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|Is Kevin Love happy in Minnesota? Will Michael Beasley fit in? Can Darko Milicic live up to his contract?|
Benjamin Polk, A Wolf Among Wolves: So the panel of experts believes that the Wolves will go through some serious turmoil this season, and I completely understand. I understand that this franchise is a little low on credibility at the moment and appears to be on the brink of chaos. And I know it looks as though GM David Kahn appears to have been experimenting with magical-realist roster-building.
I realize it seems questionable to brazenly flout the "best player available" maxim by drafting Wesley Johnson over DeMarcus Cousins, and then immediately duplicating Johnson's skill set by trading the 16th pick for Martell Webster.
It's strange to trade Al Jefferson, the team's best player over the past three seasons, for two draft picks, and then bring in Michael Beasley to replace him as your go-to scorer. And even stranger to sign two Serbian centers for a grand total of $34 million over the next four seasons, especially when one of them is named Darko Milicic.
And maybe you're also amused and/or exhausted by the knowledge that in the first year of Kahn's tenure, the Wolves have acquired no fewer than seven point guards, some of them more than once (although, to his credit, not all at the same time).
And that teenage prodigy Ricky Rubio -- the fifth pick in the '09 draft and maybe the best player of all of those PGs -- currently runs game in Barcelona with no guarantee of ever setting foot in Minnesota.
Things get weirder. In a painfully awkward televised interview with Chris Webber, Kahn defended his record by detailing the renovation of the players lounge at Target Center and then obliquely comparing Darko to Webber and Vlade Divac (C-Webb was not amused). A few days later, Kahn called Webber a "schmuck" on the radio. Minutes later, he casually revealed Beasley's history of marijuana use; this information, while not exactly a well-kept secret, did happen to be, by league rule, confidential. Speaking of "not amused," the NBA fined the team 100 grand.
So we've got: a roster full of seeming redundancies and well-paid former golden children; a GM with questionable professional decorum; the putative savior of the franchise looking on from Spain and likely wondering just what exactly is going on. Add to this Kevin Love's simmering discontent and we begin to feel ourselves stepping through the looking glass.
So I can understand why people would see some turbulence in the forecast. But I'm not one of those people and I'll tell you why.
First, once the season begins, the team will essentially be in Kurt Rambis' hands, not Kahn's. The first-year coach had some trouble establishing a consistent rotation last season (limiting Love's minutes for the sake of Milicic was probably a mistake), but Rambis strikes me as a serious, well-respected teacher of the game who genuinely understands his young players. Not the type of guy to lose a team, in other words.
Second, even Kahn's riskiest moves aren't actually terribly risky. Johnson may not have Cousins' star potential but he is a thoughtful, alarmingly athletic player with a tall, gorgeous jumper and a deep desire to play Pippen-esque defense. You could do worse. You could also do worse than Beasley, who, despite those two mercurial years in Miami, remains a magnificently talented dude who is still on his rookie contract.
And while Darko has many, many shortcomings, I'm not sure that $5 million a year (only three of those years are guaranteed, by the way) is really so much to pay for a nimble, 25-year-old 7-footer with deft passing skills who happens to fit nicely into your offensive system. Is that really more laughable than paying Drew Gooden or Amir Johnson $30 million over five years?
It's fashionable at the moment to ridicule Kahn as an abrasive, unqualified hack. It's clear the man has had some awfully low moments this summer and that he and Rambis haven't yet found that transcendent player who will give meaning to their long-suffering franchise. And it's equally clear that the Wolves are going to lose a lot of games this season.
But if you scan this lineup -- Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Wes Johnson, Martell Webster, Corey Brewer, even Darko Milicic and Michael Beasley -- you'll find a lot of young, smart, athletic, hungry players. These are players who want to learn, who want to run, who want to move the ball and play defense. Aren't these just the type of players who would seem to fit well into Rambis' up-tempo-and-triangle offense? And when you consider the Wolves have roughly $10 million in cap space, doesn't the picture look a lot less ridiculous than this chaotic offseason might have suggested?
Am I just being na´ve? Is it wrong for Wolves fans to hold on to even these tiny shreds of optimism? Let me tell you a story.
For the three years beginning with their six-game Western Conference finals loss to the Lakers in 2004 and ending with the Kevin Garnett trade of 2007, the Wolves slowly melted down. With very few exceptions (KG among them), the team became a nightmare of ball-hogging, extravagant contract demands, intentionally careless defense and mediocre effort. As the front office hemorrhaged draft picks, this collection of aging jump-shooters and corrosive personalities contributed to the firing of both Flip Saunders and Dwane Casey and helped hasten the KG era's sad, pathetic end. What I'm saying is: We've seen turmoil and this isn't it.
• For more on the Timberwolves, check out our TrueHoop Network blog A Wolf Among Wolves.
John Krolik, Cavs: The Blog: On a purely on-court/locker-room level, the Cavaliers actually seem well-suited to avoid any "turmoil" in their first post-LeBron season. There's an excellent chance that the Cavaliers won't be very good this season, but there aren't many reasons to believe that locker-room turmoil will accompany the additional losses that are sure to occur.
Former GM Danny Ferry and the rest of the Cavaliers' front office always made it a priority to surround LeBron with high-character players who wouldn't cause off-the-court problems, and that strategy should help the team avoid a locker-room meltdown. Antawn Jamison, Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon and new addition Ramon Sessions have all been in losing situations before, and none of them caused any notable problems -- Jamison, in particular, has been a key player on tons of bad teams, and he has always made the best of those situations. Anderson Varejao may have made a career out of annoying his opponents, but his teammates have never really had a problem with him. Daniel Gibson, Christian Eyenga, J.J. Hickson, and Danny Green all look eager to make the most of the additional opportunities LeBron's departure will give them.
Furthermore, new head coach Byron Scott plans to run a player-friendly, up-tempo style, and has always been known as a players' coach. (In fact, Scott has already become golfing buddies with Mo Williams.) If LeBron had never been a Cavalier, this team would be projected to win 30 to 40 games, play a relatively exciting style of basketball, and have few instances of internal conflict while doing so.
But of course, James was a Cavalier, and the fallout from his departure cannot be ignored. If there is "turmoil" surrounding Cleveland next season, it will likely come from the fans and the highest levels of the organization. It's impossible to forget the furious open letter Dan Gilbert wrote shortly after LeBron announced his decision to sign with the Miami Heat in free agency, or the letter's guarantee that the Cavs will win a championship before any team James plays on will.
The merits of Gilbert's letter can be debated, but one effect of the letter was to galvanize the Cavalier fanbase. Instead of feeling sad or wallowing in self-pity, many Cavs fans have channeled their negative emotions surrounding James' messy departure into hatred for James and a desire to see Cleveland win in order to spite him.
The behavior of Gilbert and of the type of fans who burned LeBron's jersey on the night of his decision (and are planning who knows what for the day he returns to The Q) has certainly kept the Cavaliers interesting, but there is a possibility that it will backfire if the team is as bad as many people think the Cavs will be next season. A championship isn't a realistic goal, but the organization would certainly like to see the team go to the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year. The Cavaliers have been among the league leaders in attendance for the past seven seasons, and over the past couple of seasons The Q became one of the toughest places to play in the NBA; there will certainly be some dips in attendance, but the team is hoping that most of the team's passionate fans will stick around if the Cavaliers manage to stay competitive next season.
This offseason has seen many Cleveland fans (and Dan Gilbert) show, in one way or another, that they are deeply passionate about the franchise. The only way that there will be "turmoil" surrounding the Cavaliers next season is if that passion turns into unrealistic expectations. Will Dan Gilbert resist the urge to make desperate, hasty moves if the Cavaliers get off to a poor start and his letter starts to look like an embarrassing rant? Will the fans stay as passionate as they are about the team now if the Cavaliers can't string together any wins? After seven years of being a newsworthy team and five playoff seasons, is this organization ready to embrace the rebuilding process? If the answer to all of those questions is "yes," then the Cavs have a stable enough locker room to avoid any "turmoil" this season. If the answer is "no," things could get interesting in Cleveland.
• For more on the Cavs, check out our TrueHoop Network blog Cavs: The Blog.
Ryan Schwan, Hornets247: The Hornets are a candidate for Team Turmoil this season for one reason, and one reason only: Chris Paul and his much publicized "exit strategy." That has already caused a lot of upheaval in the organization, as the Hornets have replaced their entire front office and treated Paul's trade demand as a call to action. It is clear the team is going to do whatever it can to transform itself over the next year in the interest of keeping Paul.
However, the focus on Paul and the coming roster upheaval wrongly ignores that there is even more in flux in New Orleans. Behind the scenes, after a bout with cancer that changed his priorities, owner George Shinn has been trying to get out. At first it seemed like there would be a painless transition to minority owner Gary Chouest, but that deal has hit a snag. Multiple theories abound as to why a deal that was moving so swiftly to a conclusion has come to a halt: Chouest's offshore platform supply business in Louisiana may be suffering financial strain, there may be reluctance from Chouest to buy the team if Chris Paul (he is a fan) is on the way out, or it could be a simple inability to meet in the middle on a sale price.
Whatever the reason may be, the Hornets are now in a very strange position. By all accounts, Chouest helped hand-pick new GM Dell Demps and coach Monty Williams. For the moment, Demps seems to have the support he needs, sending out Darren Collison for Trevor Ariza and telling all new callers he's not interested in trading Paul. He's clearly implementing his plan for the organization.
What happens, however, if the deal doesn't get completed? Will Shinn, forced back to the forefront of the team, be willing to support someone else's front office or plan for long? Will whomever the next suitor is be willing to support that team? Will they even be willing, like Louisiana native son Chouest, to keep the team in New Orleans?
It could be a very interesting 12 months in New Orleans.
• For more on the Hornets, check out our TrueHoop Network blog Hornets247.