Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves season preview

Projected starting line-up
G Randy Foye
G Ricky Davis
F Corey Brewer
F Al Jefferson
C Mark Blount

Gerald Green
Marko Jaric
Rashad McCants
Ryan Gomes

Last year
On January 23, 2007 the Minnesota Timberwolves fired head coach Dwane Casey due to "inconsistency" according to GM Kevin McHale. Of course, the fact that Casey was only with the team for a year and a half before getting fired also shows the lack of consistence applied by GM Kevin McHale. But to make this change in mid-season was more then questionable. At the time of the trade the Timberwolves were 20-20 and were a very streaky team. In the first 40 games, they had 4 game losing streaks three different times and a 3 game losing streak once. Near the start of the season, they had a 1-7 stretch. On the flip side, in those first 40 games they had a 7 wins out of 8 stretch, a 4 game winning streak and a 3 game winning streak. Was this team inconsistent? Sure. But there is a reason why most teams try to avoid doing anything major till the off-season. After Casey was fired, the Timberwolves went 12-30 with new head coach (Casey's assistent) Randy Wittman. In 2003-2004 the Wolves lost to the Lakers in 6 in the Western Conference finals. Since then, they have not made it back to the playoffs. Kevin McHale has (and deserves) much of the blame here. Since he became general manager in 1995, the Wolves had made the playoffs 8 times although only once making it past the first round. Making it past the first round only once with one of the great power forwards of all-time is not exactly proof that you can do the job. Loyalty is a bitch sometimes though, and McHale has been with owner Glen Taylor since Taylor bought the franchise in 94, with no signs of the relationship changing any time soon. And since the teams record has gotten worse and worse since they made it to the eastern conference finals, it's pretty obvious that the moves McHale has made since then has not worked out in his favor.

Traded Kevin Garnett for Al Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff,
Ryan Gomes and 2 first round draft picks
Drafted Corey Brewer
Traded Mike James and Justin Reed for Juwan Howard
Signed Evanthia Maltsi
Released Troy Hudson
Signed John Edwards
Traded Trenton Hassell to Dallas for Greg Buckner
Signed Chris Richard

It's tough to fully grade the big ticket trade from the Wolves perspective, because a good portion of it will be based on future decisions made by McHale, when he uses the draft picks and the 11 million in salary money from Ratliff's contract when it is completed next summer. Nothing McHale has done though till this point has shown that he can build a successful team. Unless McHale get's something good from the money and the draft picks, then this trade will forever haunt Wolves fans. I know I know, Al Jefferson has shown that he can be productive on a weak team, and I don't doubt that he will be able to do the same for Minny. But we are talking about Kevin Garnett who still has 5 good years left. Jefferson played well last year, but let's not get stupid and think he compares to KG. Mike James was a bust for the Wolves, and a silly move to begin with since they already had 2 PG's last year, one being Foye who needed court time to grow. James is the classic "just because he avg. 20 points for one crappy team, it doesn't neccessarly mean he is a good player". People really need to stop focusing so much on the numbers. Juwan Howard would be an alright fit if, of course, he didn't turn around and request a trade. The movement is also not complete, as they currently have 17 players on roster at the moment. They will need to trim 2 before the season starts.

Welcome to the Ricky Davis era. It will be short since his contract is up after this season, but it should be a fun time watching Davis jack up three's like he is in a three point contest. Al Jefferson will get some love, at least, as the coaches will make sure he gets the ball a few possessions a game to try to show they knew what they were doing with the trade. Mark Blount also did show some improvement last year, and could be a solid contributor if motivated. But that will be the issue for this team. Garnett was a true leader. And it was a team that did have some questionable characters on it. Ricky Davis/Mark Blount/Mike James were all guys that needed some babysitting, and even with MIke James gone, he has just been replaced by Telfair. Who is going to police these guys? I remember a Raps vs. Minny game where Davis had about 15 points in the first quarter. Later in the game during a time out, Davis and Coach Randy Wittman started to yell at each other about something. Take the unstability of the players and add a crap load of loses and watch the new version of the Portland Jailblazers form. The Wolves have the youth, and with many high draft picks to come, they won't be get any older any time soon. Jefferson gets the go ahead to be the leader of the team, but it's not like he is all of a sudden of harden vet of the NBA. And when these young guys are going to need someone to help guide them and mold them into a playoff team in the next few years, all they are going to get is guys with questionable attitudes who have had very little success in their careers Welcome to the Ricky Davis era.

What to watch for
1) 1st pick - It will be a battle this year with Portland/Philly/Clippers/Seattle/Atlanta/Indiana. Who will come out on top!
2) The rise of Jefferson - Can he continue his development?
3) The fall of Ricky Davis - Will he be a team guy or not?

If they were in the East, they might get a few more W's. But 4 times a year they play against the Spurs/Suns/Mavs/Rockets/Jazz/Nuggets. They are screwed. With the 1st pick in the 2008 NBA draft...

Between 18 and 22 wins this season with a 15th place finish in the West.

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