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There is lots of doom and gloom swirling around the National Basketball Association at the moment with the players locked out, the owners standing firm on their demands for higher profitability and a surprising lack of leadership from David Stern. Given that, most NBA aficionados still have a smile on their face from the afterglow of a brilliant season capped by an entertaining Finals series, and there are more reasons to smile, as the overall health of the League is pretty strong. Over the next month, Hoop Diary will be taking you on a journey through all 30 NBA cities and exploring in detail the future of each franchise. How will your team fare?
The Wolves finished last season with the worst record in the Association, although there are rays of light for the struggling franchise with new blood coming in, a friendly cap situation and some nice building blocks already in place.
The Timberwolves have some solid pieces to their organisation with a strong medical team and a really good sales force. Okay, I’m reaching for good things to say about Glen Taylor’s franchise as they really are a train wreck. A track record of making boneheaded decisions (see sidebar) haven’t helped the situation or the done anything for fans confidence in the administration. There have been some highlights for the leadership though, chief amongst them obviously drafting Kevin Garnett, but also the brilliant draft-day swap of OJ Mayo for Kevin Love.
Of course any talk of the salary cap has to come with a giant asterisk while the League is in the midst of a labour situation and the salary cap structure is likely to be overhauled and likely reigned in, however all teams are in the same boat so conclusions can still be drawn if we grade on the curve.
Minnesota has a complicated salary cap situation, with some nice pieces on small money, and some terrible pieces taking up large chunks of their overall cap space. They also have a lot of work to do with many of their players having only one or two years remaining on their deals, although this is a real benefit as it provides significant flexibility to the front office should they wish to quickly shake up the roster. This is likely something they will be looking to do, as the mix of talent on the roster doesn’t really mesh well.
As it stands, Minnesota is 3.7 million under the salary cap, and the only truly bad deal is the three years and 15 million remaining on Darko Milicic’s contract, and he shows enough signs of hope that even he isn’t untradeable.
As mentioned previously, the roster is a total mishmash, with no real wing talent save incoming Ricky Rubio and the promising Wes Johnson, and a raft of big men who would rather play on the perimeter than get inside and dirty. New addition Derrick Williams will likely not to much to change the glut of perimeter focused big men as he is a hybrid 3/4 who benefited from a weak draft class to rise to the second overall pick.
Kevin Love is undoubtedly the ray of sunshine, with his All-Star selection being thoroughly deserved. After him it’s a murderers row of underperformers castoff from more successful franchises, and the development of Milicic, Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph and Sebastian Telfair will go a long way to shaping the future of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
There is hope though, as these players have talent and can be showcased in the first half of this season before being shipped out for players who fit a greater team dynamic. The future of the franchise is obviously Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, so developing a culture of quick movement and surrounding these two with defensive stoppers is going to lead to wins. Looking to pick up defensive minded speedsters like JaVale McGee, who is apparently on the block, and pairing him with a perimeter player like Chase Budinger would go a long way to helping turn this franchise around.
The Wolves don’t need to swing for the fences with superstars, but can build slowly and develop chemistry.
The future looks cold and uninviting in Minnesota, mostly because there appears to be no obvious plan. The pieces are there and the fan base is solid, so the foundations are there if everything goes perfectly and the Wolves can rebound reasonably quickly. If they draft well and more importantly, trade well, with chemistry and the future in mind, rather than paying for past performance with retread aging superstars, the Wolves can build towards the playoffs this year and have a solid team by next year. It’s a long road ahead however.
Tune in over the coming days as we take a look at another team and assess their fortunes in the coming seasons.