Let’s talk about everything going on in this Andrew Wiggins ROY t-shirt

Andrew Wiggins is the NBA Rookie of the Year, to nobody’s surprise. He wore a tuxedo to his press conference, which is an awesome move. You can never go wrong with a tux.

Not long after the official announcement came out, so did some official NBA t-shirts commemorating the event. You might be able to go wrong wearing one of these (or maybe not?):

wigginsroyshirt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whoa, there is just an awful lot to take in there. If I’m reading it correctly, that’s a photo of Wiggins intertwined with some Timberwolves-colored ribbon (?) made to be in the shape of a wolf (?) with a Christmas tree (?) in the background.

Aw, man, now I want one just to stare at it.

NFL prop bet puts odds of Adrian Peterson draft trade at 7 to 2

tobypetersonProp bets are ridiculous things, but those who make the odds are often in the know. This is proven year after year, when Vegas keeps making more money and the general betting public gripes about woulda coulda shouldas.

As such, maybe we should pay attention to some prop bet odds from the Football Betting Center to help give us some instruction on what might happen in tonight’s first round of the NFL draft.

For instance, the odds of QB Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota going 1-2 (either order, but likely Winston first) are 1 to 2. For every $100 won, you’d need to wager $200. In other words, the draft doesn’t really get interesting until pick three (though a trade or a non-QB pick in the top two could change that).

For Vikings fans, the most interesting prop is about Adrian Peterson. The site puts the odds at 7 to 2 that Peterson will be traded during the draft. Essentially, they think it’s a long shot, but not a ridiculous long shot.

While I still think Peterson will be traded, I know I’m in the minority. Thank goodness we’ll all know soon enough.

Also, consider this an opportunity for shameless self-promotion: myself and Master Tesfatsion will be going live at 7 p.m. on startribune.com with a Vikings-focused draft livestream, and we’ll be staying on through the Vikings’ first-round pick (yes, even if they trade down). We’re both wearing suits, which is maybe enough to convince you to watch even if you don’t like football?

Ranking the Minnesota Rookies of the Year over the past 25 seasons

wigginsAndrew Wiggins this afternoon will become the ninth Minnesota top pro athlete — and first Timberwolves player — to win Rookie of the Year honors in his or her respective league over the past 25 seasons.

Here is a ranking of those nine athletes and how their careers turned out (with Wiggins’ ranking based on potential).

(Note: Numerous entities hand out top rookie honors in the NFL, but for our purposes this is a winner of the Associated Press award for either the top offensive or defensive rookie):

1) Adrian Peterson, NFL, 2007: Even with what transpired in the past year, Peterson will retire someday as one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game. Whether he does so in purple remains to be seen, but there’s no denying that he built on an amazing rookie season and kept on going.

2) Maya Moore, WNBA, 2011: The Lynx hadn’t made the playoffs for six consecutive seasons until Moore joined the team in 2011. Not only did they make it that year, but they also won the WNBA title. By her fourth season, she was the league MVP. It doesn’t get much better than that.

3) Randy Moss, NFL, 1998: He burst onto the scene, electrifying a fan base and taking the Vikings to the brink of the Super Bowl as a rookie. He had six great years here, a not-so-great-seventh, and some major accomplishments with New England. You could argue he belongs at the top of this list, but I put him here because there’s still a part of me that wonders if he could have been even better. I don’t wonder that about Peterson or Moore.

4) Andrew Wiggins, NBA, 2015: This is lofty company, showing what I think of Wiggins’ potential. He might not have the gear to become one of the greatest ever at his position like Peterson or Moss, but can I picture a day when he’s one of the top 10-15 players in the NBA? Easily, and it’s not that far off.

5) Seimone Augustus, WNBA, 2006: She’s a five-time All-Star and the MVP of the 2011 finals — a great player, a smooth scorer and a huge part of the success the Lynx have had in recent years.

6) Chuck Knoblauch, MLB, 1991: His career and later his life took a downturn, but let’s not forget that a rookie Knoblauch was a key to the 1991 World Series title and an in-his-prime Chuck was a sight to behold. In 1996, for example, he hit .341 with 140 runs scoerd, 62 extra-base hits, a .448 OBP and a .965 OPS — one of the top seasons at the plate for any Twins hitter in the past 20 years.

7) Percy Harvin, NFL, 2009: There was a time when I could not have imagined Harvin being so far down on this list. But for as dynamic as he can be, Harvin has never had a 1,000-yard receiving season and is on his fourth NFL team.

8) Betty Lennox, WNBA, 2000: Won top rookie honors and then played just 16 more games with the Lynx before being traded. Lennox revived her career with Seattle and had a nice prime, but her rookie season still might have been her best.

9) Marty Cordova, MLB, 1995: A very good rookie year, a great second year … and then his production dipped for the rest of his career.

The Wild’s unfamiliar playoff position: no doubt who the goalie is, no doubt who has the best one

dubnyk2The Wild has gone into a playoff series before with an edge at the goalie position. I helped cover the 2002-03 playoff series against Vancouver, and it didn’t matter if Minnesota was throwing out Manny Fernandez or Dwayne Roloson. Either one was going to be better than the Canucks’ Dan Cloutier, who ultimately gave many gifts to an offensively challenged Wild team that scored 16 goals in the final three games of the series.

The Wild has gone into playoff series before with a clearly defined No. 1 goalie. Niklas Backstrom was that guy in the 2008 postseason, starting the vast majority of regular season games and all six playoff games in a series loss to the Avs.

But in the majority of the playoff series the Wild has been a part of (an admittedly small sample size within a short franchise history), Minnesota either had no clear No. 1 goalie, lacked the edge in the goalie matchup or (many times) both.

And I dare say until this year, the Wild had never gone into a series with the clear-cut best goalie of the two teams playing AND a clear-cut number one guy in net.

The Wild most certainly enjoyed that edge against St. Louis, which picked between Jake Allen and Brian Elliott and watched Allen give up back-breaking soft goals in both Games 5 and 6.

The same holds true in this upcoming series against the Blackhawks. Corey Crawford has been awfully good in the past against the Wild, but he was lit up in the opening round by Nashville and yielded four starts in the series to Scott Darling. Crawford is getting the Game 1 nod against the Wild, but he’s also probably going to be looking nervously at the bench if even a moderately soft goal goes in.

When Mike Yeo is asked (jokingly) who he’s going with, he just laughs. It’s a nice feeling for a coach — and a feeling a Wild coach has never had before.

Sucked in again by Tim Duncan and the Spurs

duncanIt was late Tuesday. I had watched the Twins and Mike Pelfrey win a crisply played game — a sentence that has not been written often — and then taken care of some late-night tasks, including some prep for Thursday’s big Vikings-focused Star Tribune NFL draft show, which will air live on the website starting at 7 p.m.

It was approaching midnight, and I did a quick scan of scores on my phone, thinking I was about to go to bed. But there it was: Spurs 82, Clippers 82, end of the third quarter.

Sports fans know this dilemma well: Do you pass on the finish, knowing that you could very well miss something great … or do you just give in, knowing full well the final quarter of a pivotal Game 5 in a tied series between two very good teams will be, at the very least, good — and might very well be much better than that.

You can imagine what happened next.

The TV went back on, and sleep became the secondary priority. The reward was, of course, 12 great minutes of basketball. The Spurs forged ahead by seven points late, but the Clippers roared back. Then, on a pivotal possession, Tim Duncan stuffed Blake Griffin so cleanly and embarrassingly that you would swear Griffin was the 39-year-old in the fourth year of his alleged decline and Duncan was the 26-year-old up-and-comer with springs in his legs.

In the final seconds, the Clippers had a potential go-ahead bucket negated by offensive basket interference (a good call and easy call). The Spurs never gave them another sniff, grabbing a critical offensive rebound to seal the deal.

At that moment, Duncan smiled broadly (image via a TNT screen grab). It was the smile of a man who knows that someday, somehow, this dynasty is going to end. He will not play forever, even if at this point nobody can be sure where the finish line is, exactly. It was the smile of a man who doesn’t often smile, but who knew that at the moment that rebound came down, his team had secured the win that exponentially increased its odds of moving on to the second round.

In the postgame interview, Duncan gushed — as much as Duncan can gush — about what a great game it was to be a part of.

If a future Hall of Famer — more than that, I suppose: arguably one of the 10 greatest players in NBA history — felt that way about playing in it, nobody who stayed up into Wednesday morning to watch the end should feel cheated. Tired, yes, but no regrets.

Here’s my best guess on the Vikings’ first round draft strategy and Peterson

spielmanVikings General Manager Rick Spielman just concluded his pre-draft media availability. Not much he said was terribly surprising, some of it was pretty interesting and none of it really changed my opinion of what the Vikings are likely to do in the first round Thursday and with Adrian Peterson going forward.

On Peterson: Spielman said, “Our position has not changed since all of the statements we’ve made at the owners meetings. …. I think (head coach Mike) Zimmer made it clear we have no interest in trading Adrian Peterson, and we don’t.”

But Spielman was asked flat-out if he is NOT going to trade Peterson, and he would not say that. As such, it remains important to note the semantic distinction between saying “no interest” in trading Peterson and “not” trading Peterson. He answered questions about Peterson very carefully and showered praise on his agent, Ben Dogra, when asked specifically about him.

All of it feels like a calculated smokescreen at this point, and I remain convinced that the Vikings will trade Peterson this offseason. This is based on my gut and on how similar situations (Randy Moss, Daunte Culpepper and Percy Harvin) have played out in the past. Spielman did nothing to dissuade that opinion Tuesday.

On the first round: Spielman flat-out said he doesn’t want to trade up and that he would like to trade down and accumulate picks. In this case, I think we should believe him.

He said he thinks the value of players in the 7-20 range in this draft is fairly close together and made a good point about an extra trade enticement the Vikings have with the No. 11 pick: every first-round pick gets a four-year contract with a fifth-year option, but for picks 1-10 that option year is potentially more expensive. Pick 11 is the first one for which the price drops (this MMQB piece explains it). A team with an eye on a future salary cap and a specific need at No. 11 could be more motivated to deal with the Vikings than a team in the top 10.

Spielman also said the team has analyzed draft value and “sweet spots” in the draft with the help of an outside analytics consultant. That kind of predraft work could give Spielman and the Vikings the kind of specific information and game plan they would be driven to execute.

Spielman talked of the risks of moving too far down, which are fairly obvious: you risk missing out on a player or cluster of players you want. My guess is the Vikings won’t move more than 5-6 spots down, but I think Spielman will do everything in his power to trade down and get more picks. The best thing that could happen is that one of the two top QBs slides that far and that a QB-hungry team like, say, Houston at No. 16 or even the Chargers (if they trade Philip Rivers) at No. 17 want to jump in.

But there is value all over the board at No. 11, and if Spielman really believes the top-end value stretches as far as No. 20, he could make a deal with any team with any specific need.

The Vikings only have 7 picks in the draft. Spielman covets more. The best way is to make a move with that first-round pick, and I came away from Tuesday’s news conference convinced the Vikings will wind up picking somewhere between, say, 14-18 by the time Thursday’s first round is said and done, picking up another decent pick and late pick in the process. Maybe they even flip it twice, depending on who comes calling and who is left on the board.

Once the dealing is done, the Vikings will wind up with an offensive lineman or a pass rusher with their top pick.

How will the Vikings get that bonus first round-pick they’ve enjoyed in the last three seasons (seven total first-round picks in those three years)? Go ahead and let your Peterson imagination run wild …

Tuesday (Waiting for the Wild’s schedule) edition: Wha’ Happened?

stanleycup2The Wild finished off the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the NHL playoffs at about 5 p.m. Sunday. As of writing this specific sentence, it is 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. We’ve known the opponent for the second-round series (Chicago) all along. What we don’t know — and what becomes more frustrating by the minute — is when any of these games will be played.

Fans who hoped the schedule would be released Sunday after Game 6 concluded were mildly annoyed when that didn’t happen. They kept asking … and asking … and asking … but nothing changed. Sunday gave way to Monday. Surely, by Monday, the league would announce the schedule.

As Monday morning became Monday afternoon and then Monday night, annoyance turned to outright frustration. This is probably the point when a lot of fans started to realize (or remember) that they aren’t the top priority in all of this. If they were, a schedule would be out already, and fans would be able to start constructing their weeks around playoff viewing and gearing up to buy tickets. Because while the playoffs are a big deal, they are not the only thing going on in most of our lives.

Rather, there are numerous factors at play here. TV drives so much of it, and by virtue of the Lightning defeating the Red Wings on Monday — forcing a Game 7 on Wednesday and undoubtedly bringing a smile to Twins pitcher Phil Hughes’ face — there is still one series going on … giving the powers that be an excuse to keep on dragging this out while they consider how all the time slots should fit together to wring every last dollar out of these playoffs.

Arena availability is another issue, and here again the Wild and its fans got a tough break Monday. The Bucks won in Chicago, extending that NBA playoff series to a sixth game. Had the Bulls won, the series would be over — and their second-round series (with home games at United Center, the shared arena of the Bulls and Blackhawks) could start coming into focus. Instead, there is the possibility of a Game 7 back in Chicago on Saturday … plus a slate of potential second-round games still up in the air.

Also complicating matters: the NFL draft is in Chicago this year, and the glitzy first round is slated for Thursday while the rest goes on Friday and Saturday. Would the NHL really want to compete in that city with such a huge event by having Game 1 on Thursday in Chicago, even though the arena is available?

The best guess all along has been that the series will open Friday in Chicago, with Game 2 there on Sunday with home games at the X on Tuesday and Thursday.

But those are all just guesses, still, more than 40 hours after the end of the last Wild series. If you’re a fan or media member annoyed that you don’t know yet how to proceed, imagine what it’s like to be a player.

Surely we’ll all know today. (Fingers crossed).

TFD: Wild fan talks on Twitter about rescheduling wedding around Game 1

The Wild/Blackhawks series schedule, as of 4:45 p.m Monday stillllllllll isn’t ouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuutttttt.

This is an irritant for some of us, either personally or professionally (especially Russo, who not only has to make travel plans and crank out stories but also has to field 800 questions every minute about the schedule).

But for one guy on Twitter, it appears to have bigger implications:

I asked him if he was serious, but I haven’t heard back. What I do know is this: He’d never forget Friday, May 1, 2015, when the Wild went into Chicago and took Game 1 against the Blackhawks. Best day of his life. Update: He’s not serious (for the most part):

Idea: The Vikings should retire Brett Favre’s number this year before the Packers do

favreThis is not my idea. Others had it before me, and specifically I’m stealing it from FSN’s Tyler Mason, who tweeted:

I’m officially obsessed with this idea — not because it would ever happen and not even because the Vikings would or should consider retiring Favre’s jersey.

It’s just that I relished the awkward relationship between many Packers fans and Favre that developed during his bitter divorce from the team and launched into a new stratosphere when he joined the Vikings after a year with the Jets.

Ultimately, the correct and polite thing is for the sides to mend fences. Favre is an all-time Packers great, a fan favorite for so many years, and enough time has passed for both to forgive and forget.

Unless … the Vikings creep in right before the Packers retire his jersey this year and — as Tyler suggests — retire his No. 4 in a ceremony in a game just four days earlier, when Green Bay is in town.

Brett doesn’t even need to be there or acknowledge it, but you know he couldn’t stay away. They could have it in a parking lot for all I care. If you want to rekindle this bad blood and never let it die, here is your vehicle.

Monday (Resurgence of Joe Mauer) edition: Wha’ Happened?

mauerHere are some things we presume to know about Joe Mauer:

1) His 28 homer season of 2009 was the outlier. He will never approach that figure again, and there’s a good chance he won’t be an MVP-level hitter again. He recently turned 32 and he has a concussion history. He’s on the downside of his prime.

2) Last year, when taken as a whole, was a bad Mauer season — and compared other first baseman, it was just a bad year at the plate, period. That the Twins finished 7th in MLB in runs scored with their best hitter having a down season was truly remarkable.

3) But yes, Mauer still qualifies as the team’s best hitter. He’s obviously their most expensive player, too, but nothing is going to change that. His $23 million contract, though 2018, is what it is.

4) Even Mauer coming down the backside of his career, though, could be a pretty good hitter. We got a look at it in his final 44 games a season ago, when after coming off the DL for an oblique injury he hit .289 with a .397 OBP and an .805 OPS.

That’s more or less the Mauer we’ve seen so far this season: .392 OBP and a .299 average, both boosted by a three-hit game Sunday in which he delivered two runs-scoring extra-base hits, including a game-winning triple in the 11th.

If that’s the Mauer we see over the course of this season — and for at least most of the duration of the rest of his contract — I’m willing to bet the Twins will be happy with that. Fans will still harp on the lack of homers (zero this year), but if he can get back to 45-50 extra base hits every year, get on base and knock in runs, he is not an MVP but he is a very valuable hitter.

As hitters like Kennys Vargas, Danny Santana, Oswaldo Arcia and Brian Dozier — guys who fueled an offensive surge last year — struggle early, it’s Mauer who has carried a good part of the load. If those guys turn things around and Mauer is still rolling at a good clip, the offense could be downright dangerous.