One of the people that is most ridiculed at the Wages of Wins is David Kahn, Minnesota’s GM, who is well-known for making terrible moves. I don’t think he has made too many bad moves this summer, and that makes me a bit sad. For one, I won’t be able to tease him myself. For another, it means that there is one more team out there that can feasibly challenge the Lakers for a title. But it is a good thing for the Timberwolves fans out there. If you don’t believe, then I will show you.
- They acquired Chase Budinger from Houston in exchange for the No. 18 overall pick and the draft rights to Israeli F Lior Eliyahu. Minnesota is known for making terrible draft choices, as shown by him taking four point guards in the 2009 draft (Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn, Ty Lawson, and Nick Calathes) and trading the best one (Lawson) and the one who’s still in Greece (Calathes). If you don’t have a draft pick, then you can’t make a bad draft choice, and they only had one draft pick, Robbie Hummel at No. 58. People will look the other way if you mess up at No. 58, and while Hummel was by no means the best player available at No. 58, he was also by no means the worst player available. It definitely was not a Jonny Flynn at No. 6-level mistake. In return, he got Budinger, a twenty-four year-old above-average player at a position of great need, and Eliyahu, an average Euroleague small forward who plays for Maccabi Tel Aviv and will probably never come stateside.
- They declined to give Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph qualifying offers, making them unrestricted (as opposed to restricted) free agents. Beasley is a sub-zero volume scorer whose only skill of note is rebounding. Randolph is a solid shot-blocking power forward who didn’t receive a whole lot of play time and turns the ball over frequently. I love the Beasley move, and I feel decently sure that the decision on Randolph was a good one. This way, there was no temptation to match either one’s offer sheets. I will say that this isn’t that big of a deal, though.
- They amnestied Darko Milicic. I’m still not sure why they ever gave him a big contract in the first place, but this was a great damage-control move. In limited minutes, the only skill where Darko was above-average was in shot-blocking, but his scoring efficiency and his rebounding were absolutely terrible. In fact, they were even worse than his normal levels, and the only time he was average in either category was in his rookie season when he played in all of 159 minutes. Unfortuantely, nobody picked him up, so they don’t save any money, but at least they don’t have his cap hit.
- They waived Martell Webster. In my opinion, this was their most suspect move, since Webster was definitely their most serviceable wing. (His Wins Produced Per 48 Minutes rate was .097, which is just shy of average.) However, I suppose that the acquisition of Chase Budinger made him somewhat expendable, but he’s only twenty-five. I won’t go on a limb and say this is vintage Kahn, but it is an exception to the rule.
- They signed Greg Stiemsma to a one-year deal worth $3 million. I am really loving this move, as Stiemsma was almost twice as productive as the average center in 766 minutes of action last year despite having very suspect rebounding numbers and a horrendous foul rate. His shot-blocking and steal rate was excellent, and he is an efficient scorer. He will turn twenty-seven in September, but that just means that he probably won’t get better. He’s played in South Korea, the D-League, and Turkey, and I think he’s earned this nice little deal.
- They traded Wayne Ellington to Memphis in exchange for Dante Cunningham. Wayne Ellington was one of Minnesota’s problem wings. Drafted in the year of the four point guards (see above), his skills lie in not making mistakes. However, his scoring efficiency is pretty bad, and his rebounding is definitely below-average. He almost never passes, either, and produced just under one win in 973 minutes. Dante Cunningham produced at a rate four times higher than Ellington. Like Stiemsma, his rebounding rate and his assists are a bit low, but he gets steals without fouls or turnovers. His scoring efficiency is not at an average rate, but he rarely shoots the ball (only 11.9 field goals attempts per 48 minutes, as opposed to 16.4 for the average small forward.) Furthermore, his and Stiemsma’s suspect rebounding are more than compensated for by Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic.
- They signed Russian PG Alexey Shved to a contract. I could not find the terms. Presumably, Shved was signed to help back up Ricky Rubio and to help Luke Ridnour, who’s really a point guard, at the 2 spot. Prior to today, I had never heard of Shved, but draftexpress.com reports that his Win Score was fourth-highest among Euroleague point guards who played in at least twenty minutes a game for ten games. Ahead of him were Bo McCalebb, new Knicks signee and former Argentinian national team member Pablo Prigoni, and Euroleague great and integral cog of Greece’s team Dimitris Diamantidis. That’s really good company, and I think that Shved will, at worst, be approximately average.
- They are going to trade Wesley Johnson to New Orleans and receive Jerome Dyson and the retiring Brad Miller. Wesley Johnson produced at a rate less than a fifth of that of the average small forward last year. HEe was only above-average in not turning the ball over and blocking shots, while his rebounding and scoring efficiency were atrocious. The only worse Timberwolf with more than 1,000 minutes under his belt was Michael Beasley, and Beasley is now a Phoenix Sun. Soon, Wes Johnson will be gone too. It doesn’t matter that Dyson was slightly worse in only 180 minutes; they removed Rick Adelman’s one major vice. Miller actually played for Minnesota last year, but has been the subject of a game of back-and-forth and will retire soon.
- They are reportedly signing Andrei Kirilenko for two years and $20 million. I was sincerely hoping that the Lakers would pick him up, but alas it was not to be. Despite not playing center, Kirilenko had the highest Win Score of anyone in the Euroleague last year by far. Kirilenko’s score was 16.7% higher than the next-highest player, Marcus Slaughter, and Kirilenko played almost twice as many minutes. Third and fourth on the list were Ersan Ilyasova and Thabo Sefolosha, respectively, both of whom were significantly above-average NBAers this past year. Both of those guys played even fewer minutes than Slaughter, largely because they were returning to their NBA teams. In the ten years he spent in Utah, Kirilenko posted a Wins Produced Per 48 Minutes level below .200 (twice that of the average player) once, and that year it was still at .184. While at age thirty-one he is likely to decline, he will still be an average player I am sure. Why couldn’t the Lakers have gotten this guy?
The way I see it, the Timberwolves will go to the play-0ffs this year, barring a major rash of injuries and/or Kahn returning to his former habits in a big way. Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams will probably improve, they upgraded at several positions, and Rick Adelman appeared to have good substitution patterns last year. The only problem is that they might have too much depth, which is just fine in the regular season but a bit useless come the postseason. However, it is always better to err on the side of caution. Thank you for reading, and please comment.