Free agency has always been a huge disappointment for the Wolves in recent years. The free agent signings of Ryan Holllins, Anthony Tolliver, Ramon Sessions, Sasha Pavlovic, Darko Milicic, Luke Ridnour, and J.J. Barea have left fans with empty and depressed feelings by the end of July every summer. The common criticism is that no one wants to play basketball in Minnesota. It is a small market (actually ranks 14th among 30 NBA teams) and it is cold during the winter. However, things are a little different now that the team has two cornerstone stars in Love and Rubio and another very solid player in Nikola Pekovic.
Owner Glen Taylor is often criticized for not willing to spend money on players, but when Kevin Garnett was in his prime during the early part of the last decade, Taylor was more than willing to spend money on a winner. He spent whatever money he could while maneuvering around Garnett’s bloated 6 yr./$126 million dollar contract.Now the problem was they didn’t always go after the best players when they spend that money, similar to the current regime under GM David Kahn.
On top of this Kevin Love recently sat down with Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears and spoke about his desire to make the playoffs and that we wants the team to start making moves in order to become a contender. This really put pressure on Kahn to drastically improve the team, knowing that if the team fails to make the playoffs he may be out of work by July 2013.
With a new coaching staff, headed by Rick Adelman along with his son R.J. working closely with Kahn in the front office, it seems that this off-season has followed a different theme than other Kahn off-seasons have in the past. This has to make Wolves fans breathe a sign of relief as they now know that one of the winningest coaches of all-time is getting his input heard and it is being reflected in the moves made this off-season.
Let’s take a look at some of the players that have been acquired this offseason.
After taking a year off, Roy says that it is the best he has felt since he had surgery during the 2010-11 season. He has even gone as far as to say that he feels like he can start again, instead of coming off the bench like he did post-injury.
Roy recently participated in a Pro-Am game that was put on by friend and NBA player Jamal Crawford. Here is the video of Roy playing against a combination of NBA and college players as well as a few stragglers from the local Y. Like in most pick up style games, players don’t push themselves too much, exerting very little energy at times. It is hard to gauge exactly where Roy is physically based off just a handful of offensive possession. I put little stock into this type of thing, but it is still nice to see him able to step foot on a basketball court again and get up and down. To read more about Roy and recap of the Seattle Pro-Am he took part in, read Basketball Prospectus’ Kevin Pelton who was on hand to take it all in.
One thing from the video that Roy can still do is penetrate and get into the lane, something the Wolves couldn’t do much of when they had 6’2″ Luke Ridnour playing undersized shooting guard alongside the inept ball-handling of Martell Webster and Wes Johnson at the other wings.
Probably one of the best moves this offseason in my estimation was the signing of Greg Stiemsma. He will effectively take the place Darko Milicic as the team’s shot blocking big. The terms of his contract have not been announced yet, but is believed to be in $2-3 million range per year. Which means he will get paid half as much as Darko, but most likely put forth twice as much effort on nightly basis. I love this signing.
Below is a chart of big men (power forward and centers) from last season who had a BLK% of >5% and averaged more than a block and 10 minutes per game. Even though Stiemsma only played 776 minutes a game last season, a pretty small sample size, he was really good defensively. He posted one of the best BLK% among bigs and had the best defensive rating among any player in the entire league last season with an outstanding 90 defensive rating.
Stiemsma actually finished right ahead of fellow free agent and defensive specialist Omer Asik in defensive rating. Asik posted a 92 rating and was someone who made some sense for the Wolves to target in free agency, but once it was made obvious that the Rockets were going to offer Asik a wheelbarrow full of cash (3 yrs/$25 million) to come play for them I knew that dream was probably dead. For fun here is a career comparison of Stiemsma and Asik. Either the Wolves got Stiemsma on the cheap or the Rockets really overpaid for Asik. You make the call.
For a player who barely played in college (10 mpg, 1.0 bpg), Stiemsma has really come out nowhere. For what it is worth he even dominated the NBA’s developmental league with his shot blocking, posting a NDBL career average of 3.6 bpg in 28.3 mpg along with 9.3 BLK% and 88 def. rating. He was good in the D-League, he was good in Boston, so will he be good in Minnesota?
Anyone is an upgrade over Darko Milicic.
One of the better young European prospects, Alexey Shved went undrafted in the 2010 draft as a 21-year-old. Now 23, the 6’6″ Russian guard is coming off a successful season with CSKA Moscow where he averaged 10.6 ppg in 21.6 minutes of Euroleague action. He had an excellent shooting line of 48.7/49.3/83.3 (FG%/3P%/FT%) and a 56.5 eFG%. Using some of John Hollinger’s Euroleague conversion rates, if Shved were to play the same amount of minutes as he did in Europe last season his stat line would look something like this:
21.6 mpg — 8 pts/3.1 reb/3.9 ast/0.5 stl/1.3 TOs/43.4 3p%/83.3 FT%/49.7 eFG%
24.6 mpg — 7.7 pts/2.9 reb/1.4 ast/0.6 stl/1.1 TOs/34.1 3P%/69.8 FT%/47.0 eFG%
This is the career stat line of one Wes Johnson. Sad, right? Well, the Wolves just shipped out Wes Johnson who was due to make $4.3 million next season and replaced him with a player who could contribute similar numbers while shooting at higher clips and at roughly 70% the cost.
On paper Shved appears to be more efficient than Johnson, much like the signing of Roy this is yet another roll of the dice, but with a relatively small contract there is not a ton of risk involved here. Shved also can handle the ball, something Wes Johnson is still trying to figure out how to do.
To read about the acquisition of Budinger by clicking here.
The trade of Wayne Ellington for power forward Dante Cunningham didn’t get a ton of headline play, but it is a nice roster balancing move. Essentially, Cunningham is the rich man’s Anthony Tolliver if you can even possibly conjure up that in your mind. Cunningham carries with him a career 105 def. rating, which would have ranked fourth on last year’s roster. He is scrappy defender who does the little things and can hit the occasionally mid-range jumper on offense.
The class act that was Wayne Ellington will be missed, but with the addition of Roy and Shved along with the return of Ridnour, Barea, and Rubio there just doesn’t seem to be playable minutes for Ellington next year. Best of luck to Wayne… hopefully he can make it Wayne in Memphis!
Well, this the big move. Fans were waiting for it. Yesterday the Wolves signed SF Andrei Kirilenko to a 2 yr/$20 million dollar contract with a player option in the second year. Initial thoughts: It addresses a position of need, brings another veteran locker room presence to the team, he played the same Euroleague and national team as Shved, he has playoff experience, and he does a lot of things similar to Andre Iguodala, who many Wolves fans lust after — I am guilty of this as anyone.
At 31 years of age Kirilenko has very similar stats to Iguodala. Check out their career comparison.
Here is a SynergySports situational breakdown between Kirilenko and Iguodala over the last three seasons. The graph on the left shows how productive each player has been in that situation over the last three years. The graph on the right shows the percentage breakdown of how often each player has ended a play in each situation.
Kirilenko’s defensive has declined in recent years, but he coming off a great year in the Euroleague where he put up 14.1 ppg/7.5 rpg/2.4 apg/1.5 spg/1.9 bpg with a shooting line of 53.3/41.7/75.8 and an effective field goal percentage of 61%. He also brought home the Euroleague MYP as well as the league’s Best Defender Award.
In his ten-year NBA career, Kirilenko has posted a PER (Player Efficiency Rating) lower than 16 just once (2006-07) and has an average PER of 17.2 in his last three season in the league. I am not the biggest fan of PER, but to put that into a little perspective, the Wolves haven’t had a wing player post a PER higher than 16 in one season since Wally Szczerbiak did in 2005-06 with an 18.1 PER. Kirilenko should help a ton.
Courtesy of 82games.com is the simple ratings of the Wolves wing players last season:
Anything above 0 is considered good, to make that more of a fact the Wolves had just three players with positive simple ratings last season: Love (+9.1), Pekovic (+5.9), and Rubio (+2.1).
Now here are Kirilenko’s simple ratings from each of his last three seasons in the NBA.
2008-09 Kirilenko +8.4
2009-10 Kirilenko +6.0
2010-11 Kirlenko +5.2
He obviously seems to be trending down, but he still in positive territory and one can assume he’ll be there next season too. Yet another reason why he will help the Wolves a ton.
This why when people make images like this:
They really aren’t too far off base.
Now let’s take a look at that contract. Many believe that Kirilenko got paid too much. Former teammate Matt Harpring even chimed in on Twitter about his thought on the Kirilenko contract.
jazz fans know AK is a good player when he plays, but 2yrs 20 mil??? its like Minn had extra money they had to get rid of.—
matt harpring (@mharpring15) July 27, 2012
Let’s see if Matt is right:
Here we have Kirilenko’s career win production and a forecast of several different scenarios with games played and wins produced per 48. Expected salary value is calculated by the number of wins produced multiplied by $1.47 million dollars.
Worse case is that Kirilenko plays in 65 games at 30 mpg and has his worst WP/48 of his career of .180 (career low is .184 in 2008-09 — only season not above .200). He would still produce 7.3 wins and his expected salary value is just slightly more than what the Wolves will be paying him next season, so even if he misses 15-20 games next season and has his worse year yet, he’ll still be worth it.
Best case you be if Kirilenko played in almost every game and played at his career WP/48 level of .257 while playing 30 mpg. He would produce roughly 13 wins and be worth close to $20 million dollar a year.
A lot of things would have to go against Kirilenko next season for him not to live up to his contract.
Bottom line is Kirilenko is much-needed help on the perimeter and is paid appropriately.
For more on the statistical prowess of the man affectionately known as AK47 read this great breakdown via canishoopus.
A lot have jokes have been made on Twitter in recent weeks about the Wolves off-season and their quest to try and construct the whitest team in NBA history. He was drawn to Minnesota by Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, turned Pekovic into a monster. Stiemsma, Budinger, Kirilenko, and Shved, the draft choice of Robbie Hummel, maybe Rick just prefers the “white” man. So, I went back and look at every “white” (American and international) player since 2000 to play for Rick Adelman, looking at WP/48 and WS/48 numbers. Using either metric the average “white” player since 2000 under Adelman has a .131 WP/48 and .122 WS/122 — both above average numbers. Looking at the list you seen that some of the best players Adelman has coached in the past decade have been “white” except for Chris Webber and Tracy McGrady. That’s 23 “white” since 2000 and only seven have produced sub .100 WP/48 averages in that span, one being Darko who is essentially a reprobate anyways.
Maybe there is a method to Rick’s madness and his love for the “white” man.
Below is a comprehensive chart showing the Wolves roster from last season and then followed by a projection of next year’s team with the current off-season signings taken into account. There are a couple of things to notice here:
- The average WP/48 of the Wolves outgoing players this year was .023, which is close to a non-rosterable player (WP/48<0). Starter-level players are considered those with a WP/48>.100.
- The average WP/48 of the incoming free agents is a much higher .118, which on average is a starter-level player.
- The Wolves highest outgoing win producer was Webster with 2.3 wins. He also is the only outgoing player to produce more than one win.
- Even with the contract extension in play next season, Kevin Love will still be worth more than what he is getting paid.
- Based on the projections the Wolves are estimated to win roughly 55 games next season.
- Had last season been a normal 82 game season the Wolves would improve on last season’s win total by about 23 wins. That is a bleep ton.
Here is the tentative salary outlook for the Wolves current roster.
If you made it to the end of this, congratulations. Read this article on the Wolves off-season and why Kahn might just win executive of the year.