Before you fly off the handle with rage over that headline, please do note that in ESPN’s ranking of young cores in the NBA, this qualifier is attached: “The system is a little biased toward players with at least some positive NBA production already under their belts.”
So yes, folks like Karl-Anthony Towns and even Andrew Wiggins to an extent are not valued as highly as young players who have had more NBA success already.
That said, any metric — the one of choice here is projected three-year WARP for all players on teams’ projected rosters who won’t turn 26 by the end of the 2015-16 season — that says the Bucks have the best (!) young core and the Wolves have the 15th-best young core seems to be a little flawed by nature. Either that or those of us in Minnesota are terribly overrating what the future might bring. Regardless, here is what ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle (Insider required) has to say about the Wolves:
On the downside, the Timberwolves lag in our forecast to a surprising degree. Andrew Wiggins’ baseline is barely replacement level. We know he’s better than that and it’s highly likely that he’ll look a lot better this time next season. You can say the same thing about Karl-Anthony Towns and maybe even Zach LaVine. Still, for all the lofty draft picks Minnesota has had, it’s important to remember that at this point, they skew much more toward potential than production.
Fair enough. With Wiggins, LaVine, KAT and Tyus Jones still unable to legally drink (at least in the United States), this is a roster still loaded with potential and one that, in four years, will still qualify as a young core by ESPN’s measure.
Maybe our real beef is with how ESPN is defining a ‘young core.’ After all, a 25-year-old NBA player this day and age could very well be a five- or six-year veteran. Ricky Rubio, for instance, still qualifies this season, his fifth in the NBA. Meanwhile, Greg Monroe — who is on his second NBA contract after signing a max deal with Milwaukee — counts for the Bucks as he heads into his sixth NBA season since he won’t turn 26 until next June.
Indeed, if we capped this at 24 years old — a better marker of what is truly young in today’s NBA — the Wolves almost certainly would fare much better. For now, it is helpful to remember, though, that the Wolves aren’t just young. They’re exceedingly young. As bright as the future could turn out to be, the present will still involve a fairly steep learning curve.
The Vikings announced that they agreed to a restructured contract with running back Adrian Peterson. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the new deal is expected to give Peterson guaranteed money beyond 2015.
“I appreciate the Vikings for working together on this restructured contract, which provides additional security for me but also allows opportunities for me to further prove my value to the team and within the NFL,” Peterson said in a statement released by the team. “It was important for me to continue my career in Minnesota, and I cannot wait to get on the field in front of Vikings fans again.”
Peterson, who was in the fourth year of the lucrative extension he signed in 2011, remains under contract through the 2017 season, the team said.
The agreement likely lowers Peterson’s base salary, which was the highest among NFL running backs, while giving him the security of guaranteed money. There were no guarantees beyond 2015 in his previous deal.
This agreement is further proof the Vikings and Peterson have patched up their marriage after several rocky months following his NFL suspension.
“This agreement is a win for both Adrian and the Vikings and is a positive step toward Adrian finishing his career as a Minnesota Viking,” General Manager Rick Spielman said in a statement. “As we have consistently said, Adrian is a valuable part of the Vikings organization and we look forward to his return to the field.”
Mastering FIFA politics yet again, amid calls to step down immediately, Sepp Blatter is set to stay atop world soccer for seven more months after FIFA agreed Monday on a Feb. 26 election to replace him.
Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph fondly remembers the summers of his youth, when his parents would wake up early in the morning and haul him to youth sports camps, whether it was football, baseball or basketball.
That was why Rudolph had a big smile of his face Monday morning when he kicked off his two-day youth football camp at Kuhlman Field in Edina.
“I probably get more out of it than the kids do at times, running around with these guys,” Rudolph said. “You just see the energy and enthusiasm that they have for the game of football and just to be out here, whether they have a little group of friends or are out here by themselves and they’re meeting a bunch of new friends, the kids have a ton of fun.”
More than 250 kids ranging from first to eighth grade registered for the camp, which is led by Rudolph and area prep and college football coaches. The camp, back after a one-year hiatus, also got an assist from The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities and Northwestern Mutual.
“We’ve got a bunch of great kids out here,” the 25-year-old said.
Also making appearances at the camp Monday were teammates Chad Greenway and Harrison Smith, two Vikings players who already held their own youth football camps in Minnesota and Tennessee, respectively.
The kids were split up into stations across Kuhlman Field, some of them chucking footballs while others learned how to run different routes.
They also had plenty of questions for Rudolph in between the whistles.
“Kids are funny,” he said. “I think one kid asked if I lived in a mansion and am I rich because I play football? Is my contract up next year? Who’s my favorite player on the team besides myself? Who’s our worst player on the team? I tried to explain to him that you can’t really have a worst player, because if you’re the worst, you’re not going to be there anymore. They’re kids. … You’re never really sure what you’re going to get from them.”
Rudolph will be back on the field Tuesday for the final day of camp. But it only took a couple of hours Monday for him to get his own juices flowing.
“You come out here and see them running around, it gets me excited for Saturday when we get to go to [training] camp [in Mankato],” he said.
There are some contenders for biggest local surprise this summer, up to and including the Wolves being legitimately intriguing and my inability a couple of weeks ago to finish a helmet full of nachos at a baseball game. (Seriously, anyone who has ever watched me eat, and particularly ever watched me eat nachos, knows that when I’m finished all that usually remains is shame. But this helmet — a regular-sized helmet, not one of those mini-helmets — was so large and teeming with ‘chos that I couldn’t do it. Or at least I didn’t do it. Either way, it was a surprise to everyone).
But let’s be real: the nachos aside, the biggest local surprise this summer has to be the Twins. In spite of losing their last two games in Oakland, Minnesota is 50-42. If the Twins went 20-50 the rest of the way — which they are not going to do — they would finish with the same record they had a year ago. They are on pace for 88 wins, which would mean going 38-32 the rest of the way — hardly an absurd thing to consider.
Since 1996, no MLB team has claimed a Wild Card spot with fewer than 88 wins. That is the magic benchmark, and it has become an even more magic number since the expansion to two wild card teams per league in 2012; in that time, the “second” wild card team, out of a combined six total (three in each league), has had exactly 88 wins.
But every year is different; this particular year in the American League is very different because it is filled with so much mediocrity. The Twins, with their 88-win pace, are currently the first wild card team; the Astros are essentially tied with them (fractions of a point behind with one more win and one more loss) as the second wild card. And literally every other non-division leading team — 10 of them — is somewhere between 3.5 and 8 games behind in the chase for one of those two spots.
So the simple question is this: what are the odds that the Twins make the playoffs this year?
We’ll start with the place we should probably stop: the math. According to Baseball Prospectus (via MLB.com), the Twins currently have a 38 percent chance of making the playoffs — an 8 percent chance of winning the AL Central and a 30 percent chance of being a Wild Card.
That tells us that the math is crouching in a corner hiding, not unlike pessimistic Twins fans, still waiting for the other shoe to drop on what has, so far, been an unexpectedly nice season. (The math likes Houston as a playoff team at a full 67 percent, though part of that comes from a better chance to win the division).
The math also tells us that it’s not so much a lack of belief in the Twins as it is a logjam of teams within striking distance since so many still have a puncher’s chance. Even if the Twins keep up their pace, it wouldn’t take unreasonable efforts from other teams to overtake them.
The math liked the Twins a lot more (48 percent) just two days ago, before the two losses to Oakland, so we also know this is a very volatile thing. If I had written this post on Saturday instead of today, the glass would almost be exactly half-full with math only.
But what about beyond the math? Is there such a thing? This is loosely defined as, “Does this feel like a playoff team?” The answer to that question, too, is volatile. At a lot of points this season, the Twins have felt like a playoff team — good starting pitching depth, hot stretches that have boosted the record and the requisite resiliency both within games and within dry spells to not fall apart.
Other times, you wonder if it might be next week before they score another run, and you still hold your breath when the game is close and late and anyone other than Glen Perkins is pitching. Those are the times you remember to be thankful, at least, that the Twins will almost certainly be playing meaningful games deep into the season even if there’s a voice that says “this is the current group’s version of 2001,” a season with a great start but a wilted finish that nonetheless paved the way for postseason to come.
The intangible nonsense, in my mind, tempts me to arrive at a conclusion that is slightly higher than what the math wants to say. It tells me Paul Molitor will keep stealing a game here and there by dialing up a nice combination and that the offense will find a rhythm again (at least when Miguel Sano stops stepping on baseballs).
I’ll put the odds squarely in the middle: 50 percent. Maybe that’s too simple, Chuck Klosterman math — Everything is 50-50. Either something will happen, or something will not — but in the case of the Twins I also believe it’s real.
And we have 70 games to find out if it is or if it isn’t.