By Drew Vandemore
Well Wolves fans I’ll tell you this. It’s not going to be easy. There’s going to be things you probably don’t want me to remind you of (Remember when you took Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn over Steph Curry then traded Ty Lawson in the same night during the 2009 NBA Draft?), incredibly rough patches of basketball, and a lot of empty arenas, but I guarantee you it will be worth it in the end.
Since acquiring Kevin Love in the 2008 draft from the Memphis Grizzlies, you haven’t made the playoffs. Despite having solid complimentary players like Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic, your roster has failed to get you above 9th place in the Western Conference. How can we fix this you might be wondering?
Have no fear, because GM Drew Vandemore is here:
Step 1: Trade Kevin Love
Sorry folks but I figured it was easier to get this one out of the way first before addressing the other gaping issues within the organization. Love is the best player the Wolves have had since Kevin Garnett, however he seems absolutely primed to leave in the offseason via free agency after voicing frustrations with the front office for not giving him enough pieces to at least make the playoffs in his first six NBA seasons.
People have been discussing deals with the Cavaliers, but there are two teams that should not be forgotten in this sweepstakes. Both Phoenix and Golden State provide extremely interesting opportunities for Love to make the playoffs, and for the Wolves to acquire young assets in return. Here are some potential trade scenarios:
Minnesota trades Kevin Love and Kevin Martin to Cleveland for Anderson Varejao, Anthony Bennett, Dion Waiters, and a future unprotected first round pick
The Wolves may not get the coveted Andrew Wiggins in this deal, however they get immediate help in the form of cap space by getting rid of Martin’s contract and trading for Varejao (with whom they would arrange a buyout allowing him to sign with a contender). They get a shooting guard in Waiters who was the number four overall pick in the 2012 draft and would benefit greatly from a change of scenery, and they acquire Bennett who was the top overall selection in the 2013 draft.
This gives the Wolves two great pieces to build around going forwards, while waiting for Pekovic’s monstrosity of a contract to come off the books in what will be four of the longest years of all time for Wolves fans. The extra unprotected pick would come at least in the 2017 draft if not further away, in hopes that the Cavaliers will have entered somewhat of a rebuilding stage by that point.
Minnesota trades Kevin Love and Kevin Martin to Golden State for Klay Thompson, David Lee, Festus Ezili, and a future first round pick
This deal may seem more appealing to Wolves fans as they get a rising star from a playoff team in Thompson, while getting a former all-star in Lee. Ezili provides solid minutes as a back up center to future starting center Gorgui Dieng. Ezili and or Lee would also be likely involved in deals surrounding the trade deadline with contenders, allowing for the Wolves to stockpile even more assets.
Thompson fits well with no matter who is operating in the post for the Wolves as he is a deadly three point shooter, and Minnesota is again able to move Martin’s contract. A future backcourt with Zach LaVine and Klay Thompson could be the next Westbrook/Harden combination.
This is my favorite crazy Kevin Love trade scenario because it would require Bledsoe to agree to a max contract with the Wolves. By doing so, the Wolves guarantee themselves a rising star under contract for the next four years who would work well either on or off the ball (in this case off the ball, playing next to Ricky Rubio) and allowing for a player like Chase Budinger to shine by launching threes from the corner while the two backcourt mates run pick and pops. Love to Phoenix guarantees them the playoffs for years to come and would pair nicely with Goran Dragic and Miles Plumlee/Alex Len. The Wolves starting lineup in this case would be:
- Ricky Rubio
- Eric Bledsoe
- Chase Budinger
- Markieff Morris
- Nikola Pekovic
Pair with that lineup a bench of LaVine, Dieng, Dante Cunningham, Alexey Shved, and Shabazz Mohammed, and you’ve got a great young core to build around for the foreseeable future.
My choice: Take the Phoenix trade. While trading with teams in your conference tends to make teams hesitate, this move works out too well for both sides to not happen.
Step 2: The draft
By trading away Love, Minnesota should be able to find their way into a top 5 pick in the draft. For the sake of my analysis, I’m going to say they end up with a top 10 pick (lottery luck!) and select Chris LaVert (Who doesn’t want LaVine and LaVert on the same team?), a 6’6 SG from the University of Michigan.
With the pick they acquire from the Suns, the Wolves could target someone like SF Terran Petteway from the University of Nebraska or Alex Poythress from Kentucky. The Wolves should do all they can to continue to stockpile young assets to set themselves up for future stars to come into free agency or come available via trade.
This is the hardest part. Minnesota has never been a popular free agent landing spot for stars. Actually, most stars have tried to leave Minnesota when they get there. However, with a young attractive roster full of players like LaVine, LaVert, Petteway, Bledsoe, Dieng, Pekovic, etc the Wolves roster actually becomes attractive to a star who is looking for young help that can allow for him to not have to carry as big of a load.
If Bledsoe keeps developing it is not entirely out of the realm of possibilities that a big name free agent would come play with him and the talent that the Wolves front office would be able to acquire around him. After the 2016 NBA season, there will be a bevy of big time free agents to choose from, including Kevin Durant, Al Jefferson, and more. I
It is imperative by that time that the Wolves have acquired enough young talent through trades and draft picks to be able to acquire such a talent if they want any shot of ascending to a championship caliber team. We’ve seen recently through free agent signings like Houston signing Dwight Howard, Cleveland signing LeBron James, and Charlotte signing Al Jefferson that stars are willing to go to markets that before they wouldn’t have if both the money situation is right and the roster possesses young talent.
Due to the current CBA, I see this trend continuing as it becomes harder and harder to form super teams in the Association without superstars taking pay cuts. By building around a young core that they already have in LaVine, Mohammed, Pekovic, and Dieng, Minnesota can position itself very well by the time the next large class of big time free agents comes around.
By rebuilding the team now, the Wolves stand to be getting better by the time that the rest of the Western Conference is coming back down to Earth talent wise. Hang in there Wolves fans, the journey might not be an easy one, but the playoffs might not be as far away as you think.