|The Timberwolves had two first round picks in the 1999 draft. This year they have none. In the real NBA draft, the Woves pick #51, here it it is #33. Their GM is Ryan Fortson who selects:|
I. Season Overview
After over a decade of rotating through a variety of different line-ups, the Timberwolves seem to have found a line-up that they are at least partially comfortable with and which contains players who want to be in Minnesota. Whether or not this team can win a championship remains to be seen. However, there is much with which to be pleased with the current team. The T'Wolves reached a franchise high 50 wins and played a solid Portland Trailblazers team very well before being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs 3-1. Indeed, the fact that Minnesota played closer games to Portland than did the Utah Jazz and that the San Antonio Spurs may be losing Tim Duncan leads many to believe that Minnesota should be favored to win the Midwest Division next season.
Another reason to have hope for the current roster is their strong finish. After a disastrous 7-13 start, Minnesota had the second best record (behind the Lakers) in the NBA over the last 62 games by going 43-19. Furthermore, the team is quite young. Brandon will be 30 to start the season, but the other four likely starters will all be 25 or younger. If they can continue the growth they had this past season, this could become a very strong team in the very near future and stay that way for a long time. This promise might also encourage free agents to join the team, despite the cold weather. There is a great deal of frustration in having been eliminated in the first round for four straight years, but this streak should soon end.
The 1999 offseason was relatively quiet. Despite rumors that he would be involved in a sign-and-trade, Minnesota re-signed to a six-year deal and retained Terrell Brandon. It does appear that GM Kevin McHale made a concerted effort to trade him last year, so he may be traded this offseason. Minnesota also re-signed Joe Smith and Andrae Patterson to one-year deals. McHale and Head Coach Phil "Flip" Saunders have multiple times discussed the need for team continuity in building championships. McHale certainly learned this from his years and many championships with the Boston Celtics. A look at other recent championship teams, like the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls shows that there may be some truth to this.
Minnesota is probably the best passing team in the NBA, finishing 1st in the league in assists with 26.8 per game (the next closest team had 25.5/g). The team also finished 3rd in the league in fewest turnovers at 13.8 per game. This style of playing, while not always exciting, has improved the consistency of the team greatly. The steady play of Brandon gets much of the credit for this. The Wolves were primarily a jump shooting team. While they excelled at this, finishing 2nd in the league with a field goal percentage of 46.7%, it did lead to some very cold stretches. Indeed, the Wolves did not have as many blowouts as they should have because it was hard for them to keep up a good shooting percentage for all four quarters. It also meant shooting very few free throws, which is unfortunate, sine they were 7th in the league at field goal percentage at 78.0%. The interior offense and defense were both rather weak. This only matters against certain teams, and certainly not against a majority of the NBA, but it is a real concern if they want to contend for a championship. Part of this, though, might be due to the team being undermanned - Joe Smith played a fair bit of center, despite his frail frame. Not having a real center resulted in needing to double-team more down low, which has a tendency to open up outside shots for the other team.
II. Draft History
McHale took over starting with the 1995 draft. He showed great courage in taking Garnett, the first highly touted high school player in quite some time, with the #5 pick. This was clearly the pick that turned the franchise around. And to think that many people predicted Minnesota taking Ed O'Bannon there! At the time of the trade, Marbury said that he wanted to play in Minnesota, having become friends with KG at a summer camp the year before. Had Marbury stayed, this trade definitely would have been worth it, though in retrospect it might have been better to stick with Allen. The next two picks were made by a team desperate for a center. Grant has still not played an NBA minute, mostly because of ankle and foot injuries, and was eventually shipped to Milwaukee in the Marbury deal for salary cap reasons. He is now out of the league. Malone, to put it bluntly, did not have the intelligence to play in the NBA, as he could not grasp the complexities of the pro game. Nesterovic and Patterson both show promising futures for the Timberwolves. Indeed, some say Nesterovic, who played most of the year in Italy, would have been a lottery pick this year if he had not entered the draft last year. With Szczerbiak and Avery, many basketball commentators thought that Minnesota had the best draft in 1999. Szczerbiak has been more than solid for a #6 pick. He made the first team All-Rookie Team. Avery has not played much, but has shown great promise in limited minutes. Why Bullock, a short shooting guard but a very good three-point shooter, was drafted only to be traded is unknown, especially since Todd MacCulloch, who has had a very serviceable if not spectacular first year with Philadelphia, is unknown.
III. Management and Coaching
After years of being one of the most mismanaged franchises in the history of major professional sports, the Minnesota Timberwolves have now obtained respectability and before the setbacks of this season were seen by many as one of the teams of the future. The T'Wolves were tentatively sold in 1994 to a group from New Orleans headed by boxing promoter Bob Arum before Commissioner Stern stepped in and voided the sale. This allowed Glen Taylor, whose offer to buy the team helped sway the NBA Relocation Committee, to become the new owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Upon doing so, he installed former Celtic great Kevin McHale as Vice President of Basketball Operations.
In essence, McHale is the general manager, though that title is officially held by Flip Saunders, whom McHale installed as coach in December of 1995, replacing Bill Blair in that position. On the GM side, McHale has been wonderful, especially compared to what we had in the past. He was able to trade Donyell Marshall (who admittedly is finally starting to look mediocre) to Golden State for superstar Tom Gugliotta and someone who absolutely cannot score, Doug West, to Vancouver for someone who can, Anthony Peeler. Because of the loss of players this year, the T'Wolves have many needs, but there is every reason to expect that the team is in good hands with McHale. His drafts have also been quite fruitful, though not without a few mistakes. Three years ago he drafted Kevin Garnett at #5 before drafting high school seniors became fashionable. Now Garnett is widely accepted as the best player in that draft and one of the cornerstones of the NBA. The next year he drafted Ray Allen at #5, but was able to trade him and Andrew Lang to Milwaukee (probably a deal engineered before the draft) for Stephon Marbury, arguably the second best player from that draft (after Iverson). Not only is McHale able to evaluate talent well, but players respect him and want to play for Minnesota. Thanks for this is also partially due to the strong (financial) support given by Taylor.
Despite his lack of fame, Saunders seems to be an excellent coach for a developing team. It was an absolute crime that he did not receive any votes for coach of the year in the 2000 voting. Before coming to the Timberwolves, Saunders coached for many years in the CBA (winning the championship twice and coach of the year twice), so he knows how to bring out the best in struggling young players. The key to this is patience and the willingness to let young players like Garnett make mistakes. Saunders seems to have excellent knowledge of basketball strategy; his teams are known for solid execution and a minimum of turnovers. The team defense seems to have improved a fair bit this year, which must be credited primarily to Saunders as the roster has not changed significantly. Saunders does an excellent job of having his team ready to play and achieve their maximum potential. He is always pacing the sidelines and is always eager to teach.
One of the keys to Minnesota's success in comparison to "the early years" has been team unity, which has been stressed by both McHale and Saunders. Both of them realize that championship teams need to develop over time and play well together instead of as a collection of individuals. To this end, they have traded away troublemakers like Isaiah Rider and Christian Laettner for lesser talent and are unlikely to draft anyone who has serious questions about their attitude or behavior. The duo understands the importance of stability and continuity, especially among the core players, and try to carry this philosophy into their roster decisions. McHale learned these virtues in his days with the Celtics and is instilling them in the entire organization. Unfortunately, today's players do not value character as much as McHale does.
Because the Wolves are so young and, hopefully, have their best years ahead of them, I will give them grades based upon their performance this year and where I believe they will be in three years. The grades are on a 10 point scale, with 10 being one of the to 50 players in NBA history (P.S., Jordan is an 11) and 1 being a player who simply does not belong in the NBA (I'll let you add your own name; if I do so it will just cause fights).
Radoslav (Rasho, Nesty) Nesterovic (7'0", 248 lbs, dob: 5/30/76, years NBA: 2, Slovenia); 1999-2000 = 3.5; three years from now = 6 : Nesty is showing serious signs of improvement. OK, he only played four games his first season because of the contract with his Italian team, so this is not saying much. He has good moves around the basket and a fairly decent outside shot, though not at the level of Sabonis. Rasho, as he likes to be called, is also a decent shot blocker and an acceptable defender against thinner centers. His main problem is that he just is not strong enough. This causes him to get pushed around quite a bit, which causes him to get into quick foul trouble when he tries to respond defensively. He actually has pretty good footwork, so I think if he can add some muscle he could become a decidedly better than average center. He has pledged to spend a great deal of time in Minnesota this summer lifting weights, but with someone of his frame it is always hard to predict if he can become significantly stronger. No one is expecting him to be as strong as Shaq, but he definitely needs to be stronger than he is currently.
Dean Garrett (6'11", 250 lbs, dob: 11/27/66, years NBA: 4, Indiana '88); 1999-2000 = 2.5; three years from now = 1.5 : Wo unto the Timberwolves when Garrett comes into the game. Wo, I say. It is usually a sign that the Wolves are getting creamed. For some reason, he doesn't even play when we are up big. Occasionally, Garrett comes in against stronger centers because we basically don't have anyone else. He has very little inside game, but can sometimes hit from about 10 feet out. He had a good season a few years ago when Marbury was here to dish him the ball on drives and Gugliotta was taking attention away on the defensive boards, but now that both of them are gone (Brandon does not drive the ball and Joe is not enough of a threat rebounding), Garrett has become essentially a non-player. Plus, because he spent almost 10 years playing in Europe before breaking into the NBA, he is relatively old and unlikely to get any better. He is signed for two more years. Wo, indeed.
Kevin (KG, Da Kid, Big Ticket, The Franchise) Garnett (6'11", 220 lbs, dob: 5/19/76, years NBA: 5, Farragut Academy High School '95); 1999-2000 = 8.5; three years from now = 10 : KG surprised many when he finished second in the MVP voting behind Shaq. Not to worry, KG will win his share of MVP awards before his career is over. He is certainly the franchise player for the Timberwolves, as well as one of the most exciting players in the NBA. KG led the team in points (22.9) and rebounds (11.8). In addition to averaging a double double, he also averaged 5.0 assists a game, which placed him 3rd among non-point guards. In the playoffs, he had two triple doubles and almost a third. Garnett very deservedly made All-NBA and Defensive first teams. He is clearly one of the best players in the league and has the potential to develop into one of the best of all-time. Few players in history have combined his height, flexibility, athleticism, hands, and enthusiasm. As a person, he is universally thought to be friendly and is the clear heart of the team. There are a couple of minor knocks on KG as a player. For one, despite his impressive stats he does not dominate games as much as he should. He needs more to completely take-over games. An indication of this is, ironically, his consistency. He rarely scores more than 30 points a game or less than 15. I'm happy with the bottom end, but I would like to see him be a bit more selfish at times when he is hot. The other knock is that his inside game is not as well developed as it could be. Most of his shots come on unstoppable fade-aways from 10 to 15 feet. Consequently, he only shot about 5 free throws a game. Playing more inside, either through drives or post-ups, would increase his number of free throws and consequently his scoring average. One theory is that he is so graceful that he easily avoids all contact. Whatever the reason, it would be nice to see him get to the line more, especially if he stays at the power forward position he played for much of the season. KG is still learning from McHale how to be a lanky player in the NBA and shows all signs of developing his superstar talents even further.
Wally (Wally World) Szczerbiak (6'8", 245 lbs, dob 3/5/77, years NBA: 1, Miami (Ohio) '99); 1999-2000 = 6; three years from now = 8 : Call me a convert to Wally World. OK, I guess I should admit I'm biased because I suggested the T'Wolves draft him in last year's Usenet Draft. (Minnesota was one of the only places where his last name would be spelled correctly, so it was sort of a no brainer.) He has come as advertised - a deadly spot up shooter. His shooting percentage (51.1%) was 7th in the NBA, which is especially impressive when you consider that most of the players ahead of him are strictly inside players and Wally took most of his shots from the 15-20 foot range. He shot a decent 3-point percentage at 35.9%, but only shot 78 attempts, a number that needs to increase. His shooting seemed to get stronger as the season went on, though he was inexplicably silent during the playoffs. I expect his shooting to continue to improve, as he has a solid work ethic, something he showed on the USA team in the Olympic qualifying rounds in Puerto Rico last summer. Other parts of his offensive game are impressive as well. At times, he was the only Wolf that would drive the lane. Wally's defense was better than many people expected, though still not without room for improvement. As he learned to trust his teammates more, his defense improved. Basically, I see Wally as developing into the Glen Rice of a couple of years ago. What position he plays is still to be decided. His natural position is probably small forward, but I do think he is capable of playing shooting guard. Almost all of his weight is muscle. He is quick enough to guard most 2-guards in the NBA. It remains to be seen if Wally can learn to create his own shot, but if he can do this then he might have a future in the backcourt. If not, he will still be a deadly outside shooter for Minnesota.
Joe Smith (6'10", 225 lbs, dob: 7/25/75, years NBA: 5, Maryland '95); 1999-2000 = 5; three years from now = 7 : Joe Smith needs to get stronger. He keeps getting the [bleep] beat out of him when he goes for rebounds. This is a shame because he seems to have pretty good instincts and energy, finishing second on the team with 6.2 rebounds per game. At times he was an exceptional offensive rebounder. His lack of strength has kept him out of the starting line-up. When he comes in as a reserve, he is sometimes forced to play center because of Nesty's inexperience and a general lack of a back-up center. To this point, Joe can only be called a disappointment for a player drafted first overall (in the same year as KG). He, like Nesty, has promised to lift weights over the summer and become stronger. If he does this, I think he can become a quality power forward. He does not have the range to be a small forward and lacks the strength to be a dependable inside player offensively. He averaged 9.9 points per game and rarely scores more than 15. This will also need to improve if he is going to be a regular starter. Joe is a free agent this summer but has all but said that he will be back. There are some rumors that he already has a contract worked out for when he gains his Bird rights, as he has turned down more lucrative contract offers to stay with the Wolves. If this is the case, then one would hope that he works hard to earn this contract.
Sam (Sam-I-Am) Mitchell (6'7", 210 lbs, dob: 9/2/63, years NBA: 11, Mercer '85); 1999-2000 = 4.5; three years from now = 2 (probably retired) : A couple of seasons ago I would have voted for Sam Mitchell as the NBA Sixth Man of the Year. He has fallen off a bit from that level, but is still a quality reserve as well as a calming influence on the team. He still provides 18.6 minutes per game, but garners only 2.1 rebounds and scores only 6.5 points per game. He is most famous for his baseline shots and can still hit those dependably. Mitchell showed his class when he without complaint yielded his starting job to Wally once he was ready for it. Mitchell is signed for one more year and will probably become an assistant coach after that.
Tom Hammonds (6'9", 225 lbs, dob: 3/27/67, years NBA: 11, Georgia Tech '89); 1999-2000 = 2; three years from now = 1 (probably drag racing) : It is usually a toss-up as to who comes into garbage time between Hammonds and Garrett. OK, both of them play occasionally if the other team has an especially strong and physical front line. Hammonds is supposedly the strongest player on Minnesota's roster. Hammonds is there purely for defensive reasons; whenever he has the ball it is either a rebound or a mistake. Despite his large frame, he somehow manages to fit into and race drag racing cars in the offseason and plans to race full-time upon retirement.
Andrae Patterson (6'9", 240 lbs, dob: 12/12/75, years NBA: 2, Indiana '98); 1999-2000 = incomplete ; three years from now = 3.5 : Andrae appeared in only five games and did not have much to show for them. Frankly, I'm not sure if he is a power forward or a small forward. From the rare occasions I have seen him, he appears rather bulky, so I am guessing he is being groomed to be a back-up power forward. He played more two years ago as a rookie and seemed to be a decent rebounder. He was on IR for almost all of the season with various, mostly fake injuries. Patterson is a free agent, but is unlikely to generate much interest from other teams.
Terrell (TB) Brandon (5'11", 180 lbs, dob 5/20/70, years NBA: 9, Oregon '90); 1999-2000 = 7.5; three years from now = 6 : Brandon is a very good point guard and the type of distributor needed in Flip's offense. His 8.9 assists per game was 4th in the NBA. Furthermore, his 17.1 points provided a dependable second option for Minnesota. Brandon was very consistent from about 20 feet, where he took a vast majority of his shots, and shot a more than respectable 40.2% from beyond the arc. The contributions that Brandon made to the T'Wolves in bringing offensive consistency cannot be underestimated. Still, many Wolves fans are looking for any opportunity to trade Brandon for another star to complement KG. There are several reasons to want to trade Brandon. For one, his demeanor and playing style are rather quiet, which is somewhat of a letdown from the high-energy and often combative Stephon Marbury. Some doubt that he has the desire and drive to be a leader at point guard. Another rap on Brandon is that he is extremely frail and often injured. There is some truth to this, though perhaps not as much as is the perception of him. He missed 11 games this season, which seems about average for him. Brandon gets frequent minor injuries which lead to games missed here and there. He rarely drives the lane and seems to shy away from physical contact. Defensively, he has trouble with quicker point guards. Brandon's relatively good year make him at the height of his tradability. Minnesota signed him last season to a 6-year $56 mil contract. Some fear that because of his general frailty his talents will soon decline, resulting in the last few years of his contract in Brandon being a very high priced back-up to William Avery. Base-Year-Compensation rules make it hard to trade Brandon (not as bad as a player like McGrady), but it is likely that McHale will try, despite protestations about how happy he is to finally have consistency on the team. Brandon did not appear in many of the promotional shots for last season, which may have been due to not signing a contract until late August or to something more insidious.
Malik Sealy (6'8", 200 lbs, dob 2/1/70, years NBA: 8, St. John's '92); 1999-2000 = 6; three years from now he will still be missed : Malik Sealy died early in the morning of May 20th while driving home from KG's birthday party when he was hit by a drunk driver going the wrong way on a freeway. He was a great person and universally loved by many in the NBA. Every single player on the T'Wolves roster (along with several of Sealy's former teammates on the Pacers) interrupted their vacation to attend his funeral in New York City. KG grew up idolizing Sealy, which is why KG wears #21, Malik's number at St. John's. During the season, Sealy was one of Minnesota's best clutch players. His insertion into the starting line-up was the catalyst for the turn around from the disastrous start. Was he the long term answer at shooting guard? Probably not. He was not a good enough outside shooter, though he could be very athletic around the basket at times. He was brought in primarily as a defensive specialist and probably would have returned to that role eventually. Sealy's contributions to the team, though, were immeasurable.
Anthony Peeler (6'4", 208 lbs, dob 11/25/69, years NBA: 8, Missouri '92); 1999-2000 = 5; three years from now = 4.5 : Peeler is a very streaky player who reminds me somewhat of Vinny "Microwave" Johnson from the Pistons championship teams. Peeler attempted (and yes, made) by far the most three pointers on the team, which was not always a good thing (he shot 33.3%). His defense is fairly good, and he uses his athleticism well. Peeler is a quality reserve but really should not be starting. Peeler is probably not happy with his new role (he started the first quarter of the season, but a quick offensive option is really his best role. It is always good to have a streaky shooter (though Peeler does not carry this to the extreme of John Starks) on the team, as you never know when you might need one.
Bobby (BJ, Bojax) Jackson (6'1", 185 lbs, dob 3/13/73, years NBA: 3, Minnesota '97); 1999-2000 = 4; three years from now = 5: For whatever reason, Jackson seems unable to handle the point guard duties with any consistency. I think this may be due to him trying to do too much, but at the same time I have trouble ever seeing him develop into a quality starting point guard. He spent a couple of years in junior college and is consequently older than his number of years in the NBA would indicate. This is one of the reasons why I see his development as being more or less capped, though he could turn into another Darrell Armstrong. BJ is very high energy, but perhaps because of this does not distribute the ball well or run offensive plays cleanly. There is a noticeable loss in team cohesion whenever BJ takes over for Brandon. He did come through in a couple of games when Brandon was injured, but probably sunk the team in an equal number of games. Bobby's high energy makes him a good defender and occasionally plays shooting guard. However, his shooting percentage is poor enough (40.5%) that he does not spend many minutes there. He is a free agent this summer and if Brandon is not traded will probably go elsewhere in search for more playing time, since he knows that Avery will most likely be the back-up next season.
William (Young Will) Avery (6'2", 180 lbs, dob 8/8/79, years NBA: 1, Duke '99); 1999-2000 = 2.5; three years from now = 6.5 : William Avery has potential. He'd better. McHale felt Avery was the third best shooter in the draft last year (behind Wally and Trajan Langdon), but he shot a pitiful 30.9% from the field this season. He did not take too many ill-advised shots, he just missed most of them. Avery is young and should have stayed in school another year. When he came out, Minnesota was happy to grab him at #14 and groom him to be their point guard of the future. Despite very limited minutes, he actually looked pretty comfortable running the offense, which is why there is more hope for him than for Jackson. Avery did show good range, and his shot should come around once he adjusts to life in the NBA. He is quicker than Brandon and probably a better defender. I honestly think he will develop into a good point guard and a quality starter, but there is definitely no guarantee.
V. Team Needs and Possible Offseason Moves:
As it is in Minnesota, I will be going to the NBA draft on June 28th. I do not expect there to be much excitement from the Timberwolves, as they have no first round pick and do not select until the 51st pick. I will be going to the draft because I am a wannabe GM who is geeky enough to enjoy all of this even if my favorite team is not involved. (I am also planning on bringing my binoculars, since the NBA bought out the lower level and I am stuck in the nosebleed seats. But I digress.) There are some rumors that the Wolves will try to move into the middle or later part of the first round to create a splash, but I just don't see McHale doing it for that reason alone. Depending on how the draft shakes out, he may try to trade up to take a shooting guard to replace Sealy, but we do not have much to trade with. I suppose it is possible, though. However, many say the team is young enough as it is and does not need to add another rookie. University of Minnesota non-grad Joel Pryzbilla and local product Khalid El-Amin should be enough for area fans to cheer about at the draft.
What the team needs are depend in large part on where Flip plans on playing Wally and whether or not Joe gets stronger. These two are interrelated. If Joe gets strong enough to be a starting power forward, then KG can shift back to small forward and Wally can play shooting guard. On the other hand, Flip may feel that Wally cannot be a solid starting shooting guard, in which case he plays small forward, KG plays power forward, and Joe continues to come off of the bench. If this last line-up is implemented, we obviously need a starting shooting guard, due to Sealy's unfortunate death. Even if Wally plays shooting guard, which he may have to if no better options are acquired, it would be nice to have a dependable and productive scoring option. As I suggested above, I have hopes that Wally will develop into this, but it can never hurt to have scorers on the team. Thus, a scoring swingman or shooting guard is definitely a team need.
The other team need is some interior muscle. If Garrett or Hammonds were the answer, they would have played more minutes. Even if Nesty bulks up, it is unlikely he will ever become the "thug" the team needs. Of course, since Nesty does appear to be the center of the future, any player here will probably be in a reserve role. This is fine, since a quality starting center is unlikely to fall into the Wolves' lap. It would be nice if Joe did not have to play center, since he is really out of position there, limiting his effectiveness. This necessitates the acquisition of another center either through the draft of free agency.
The Timberwolves will be well over the cap this summer, even if they renounce Joe, Bobby, and Andre. Consequently, they will only have the middle class ($2.5 mil) and one million exemptions to offer free agents. I think the prospects of acquiring a free agent shooting guard in this range are much more promising than acquiring a center. Realistically, Will Purdue is the only center that they might be able to get for the exemption. They have thought about trading for Purdue before, so this might be a real possibility, but it certainly does not make the heart all aflutter. Other people have talked about Brian Grant (too expensive) or Danny Fortson (too short), but these are unlikely to be the answer. Former University of Minnesota grad John Thomas can probably be had for the one million dollar exemption if they want him. He might not be a bad acquisition at this amount, as he at least provides a bit of reasonably mobile interior muscle.
The shooting guard prospects are somewhat more promising. One thing you have to consider here is that because of Sealy's death, any shooting guard that comes here will know that he has a reasonable chance of starting and is almost guaranteed significant minutes. Derek Anderson has expressed interest in playing here, though all indications are that he will end up in Denver. Chauncey Billups has said he might want to play in Minnesota, but last I checked he was a point guard, or at least that size. Ron Mercer will probably re-sign with Orlando, but if they have to renounce him to get Duncan and/or Hill, then he might be available for the Wolves. Hubert Davis might also be a possibility, though he is probably more of a reserve than a starter, which may be all the Wolves want if Wally is going to be the starting shooting guard. Other possibilities include Tariq Abdul-Wahad (probably going to the Clippers for Derek Anderson), Kendall Gill, and Cuttino Mobley.
The other option is a trade. There are hot rumors, reported by one of ESPN's writers, that Tracy McGrady wants to come to Minnesota. I won't go into the complicated salary cap calculations here, but Minnesota could get him through a sign-and-trade involving Terrell Brandon and a third team with enough cap room (about$2.8 mil) to accept Kevin Willis in exchange for brokering the deal. McGrady would also have to take a slight paycut down from $9 mil to $8.6 mil as a starting salary, but this is still more than he could get signing elsewhere as a free agent. The third team could be a team like the Clippers or maybe Indiana. Supposedly, Orlando doesn't want to pay McGrady the max, leaving only Chicago. Now, I do believe that if McGrady does in fact leave Toronto it is much more likely that he will end up in Chicago than Minnesota, but adding McGrady would potentially give Minnesota another superstar to draw pressure from KG. It would also mean that we would have to get a point guard (perhaps Avery Johnson, who appears headed out of San Antonio) with the middle class exemption to fill in until Will Avery develops. There has also been talk about sending Brandon to New York for either Allan Houston or Latrell Sprewell or to Charlotte for Eddie Jones. Probably none of these will hapen. In the end, it is likely that Brandon will be a Timberwolf next season.
I have a sneaking suspicion that McHale is going to try to move into about the #20 spot to grab either Desmond Mason or DeShawn Stevenson. As I suggested above, this move is necessitated by the death of Sealy, though it might have been done anyway. Unfortunately, if we want to keep our nucleus (KG, Wally, Nesty, Avery) together, this leaves us with Peeler, Garrett, Hammonds, and Mitchell as trade bait. Of those, only Peeler has any value, but I am not sure if it is enough to get a first round pick, even a late one.
VI. My Pick
They say you can't teach 7'2". Samake is from Bougouni, Mali He had the option to attend the University of Wyoming, but opted instead to play professionally for a year in Germany to earn money. This past year he has been a terror for the Cincinnati Stuff of the IBL. He led the league in blocks with 2.7 per game. His rebounding was decent at 7.6 per game. His scoring was moderate at 9.7 points per game, but he supposedly has a relatively well developed offensive repertoire. No, I have never seen him play.
I know that devoted Timberwolves fans are asking how I can pick someone so thin when that has been our problem all along in the middle. It was really tough for me to choose between Magloire and Samake. The edge for Samake came down to a belief that Minnesota needs interior scoring. When I compared Magloire and Samake, I decided to go for Samake's interior scoring over Magloire's toughness. In addition to outside shooting, Minnesota needs interior scoring to take pressure off of KG. Samake is a better interior threat than Magloire, who is a real liability offensively. People talk about Magloire's shot blocking ability, but Samake is extremely skilled in that area as well. Samake gets into foul trouble, but so does Magloire. Both are decent passers according to the reports I have seen. Magloire is generally considered a very tough player and reasonably strong, but he only measured 6'9", which could become a liability in the middle, though Magloire's 7'7" wingspan makes up for this to some degree. My main problem with Magloire is that I think he is overrated. Everyone praises him because he pulled out of the draft last year and went back to school. However, I doubt his draft position improved that much. He supposedly outplayed Chris Mihm in a workout for the Bulls, but only Jerry Krause saw this, and it is entirely believable that he would make stuff up to make sure Mihm slips down to him at #4. I just question Magloire's maturity level and ability to do what it takes to succeed at the NBA level. McHale tends to stay away from these types of players and with good reason. No one has questioned Samake's work ethic. In fact, many have praised it. Samake has been compared to a raw Dikembe Mutombo, which admittedly is no offensive powerhouse, but is better than nothing. If he can develop as well defensively and add some muscle, though, Samake is a real steal this low.
VII. Others Considered
I was hoping that Jabari Smith (6'11", 255 lbs, LSU), who has the interior muscle that the Wolves need, would be available, but I was one pick too late. Not that it matters, since Minnesota does not really pick until #51, by which point Jabari will be long gone.
Jamaal Magloire (6'9", 243 lbs, Kentucky): See above.
Dan McClintock (7'0", 250 lbs, Northern Arizona): He is supposedly very fast for someone so tall, but he is exceedingly mediocre in all other aspects of his game. Still, he has a frame that could add muscle and would not be a bad addition.
Mark Madsen (6'8", 235 lbs, Stanford): A real scrapper that deserves a place on some NBA team, but he is not the defensive player that Minnesota needs.
Brad Millard (7'3", 345 lbs, St. Mary's): Well, if you want a big body, it is hard to get bigger than Millard and not be talking sumo wrestlers. Injuries and a questionable work ethic make it unlikely that he will succeed in the NBA. Might be worth the risk, though, just in case.
Vassil Evtimov: He's a 6-10 power forward from Europe. I don't know enough about him to feel like I could draft him.
Lavor Postell (6'6", 212 lbs, St. John's): He played very well in the pre-draft camps and was the MVP in Chicago. His play has probably moved him up into the first round. He is a streaky shooter but a consistently excellent defender. He played SF in college, but appears able to play SG in the pros, though he will need to work on his outside shooting. He actually reminds me a bit of Malik Sealy, and would not be a bad choice to replace him if Minnesota wanted to move up and draft a shooting guard (though I still prefer Mason or Stevenson).
JaRon Rush (6'7", 207 lbs, UCLA): A very big question mark surrounds both Rush's playing ability and his maturity level. He probably has the potential to be an explosive shooting guard, but he is very unrefined at this point, so his athleticism might not actually develop into anything meaningful.
Michael Redd (6'6", 205, Ohio State): A decent though not great shooter, but a defensive liability. With Brandon being somewhat slow, we need a SG who can defend.
VIII. Probable Pick
I don't know. Minnesota's real pick is at #51. Probably, none of the players above, with the possible exception of Redd, will be available when the Timberwolves really pick. At #51 you should probably the best player available. Actually, I don't believe this. McHale tends to learn from his mistakes. He lost Gugliotta for nothing, but did not risk this with Marbury. He signed the worthless Stoyko Vrankovic to a long and over-priced contract, but did not re-sign Stanley Roberts (who had been acquired for Vrankovic) when the opportunity arose. Last year, he was burned by not picking Todd MacCulloch, who definitely could have helped the team. (Word has it that McHale thought the Canadian was no better than Trevor Winter.) As I suggested earlier, I also believe it is easier to get a shooting guard than a center through free agency. Consequently, I think McHale will pick a big body center this year. Does this mean Brad "Big Continent" Millard? It could, though I think that some other team will take a chance on him, injuries and all, first. My prediction is Kenyon Jones, who has played relatively well in the camps and could be a sleeper in the draft. He is a 6'10 center from the University of San Francisco and was the West Coast Conference player of the year. I have seen him listed at anywhere between 240 and 278 lbs. Whatever the weight, he supposedly has good mobility and is a decent rebounder. Frankly, the descriptions of him remind me of a younger Dean Garrett. You are not very likely to get a potential star at #51, but Jones might be a serviceable center for a few years, which is really all you can hope for.
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