Thursday, November 15, 2007

Winning Now vs. Building for the Future

After this summer's exile, which saw Ricky Davis, Mark Blount, Juwan Howard, Trenton Hassell, Troy Hudson, Mike James, and Kevin Garnett all come-and-go, it was widely believed that Minnesota was ready to start fresh and rebuild with young, exciting players. Through six games, Minnesota stands at 1-5 with their only win taking place at home against the 2-6 Sacramento Kings.

Some may say it is too early for a team to throw in the towel on a season and begin exclusively playing young players. In Minnesota, I say it is time to do so. Attempt to package Theo Ratliff's $11,666,666 salary with Antoine Walker ($8,547,000 with one year after this remaining). Look to move Marko Jaric (about $27,000,000 over the next four years) to a team looking for scoring from the point guard position. If they cannot move Walker, then it is time to buy him out. Minnesota should target a young wing player who can score or a legitimate center that can help them in the future.

Among the team leaders in minutes played, Ratliff, Greg Buckner, and Marko Jaric all fall in the top seven. Why? Why is Walker getting more than 15 minutes per game? The Timberwolves have put together a nice, promising core that needs experience and growth. Al Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Randy Foye, Rashad McCants, Corey Brewer, Craig Smith, and Gerald Green are all promising players all 25 years old or younger.

The coaches and management need to let these kids play together for extended time. This way, after the season, Kevin McHale and the rest of the management can accurately access what they have. Each one of these players have questions around them, but if they do not get extended time this year, then they will not be able to answer them:
  • Can Jefferson be a superstar or more of a second leading scorer?
  • Can Telfair run an NBA team
  • Is Gomes more than just a hustle player?
  • Is Foye a point guard or undersized shooting guard?
  • Will McCants ever be more than what he is today?
  • Can Brewer be counted on to score consistently in the NBA?
  • Do Smith's abilities extend beyond rebounding and post defense?
  • Is Green a potential 20 point per night guy?

However, if Minnesota continues to play some of their veterans significant minutes, then the team will not be able to determine what they have and what they need. This is an important season for Minnesota in the start of their rebuilding and they cannot waste it away.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Catching Up from the Weekend

-I am happy to say I missed Saturday night's Bulls-Raptors blowout at the United Center. Apparently during the second half, fans started booing and then chanted "Ko-be, Ko-be". What a disaster.

-The rest of the month has the Bulls playing six road games and a home game against the Atlanta Hawks. The Suns, Clippers, Lakers, Nuggets, Knicks, and Raptors make up the Bulls longest roadtrip of the season. It certainly is likely the Bulls may end with something like a 3-10 November, which would seriously handicap their chances of winning the Eastern Conference.

-During the offseason and then preseason, we heard a lot that J.J. Redick would be playing significant minutes with the Magic under new coach Stan Van Gundy. Through seven Magic games, Redick has only appeared in two games and has not scored a point this season.

-At this point, I would say the five best teams are: Boston, San Antonio, Houston, Phoenix, and Utah. The bottom five teams are: Seattle, Golden State, Memphis, Miami, and Washington.

-Though it is still early, Rajon Rondo has done a great job at point guard for the Celtics. He has taken care of the ball on offense, forced turnovers on defense, and has scored more than ten points per game in a majority of games. However, the one close game the Celtics have played in this year against the Raptors, was Rondo's worse of the season by far. Rondo struggled to be effective and scored only two points and had two assists, while failing to score from the field and having five fouls. So it looks like, as Rondo goes, the Celtics will go this season.

-I caught the last five minutes of the Kings-Cavaliers game late Friday night. LeBron James completely took over and Cleveland pulled out the win. The big story in my mind was Sacramento’s execution down the stretch. With twelve seconds left to play and down two points, Sacramento’s top scoring option, Kevin Martin, was isolated in transition one-on-one on the left wing. Furthermore, there was only one other Cavalier defender within the three point line. Instead of letting Martin go at his defender and trying to send the game to overtime, Kings coach Reggie Theus called a time. Out of the timeout, Martin was defended by LeBron James, who did not bite on a pump fake and ultimately forced Martin into taking a forced three point attempt that fell short. Theus clearly cost his team a chance to pull out a victory by over-coaching the situation.