded their 2015 and 2017 first round picks, which means they can't trade 2016. No chance Love gets to the Lakers without a third team getting involved.
- CHICAGO: Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler are a decent starting point to get a trade done, and the Bulls have #16 and #19 in this year's draft, and Chicago has 2015 first rounders from both Sacramento and Cleveland. Gibson, Butler, and four first round picks would normally be enough to get it done but both those 2015 picks have some weird protections on them that actually mean they're either going to be non-lottery picks or no picks at all. Probably the front-runner.
- GOLDEN STATE: The Warriors can offer the best package of players, giving either Harrison Barnes or Klay Thompson as the centerpiece and maybe including either David Lee or Andrew Bogut. They have zero draft picks to trade, however, having given up their 2014 and 2017 already. The Warriors would likely need to get a third team involved, but starting with Barnes or Thompson is a good jumping off point.
- BOSTON: I'm assuming the Wolves have no interest in Rondo, but Boston can still start with Jeff Green and Kelly Olynyk which is a decent enough start. More interestingly, the Celtics have the #5 spot in the lottery in 2014 and the #17 pick as well, along with three 2015 firsts, and two first in each of 2016, 2017, and 2018 (thanks Brooklyn!). I'm not sure if Boston's involved at all, and they're further from contention than anybody else on this list, but the combination of draft picks and the ability to use Rondo to entice a third team to throw some stuff in makes Boston the team I'd most like to see Love traded to (also it's nice to have traditions, and Minnesota stars going to Boston is a tradition as old as time).
- PHOENIX: The Suns have the last spot in the lottery this year and picks 18 and 27 as well, and will get the Wolves pick if it falls to #14. They also have the Lakers' 2015 first rounder. Assuming they won't give up Erik Bledsoe there isn't much here player wise, but I can already see the Wolves trying to talk fans into some combination of the two Morris twins and Archie Goodwin.
- KNICKS: They're going to come up because they're New York, but they have no chance of getting a trade done. Their only asset is Tim Hardaway, because they've completely traded away their next three drafts. The Knicks' only hope is that a trade doesn't get done and they can get him as a free agent.
Best case scenario is some of these teams and others get together and somehow the Wolves end up with a huge haul. Something like the Wolves get a bunch of the Celtics picks, and the Celtics ship Rondo to the Bulls who then throw an extra pick or Jimmy Butler or somebody the Wolves way. Of course, I've been a Minnesota fan for long enough to expect a terrible trade. They'll probably deal him straight up for Andrew Bogut.
- I suppose I may need to do a Phil Hughes breakdown at some point, given that he's been lights out in his last four games. Seriously, a 1.37 ERA, a WHIP under 1.00, an opponent's slash line of .230/.228/.300, and 20 Ks vs. 0 BBs in 26 innings is really impressive stuff. He'll throw again on Wednesday in San Diego, and if he throws another gem, which seems likely given both the opponent and the park, I'll put up a post looking at his results a little more in depth.
- Remember how I hit the trifecta in the Kentucky Derby and was going Sizzler? Well I hit it for the Preakness too. Same bet, same risk amount. Big difference, however, in payout. The Preakness had 10 horses, while the Derby had 19, so odds were significantly reduced already, and then the Preakness had 3 big favorites hit the first three spots while the Derby at least had one significant longshot sneak in there. So the Derby payout was $1,541. The Preakness payout? $38. No joke. Was quite the letdown, but at least I've hit two now so I'll be playing for my own Triple Crown in a couple weeks.
- Looks like Justin Morneau's skull seems to finally be ok seeing as he's off to a hell of a start. He's hitting .327, which ranks 5th in the NL, with 9 homers (6th) and 32 RBI (4th). Seriously once teammate Troy Tulowitzki finally gets hurt Morneau might be the front runner for MVP. His power is way up, with an ISO near his career high in his MVP year, and although you can at least partially credit Coors for that, Morneau deserves the credit for cutting his K rate nearly in half and getting back down to where it was in his prime years. He's being more aggressive, particularly at balls in the strike zone, and is hammering them pretty good. His HR/FB rate is probably unsustainable so the home runs will probably taper off a bit, but he's in line for a pretty damn good season. Here's a nerdy article talking about how he's one of the top players when it comes to hammering the ball compared to last season.
- Among major league starters the Twins' have three of the highest 15 WHIPS - #1 Kevin Correia at 1.68, #10 Ricky Nolasco at 1.53, and #15 Kyle Gibson at 1.47. That, of course, doesn't include Mike Pelfrey who got shut down with a fake injury with a WHIP of 1.99. I mean that's just like what? Doesn't something need to be done at this point? From the constant injuries that go from day-to-day to season ender without a trip to the DL, to the jettisoning of any talented player if they don't play "the Twins way", to this constant need to go back to the same shitty veterans like Matt Guerrier and Jason Bartlett just because they've been Twins before, to the in season roster mis-management that leads to not having a center fielder but having four shortstops this organization is a complete mess. I need to write a whole post on this before I find myself down the rabbit hole here. To sum up:
- I was going to try to hit on the Gophers recruiting targets for 2015, but holy hell are Richard Pitino and the boys busy. According to 247sports.com they have 26 offers out to 2015 unsigned players and I just really don't feel like going through all of that right now. There are various levels of interest from the recruits, so I'll just hit a couple of the highlights (all rankings from 247 industry composite number) -
PG Jarvis Johnson (Minneapolis, MN), #81 overall/#18 PG - A De La Salle kid and the first legitimate shot for Pitino to keep the border closed on the players he wants. At all but the top programs keeping the borders closed on your top talent is a good way to build a program, and a guy like Johnson is good enough to boost the Gophers without being so good he's got programs you can't say no to after him - although Michigan State did just get involved so gulp. The Gophers are considered a pretty big favorite over Wisconsin for his services, but the whole Sparty thing throws everything off. Pretty important recruit here.
SG Jimmy Whitt (Columbia, MO), #96 overall/23 SG - This guy is piling up offers left and right, and although Arkansas is considered the favorite I've seen his name pop up around the Gophers a couple of times and there are so many teams involved things are still pretty murky. One wrinkle is it looks like he digs Kansas but they haven't offered yet, so most likely once Kansas misses out on some of their top targets they'll move on to Whitt and he'll sign immediately even though he acted like he liked all these other schools because Kansas is jerks.
SF Danjel Purifoy (Centreville, AL), #43 overall/#10 SF - Worth noting as he's the highest rated player who is given "Warm" interest in the Gophers by 247, along with every SEC school and Maryland, Michigan, and Wichita. Yes, Kentucky has reportedly offered but I'm guessing he's a back burner type for them, just given Calipari's ability to grab top 10-ish recruits at every position every year. Purifoy should get you seriously excited given he's an absolutely insane athlete who can handle the ball. He'd come in and immediately start for the Gophers and he can score, defend, and rebound already. His jumper isn't very good right now but when nobody can stop your drive you can be a bit more patient with that. This guy, we want.
PF Alex Illikainen (Grand Rapids, MN), #65 overall, #17 PF - If you could say the Gophers have one traditional recruiting strength regardless of coach, it's been out state Minnesota kids. I'm trying to remember a non-city kid from the state who the Gophers wanted and didn't get and I can't think of one. The closest I can come is Cody Johnson who ended up at Iowa State but I don't think the Gophers really recruited him. I guess you could count J.P. Macura if you wanted but I meant more country kids, not places like Lakeville, and the whole coaching change thing makes it a crap shoot. In any case, the Gophers should be in decent shape for Illikainen, although the competition isn't from anyone who strikes particular fear into my heart (Cal, Creighton, Iowa State, and Indiana are the other schools who have offered and he's shown interest in). He's a perfect stretch four who can also run the floor well and finish in transition, so he not only is from Minnesota but he'd fit Pitino's system perfectly. He's pretty much a Gopher Hole wet dream, and in this case I can't blame them.
C Akolda Manyang (Duluth, MN), #1 overall JUCO, #1 overall JUCO C - Pulling kids from Junior College is always a crap shoot as their are some incredible success stories and some disasters and everything in between, but he's highly rated, he's seven feet tall, and he's at least got some other high majors after him (Oklahoma, Arizona State). I promise if things heat up I'll try to track down some kind of scouting or more info on him, but for now he's really tall and some people like him.
Honestly if Pitino got an all Minnesota class (with Manyang, Illikainen and Johnson) that would be a pretty good class and make those weirdos who want the team to be like, only Minnesota kids happy too. Two top 100 kids and the top Juco would be a nice step up for the program and a natural build, made all the easier by it being local kids. That being said, Pitino is so aggressive and he has so many offers out to so many top kids I'm hoping that after so many near misses last year he finally lands somebody that is like wow - #22 Allonzo Trier, #39 Eric Davis, #42 Jalen Adams, #21 Brandon Ingram, #6 Chieck Diallo, #27 Moustapha Diagne, and #16 Doral Moore are all in play to various degrees. Hopefully he gets one (or more).