Over the last seven months, the Minnesota Timberwolves have been a major facilitator around the league. Whether they’re handing out wins on a nightly basis or making sure superstar players get to teams that aren’t the Wolves, this team has been extremely active and generous.
This past summer, David Kahn essentially traded a 2011 second-round pick to the Miami Heat for Michael Beasley. It helped clear cap room for the Heat to acquire LeBron James and Chris Bosh while retaining Dwyane Wade’s services. Yesterday, Kahn jumped into a superstar venue change once again by taking the remaining months of Eddy Curry’s basketball career and the unrequited potential of Anthony Randolph in exchange for Corey Brewer. It helped Carmelo Anthony go to the Knicks.
And this is where the Wolves stand in the NBA. As a fan, we watch other teams get built at our expense while hoping that seemingly busted lottery picks can be galvanized at the Target Center. It’s become the Betty Ford Clinic of untapped, athletic potential.
I know I should be excited about acquiring someone who allegedly has a high ceiling, but I just don’t get it. People used to blame Randolph not becoming a young star because of Don Nelson. Then he moved on to the Knicks and couldn’t find minutes on a team that could really use a young, athletic player with rim-protecting capabilities.
Why should I assume he can put it all together in one of the more complicated offensive systems in the NBA?
The Wolves gave up Corey Brewer. I get that it doesn’t seem like a huge loss for this team and ultimately, it won’t be. He’s a decent role player. He could be a very decent role player on a good team. But you know what you’re going to get with Corey. That’s no longer something you can say about this Wolves roster, outside of Kevin Love’s nightly rebounding barrage.
Randolph will come in and immediately be behind the Wolves' two best players in Love and Beasley. My fear is that if Randolph shows any glimmer of hope in these next couple months, it will give Kahn the excuse to trade away Love to finally get rid of the last remaining Kevin McHale acquisitions (Brewer was second to last). Then he will be left with his own team and another grace period of seeing if potential can be realized.
Kahn has put together a collection of low risk, high reward players. It’s a smart plan in terms of job security. These guys could pan out and become franchise building blocks. If they don’t, they were damaged goods to begin with. It allows Kahn to show he’s gambling for team success without actually putting any money on the table.
Beasley averages nearly 20 points per game. Darko Milicic is third in the NBA in blocked shots. Superficially, these look like wins for Kahn and his regime. But Beasley has given up more points per possession than he’s scored (according to Synergy Sports), and when Darko takes 10 shots or more in a game the Wolves’ already low winning percentage goes down six points (from 23 percent to 17 percent).
None of what Kahn has done in these 20 months on the job has actually led to a more successful team. The team now has more potential, but lots of young, bad teams have had the potential to eventually get better. How often does it seem to work?
The Wolves are putting together a roster of castaway lottery picks. The players can either become really good or they can be repackaged and shipped off for better pieces. But Minnesota needs a team to play facilitator in order to pull that off. They need a team willing to gamble on untapped potential to pretend they’re actually getting better.
Unfortunately, they can’t trade with themselves.