I could never do what Minnesota Timberwolves GM Kevin McHale did on the court, but I know I could do a better job building a team.
Seeing as I’m a Celtics fan, rooting for the Minny C’s, otherwise known as the Minnesota Timberwolves, comes naturally; one might even call it required. So, since Kevin McHale has proven time and again that he’s not the man for the job, I’m going to draw up my own plan to rebuild this once proud franchise in 7 steps (OK, maybe not “once proud” but possibly proud in the future).
1. First and most important job: identify the players on the team capable of being core members of a quality team. In order to do this, you need to play the kids (only Al Jefferson has proven he is that type of player at this point). Here is my starting line-up and rotation, which would be subject to alteration when deserved, but would never be whimsical or based on game-to-game match-ups:
Put Randy Foye at the point, Rashad McCants at the two, Corey Brewer at the three, and Big Al Jefferson and Craig Smith at the 4/5. Make Marko Jaric, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, and Chris Richard first off the bench nightly in order to increase their value for trade purposes or see if they can help in the future (Jaric is purely for trade purposes). Give Antoine Walker minutes occasionally because he competes, which sets a good example for the kids; the same goes for Ratliff.
2. Next, make a realistic time-table and formulate a plan based on it–be patient, this will take years to complete. The earliest the T-Wolves can hope to contend for a play-off spot would be in two to three years. This means making moves to clear cap space with 2010 and beyond in mind.
3. Hire a coaching staff that complements the team you are building–in this case one that runs, runs, runs. Mike D’Antoni in two years once he grows tired of Steve Kerr and leaves Phoenix? He would certainly be a target under my watch. Until then hire someone with a rapport with younger players and knows how to teach the game. I can’t give you a specific name, but that’s what the interview process is for anyways.
4. Talk to all desperate teams and look to fleece them in some way. Trading Jaric would be great, as would trading Antoine Walker. Aim to pick up cap space in a few years in any trade. Look to pick up draft picks in every deal if possible.
I would specifically target the disgruntled Stephon Marbury’s contract. If you can acquire him you then consider buying him out or holding on to him until the summer when his contract has some value as an expiring deal and can be used as Ratliff’s was.
Other names to consider: Cuttino Mobley, Nene Hilario, Larry Hughes, and Ben Wallace. Some proposed deals are listed below with their trade machine evaluations linked. Each trade is merely a possibility for the groundwork of a swap; specific lesser players could easily be substituted so long as the greater goal of shedding bad contracts and keeping the core of the team intact is never compromised.
Marbury Trade: Ratliff, Jaric, and Michael Doleac for Stephon Marbury.
Expanded Starbury Trade: Ratliff, Jaric, Doleac, Corey Brewer, Gerald Green, and Mark Madsen for Stephon Marbury and Malik Allen.
Wallace Trade: Ratliff and Jaric for Ben Wallace and Adrian Griffin.
Big Larry Hughes Trade: Ratliff, Jaric, Telfair, and Doleac for Larry Hughes, Eric Snow, Donyell Marshall, and Damon Jones.
Nene Trade: Ratliff and Jaric for Nene, Eduardo Najera, and Steven Hunter.
Cuttino Mobley/Tim Thomas Trade: Ratliff and Jaric for Cuttino Mobley, Tim Thomas, and Aaron Williams.
Any of these proposed deals could be altered to include different players, but the focus remains the same, shed Marko Jaric’s contract (or other undesirable long-term deals) in return for greater cap space in two or three years as opposed to losing Ratliff’s cap number this off-season. Any player traded for could then be dealt once again as an expiring contract in future years for further assets, or simply bought out if the new player would potentially retard the development of the core of the team with a lack of professionalism.
5. Pray for help from the ping pong gods, and if things don’t go your way, reassess the situation and look to trade up to acquire the impact player you need–in this case the perfect man for the job will be Michael Beasley, who will play the 4 next to Al Jefferson at the 5 in the perfect scenario. This team will be the next generation of the Suns when they originally took form.
6. Find a great defensive-minded coach to run the less glorious side of the game, someone like Tim Thibodeau, whom the Celtics lucked into hiring this past summer. Once the team is ready, find better defensive players who fit into the team’s schema.
7. Give it time, continuing to stockpile assets and cap space with the hopes of luring a top-flight free agent in 2010 or beyond. This is Minnesota we’re talking about, so it won’t be as easy as offering a max deal to LeBron, but don’t grow discouraged. If no one wants your money right away, save it and look to the future or use it in making heady deals.
If things were to go according to plan, my team would include the following:
Al Jefferson and Micheal Beasely to build around, two perfectly complementary forwards in a bigger line-up or the best scoring 4/5 combo in the Association. Cap space galore in 2 or more years. Additional draft picks and young players. A line-up that could include Jefferson, Beasley, Brewer, McCants, and Foye. Flexibility going forward.
Now let’s just hope Kevin McHale reads The Sports Beat.