TFD: Timberwolves among least-efficient NBA spenders last year

loverubioESPN.com took a look at all 30 NBA teams in 2013-14 to determine which were the most efficient spenders. The Timberwolves finished 21st out of 30, at least when ranked by marginal dollars per marginal victory. What does that mean? Per the article:

I’ve used team salary figures compiled by ShamSports.com, which are updated through the end of the season but aren’t final until the close of the fiscal year. The key measurement is marginal dollars per marginal wins (MDMW), or how much it costs a team to win a game.

Seems straightforward enough. Also, per the article, the teams were divided into eight “buckets” to sort out the efficiency of spending:

The buckets are listed in order from most desirable (playoff teams below the salary cap) to least desirable (teams over the tax apron that managed to miss the postseason).

The Wolves were in bucket 6 of 8 along with seven other teams — the dreaded “above the salary cap, below the tax threshold, but missed the playoffs” category.

It is written of this category and these teams:

You really don’t want to be in this class. You’ve exceeded the cap, suggesting you want to win, but you didn’t win, suggesting you don’t know how. There are a number of possible foundation players in this group on rookie scale contracts: Ricky RubioAndre DrummondAnthony DavisKyrie Irving. Their teams haven’t yet capitalized on the flexibility created by having players that productive for that little money. 

Mid-day talker: Hopefully, the Twins know they are sellers not buyers

The Twins added Kendrys Morales to their roster three weeks ago. At the time, Minnesota was playing pretty good baseball and making bold statements about perhaps challenging for a playoff spot. Why not us? That was the message that was sold.

But it wasn’t really a message most rational fans believed. Rather, the hope all along this season has been for 2014 to be a bridge to the future. The Twins needed to win 75-80 games and return to competence. They have played most of the year as though that is possible, this latest tailspin notwithstanding.

Contention? That will come if and when Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano arrive and dominate the middle of the order while Alex Meyer and Trevor May join the rotation. That means 2015, at least in a meaningful way, at the earliest.

It seems now as though there is some debate among Twins folks as to whether they will be buyers or sellers at the July non-waiver deadline. We hope this is just PR phrasing because, again, the answer is pretty simple: the Twins are sellers. Even the most optimistic among us can’t imagine Minnesota overtaking the Tigers, let alone all three of the other teams currently above the Twins in the Central.

They should sell veteran pitching like Kevin Correia. They should move Josh Willingham if there is decent return. Same for Morales, who looked all along that he could be a two-month rental instead of a four-month rental. Don’t gut the team because respectability is still important.

But buyers or sellers? The Twins are the latter.

Monday (Minnesota’s lack of minor league baseball) edition: Wha’ Happened?

minorleaguemapWe’ve come to that glorious time of the year when we set about to plan the annual Great Baseball Road Trip. This year’s trip provided many challenges, including the fact that the four presumed participants have, respectively, in 2014: gotten married, gotten married, become a father and moved across the country. But we have somehow wrangled a long weekend in which everyone is available to leave from Minneapolis. A trip with the Twin Cities as a starting point keeps costs down (no flight for most of us, while the cross-country mover has to be here for a different trip anyway) and allows us to hopefully maximize our time for a trip that has been going strong every year since 2000 but has dwindled to 3 or 4 days in recent years instead of the 7-8 day trip of years past when time was more plentiful than responsibilities.

The downside of a trip from Minneapolis is that it severely limits our options for where to go. In recent years, the trip model has come to include at least one major league game, but also a handful of minor league games. Our crew has determined that the lower levels are fun, with jewels for ballparks, cheap seats right by home plate and the chance to yell a lot without much consequence.

In browsing our trusty map from MILB.com (shown above and linked here, pretty much the best thing ever), however, we were struck once again by the dearth of options we have around here. A total of 42 states have at least one affiliated minor league team. Minnesota is one. Of the eight that do not, Alaska and Hawaii are included. So of the contiguous 48 states, just six are minor-league free. Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota are among those six.

Iowa has five. Wisconsin and Illinois have two apiece. So it’s not like we have to go a LONG way to get to some, but it does limit the options. We’ve already been to five of those nine minor league destinations between the three states, and our route this year includes another (Burlington, Iowa).

Yes, it would not be a true road trip if we didn’t have to drive to get places. But we do find ourselves thinking, yet again, that a couple of Minnesota franchises in the Class-A Midwest League — one in St. Paul, as will apparently be discussed between the Twins and Saints — and another in, say, Rochester — sure would be nice not just for the trip but for local fans of minor league ball in general.

The Saints are fun, while the Northwoods League and amateur town teams help fill the gap. But as the GBRT can tell you, they don’t quite compare to the lure of minor league baseball.

TFD: Randy Moss is now a high school football coach

moss2Randy Moss had a long, awesome and interesting NFL career. We had no clue what he would do in his retirement, but to be honest given his history of squirting officials with water bottles and paying fines in cash, coaching high school football was not the first thing that came to mind. But that’s apparently what Moss is doing now, according to the Charlotte Observer:

Former All-Pro NFL receiver Randy Moss is now the associate head coach at Victory Christian Center School. Moss was at Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s 7-on-7 tournament Thursday coaching the Kings from the sideline. His son, Thaddeus, plays on the team after the family recently moved from the New England area, Victory Christian head coach Dee Brown told the Observer. Thaddeus Moss is reportedly 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, and he was clearly the biggest player on the field during the Kings’ loss to Hough on Thursday morning.

Moss coaching his son … what could go wrong?

NBA Western Conference power forward opts-in, signs extension

randolphloveKevin Love and Zach Randolph are power forwards who swallow up rebounds. Their overall games are different — Love has more range, Randolph is more of a banger — and they are certainly at different stages in their careers with Love at age 25 and Randolph at age 32.

But while all the talk around Love centers around him leaving Minnesota — just as Randolph did when he was traded to New York after spending his first six years in Portland — the chatter around Randolph now is much different.

Memphis represents the next level up for the Wolves after respectability — a team that routinely contends for and makes the playoffs while posing at least a threat to advance. And Randolph wants to be there, agreeing to a player option for next season and reportedly adding another two-year deal on top of that. The deal starting in 2015-16 will reportedly be for two years, $20 million.

“This is where I want to be,” Randolph said.

Love? Eh, not so much. While Ricky Rubio tweeted a welcome to first-round pick Zach LaVine last night, Love was tweeting about the draft but made no mention of the fellow UCLA product or anything Wolves-related. When asked which Wolves player they were most looking forward to playing with on Friday, both LaVine and second-round pick Glenn Robinson III said Rubio. Maybe they’re just excited about his passes. Or maybe they can read between the lines like the rest of us and know Love probably won’t be their teammate for long.

Friday (Five thoughts about the Wolves’ draft) edition: Wha’ Happened?

saunders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were at Target Center for the NBA Draft last night, and here are five thoughts from the night for the Wolves:

1) We’re going to give first-round pick Zach LaVine a free pass and buy his explanation that it was a release of emotion, but not a negative one, that led amateur lip-readers to catch him dropping an expletive on multiple occasions after being picked by the Wolves. But we also know there are some for whom that left an immediate bad taste and a poor first impression. It will be interesting to see how long that follows LaVine — is it a one-day story soon forgotten, or will it become something revisited during his career here?

2) We made no secret that we liked Adreian Payne at No. 13 more than any of the options remaining. Coach and President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders talked after the pick about hitting home runs instead of doubles, which was not a knock on Joe Mauer but rather a metaphor for trying to get players with more upside rather than more known commodities who project more as solid rotation guys. We think Payne can be more than a solid rotation guy, but he is 23 while LaVine is 19. We know more about his game than we do LaVine’s game. To us, though, it comes down to the fact that the Wolves flat-out need good players. Payne is a good player and a ready-made replacement if and when Kevin Love is traded. We will see if this becomes another draft blunder.

3) That said, we can’t accuse Saunders of playing simply for the present with that pick, and that’s a healthy thing to see when it comes to Love. The biggest mistake the Wolves could make is trying to load up for one more year of Love in order to try to convince him to stay.

4) Glenn Robinson III is a solid choice at No. 40, someone Saunders said the Wolves had evaluated as a late first-round talent. We’re not sure if Robinson will stick this season because there are so many wings already under contract, but he could be a useful player in the coming years.

5) The Wolves had two other second-round picks — Nos. 44 and 53 — but they sold both of them for cash. Saunders was grilled pretty hard about that decision in the post-draft presser (and on Twitter), and his overall message is that the Wolves didn’t think there were players there who added value. He’s right that a lot of second-rounders don’t pan out. He’s also correct that the Wolves’ current roster is jammed with players already under contract. But good teams — particularly the Spurs — have found gems in the second round that have been cornerstones of championship teams. Even the Wolves have found value in that round with the likes of Nikola Pekovic. Bottom line: teams like the Wolves who have a hard time building through free agency because players don’t view this market or franchise as a destination need to use all the assets they have to build a winner.

Your thoughts, please, in the comments.

What exactly did Wolves pick Zach LaVine say after being drafted?

 

Timberwolves fans are curious about UCLA’s Zach LaVine, who started one game as a freshman and averaged 9.4 points per game in his only college season. Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations and head coach Flip Saunders called LaVine the best athlete in the draft and said the organization went for a “home run” with a high-upside, high-risk 19-year-old.

Will LaVine pan out as a lottery-level NBA talent? We probably won’t know that for years.

A more pressing question: What exactly did LaVine say moments after hearing his name was called — and what was the context for him saying it? A ton of folks on Twitter think LaVine dropped an f-bomb and that he was upset about coming here. We’ve watched it over and over, and we’ll call it inconclusive — and even if he said something, we’re not convinced it was in a negative way.

Saunders was asked about it during his press briefing, and while he said he didn’t see the reaction, Saunders said it would surprise him if it was negative based on talking to LaVine’s agent because the player felt he was a good fit in Minnesota and wanted to come here.

His agent, Bill Duffy, tells the AP that LaVine is “happy as heck” to be a Timberwolves player and that cameras caught a moment of relief.

That’s where we stand now. We’re supposed to hear from the young man himself a little later on, and we’ll update then. For now, please do keep enjoying the suits.

UPDATE: LaVine was asked about the expletive controversy during his conference call at 9:30 Thursday night, and he seemed to cop to the fact that he might have dropped an f-bomb, but he said it was out of relief and emotion.

“I can’t be more happy,” LaVine said. “I might have uttered something completely wrong, but …”

TFD: No, the U.S. did not back into the round of 16

backingin

After the United States lost 1-0 to Germany on Thursday in the World Cup but still advanced to the round of 16 thanks to Portugal’s 2-1 victory over Ghana, it became fashionable to say the Americans “backed in” to their coveted spot beyond group play.

What really happened is that the U.S. built a comfortable advantage over both Portugal and Ghana after the first two matches of group play, leaving the Americans with many “outs,” as the poker crowd likes to say, when it came to advancing Thursday.

Winning their own match was the simplest way. Earning a draw against Germany was also a straight-forward way.

But still the likeliest way was for the U.S. to keep it close vs. Germany, hope for the best, but accept a one-goal loss because in many circumstances that would mean the squad advanced. A lopsided loss, however, would put the Americans in much more potential peril.

So while there is never really a cause to say a team backed into the playoffs in any sport — wins are wins, losses are losses, ties are ties, no matter when they happen — it is particularly not true with the U.S. in the World Cup.

After all, as we tweeted 10 days ago before the first U.S. match, the realistic path to advancement was pretty clear:

Your Minnesota Timberwolves’ NBA Draft odds

The artist formerly known as Commenter RandBallsStu, who is now Steve Neuman and was recently hired as a Digital Producer at MPR, wants to tell you a thing or two about the Wolves’ odds in tonight’s NBA Draft. Would you like to join him? Of course!

——

3-1: Wolves draft Stauskas, McMullen or Payne.  Fans talk themselves into liking the pick.

5-1: Kevin Love is traded, Wolves acquire pick in addition to their own that’s below 13th.  Draft whoever’s remaining out of Stauskas, McDermott or Payne.  Fans talk themselves into liking the picks.

6-1: Kevin Love is traded, Wolves acquire pick in addition to their own that is higher than 13th.  Joel Embiid falls to them, they draft him, and his foot falls off.  Not a metaphor.  It literally falls off, right on TV.

13-2: Wolves trade down.  Whoever is taken at 13th becomes a 9-time All-Star.  Wolves take somebody from the Euroleague who turns out to be a Russian spy from a newly reactivated Directorate S.  Everyone goes to jail for treason.

15-1: Wolves sleep through draft.  Longtime observers rate it as a top 5 draft for the franchise.

20-1: Wolves trade down twice.  In addition to the 9-time All-Star at 13, the guy in the second slot ends up being a prototypical shooting guard.  The Wolves select a grocery bag full of wet oatmeal. It leaks all over Adam Silver’s shoes on the stage. “We like its upside,” says a team source.  Fans talk themselves into liking the pick.

28-1: Wolves pick LeBron James.  “We’re confident a close examination of the draft rules say that you can draft a free agent,” says a team source.  “At least we’re pretty sure.  I’m gonna Google it just to be sure here, hold on…oh.  Ooooooh, no.  I’ll call you back.”

50-1: It involves a shark eating Ricky Rubio and the return of Ricky Davis and Mark Blount.  The circumstances are unclear, but it involves the Spanish Prisoner scenario, stolen art from World War II and singer Taylor Dayne.  Also: fire.  Just so much fire.

100-1: Something good happens.

Thursday (The sad story of ex-Gopher Ben Utecht) edition: Wha’ Happened?

utecht

Concussions in football, as a subject, will come to define this era of the sport much in the same way PEDs defined an era of baseball. Sadly, the reporting on the subject, too, might get to the point of saturation — in which people have heard enough about it and no longer wish to constantly sort through their feelings while watching a game.

That would be a shame because of stories like the one ex-Gopher and ex-NFL player Ben Utecht continues to tell. Much has been written already about Utecht’s five concussions, which forced him to retire from the NFL. But now he is testifying before Congress, trying to help those with traumatic brain injuries, and his story just keeps getting more heartbreaking. Per ABCNews.com:

Retired NFL player Ben Utecht has written a letter to his wife and daughters for the day he can no longer remember who they are, he told Congress today.

“I wrote the letter on a plane ride home with the brim of my hat over my eyes to hide the tears as they began to flow,” said Utecht, 32, who was a tight end for the Indianapolis Colts and the Cincinnati Bengals before suffering a career-ending concussion in 2009.

Utecht said he spent eight months in rehab battling dizziness, amnesia, sleeplessness and night sweats after the injury, which was his fifth documented concussion. Now, his memory is fading away.

“What’s my greatest fear?” he said to Congress. “It’s to be trapped inside the coffin of my mind. To wake up one morning and not remember the faces and names of the people I cherish the most.”

That’s a 32-year-old man already losing his memory and preparing for a day that could be coming far sooner than old age in which he will not be able to remember his loved ones.

Throughout the rise in concussion stories in recent years, we’ve read tales of players who are struggling in the same way and still say they would do it all over again. That’s the seduction of the money, adrenaline and competition of playing a sport at its highest level.

Maybe it’s that sentiment — their lives, their bodies, their decisions — that collectively allows us to keep watching on Sundays. But stories like Utecht’s can break your heart all the same.