Minnesota Timberwolves Can Learn from the Mistakes of the Magic and Cavaliers
Glen Taylor has to be looking around at the Orlando Magic and the Cleveland Cavaliers and wondering if he'll be joining their jilted superstar club in 2015-2016 when Kevin Love can opt for free agency.
It's a few years away, but it's never too soon to learn from your peers' mistakes.
While the Magic and Cavaliers both have losing a superstar in common (even though Dwight is technically still on the Magic, everyone knows that his days playing for the Magic are over), the way in which they got to this point was very different and can provide valuable lessons for a team like the Minnesota Timberwolves whose star player is already grumbling about not having enough help around him.
Lesson No. 1 You Can't Be Half-in
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The Magic didn't want to be on the hook for an aging Turkoglu because they were thinking of the final two years of the deal instead of remembering that he was a key piece in the recent championship run and the ultimate goal should be winning in the present.
Then when they got backlash for letting Hedo go for nothing, they panicked and traded away the only other player on their team that could play defense, Courtney Lee, for an overpaid Vince Carter and a throw away player at the time, Ryan Anderson.
It would've been fine if the Magic didn't want to pay Hedo, but then they should've been on board with the thinking that they would save their salary cap space for year X when Free Agent Y would be available. Then they could pair him with Dwight Howard. But they blew any chance at salary cap relief when they traded for Carter, who didn't fit well in the Magic's scheme.
Teams need to be either on board with spending or have a target year for when they will have ample salary cap space.
Lesson No. 2 Don't Overvalue Your Players
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In case you didn't know, that's J.J. Hickson—the player that the Cavs valued so much that they wouldn't trade him for a legit All-Star. Hickson was their only young talent and for some reason he was supposed to be LeBron's sidekick going forward.
In LeBron's final year in Cleveland, the Cavs had a chance to land Amare Stoudemire from the Phoenix Suns, but the deal never happened because Cleveland wouldn't part with J.J. Hickson.
They eventually settled on Antawn Jamison, who was past his prime and stuffing the stat sheet on an awful Washington Wizard's squad.
Everyone knows how that turned out: The Cavs lost to Boston and LeBron bolted to Miami to be with players that were All-Stars in the present instead of possibly being an All-Star in a few years like J.J. Hickson. The way that Hickson's career is going (three teams in three years), it looks like that All-Star berth may never happen.
So Minnesota, if you have a chance to trade Derrick Williams or anybody else on the roster not named Kevin Love or Ricky Rubio, for a current All-Star, then you do the trade.
There's no telling that LeBron would've stayed with the Cavs if Amare was on the team, but it would've been a lot harder to justify the jump to South Beach.
Lesson No. 3 Don't Let Your Superstar Play GM for a Day
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While it's never been confirmed that Dwight Howard pushed the Magic to trade for Gilbert Arenas, he was always a supporter of Arenas. I think that this is the only possible explanation for why the Magic would trade for him. If the Magic didn't trade for him, they actually could have had their own super team.
Let's play the hindsight game for a second.
Let's say the Magic don't trade for Arenas and instead keep Rashard Lewis. Lewis' contract is only partially guaranteed for this year, so actually his cap number would've only been about $14 million.
This also means the Magic would still have their amnesty available and could've used it on Hedo Turkoglu.
Now, knowing that they would've had a lot of money already shaved off this year, let's assume further that the Magic didn't make the awful trade for Glen Davis and instead kept the more productive Brandon Bass (who opted out of his contract).
The Magic would've now had enough flexibility to make a max contract offer to say, Deron Williams. But that didn't happen because the Magic let Howard run the team.
Lesson No. 4 Talent Matters over Friendship
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While it's great that the Miami Big Three are all best buds, it wouldn't have made a difference if two of them were role players.
The fact that they were all All-Stars and the best players on their respective teams was the main reason that they got together. Teams have lately been making the mistake of trying to recruit a superstar's friend in an attempt to keep them.
It didn't work for the Magic when they brought in Glen Davis to keep Dwight Howard.
And it won't work for the Timberwolves unless they bring in one of Kevin Love's friends who is an All-Star. And not was an All-Star but currently is an All-Star.
Lesson No. 5 Lock Up Your Best Player
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Don't give your best player the option to leave in three years.
If he wants the max contract, then give him the max contract. Don't give him a reason to leave the franchise in three years because he felt disrespected during contract negotiations. All because you wanted to have the possibility to give a maximum contract to your rookie, who you have locked up till 2015/16 and can match any offer he gets that year anyway, only to watch that rookie blow out his ACL.
Don't do that. Just pay the man.
Otherwise, you might hear him grumbling about not having enough talent around him and counting the days until he can become a free agent and pair up with another superstar in what will most likely be a purple and gold uniform.
Hopefully the Wolves don't become another casualty of superstars forming their own super teams.