A tale of 3 Kevins

20 12 2008

Has there been a more stupid executive in the NBA in the last decade or so than Kevin McHale?

I loved the Minnesota Timberwolves. They were the team that I first connected to when I started to seriously follow the NBA. I’m ashamed to say that one of the main reasons was the logo and name (I went through a phase when I loved anything to do with wolves) but I also loved Kevin Garnett. Even as a rookie he swiftly became one of my favourites.

With Tom Gugliotta and Stephon Marbury the Timberwolves looked set to dominate the NBA for a decade but then Starbury fled and it all fell rather flat. McHale did manage to obtain Terrell Brandon to soften the blow of Starbury’s disappearance but the Timberwolves were no longer a team on the rise.

With KG the T-wolves were always competitive but McHale’s ineptitude meant he was never surrounded by the quality supporting talent needed to be a contender. It was exacerbated with the dreadful Joe Smith saga where they illegally tried to sign him only to be revealed and lose several years worth of draft picks. It wasn’t till they acquired Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell, two quality All Star level talents that the Timberwolves blossomed. It proved that if you put the right players around him, Garnett could carry the team deep into the playoffs.

Then it all kinda fell apart. The team failed to make the playoffs for the next couple of years and finally KG was traded to the Celtics where he promptly won a championship. Well done Kevin McHale! You built a champion but for the wrong team. Doh!

The case against McHale gets more damning when you consider his lottery picks. He lucked out with KG, he will be in the Hall of Fame but he has had little other success.

In 2006 they traded #6 pick Brandon Roy for #7 pick Randy Foye. Foye has been a solid NBA player but I doubt whether he will ever be a star. He’s a tweener, neither point nor shooting guard while Roy is now an All Star and the centrepiece of the upstart Portland Trail Blazers.

Last year they drafted Corey Brewer when players like Al Thornton, Thaddeus Young, Rodney Stuckey, Rudy Fernandez and Carl Landry were still available. All of those players would have been better fits.

The true travesty was in this year’s draft where they drafted rising superstar OJ Mayo and traded him to the Memphis Grizzlies for Kevin Love. I wrote at the time:

Word of advice don’t trade away an athletic potential superstar for a big white stiff, just not a good idea 

and I guess I have never written more prophetic words. OJ Mayo currently heads David Thorpe’s Rookie Rankings while Love is languishing at #11. I’ll be delighted if Love proves me wrong but I doubt it.

McHale’s stewardship has been a tragedy. Can you imagine if Roy was playing alongside Garnett? The two of them would most probably have the Timberwolves back in the playoff hunt. Of course then McHale would undoubtedly have stuffed the whole thing up.





Minnesota Timberwolves Season Preview

6 10 2008

My NBA Northwest Division preview continues with the Minnesota Timberwolves:

Minnesota Timberwolves

2007-08 Standings 22 – 60, 13th Western Conference

2008-09 Predicted Record 40 – 42, 4th Northwest Division, 10th Western Conference

Projected Starting Five:  Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Mike Miller, Randy Foye, Sebastian Telfair

Sixth Man:  Rashad McCants

Al Jefferson, Randy Foye and Corey Brewer are hoping to bring the Timberwolves back to respectability.

Al Jefferson, Randy Foye and Corey Brewer are hoping to bring the Timberwolves back to respectability.

As expected the Minnesota Timberwolves were one of the worst teams in the NBA last year. They traded away the face and heart of the franchise, Kevin Garnett, and watched as he won a title. At least it proved that GM Kevin McHale can build a championship team, only problem: it was his old team, the Boston Celtics.

Only the very churlish would begrudge Garnett his title but in many ways his triumph with the Celtics was a slap in the face for Timberwolves fans. It proved that if McHale had surrounded Garnett with class and talent they might have won a title.

Instead McHale proved incompetent at building a powerhouse contender (except for the one year when Garnett had Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell as his running mates) and last offseason they blew the team up. At least they acquired talent in exchange.

Al Jefferson is the cornerstone of the franchise. He is a powerhouse post player who will be an All Star sooner rather than later. However he is at best a lackadaisical defender, an area where Garnett excelled.

The other “star” of the team is Randy Foye. At the moment Foye shapes as another example of McHale’s incompetence. Foye was acquired in a draft day trade for Brandon Roy, AKA All Star Brandon Roy. While Foye projects as a solid NBA player, albeit one struggling to find a position (is he a point guard or shooting guard), Roy is classy and almost led the young Trail Blazers to the playoffs. If Roy was in Minnesota then most probably Garnett would be too. 

The remaking of the team continued in the offseason. The T Wolves drafted OJ Mayo then immediately traded him, Antoine Walker and Marko Jaric for Kevin Love and Mike Miller. For once the Timberwolves made a good transaction. Mayo is undoubtedly talented but he didn’t want to play in Minnesota. Love on the other hand did and provides the T Wolves with a passing big man. The fact they also acquired Miller, a classy underrated shooter and shed Walker and Jaric was a bonus.

However the Timberwolves have a weakness at centre and point guard. Jefferson is more of a natural fit at power forward but with Love on the roster he will be expected to log minutes in the middle. At the point Telfair is the starter but he has failed to live up to his potential so far.

The Timberwolves will be better this year. They’ll struggle to defend but they have enough young talent that they’ll start their climb back up the standings.

Coach:

Randy Whittman is the Timberwolves coach but he doesn’t inspire a whole mass of confidence. Minnesota has fired better coaches than him recently, most notably Flip Saunders but also Dwayne Casey.

Bench:

Minnesota have a solid looking bench. If Rashad McCants can adjust to a sixth man role he is capable of providing a spark. Ryan Gomes and Craig Smith are bruising reserves who would fit in well in Utah with Jerry Sloan. Corey Brewer needs to develop this season. He was a major disappointment last year though it was perhaps more puzzling why he was taken so high in the first place.

Star Player:

Al Jefferson is the Timberwolves undoubted star. This year he should go close to an All Star berth but he will have to raise his play to MVP level to make anyone forget Kevin Garnett.

Team MVP:

How Randy Foye plays will determine how good the Timberwolves can be. He and the coaches need to decide if he is a point guard or shooting guard. I’ve projected him as a shooting guard at this point. However he has a Chauncey Billups kind of physique, he just needs to develop a Billups like game.

Final Prognosis:

The Timberwolves will improve this season but not enough to make the playoffs in the west. In Jefferson, Love, Foye and Gomes they have a good young core and the addition of Miller brings some class and poise to the team. They could win anywhere between 30 and 40 games.

 

You can find an index of past Previews here.





NBA Season Preview Index

3 10 2008

Atlantic Division Previews:

Boston Celtics Season Preview

Philadelphia 76ers Season Preview

Toronto Raptors Season Preview

New York Knicks Season Preview

New Jersey Nets Season Preview

Northwest Division Previews:

Utah Jazz Season Preview

Portland Trail Blazers Season Preview

Denver Nuggets Season Preview

Minnesota Timberwolves Season Preview

Oklahoma City Thunder Season Preview

Central Division Previews:

Cleveland Cavaliers Season Preview

Detroit Pistons Season Preview

Chicago Bulls Season Preview

Milwaukee Bucks Season Preview

Indiana Pacers Season Preview

Pacific Division Previews:

LA Lakers Season Preview

Phoenix Suns Season Preview

Golden State Warriors Season Preview

LA Clippers Season Preview

Sacramento Kings Season Preview

South East Division Previews:

Orlando Magic Season Preview

Miami Heat Season Preview

Atlanta Hawks Season Preview

Washington Wizards Season Preview

Charlotte Bobcats Season Preview

South West Division Previews:

New Orleans Hornets Season Preview

San Antonio Spurs Season Preview

Houston Rockets Season Preview

Dallas Mavericks Season Preview

Memphis Grizzlies Season Preview





Just say “No!” to Starbury

24 09 2008

It seems that the basketballer formerly known as “Starbury” is about to be waived by the New York Knicks. My first thought was cool, now the Celtics or T Wolves can sign him. My second thought was, please don’t sign him.

Throughout his career Stephen Marbury has teased us with his potential greatness. He has the talent and body to be a Hall of Famer, as reflected in his max contracts over the years, yet he seemingly has the maturity of a 4 year old. He was involved in that sleazy Isiah Thomas sexual harassment law suit and even his cousin has written a book about his selfishness.

I remember being gutted when he quit on KG all those years ago in Minnesota. It felt to me like he was tossing away the chance to be the next Stockton-to-Malone. The Timberwolves compensated for the loss of Marbury by obtaining Terrell Brandon but while he was an All Star he wasn’t Starbury.

Marbury seems to have a caustic personality that infests the whole team. He’s been a cancer everywhere he’s been, never more illustrated than when he left Phoenix and they immediately made the playoffs. Hell, the Knicks are prepared to pay him over $20 million to not show up! Now if the Knicks are worried about his personality screwing up their chemistry then you know Marbury is trouble.

I have no doubt that Starbury’s going to end up somewhere. I just hope it isn’t with my teams.