As David Kahn and the Wolves front office prepare to embark on a momentous offseason that could (must?) bring huge changes -- improvements -- to the roster, I think it's worth looking back at the debacle that was the 2009-10 Minnesota Timberwolves season. This is the first post in a five-part series that will look back at what transpired this year at each position, and look ahead at opportunities to improve it.
First up is the position on which Kahn spent two top-six picks and a 4-year, $16 million free agent contract: Point guard. For the amount of resources the Wolves invested in this particular position, they got disappointingly little production out of it in 2009. There are really only two characters in the sad point-guard story that unfolded this season: Jonny Flynn and Ramon Sessions.
Flynn, the rookie out of Syracuse, set the bar high at Las Vegas Summer League, displaying an incredible, dynamic drive-and-dish game that earned him top rookie honors and had every Wolves fan salivating. And Sessions, the free-agent signee, had an impressive previous season in Milwaukee, with a PER of 17.6 and solid per-game averages of 12 points and 6 assists in 27 minutes. ESPN analyst John Hollinger called the bargain Sessions signing "the steal of the summer."
Heading into a season full of mismatched parts and low expectations, one seeming certainty was that Wolves fans would see young talent at point guard. Flynn and Sessions were both well-regarded up-and-comers.
Didn't really go that way, huh?
Let's start with Flynn. The guy showed some flashes of being a dynamic scoring point guard. In an upset of Utah, he outdueled Deron Williams down the stretch, finishing with 29 points. He's jet-quick, he sees the floor well in transition, and he's built like a brick, which allows him to finish at the rim through tough contact.
But he was very out of his element in coach Kurt Rambis' triangle offense, which is run through a high-post player and involves lots of creating from its wing players. Jonny spent a lot of time spotting up in the corner, which is not where his value lies.
That's not to say Flynn's disappointing rookie year can be blamed entirely on the system. He rarely got the type favorable calls from the refs on his crazy forays to the rim that he did at Syracuse, but he didn't adapt his game. And in a half-court setting, he hardly ever showed that he could run a smooth offense. You could probably count the number of times that a Flynn drive resulted in an easy basket for a big man on one hand.
The real disappointment re: Flynn is his lack of improvement. Coming into his rookie season, he was a quick little guard with a knack for scoring but no polished ability to run an offense. Exiting his rookie season, not a word of that description has changed.
Sessions also didn't seem all he was cracked up to be. He certainly grasped his role in the offense much better than Flynn did, and he made fewer forehead-slapping mistakes. As a result, the offense performed considerably better with Sessions at its reigns (101 points per 100 possessions for Ramon, and a pretty horrific 97 for Flynn). But even so, his play was just... meh. He was consistently a smooth, functional rotation guard. But he never had a game where you thought, "That's why we signed this guy." He doesn't get to the rim as well as Jonny, and he has an almost literally non-existent outside shot.
There was some consternation among Wolves fans as to why Sessions, the more productive player of the two, was forced to come off the bench all season in favor of Flynn. And while he probably would have won an open competition (he has reportedly been told that next season, the position is up for grabs), he never did terribly much to claim the spot as his own. Based on his play this season, Sessions is a solid backup point guard.
What opportunities are there to improve the team's point guard situation? Well, this one's easy.
YouTube "Ricky Rubio highlights" and you'll see why. The Wolves, of course, hold Ricky's rights after drafting him 5th overall last draft. He started at point guard for the Euroleague champions this season, performing for stretches like the best point guard on the continent. He added muscle and developed a three-point shot over the year, and... yeah. He's really good.
Right now, to be a Wolves fan is to daydream about seeing his behind the back passes at Target Center. Which doesn't say great things about the way the team's current point guards played this season.