Category: Latest News
Published: Friday, 20 February 2015 06:14
Written by Derek
Prepare yourself...this is a lengthy one. But it's filled with tons of juicy nuggets, so you should be able to savor the flavor. Take a break and come back if need be.
The 2015 NBA trade deadline passed this afternoon, and it left a helluva mark on the league, the players and the fans. If you were around Twitter during the closing minutes of the deadline, your brain may have blown a fuse. If you weren't around Twitter for the deadline, well, you may want to try that on some time....it's madness (some times).
People in Minnesota know by now that "The Kid"..."The Franchise"..."The Big Ticket"....Kevin Garnett, is back home. Those of us that are Timberwolves fans (many of whom won't admit that unless they are winning), prefer to call him "KG." Which is how I'll refer to him throughout this piece.
Now, if you were able to enjoy the lost art in which Twitter was created for, you missed out on reactions that ranged from "KG to the Wolves is the greatest thing of all time!" to "KG looks like he could play the ACTUAL 'Uncle Drew' in those Nike commercials!"
For those of you that know me, I'm a Timberwolves fan. Always have been, always will be. I was a kid during the early days when the Washington Generals would have been double digit favorites, to the "glory" years when KG was in his prime. I love basketball. I appreciate how good players in the NBA are...and I desperately want the Wolves to be good.
I also understand how difficult it is to win in a market like Minneapolis in the NBA.
There's a reason the Milwaukee Bucks, Sacramento Kings, Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors of the World aren't good for 10-15 years at a time. I know, you're probably thinking, "Whoa, did he just say the Pacers and Raptors aren't good?! They are/were in the playoffs!" Correct. Because of super stars they got by being bad for so long...(See how bad the Pacers are without Paul George? Have the Raptors REALLY ever been better than the Wolves ever have? No). Blame David Kahn for the majority of the reasons the Wolves aren't currently good. But I've chopped down that tree many times before.
My point is this: Yes, the Wolves have been embarrassing for many of their years since joining the league. That said, making the playoffs eight consecutive years in a row, during a time in which the Western Conference was a power house (once Michael Jordan left, the East was awful) is nothing to laugh at. In fact, the Wolves fell victim to some bad luck with fixed games (yes, look it up...the Kings were victims too), to injuries, to the league extending the first round to best of seven so teams like the Lakers could get more TV time...etc.
THAT said, KG and the Wolves never delivered outside of their run in 2003 when they got shafted in losing to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals (with injuries to key players by the way). That doesn't help the average fan when it comes to supporting "their team."
Let's focus on KG for a minute before we get in to why Thursday's trade was/wasn't good for the Wolves.
First off, KG was a raw talent out of high school who was chosen as the fifth overall pick in the 1996 draft. At the time, drafting a high school kid that high was unheard of for the NBA (man, how things have changed).
KG was a raw talent. Swatting blocked shots eight rows in to the stands, a flat jump shot, an energetic kid who just wanted to dunk the snot out of the ball every time he touched it. As raw as they come.
But he was driven. Driven to succeed.
KG wasn't great with his english when speaking to the media. As if he didn't really know how to do it...like no one prepared him for it. But he was likable...and it was something an extremely boring franchise needed after the "the golden child" Christian Laettner experience quickly went South.
Something changed with KG. He straightened up. Literally, he did...he got braces (google it). He learned how to properly speak to the media (for the most part), he learned to block shots to his teammates, how to play defense, how to hit open jump shots that he knew would be key to being a potential all-star in the league. He figured out post moves, but most importantly, he figured out how to make his teammates better.
KG can thank Kevin McHale for a lot of his on-court improvements. He likely can thank veterans like Sam Mitchell, Terry Porter and others for helping him on, as well as, off the court too. But no one can argue that many of KG's teammates benefited from him being on the court.
Without getting to specifics, just consider names like Stephon Marbury, Terrell Brandon, Wally Szczerbiak, Fred Hoiberg, Troy Hudson, Trenton Hassell, Anthony Peeler, Sam Mitchell...and so on. Many of those guys had the best years of their careers while playing along side KG. They were open because KG demanded so much attention, but also knew the importance of those players being open...and hitting big shots.
The Wolves haven't had that player since KG left. Kevin Love wasn't that guy. No one has been.
Now, before you start thinking this is some sort of lovefest of Kevin Garnett, it's not. He's one of the main reasons this team didn't have more support around him. He signed the biggest contract in the history of the NBA, yet never took a pay cut to help a cash strapped team improve it's roster. Maybe he felt he didn't need to because he made everyone better, which was obvious when declining veterans like Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassel would come hobbling in and play out of their minds.
But KG was also responsible for giving the front office his two cents on who he'd like to see them sign, and who he wouldn't. Examples like Joe Smith (yup, that one hurt), Troy Hudson and Trenton Hassell were all guys that KG demanded. If you go back and look at the numbers, those contracts absolutely killed this franchise for many years.
Even with the negatives that surround KG (who wasn't always the nicest guy to his teammates, but neither was Michael Jordan... no, I did not just say KG was as good as MJ, so cool down), the positives on the court outweighed the negatives.
This brings me to the trade that went down at the deadline.
There's really two common opinions to this trade. You either hated it, or you loved it. If you hated it, you are likely rolling your eyes thinking this is just a marketing ploy to sell some tickets the rest of the year. And you might be right. But please don't compare this to Torii Hunter signing a $10m deal with the Twins when he's really worth $2m, because that's way different (Torii is added payroll, KG is expiring payroll...more on that in a minute).
If you hated it, you likely also believe that KG is washed up and has nothing left in the tank. Again, that could be true. And, although I'll argue he's now the best defensive threat we have near the rim on the entire roster, which is sad, there's no arguing his career is coming to an end.
Oh, but what if you loved the trade? What if you are digging though your parent's garage looking for that size 44 replica KG jersey that you wore during college parities before "throwbacks" we're a thing? You, my friend, need to cool it...KG isn't the answer to a glorified dynasty of NBA Championships that's about to take place. You are, however, welcome to join the rest of us along an intriguing journey of what could become the new nucleus of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Let me explain.
As mentioned before, KG was a raw talent who grew to become one of the best players in the history of the NBA. He did it in a smaller market that no free agent wants to come to. He did it by working hard and proving everyone wrong. The people in Minnesota (and really across the league) grew to love him.
KG did it. He lived it. And he did it while the current roster of Wolves' players were in diapers and up through the time they learned to love basketball...and the way KG played it.
Spend 20 minutes looking at the videos of Andrew Wiggins and others' reactions to the KG news Thursday after practice. They could hardly contain themselves. I know for a fact that guys like Shabazz Muhammad are beside themselves at the chance to learn/play with KG.
This roster is full of young, but potentially highly talented basketball players. They are raw, just like KG was. Outside of Ricky Rubio, they don't speak the media all that well, and they don't appear to have much direction on how to be a team leader. That guy on the floor who takes control and gets in the faces of his teammates to encourage them to get better. Who says "don't worry guys, I'll take it from here." They don't have that, because they've never been around it. Kevin Love did none of that.
Let's assume for a second that KG finishes this season with the Wolves, retires, and starts the process of becoming a minority owner of the team. For those who say that is the only reason he agreed to this.....come on, he didn't have to spend a few months here to buy part of the team...he knows he can serve a purpose here.
Sure, KG may be buttering the bread a bit before he becomes more involved with the franchise as a partial owner. But he also is one of the best competitors to ever play the game. The Brooklyn Nets are a one and done playoff team, in the junior varsity Eastern Conference, at best. KG was going to get let down no matter what he decided.
Coming home to Minnesota allows KG to serve a role he's never really had to play. Mentor.
He had Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo in Boston. He had Pierce, Deron Williams and a bunch of non-rookies in Brooklyn. He's getting a chance to take a bunch of talented players under his wing, and help them become what he became. And each one of the young players on the Wolves' roster would kill to become what KG is today.
Thaddeus Young's time in Minnesota was a failure. The Wolves found themselves in a tough spot when they traded Kevin Love (for Andrew Wiggins, so let's not bitch about that part of this), so they made a risky move trading what likely will be mid to late 1st round pick (Miami's) for Young. **Please note, Miami made a massive trade to obtain Goran Dragic today, making their team better...that 1st round pick could be in the 20's, which isn't like trading away a top 10 pick). To see Young get traded straight up for KG has many seeing this trade as a 1st round pick for KG...but that's not the case. Here's why.
KG has a $12m expiring contract at the end of the year. Young has a $10m player option for 2016, which he likely would have opted in to had the Wolves kept him, as he should, because he's not worth $10m.
So, instead of paying Young $10m in 2016, they don't have to pay anyone anything...unless they re-sign KG, which is possible, but it won't be for $10m. Not even close. That's a win for the Wolves, because they need all the money they can get for the free agent frenzy of 2017 when the big TV contracts increase the salary caps.
And by then, the hope is at least, that players may actually want to come play with this group of Wolves who are about to hit their stride....like Wiggins, Rubio, Muhammad, Lavine, Dieng, etc...hopefully all who have learned a thing or nine from KG during his return home.
Young is a poor man's Kevin Love. He's a tweener small-forward/power-forward. He doesn't play defense. He doesn't rebound that well. He shoots from the outside too often, thus limiting said rebounds, and he plays aggressively when he wants to.
The Wolves also have 11 wins. ELEVEN. And Young has been healthy the whole time (for the most part). Sure, he's only 26 and "hitting his prime" as some would say, but he's been in the league seven years...long enough to essentially know what you're going to get. His career averages are 13.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 0.4 blocks per game. Tell me that's worth $10m a year to a team with eleven wins and tons of youth. Even if Young blows up in 2016, you're then forced to pay him even more or watch him walk for nothing. In which case, the Wolves lose anyway.
There are some who think the Wolves could have gotten more, as if they left more on the table just to have a marketing campaign with KG coming home instead. Guess what? That's not the case. No team in the NBA was giving up any sort of decent value for a guy who could walk after this year. They also aren't giving up talent so they can pay Young $10m next year. The Nets are doing it because they are one of the few teams who can afford the potential of Young actually helping their team.
If Flip had a better deal on the table that would improve this team, he would have done it. And to be honest, KG probably would have preferred he do that if he's going to be part owner in the near future. This leads me to believe that the rumors we heard of other teams jumping in this KG for Young deal were true. If KG wasn't interested, he would have said no right away. But it's entirely possible he said "I'll do it, but lets see what else we can get before we finalize this thing."
Of course, there's no guarantee Young stays in Minnesota or Brooklyn. He could promise that all he wants...and back out last minute. It's the NBA, it happens multiple times every year. Why not bring in a guy who can talk the talk because he walked the walk? Like KG.
To conclude (and thank you if you're still with me here), there's more reasons to be pleased with the KG for Thad Young trade than many bandwagon fans are giving credit for. They're bandwagon fans, they don't fully understand things...they read headlines and make assumptions.
This trade doesn't hurt the Wolves. If anything, the trade for Young hurt the Wolves...well, maybe, if they were to actually land a good player in back half of the first round in this Summer's draft with that Miami pick. The current team can benefit from having a leader, a veteran, a guy like KG who can once again be worshiped in the Twin Cities.
This time, however, he can be worshiped for a different reason. And maybe, just maybe, we're able to look back on this trade and reflect on the impact it had on this young team.
And maybe, just maybe, KG will be on the court, hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy as part owner of the team, with the very guys he helped grow.
It'd make for one heck of a dream come true...
(then again, maybe that's all it is...a dream)
#HowlAtchyaBoi #TypingOutLoud #GrammarNerdsAreNotWelcome