As The Official Pretend Sportive GM of the Minnesota Timberwolves, it should come as no surprise that the masses (no one) have been clamoring for my vaunted annual offseason game plan. I have detailed my strategy below.
(Remember that last year I would have drafted CJ McCollum and Mike Muscala, then signed AK47 and Al-Farouq Aminu. I would have then traded Derrick Williams for Utah’s Jeremy Evans. My Pretend Wolves would not have included Shabazz, Dieng, Martin or Brewer. Dieng looks like a solid pick-up but overall my team would have been better while maintaining a TON more payroll flexibility. And remember, I’m a moron. You suck, Flip Saunders.)
As it stands, here is my POV on what the roster needs to look like to be a competitive, playoff-bound team.
PG: Rubio / [?] / Barea / Shved
SG: [?] / Martin / Brewer
SF: [?] / Budinger / Shabazz / Mbah a Moute
PF: Love / [?]
C: Pek / Dieng / Turiaf
So there you. To simplify, the Wolves have four big needs: Backup PG, Starting SG, Starting SF and Backup PF. Those four positions are all anyone should care about this offseason. Considering the fact that the Wolves are nudging up against the salary cap (you suck, Flip Saunders,) they have very little wiggle room to fill them all. It’d take a near-miracle to go 4-4, but filling most of the needs and balancing the roster is not out of the question.
The Wolves have a superstar and two very good starters, plus a bench of solid centers and wings. With a little roster balance (THIS IS WHY IT’D BE NICE TO HAVE A COMPETENT GM) as well as a solid understanding of what bench guys play best with each other (THIS IS WHY IT’D BE NICE TO HAVE AN ANALYTICAL COACH), I don’t think you have to squint too hard to see a much improved version of the Wolves next season.
What I would do:
STEP 1: The Draft. Target wings. I have not watched any workouts but I watched a ton of college hoops and my wish list is: Gary Harris, Nik Stauskas, James Young and Kyle Anderson. Get one of those in the first. In the second round, target potential backup PGs and PFs. Russ Smith, Jahii Carson and Khem Birch are my targets.
STEP 2: Trade(s). Call every GM in the league and offer Barea, Martin, Brewer, Shabazz and/or Mbah a Moute in exchange for a competent backup PG or PF. None of those guys has a ton of value, but we are not asking for the moon. We’re shooting to trade competence for competence to help another team balance their roster. Not looking for projects but solid, developed pros. I’m talking about Dante Cunningham-types (ideally who don’t lob death threats while on the way home from jail).
STEP 3: Free agency. Plug the holes you weren’t able to fill with low-cost but decent production guys. Obviously would need to reassess after the draft/trades but for now my target list is: Shaun Livingston, Ramon Sessions, Jodie Meeks, Jordan Hill, Anthony Tolliver and DeJuan Blair.
And that’s IT. That’s the entire plan. Not a franchise-changing offseason, since big moves are impossible considering the current state of the roster (you su—ah forget it), so the only goal is to get slightly better and show our waffling savior Kevin Love that he should stay while also staying flexible for the future if and when he bolts.
My dream scenario (while also realistic) is something like this:
STEP 1 RESULT: Drafted Gary Harris, Russ Smith and grabbed a couple Euro-stash PFs.
STEP 2 RESULT: Signed DeJuan Blair (1 yr/$2M) and Anthony Tolliver (1 yr/$2M).
STEP 3 RESULT: Traded Barea and Mbah a Moute for some shooting sleeves and a couple buckets of practice balls.
PG: Rubio / Smith / Shved
SG: Harris / Martin
SF: Budinger / Brewer / Shabazz
PF: Love / Blair / Tolliver
C: Pek / Dieng / Turiaf
Harris starting over Martin, you ask? It’s worth a shot and easy to flip flop if Harris is a disaster. But Martin is more effective with the ball and may do better split up from Rubio. Harris will not be asked to do a whole lot beyond defense, spotting up and learning the offense.
Bud moves into a starting role as a decent two-way player who can be a low-usage flloor-spacer while Ricky and Love do their thing. If he too is a disaster, it’s a simple swap with Brewer. Worst case scenario is rolling with a starting five that was playoff-worthy last season.
As for the bench, the second unit may have trouble scoring points unless Smith is a better creator than expected, but defense should be solid and hold its own while the starters rest. And just to be clear, Martin, Dieng and Blair are all plus offensive weapons. Should be much improved.
I’d also be more than happy to chuck Shved in the river in favor of a traditional PG with decent-enough handles if one can be found on the cheap.
Final point, if they can get anything of value in any bench trades, the roster could and should look a lot better. But I can’t know that so I’m just doing what I can. Still think this is a very solid roster with a not-totally-disastrous future if our Golden Boy up and leaves.
Now let’s all hope Old Man Anna Nicole Smith (aka Flip) can do better than this pedestrian/very doable plan. You’ll be shocked, but I have my doubts.