Players the Minnesota Timberwolves Could Have Drafted Instead of Wesley Johnson

The Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t a very good basketball team right now. They sit at the bottom of a mostly-bad Northwest division with a 14-48 record. They’re only winning 22.6 percent of their games. There is some light at the end of the tunnel thanks to a young core that includes franchise cornerstone Andrew Wiggins, dunker extraordinaire Zach LaVine and recent first-round draft picks Adreian Payne, Anthony Bennett, Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad.

(Related: Why Didn’t the Timberwolves Trade Away Their Veteran Players at the Trade Deadline?)

While players like LaVine, Dieng and Muhammad (who Minnesota drafted) all have bright futures with the team, the T-Wolves have had their fair share of draft picks that fail to pan out. From Johnny Flynn to Derrick Williams, there have certainly been a few, but there may not be one that stings as much as the missed opportunity in 2010 when the team drafted Wesley Johnson fourth overall.

Johnson averaged 7.7 points per game during his stint in Minnesota (which lasted all of two years). He also chipped in with 2.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists per contest. Those are good numbers, but considering they came from the fourth overall pick, they’re not great. Even Johnson per 36 minutes stats aren’t near the level they should be for a high-lottery pick. Johnson’s per 36 minutes numbers in two seasons in Minnesota: 11.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2 assists.

Johnson and a future first-round pick were flipped to Phoenix in a three-team trade in 2010. The Timberwolves netted three future second-round draft choices. The former Syracuse standout has been with two teams since leaving Minnesota—Phoenix and his current employers, the Lakers—and is still hovering around 10 points per game (9.1 last year, 9.7 this season).

Hindsight is 20-20, but here’s a look at the players Minnesota could have drafted instead of Johnson.

DeMarcus Cousins, 5th Overall Pick. Team: Sacramento Kings.

DeMarcus Cousins has developed from a fouling machine to possibly the best all-around big man in the game.

His scoring average has steadily climbed from 14.1 in his rookie year to 23.4 this season. He has a knack for rebounding, as evidenced by his career 10.5 rebounds per game. The center shoots well from the charity stripe (80%) and blocks nearly two shots per game (1.7).

What could have been with Cousins and Kevin Love. . .

Greg Monroe, 7th Overall Pick. Team: Detroit Pistons.

Another big who would have played esthetically pleasing basketball with Love, Monroe is a highly-skilled big who is adept at both scoring and passing. He’s not too bad of a rebounder either with a 9.2 per game average that isn’t far behind Cousins.

Instead of a Love/Monroe frontline, Minnesota are stuck with watching Monroe team with Andre Drummond to form one of the most complete front courts in the league.

Since his rookie year, Monroe has averaged 15.6 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists per contest while shooting 49.9% from the field and 70% from the line.

Gordon Hayward, 9th Overall Pick. Team: Utah Jazz.

Former Butler standout Gordon Hayward has developed into the face of the Utah Jazz.

After a rookie campaign in which he only averaged 5.4 points per contest, Hayward has improved every year since, culminating this season with 19.5 points per game to go along with 4.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists.

While Cousins and Monroe represent what could have been at different positions, Hayward plays the same position as Johnson. Hayward’s all-around game and output is likely what Minnesota expected out of Johnson. Hayward recently signed a long-term contract extension with Utah.

Paul George, 10th Overall Pick. Team: Indiana Pacers.

Paul George has developed into one of the best players in the league. The swingman eventually unseated Danny Granger as the face of the Pacers and hasn’t looked back.

He averaged 21.7 points per game last season and is currently recovering from injury. Worst case scenario, he’s back at full strength next season when the Pacers will likely be amongst the East’s elite.

Like so many others on this list, seeing George play with Love and Ricky Rubio would have been something.

Eric Bledsoe, 18th Overall Pick. Team: Los Angeles Clippers.

One of the most athletic players in the league, Bledsoe moved out of Chris Paul’s shadow in LA and into the starting lineup in Phoenix where he has flourished.

The point guard does it all for the Suns with 17.1 points, 6.0 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game.

Ricky Rubio is a flashy, above-average point guard, but Bledsoe surely would have been an upgrade over the Spaniard.

(Related: Why the Suns Were One of the Losers of the NBA Trade Deadline)

Avery Bradley, 19th Overall Pick. Team: Boston Celtics.

You may have heard about the amount of press Tacoma has received since Avery Bradley was joined by fellow Tacoma-native Isaiah Thomas on the Boston Celtics. It’s fantastic that the two are playing on the same team after growing up in the same city, but since the trade, everyone suddenly knows where Tacoma is, and refer to it on its own without the usual “WA” tag that follows. People are treating it like its Seattle in terms of recognizability. Look, I’m all for press for Tacoma, but if you’re from outside of Washington state (at least before the trade) you have no idea where Tacoma is. Absolutely no clue. Zero.

Anywho, Bradley has steadily improved his game and is now one of the core pieces of a young Celtics squad expected to contend in the near future. The former McDonald’s All-American has poured in 14.4 points per game this season and is a solid defender.

Other Notable Players Who Minnesota Could Have Taken: Larry Sanders (15th), Grevis Vasquez (28th), Hassan Whiteside (33rd) and Lance Stephenson (40th).

All stats courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

NBA Talent Pool: Why The League Can Sustain Expansion

One of the big downsides to NBA expansion, according to some pundits and fan, is the lack of talent. The feeling is that the NBA can’t support another team(s) because of a lack of talent available. The “tanking” theory has only supported this theory.

However, it is possible for the NBA to support another team or teams to field a competitive roster. Recent signings around the league have only supported the theory that the NBA can field new teams from a talent level standpoint. These signings have quickly turned into major contributors, or have experience. There are also a number of quality free agents on the open market as well as a number of examples of players who went from sitting on the end of the bench to contributing in the NBA.

Here’s a look at some of those players:

Recent Signings From Out of Nowhere (Relatively Speaking)

Langston Galloway

  • The Saint Joseph’s product has been a positive for the Knicks with 10.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and one steal per game.

Hassan Whiteside

  • He’s been a little out of control with his cheap shot on Kelly Olynyk and his take down of Alex Len, but foolish decisions aside, Whiteside is a talented player who has shown he can be productive in the league. Averages 10.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per contest.

Tyler Johnson

  • Whiteside’s teammate in Miami, the guard averages 8 points a contest, he dropped 26 in a win over Phoenix.

Recent Signings with Experience

Nate Robinson

  • The 5’9” Robinson brings instant offense as at the point guard spot, averages 11.1 points per game in NBA career.

Michael Beasley

  • The former number two overall-pick may be more of a role player at this point in time, but he’s a pretty productive part-time player. Miami has gotten good value out of Beasley on a pair of ten-day contracts. The Kansas State standout has scored a respectable 11 points a game in 24.9 minutes per contest.

Bernard James

  • James has only ever played for the Mavericks in his NBA career. In Dallas he’s proved himself to be a quality back-up center.

Free Agents/ Available Players

Ray Allen

  • One of the best pure shooters of all time. Considered signing with a contender this season before choosing to sit the year out.

Back End of the Bench to Quality Contributor

Tony Wroten

  • The Seattle product went from averaging 2.6 points per game in Memphis a couple seasons ago to scoring 16.9 points a game this year with Philadelphia. Is Wroten going to score 17 points a night on every NBA team? Probably not, but his statistical output on a better team is likely to fall closer to his numbers in Philly than his showing in Memphis.

Miles Plumlee

  • Went from averaging less than a point per game with Indiana (0.9) to scoring 8.1 points and grabbing 7.8 rebounds a game in Phoenix his second year. Now with Milwaukee, he’s proven that at the very least, he’s a serviceable rotation big.

Robert Covington

  • Similar to Wroten and Plumlee, Covington was receiving little playing time with his first club (Houston). The wing player moved to Philadelphia where he has flourished, averaging 13 points a contest to go along with 4.7 rebounds a game and a 37.7 shooting percentage from three.

All of these players are either available or were available at a certain point in time.

An expansion team would also have the benefit of having two draft to supplement their roster. One of those picks would likely be in the high lottery. The other pick would likely be near the onset of the second round, providing additional value.

If the success stories of Galloway and Whiteside have taught us anything it’s that there is talent for the NBA to make use of when expansion comes. This isn’t even considering the concept of an expansion draft where the new team would get to pluck unprotected players from other teams’ rosters.

The expansion team would likely find themselves with a young building block to construct a team around al a Giannis Antetokounmpo, Andre Drummond or DeMarcus Cousins.

All stats courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

Where are They Now: Players the Minnesota Timberwolves Acquired for Kevin Garnett

With Kevin Garnett once again a fixture in Minnesota sports thanks to a deadline trade that sent him from Brooklyn to Minnesota for Thaddeus Young (you can check out what I thought of the trade here) it’s time to look back at the players Minnesota received from the Celtics when they traded away Garnett eight years ago.

The Trade:  Minnesota Acquires: Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair, a 2009 first-round pick (Wayne Ellington) and a 2009 first-round pick (Johnny Flynn).

Boston Acquires: Kevin Garnett.

The Players:

Ryan Gomes

Combo forward Ryan Gomes would have some solid years in Minnesota after coming over in the trade. He averaged 12.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game during his tenure with the Timberwolves.

Minnesota traded him and Luke Babbitt to Portland for Martell Webster. Gomes was soon waived by the Blazers and caught on with the Clippers, where he spent two seasons, averaging 5.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.2 assists per contest in a reduced role. He played five games with Kevin Durant’s team last year and has not appeared in an NBA game this season.

Gerald Green

Gerald Green bounced around after leaving Boston. He only spent 29 games with Minnesota before moving on to Houston. He also had stops in Dallas, New Jersey and Indiana before winding up with Phoenix where he currently fills the role of “bench scorer”. The former Celtic is averaging 14.1 points per contest since joining the Suns.

Since the Garnett trade, Green has been involved in trades for Kirk Snyder (Houston) and was dealt to Phoenix with Miles Plumlee and a future first-round draft pick for Luis Scola.

Al Jefferson

Possibly the most accomplished player on this list, Jefferson certainly had the scoring touch while he was in Minnesota. Big Al averaged 20.1 points per game as a Timberwolves player, including a career best 23.1 points per outing in 2008/2009. He was later dealt to Utah for Kosta Koufos and two future first-round picks (Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones were later selected).

Jefferson spent three seasons in Utah before departing via free agency for Charlotte where he has elevated the now-Hornets to playoff contender status.

Theo Ratliff

Theo Ratliff lasted only 10 games with Minnesota before being waived and signing with Detroit. Ratliff would later play for Philadelphia, San Antonio, Charlotte and the Lakers before playing his final NBA game in the 2010/2011 season.

He averaged 6.3 points per contest as a member of the Timberwolves.

Sebastian Telfair

After two seasons of receiving the lion’s share of starts in Minnesota, Telfair spent 2009/2010 with the Clippers and Cavaliers, before returning to the Twin Cities the next season.

“Bassy” Telfair has bounced around in the NBA, along with Boston and Minnesota, he’s suited up for Portland, Los Angeles (Clippers), Cleveland, Phoenix, Toronto and Kevin Durant’s team. He was Durant’s teammate up until November 26th of last year, but was waived.

For his career, Telfair averages 7.4 points per game, 3.5 assists per contest and 1.6 rebounds a game. He also commits 2.1 fouls per contest.

Wayne Ellington

Fun fact: Wayne Ellington has been involved in two salary-dump trades in his career. He was shipped, along with Josh Selby, Marreese Speights and a future first-round pick, to Cleveland for the considerably cheaper Jon Leuer.

Later on in his career, he’d be on the other side of the trade being acquired in exchange for a large salary. The Knicks acquired him from Dallas with Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin and two 2014 second-round draft pick (Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Cleanthony Early) for Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton.

He would eventually end up with the Lakers where he is averaging 9.6 points per contest in 52 appearances (27 starts).

Johnny Flynn

After a somewhat promising rookie campaign in which Flynn posted 13.5 points, 4.4 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game, he struggled to find consistent playing time.

The point guard only started eight games in his second season after starting 81 in his rookie year. He averaged 5.3 points per outing in his sophomore campaign and was out of Minnesota soon after that.

Flynn split his third season between the Rockets and Trail Blazers, and has been out of the NBA ever since. He signed a contract with Pistons in 2012 but was unable to make the team.

All stats courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

Complete NBA Trade Deadline Winners & Losers Series: Celtics, Pistons, Heat, Bucks, 76ers, Lakers, Nuggets, Suns & T-Wolves

Winners:

Losers:

 

NBA Trade Deadline Losers: Minnesota Timberwolves

Meet another one of the NBA’s most puzzling teams, the Minnesota Timberwolves!

While Denver actually moved some pieces for future assets, Minnesota did not. In fact, they dealt a younger player with the potential to bring in a somewhat sizable return (Thaddeus Young) to the Nets for Kevin Garnett.

While I like the team dealing for Garnett in terms of what he brings to the team, Young was too much of a valued commodity to ship out for an aging veteran. Granted Garnett can still contribute, plus, he’ll fill seats and will be a mentor to Minnesota’s young players. Still, Young was too much of an asset to give up for KG.

That wasn’t Minnesota’s only trade activity this season, they also traded Mo Williams and Troy Daniels to Charlotte for Gary Neal and a second-round pick in 2019. While dealing Williams was the right move, dealing him and a young player for Neal and a second-round pick in four years is puzzling. Neal is on an expiring contract and is still with the team, meaning they didn’t trade him for more assets.

Including Neal, here is a list of veteran players Minnesota should have traded, but didn’t.

  • Nikola Pekovic,
  • Kevin Martin
  • Chase Budinger
  • Neal

You could also make the case for Ricky Rubio being dealt, but at only 24-years-old, he may yet be part of the Timberwolves next contending team (while still in his prime).

The fact of the matter is that the Wolves need to create more minutes for their younger players. This means guys like Zach LaVine, Adreian Payne, Anthony Bennett, Glenn Robinson III and Gorgui Dieng should all be playing a high number of minutes similar to Andrew Wiggins. However, with players like Pekovic, Martin, Budinger and Neal on the roster, it becomes difficult. The easiest way to give the youngsters more minutes is to simply take the veterans off the roster. The T-Wolves should have done this at the deadline. If they did, maybe they would have gotten some decent returns to help build for the future and hoard even more assets.

Considering Aaron Afflalo and Isaiah Thomas both fetched first-round picks for their old clubs, one would think Kevin Martin could have received a similar return. Pekovic’s contract probably scared some teams away, but at 29-years-old, he’s a dependable center who can score and rebound. Budinger and Neal could have provided interested teams with wing depth and experience.

Minnesota needs to give more minutes to younger players, while stockpiling assets for the future. This is the easiest path towards evolving into a legitimate contender. The only thing standing in the way of both of those objectives? Dealing veteran players. The Timberwolves should have, but simply didn’t do this, making them one of the “losers” of the trade deadline.

Check out the rest of Know Hitter’s series on the NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers. The Winners: BostonDetroitMiamiPhiladelphia and Milwaukee. The “Losers”: Los Angeles (Lakers)Phoenix , Denver and Minnesota.

Updated NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers: Celtics, Pistons, Heat, Bucks, 76ers, Lakers, Nuggets and Suns

Winners:

Losers:

Coming Soon- The Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA Trade Deadline Losers: Denver Nuggets

Losers: Denver Nuggets

Introducing one the most puzzling teams in the NBA, ladies and gentlemen, the Denver Nuggets!

Puzzling, that’s certainly one way to describe the Nuggets. The team started off with some positive trades, for a rebuilding team (which Denver clearly should be given that they play in the West), then proceeded not to unload a bevy of veterans who could have brought in a return anywhere from decent to sizeable.

First with the good—the Nuggets somehow managed to extract two first-round picks from Cleveland for Timofey Mozgov (the Carmelo Anthony trade, the gift that keeps on giving) earlier in the season.

The Nuggets later traded Aaron Afflalo to Portland for a first-round pick, which is a positive. The team also acquired young players Will Barton, Victor Claver and former fifth overall pick Thomas Robinson in the deal only to waive Claver and Robinson. Essentially, they got Barton and a first-round pick for Afflalo. It’s not outstanding, but it’s not too bad either.

After that, the moves (as well as lack of moves) started to become puzzling.

Denver burned a first-round pick to rid themselves of JaVale McGee’s contract by sending the pick and the center to Philly (one of my trade deadline winners, you can read about that here). For a rebuilding team, ridding themselves of a first-round pick doesn’t make too much sense.

While losing Mozgov, Alonso and McGee would signal a tear-down rebuild in Denver, the team didn’t trade away any of its other veterans who could have fetched some sort of return.

Wilson Chandler’s name was thrown around as a potential trade candidate, but is still on Denver’s roster. Similarly, Ty Lawson could have been moved. While extremely talented, the point guard’s age (27) likely prohibits him from being part of a rebuilding process. Considering the high-returns fellow point guards Reggie Jackson and Michael-Carter Williams fetched in trades, it may have been prudent for Denver to deal the former Tar Heel if they were all-in on rebuilding.

Additionally, over-30 guards Jameer Nelson and Randy Foye could have brought in some kind of return given the pair’s respectively modest salaries.

While Denver could have traded all those players, the team didn’t. It’s as if they have one foot in rebuilding mode with the other firmly planted in the land of contending.

If anything, the fact that Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried are still on the roster, coupled with an attempt to stockpile assets and clear salary means Denver will likely try and reload for next season.

The team’s brass will have its work cut out for them in the offseason. Having major contributors like Lawson, Gallinari, Chandler and Faried in their respective primes signals an intent to win. The presence of veteran role players like Nelson and Foye only reinforce that notion. However, while half of the roster is built for contending, the other half may not be. Younger players like Jusuf Nurkic, Gary Harris and Barton need major minutes to flourish, they likely wouldn’t get major minutes on a contending team.

Check out Know Hitter’s series on the NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers. The Winners: BostonDetroitMiamiPhiladelphia and Milwaukee. The “Losers”: Los Angeles (Lakers), Phoenix , Denver and coming soon—Minnesota.

NBA Trade Deadline Winners: Celtics, Pistons, Heat, Bucks and 76ers

Winners:

Boston Celtics.

Detroit Pistons.

Miami Heat.

Milwaukee Bucks. 

Philadelphia 76ers.

Updated NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers: Celtics, Pistons, Heat, Bucks, 76ers, Lakers and Suns

Winners:

Boston Celtics.

Detroit Pistons.

Miami Heat.

Milwaukee Bucks. 

Philadelphia 76ers.

Losers:

Los Angeles Lakers.

Phoenix Suns

NBA Trade Deadline Losers: Phoenix Suns

After compiling 48 wins last season, the Suns brought in Isaiah Thomas to augment current guards Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. With Bledsoe the only member of the trio still on the roster, it’s safe to say that the Phoenix Suns destroyed their point guard situation.

Phoenix shipped Dragic to the Heat and Thomas to Boston.

What was there return for two point guards capable of scoring 20 points per game? Brandon Knight, Marcus Thornton and some picks.

Both transactions also saw the Suns acquire John Salmons, Kendall Marshall and Danny Granger. However, Salmons and Marshall were both waived, and Granger could still be bought out.

Phoenix did acquire first round picks in 2016, 2017 and 2021, but the cost to acquire those picks was high. The 2016 pick is Cleveland’s and will likely be somewhere in the 20’s. Miami’s pick in 2017 could be in the 20’s as well, if not the late teens. 2021 is the lottery ticket. If the Heat are dreadful at that point, it’ll be a nice consolation prize, albeit an extremely late one.

The Suns also lost recent first-round pick Tyler Ennis in the trade (who also happens to be a point guard), an out-of-favor, but still young and useful center in Miles Plumlee.

Dragic was likely to depart via free agency over the offseason, so maybe the Suns did well to move on from him, but the return they received isn’t exactly outstanding considering what Reggie Jackson was moved for and Dragic’s talent in general.

The return for Thomas is another move that benefits the other team in the trade more than Phoenix. Thomas may not have been a perfect fit with the Suns’ other pieces, but a pick in the mid-to-late 20’s and the expiring contract of Marcus Thornton isn’t exactly anything to write home about—especially considering Thomas’ offensive capability.

The addition of Brandon Knight will help the Suns recover, but they just simply gave up more assets than they acquired.

Check out Know Hitter’s series on the NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers. The Winners: Boston, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. The “Losers”: Los Angeles (Lakers), Phoenix and coming soon—Minnesota and Denver.

All stats courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.