The media and alike have done nothing wrong, except say hardly anything right.
While the Minnesota Timberwolves look ahead to another losing season, the future is brighter, and the media hasn't realized it. One thing that I have learned is that the NBA is a "here-and-now" league. Meaning, if you can't win now, there is no future, and there will never be.
There are many things about this that I don't understand, nor will I try to understand, but the media have the Minnesota Timberwolves completely wrong, and I cannot believe the criticism that they have taken.
Let's start off with the positive things they did this offseason, as in what the media deemed positive.
Trading two future second round picks for Beasley : This cannot go wrong for the Wolves. While the Miami Heat will have a top 10 second round pick next season, that more than likely won't equate to how the Timberwolves will benefit from Michael Beasley's on court production.
Michael Beasley's a proven 15 point, seven rebound player. During college, he was your definition of a franchise power forward. Incredibly athletic, extremely skilled, whilst being left handed and completely unorthodox. While he has played the role of 'Robin' to the likes of Dwyane Wade, he will get the chance to excel and be 'Batman' for the Timberwolves.
All the keys are there. He's much too fast for power forwards and centers to guard on the perimeter, but he also uses those same assets to move over to the small forward position. He can spread the floor for a big, create his own shot, and plays with a lot of energy, which compliments with athleticism.
I look for Michael Beasley to have a big season with the Timberwolves. If not starting, he'll be coming off the bench backing up the likes of Kevin Love and Wesley Johnson.
Drafting Lazar Hayward with the 30th overall pick.
OK, yes, I expect to take some heat for this. But I really think this was a very underrated move, because this type of move hasn't been done before. When the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted Lazar, everyone had the same old KAAAAAAHN statement, and failed to see the genius in this pick here.
Let's start off by looking at Lazar Haywards stats at Marquette.
18 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2 SPG, 1.5 APG, 0.5 BPG in 32 MPG shooting 43% from the field, and 35 percent from the 3-point line.
Let's look at another notable Marquette rookie's stats from the season before, by the name of Wesley Matthews.
18 PPG, 6 RPG, 1 SPG, 2.5 APG, 0.5 BPG in 34 MPG shooting 47% from the field, and 37 percent from the 3-point line.
As you can see, other than Lazar's efficiency, he's superior overall compared to Wesley Matthews, who started for the Utah Jazz this previous season, and averaged 14 PPG in the playoffs.
Wesley is a great role player at best, Lazar Hayward has the same potential if not better. While at Marquette, Lazar played shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and sometimes center, standing at 6'6'', he never complained one time. He has decent post moves, a quick release, and he's underrated athletically.
But, the problem is that he could have been had in the second round, and many people around the league question as to why the Minnesota Timberwolves would take him with the very last pick in the first round. There's a perfectly logical explanation for that, and it just involves the rules of the NBA.
I'm not the wiz on it, but if a player is taken in the second round, he is not under a specific contract, and he can be signed for any amount of money after his first year. With that being said, if your picking in the lower 10's of the first round, I anticipate trying to find a steal with that pick, maybe a starter, but more than likely finding a long term role player.
Lazar, a long term role player in my opinion, was taken in the first round because of him being able to generate interest in free agency. It would be much more than what the Wolves are paying him with his four-year contract now.
So it was always a future plan in store. The Timberwolves drafted Hayward because, as you see, Wesley Matthews, who went undrafted, just landed a big contract after one season with the Utah Jazz, and went to the Portland Trailblazers. And you call the Timberwolves crazy, really? Seems like they were one step ahead on this one.
Martell Webster for Ryan Gomes' contract and Luke Babbit
The Minnesota Timberwolves went into the NBA draft with the 4th, 16th, and 23rd pick in the first round. While everyone was anticipating the Wolves using these picks to their advantage, the media feels they weren't used properly.
While the general public agrees with Wesley Johnson with the 4th overall pick, the Timberwolves used the 16th overall pick to draft Luke Babbit, who was immediately traded to the Portland Trailblazers. Luke Babbit was projected to be a top 10 pick at the beginning of the draft, some say he could have gone as high as eight.
Babbit's stock rose throughout draft workouts because of his ability to shoot the ball, and having great combine measurements didn't hurt. I thought that was strange, seeing Babbit's measurement's propel him to the top of the draft class. The Timberwolves community was mad at the Wolves for trading him for Webster and the "supposed" great Ryan Gomes contract.
The public could not have been more ill-informed.
The background on Ryan Gomes' contract had a consensus that it was supposed to be like Delonte West's contract. It was non-guaranteed and it was a low price. It was supposed to be able to land the Timberwolves another asset in return if they were to trade him. This proved false, and not just in the Timberwolves' case. The New Jersey Net's player, Kenyon Dooling, had the same type of contract, and they couldn't find a taker.
While I feel Luke Babbit could be a good player, an average starter in the NBA at best, he more than likely won't be better than Martell Webster.
Not only did the Wolves get someone to take on Ryan Gomes' contract (waived), but they traded for a player that's more of the young veteran athletic shooting mold; it can be nothing but commended. Adding Ryan Gomes' contract to the trade only put the icing on the cake.
While everyone was ready to verbally spaz on David Kahn, it just goes to show you that you should have your facts right before you say anything at all.
The other plus factor is that with the trade of Al Jefferson, the Wolves are now painfully young. It helps to have a five year veteran on the team, who has some playoff experience. He also still has room to grow, being only 23 years old.
Signing Nikola Pekovic for three-year/$15 million. I don't know what I could say about this that is negative.
Here we have a guy that's a legit 6'11'' (could be 7'0'') who can seriously make some noise in the NBA next season. Yes, he's an overseas big, but his style of play is far from it. He's a bruiser, a brute force in the paint, with the nimble hands that could rock a baby to sleep.
We aren't talking about someone that just popped up on your radar all of a sudden. Some critics are stating that he would have been a legit top 10 pick in the last NBA draft. That's huge.
He's essentially a taller, stronger, more energized Al Jefferson, while being a little more one dimensional. While he plays decent on the defensive end, his rebounding remains to be seen. He's not really a shot blocker by any stretch of the imagination and he doesn't appear to be very long. But he's a force in the middle.
He can clear up penetrating lanes for his guards, pass the ball decently, but, most of all, he can play without the ball, something that Al Jefferson couldn't do effectively. Some could say he's a wild card, but I doubt that. By being able to play both the center and power forward positions, I look for Pekovic to get around 18-20 minutes of playing time.
Why so low?
Well, in 22 MPG, he averaged 15 points. That's beautiful in itself. Considering he's going to get every opportunity to carry the Wolves bench play, it could prove to be worthwhile in only a positive manner for the Wolves.
Now, here's the media's biggest negative.
I won't do this again, so please, let's break this down once and for all. And if you have any counter arguments, please watch him play.
Let's break this down.
Darko Milicic was drafted at the age of 18, and while he played in Serbia, he was inconsistent. Of course, the younger you are, the more inconsistent you are. He was taken by the Detroit Pistons , with whom he received virtually no playing time in two years. It's funny how the media value championship rings so much, when Darko got one as a rookie. Funny, right?
Stats with the Orlando Magic: 7.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.1 APG, 2.1 BPG in 20 MPG.
Stats with the Memphis Grizzlies: 7.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.6 BPG in 23 MPG
Milicic was 20 and 22 during these stretches in the NBA. While these are his best years, you notice that his minutes weren't good and were inconsistent.
Milicic has been living in the shadow of LeBron James and the others in his draft class. He has been mocked, ridiculed, and it's ultimately taken a huge chunk out of his confidence. We don't see the Darko that will posterize you anymore, even though he hasn't been the type to regulate the paint with his dunks. He isn't the same anymore by any account.
I feel, as well as anyone that has followed the NBA, that Milicic hasn't been given a chance in which he was embraced by a front office fully, or by a coaching staff. Darko has gotten that in Minnesota . He also, mind you, hasn't played poorly whatsoever.
In fact, while being completely out of shape, out of commission for two months (also three seasons without 20+ minutes), his confidence, will, drive, and hunger to succeed has been visible in some flashes at times. Please consider:
- 13 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and three blocks against the Los Angeles Lakers .
- 16 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals, and one block against the Golden State Warriors
- 15 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, one steal, and four blocks against the Sacramento Kings
- 16 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, one steal, and one block against the Los Angeles Lakers
- Eight points, eight rebounds, two assists, and one block (debut game, 19 minutes, +35 plus/minus rating, second best in Wolves history) against the Oklahoma City Thunder
- Two rebounds, and four blocks (10 minutes) against the Atlanta Hawks
- 10 points, one rebound, and three blocks (12 minutes), including a very convincing one on Dwyane Wade.
Yes, while his numbers could be better, and I'm convinced that the Wolves certainly could have done better with this deal, it's still fairly reasonable. After all, he did play pretty well and did a ton of things off the stat sheet for anyone that actually watched him play.
Anyone that searches him on YouTube can see that he has a lot of talent, especially on the low block and passing the ball. He makes some very impressive passes, and he looks so much bigger than his opponents, also it looks like his low post moves are very effective.
Now, let's get into something interesting. People say that Darko is 7'0". Closer to the truth, he's a legit seven footer, but he's around 7'2'', and maybe even taller.
In one of his famous videos, in which he blocks Tracy McGrady's shot and Dikiembe Mutombo's shots consecutively, he stands right next to him. Mutumbo is on record to be a legit 7'2'', and he appears to be the exact same height. He was still a teenager when this occurred, though.
Now, in my very own opinion, I'm not saying that Milicic will be an All-Star, but I do think he will show people that's he's legit next season with the Wolves. Allow me to counteract some arguments presented by naysayers around the web.
- The Timberwolves already have established bigs! Well, with Kevin Love more than likely becoming the full time starter for this Timberwolves squad standing just 6'8'', Wolves need a legit seven footer.
- Darko Milicic is a bust! Well, of course. But I don't hear anyone complaining anymore about that Randy Foye/Brandon Roy swap, or the Rashad McCants pick. Give him a chance in a Wolves uniform and see what he's got.
- Too much money for unproven talent: Well, his fourth year is partially guaranteed, so ultimately, the deal is around $16 million guaranteed for the four years. I don't think that's too much at all. Considering the fact that the Wolves didn't commit a max deal to the likes of Rudy Gay and Joe Johnson, I like Milicic's deal. Zaza Pachulia gets $19 million over four years, Andre Biedrins gets $62 million over six years (yikes), so think about that.
- He didn't help the Wolves win any games: This could be the strongest argument. I have a counter-argument. Out of the 24 games the Wolves played with him, they played 18 playoff teams. The other teams? New Orleans Hornets , Houston Rockets , Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors , and the Detroit Pistons. These playoff teams were playing their best brand of basketball toward the end of the season, and it was hard for the Wolves to win under those circumstances. It is not an excuse, but a valid point I should say.
We just covered the new additions. We haven't even touched on the difference in Ramon Sessions and Luke Ridnour, or Corey Brewer's energy off the bench, or the possibility that Jonny Flynn can improve because he's only 21 years of age. Not to mention Wayne Ellington's improvement as a shooter and scorer, and the possibility of adding even more depth with Anthony Tolliver.
Wesley Johnson and Lazar Hayward still remain to be seen. The Timberwolves stashed another euro away, and I believe the future is very bright. Say what you want to, but I remember around last season, John Hollinger predicted the Wolves to win 30+ games by the metric numbers.
I figure this Timberwolves team can win 30 games, maybe even 35. Only time will tell.