Now that I’ve plumbed the depths of what can be considered “interesting” with a 1,000+ word look back on the just-ended Wolves season, I’m going to take it one step further and look ahead to next year. I’ll do so by listing in chronological order what I would do as a GM.
(Here is where you ask, “why the fuck would I trust your judgment on where to direct a franchise? You work in advertising and write once every three weeks on a blog that no one reads.” Fair enough. Take this all with a grain of salt if you want, though I have to say I’m reasonably certain I could do a better job this offseason that what we’ve seen from Kahn so far. So could you.)
STEP 1: Fire Rambis
That one’s a no-brainer. The Wolves have a roster that is light on talent and it should be noted that their best 4 players are all natural power forwards. I’m not saying a better coach could have propelled the Wolves to the playoffs, but they left a good 10 or more wins on the table simply due to poor coaching. Rambis was an absolute abomination and his eventual ouster should be met with no less than loud praise from the nine remaining diehards.
Step 1a is obviously to find a coach who is (1) willing to look at advanced metrics, (2) passionate and (3) able to work a system around its players rather than the other way around. I’ll be a happy man if I never see the Triangle ever run by this franchise again.
There are two huge questions about the future coaching search:
1. Would a highly sought-after coach ever want to come to Minnesota? I’m guessing no. The undeniably excellent rookie Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was a longtime Celtics assistant it was a near-given the day he was hired by the Bulls that it was a solid hire. The guy had experience and was, by most accounts, next in line to get a gig. Would this year’s version of Thibodeau consider for more than a millisecond coming to Minnesota to deal with a shoddy roster and clinically insane GM? Again, I’m guessing no.
2. Even if a coach were willing to come here, do you trust David Kahn to find him? The man is hilariously terrible at judging talent – I was at the Wolves draft party in ’09 and I still hear his words “You guys are going to love Jonny Flynn!” in my darkest nightmares. Ditto Johnson over Cousins, and throw in Rambis as well. He doesn’t know talent, he seems allergic to any sophisticated measurement tools and rubs just about everyone on earth the wrong way. There is a one-in-a-thousand chance Kahn identifies and hires a logical candidate as the next choice.
The next Wolves coach will most likely be an under-qualified no-namer who is purportedly good with young PGs and will be hellbent on a fast-paced offense because for some mysterious reason Kahn insists that is the way to go. Let’s hope his roll of the dice pays off for once. And, on the less dark side, the next coach probably can’t be any worse than Rambis. Tiny silver lining!
STEP 2: The draft
Obviously the Wolves will not get the first pick in the draft. Though the odds are in their favor, this is the WOLVES we’re talking about. Plan on them drafting third. As of now, and unless we get royally screwed and/or Kahn fucks up even more royally that I currently believe possible, we’re looking at three options for our pick:
— Kyrie Irving. Would require a trade of Rubio, but who cares. Irving looks like the real deal at a position in which the Wolves need a top-flight player. If I’m the Wolves GM and I get the first pick (again: impossible), I draft Irving without thinking twice.
Two ancillary benefits to drafting Irving:
1. Kahn would be able to get to work trading Rubio, and for all his insane statements and laughable draft selections, he has been able to make a few decent trades. Foye/Miller for the 5 pick was a huge win, as were the Beasley and Randolph trades. Crazy as it sounds, I trust him to not completely and totally whiff on a Rubio trade. (Though I have absolutely no idea what we could get for him. No one else seems to know either.)
2. I like the idea of trading Rubio for a veteran because if we draft any of the other guys and bring Rubio over, that’s two more rookies on an already too-young roster. Again, I haven’t the faintest idea what Rubio could net, but I’m hoping it’s a veteran (and not one who loses his mind at the end of close games like one Luke Ridnour).
— Derrick Williams. Williams was a beast at Arizona and has been described as Beasley with a high IQ. Sign me up. Williams can play inside and outside and hits a good % of his shots. He would (or should) immediately be our starting SF, giving us an ostensible starting lineup of Rubio, Johnson, Williams, Love and [shudder] Darko with Beasley off the bench, at least until other big moves are made. I’m a fan of Williams’, however — though I don’t love Beasley at the 3 – his skillset still doesn’t seem to be a top priority of our needs (which are a starting PG and C).
— Harrison Barnes. A substandard year for the former sure-to-be-top-pick player. He seems to have a better handle and worse shot than Wes, but is similarly athletic, much younger and has a good chance of being dominant. He makes sense for the roster because you can play him at the SG, move Johnson to his natural position at the 3 and assign Beasley super-6th-man status. Along with Rubio you’ll have a team with a ton more excitement and a few more wins, providing Barnes doesn’t totally crap the bed (and most assume he won’t).
Those are, right now, the only three players I care about in the draft. And while things may change, I’m pretty sure I’ll be catatonic if the Wolves don’t end up with one of them.
STEP 3: Free agency
There are, by my counts, 9 players who will likely be on the roster next year. On a decent team, those 9 would fill out the following depth chart rotation:
PG: [BLANK] / Ridnour
SG: [BLANK] / [BLANK]
SF: [BLANK] / Tolliver / Johnson / Webster
PF: Love / Randolph / Beasley
C: [BLANK] / Pekovic / Darko
Yes, the present roster is exactly that ugly. I understand you COULD slide Johnson and Webster to the 2, but they are terrible there. And I see how you might WANT Beasley to be a suitable starting 3, but he’s not. He’s a natural 4. So telling it like it is, the above roster is how close we are to a playoff team.
Say you get Rubio + Williams/Barnes or Irving + Rubio Trade to fill up two of the starting spots. That still leaves the Wolves with sizable holes at the 2 and at Center.
Happily, the Wolves have money to spend (~$15 MM if Canis Hoopus is right) to fill those holes. There are plenty of names out there that could help the Wolves immensely. A few notables:
Tyson Chandler … Marc Gasol … DeAndre Jordan … Nene Hilario … Marcus Thornton … Arron Afflalo … Jamal Crawford.
One GIGANTIC problem: No one wants to play for a terrible franchise and lunatic of a GM. Still, I’d go after those seven and hope to blow one of them away with an offer.
Step 4: Fill out roster
Getting one of those free agents, plus Rubio (or his trade) and our draft pick, gives me three of the six players I need to compete. I hope to find my other three through the second draft pick (Faried? Singleton? Selby?) and less-known but +/- monsters similar to Tolliver.
My dream roster for next season:
PG: Irving / Ridnour / Telfair
SG: [Rubio trade] / Johnson / Selby
SF: Tolliver / Beasley / Webster
PF: Love / Randolph
C: Chandler / Pek / Darko
Totally impossible and not fully realized because of the Rubio conundrum, but that is my goal for now. Please let me dream, just for a few minutes. I’ve been through so much pain and hardship these past few years. Let me dream.