There is a consensus within NBA circles that New Orleans Hornets general manager Dell Demps performed valiantly in appeasing David Stern’s request for young talent, draft picks and cap relief in exchange for their franchise player, Chris Paul. Demps fulfilled Stern’s wishes acquiring Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al Farouq Aminu, and Minnesota’s unprotected first round draft pick.
No one questions the talent the Hornets received and Chris Kaman’s $12.2 million comes off the books after this season, but the unprotected draft pick is interesting to me. Some talking heads are convinced the Hornets actually won this deal because of the unprotected pick. Analysts assume the Timberwolves will not only be lottery bound, but the pick will garner enough lottery balls to warrant perhaps as high as a top-3 pick in next year’s loaded NBA draft. That’s value. If this happens, count me among those who give the Hornets the win.
But I don’t think it will happen. Minnesota general manager David Kahn is a joke. We know this. But let’s move past it for a second. Here is the Timberwolves projected starting five along with their bench:
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Wesley Johnson
SF: Michael Beasley
PF: Kevin Love
C: Darko Milicic
Bench: Derrick Williams, J.J. Barea, Wayne Ellington, Anthony Randolph, Anthony Tolliver, Luke Ridnour
There is redundancy, but you can also get pretty creative with these lineups. Imagine subbing out Darko for rookie, Derrick Williams and moving Kevin Love to center for a few minutes. Adelman is known to play two point guards at the same time. This makes the Barea signing even more valuable. Barea will not be just a backup for the Wolves, he’ll be the veteran with championship experience that the Wolves were missing last season. Sure, Kahn already had Luke Ridnour on the roster, but the steady-handed Barea will likely limit the number of turnovers from the backcourt.
Rick Adelman has stated that he plans on using Kevin Love as a facilitator this season, similar to that of his former fun loving Sacramento Kings center Vlade Divac. Pencil in Love for 20 and 10 every night. Love has the basketball I.Q. and ball-handling ability to average five or six assists a night. Don’t laugh but the combination of Kevin Love and Darko Milicic helped Minnesota rank first in rebounding last season.
Most assume the downfall of the team will be its guard play. Kahn wants the team to play exciting, up and down basketball. The Wolves ranked 10th in offense last year, scoring 101.1 points a game. The problem is they ranked 24th in offensive efficiency due to their league high turnover rate of 15.06 a game. If the Wolves continue to play careless basketball, the Hornets will be grabbing a high lottery pick.
We still have yet to even mention second year SG/SF Wesley Johnson, who came on strong at the end of last season. We haven’t talked about Michael Beasley, who had a breakout year and I have yet to mention Derrick Williams.
Williams is someone to keep an eye on. He carried a heavy load at Arizona, averaging 16.4 possessions a game. Williams was crazy-efficient in college averaging 1.16 points per possession (PPP). He can create his own shot, averaging 1.3 PPP in isolation and got to the line a quarter of the time, making 75% of his free throws.
Chris Paul had his first press conference as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers last night. Every lob-dunk to Blake Griffin will be a reaffirmation that the front office made the right move. For the Hornets, it’s time to move on. They have some pieces, recently resigning power forward Carl Landry to a one-year deal. But the Hornets know they can’t hide from the CP3 to Posterchild highlights. But there is a silver lining. They could be playing Minnesota.