Report Card Grades for Minnesota Timberwolves' 2014 Offseason so Far
The Minnesota Timberwolves are at a standstill.
We've seen their draft and new coach, but we don't exactly know what this team is going to be like come the regular season. That's thanks to the presence of Kevin Love.
As long as Love remains on the roster, the 2014-15 Wolves will be a relative unknown. That's mainly because the package Minnesota receives in the inevitable trade of its superstar will likely shape its roster—or at least part of its future.
For now, the Wolves haven't done all too much. But there's still enough to evaluate exactly how they've been as an organization through the beginning of the offseason.
Hiring Flip Saunders
Rick Adelman may have been the best coach in Wolves history, but Saunders is the most successful. Ten years of coaching in Minnesota tells us Saunders can win games with the Timberwolves, though he's never done that without Kevin Garnett.
The Wolves went 386-300 in the decade Saunders presided over the team from 1995 to 2004, good for a .563 winning percentage. Now, Saunders, who hired himself as coach back in June, steps into a quite different situation than the one he left in '04 after taking his team to the Western Conference Finals.
That '04 season was the best in franchise history, the furthest the Wolves have ever gone in the postseason. Now, Minnesota, who hasn't made the playoffs since Saunders' coaching tenure, is coming off a 40-42 season.
There may have been bigger names who signed on to coach this offseason—Stan Van Gundy, Steve Kerr, etc.—but Saunders could be the right guy in Minneapolis.
Drafting Zach LaVine
What has plagued the Wolves for the past few years?
Shooting. LaVine is someone who can help with that.
LaVine may or may not have been particularly happy to end up in Minny, but still, he's a guy who can help on the perimeter down the line.
He may have averaged just 9.4 points per game as a freshman at UCLA, but he showed he could knock in shots from long range, sinking 37.5 percent of his threes in his only collegiate season. LaVine is an athlete, someone who can finish at the rim, a guy who elicits Russell Westbrook comparisons that go slightly beyond the laundry (though the fact that both are UCLA products is probably the leading reason for that comp).
He won't be able to come in and help right away, but that's fine. That's not what Minnesota needs. The Wolves should be in rebuilding mode to the core.
Kevin Love should be on the way out (more on this later), and if Minny is going to start from scratch, who cares if it takes another year or two for LaVine to become a contributing player? For now, he's just a guy with a high ceiling.
Drafting Glenn Robinson III
There was a time, though it seems so long ago, that Robinson was supposed to be a lottery pick. But he ended up falling all the way to No. 40 in June's draft. Still, Robinson is a second-round pick with a relatively high ceiling given his draft position.
He's a strong athlete and high leaper who has occasional range out to the three-point line, though he really does need to be open to make those attempts. Robinson shot just 31.3 percent from three during his collegiate career.
In some ways, Robinson actually regressed as a sophomore in his final season at Michigan. His efficiency went down, seeing his true shooting percentage drop 60 points. Meanwhile, he continued to struggle on the boards for a wing, grabbing just 8.8 percent of available rebounds. Still, he's someone worth taking a small risk on in the second round.
The athleticism and occasional ability to get hot show just how good Robinson can be when he gets going. If the Wolves can turn him and his 6'10" wingspan into an athletic, perimeter defender, that's good value with the 40th pick.
Not Trading Kevin Love...Yet
What to do about Love? It doesn't seem like anyone knows for now.
We know Love is going to be traded. The only question remaining is about when that will happen.
Now, the newly impressive Cleveland Cavaliers seem to be a candidate for one of the league's top 10 players, someone who could be a perfect offensive sidekick for LeBron James. But those are really the only rumblings we've heard about Love on the trade market over the past few months.
It would stand to reason that the Chicago Bulls have moved on without Love and with Pau Gasol. The Los Angeles Lakers don't have anything to give up for him. The Houston Rockets wouldn't be able to put much on the table, either.
So, for now, all we can do is wait and see where the double-double machine is headed.
Maybe a package of Thompson, David Lee and picks comes back. Maybe Andrew Wiggins heads to Minny, though it seems like Cleveland has no interest in trading away the No. 1 overall pick. Until something goes down, it would be difficult to grade exactly how appropriate Minnesota playing the waiting game has truly been.
The Wolves have been relatively inactive. For cryin' out loud, one of their four biggest moves was drafting their second-round pick. Heck, the Wolves selling the 53rd overall pick to the Houston Rockets was almost one of their four biggest moves.
In that sense, it's hard to grade what Minny has done. But still, there have been some transactions.
There's the LaVine pick, which works on a "need" basis, and the Saunders hire, which made sense given the history and organization. But ultimately, this offseason is dependent on what happens with Love.
The Wolves can't hold onto him much longer given the inevitability of his departure. With every game he plays in Minnesota, he begins to lose more and more value, creeping closer to free agency each day.
If Minnesota gets value in a deal for Love, this grade skyrockets. If they get nothing back for him, it plummets. That's the nature of the Wolves today, and until Love goes, it'll continue to perpetuate.
Grade: B, for now