<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d5529474\x26blogName\x3dDimmy+Karras\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dSILVER\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttp://dimmykarras.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://dimmykarras.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d2234159095245132931', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Crying Wolf?

In the wake of their big trade for Latrell Sprewell, many people are now saying the Minnesota Timberwolves are headed, finally, for the NBA Playoffs in 2004. I think this speculation is premature given both the strength in the West and the questionable improvement Minnesota has actually achieved here.

Marc Stein wrote this:

"Minnesota has a lineup that has never looked more worthy of the second round of the playoffs... [making] the loudest statement yet to Kevin Garnett that the Wolves are serious about surrounding next summer's marquee free agent with quality talent.

"Instead of saving [Terrell] Brandon's cap-friendly contract for themselves, after previously acquiring Sam Cassell in a trade with Milwaukee and signing Michael Olowokandi, the Wolves have tried to increase their odds of re-signing Garnett by taking on even more salary. As a result, Minnesota suddenly has a variety of scoring options -- don't forget Wally Szczerbiak and Troy Hudson -- to give Garnett the most help he has ever had.

"Of course, it might require KG's unselfish best to make it work, unless another trade follows to, say, move Szczerbiak for more of a role player. All five of Garnett's aforementioned teammates need shots and touches to be effective. Garnett and coach Flip Saunders will be stretched trying to make it all mesh."

And Peter May writes in today's Globe:

"[F]or the first time in franchise history, there is genuine hope and even some modest expectations in Minnesota for the Timberwolves. [GM Kevin] McHale, knowing he had to do something to convince franchise forward Kevin Garnett to stick around after this season, added the aforementioned trio, making the Timberwolves, on paper anyway, a much-improved team. The unknown at this point: Will they be good enough to even get to the second round, or further?"

The deal for Sprewell is certainly bold, but sometimes we can be so blinded by the boldness of personnel moves that we don't fully evaluate how good they are in light of the team's existing roster and needs. Sprewell is definitely a better player than Anthony Peeler, but not necessarily a better fit for the T-Wolves. I thought the Blazers had discredited the front office approach of trying to draft a fantasy team, but that seems to have been the budget-busting approach adopted by the Western powers in this offseason, spurred on by the Lakers acquisitions of Payton and Malone.

Everyone will want the ball in Minnesota. If there's a big last-second shot to be taken, it has to be Garnett's, but will Sam Cassell and Sprewell be OK with this? Cassell is no real upgrade at the point, especially after Troy Hudson's coming out party in this year's playoffs, and now Hudson has been demoted to a backup--how must he feel? And remember, the Spurs (who've made strong moves in recent years) signed Rasho Nesterovic away from Minnesota rather than Michael Olowokandi, an underachiever with the Clippers who has potential to be a top center but no more than that.

Guys like Joe Smith and Peeler gave the Wolves good chemistry last year, I felt. The team may have maxed out the potential of the roster and felt the need to shake things up, but why not wait for Peeler's and Terrell Brandon's contracts to come off the books and have more money to play with later, rather than commit to big money on the Sprewell contract now? May covers the dollar details:

"The Wolves are going for it, lock, stock, and luxury tax. Remember, it was Wolves owner Glen Taylor who delivered the ridiculous contract to Garnett (who'll make a staggering $28 million this season) and, in so doing, basically brought about the 1998-99 lockout. Now, Taylor has a payroll approaching $70 million, which means he will be a big-time luxury tax payer next season.

"McHale said money was never an issue in reloading. The Wolves got Sprewell because they were willing to jettison Terrell Brandon, whose $12-plus million salary comes off the books in February. They gave Olowokandi the full, midlevel exception, which is $4.9 million. They traded Anthony Peeler to get Cassell, and Peeler's salary for 2003-04 is not guaranteed. In other words, Minnesota dealt two players who represent around $15 million in potential savings. And McHale still wants to add another player with the so-called $1 million exception, now starting at $1.5 million."

I think the Wolves have put themselves in a bind here so that they won't be able to make major moves this time next year. And if this roster fails to get a first-round win, Garnett may well leave town next summer. Wouldn't it be nice to have the flexibility financially to do the Garnett deal next year and make some more sound moves, rather than desperately bringing in Sprewell and his bloated contract this year?

I could be totally wrong here. I just think this is a big gamble by the franchise that is not worth taking.