The logic when the Wolves and Cavaliers involved the 76ers in their summer trade in which the big pieces were Kevin Love and Andrew Wiggins was this on Minnesota’s end: Philadelphia was willing to part with power forward Thad Young, who could replace Love’s minutes on a young, rebuilding team. Philadelphia took a couple of contracts off Minnesota’s hands and received a real asset, too: a top-10 protected pick in 2015 from Miami.
The Wolves could have had that pick instead of Young had they kept the trade simply between two teams (though they presumably wouldn’t have been able to offload those contracts). Some think the Wolves would have been better off keeping the pick, though some of that is hindsight now that the Wolves’ season has descended more rapidly into a full scale rebuild thanks to injuries to several key veterans.
Whatever you think of the original trade, there is now this: Marc Stein from ESPN is reporting the Wolves are willing to trade Young, and it sounds like Brooklyn is a suitor.
Dealing Young now makes some sense. He’s a useful player and a good guy. But he also has a player option next year at around $10 million, money the Wolves could conceivably spend on other assets while hoping Anthony Bennett or someone else grabs hold of the power forward spot in the future.
That said, if the Wolves aren’t able to get a real asset in return for Young, those who were scratching their heads over bringing Young to Minnesota in the first place are going to be looking smarter.
Four down, two to go.
The Twins on Friday announced they have come to terms on one-year contacts with four arbitration-eligible players, including starting third baseman Trevor Plouffe.
Plouffe will make $4.8 million in 2015; the other three signees: left-handed pitcher Tommy Milone, a candidate for the final spot in the Twins’ rotation, will make $2.775 million; right-handed reliever Casey Fien will make $1.375 million; and utility player Eduardo Nunez will make $1.025 million.
That leaves left-handed pitcher Brian Duensing and outfielder Jordan Schafer as the two remaining arbitration-eligible players who have not yet come to terms with the Twins.
Plouffe, 28, has been considered for a couple years to be a placeholder for Miguel Sano at third base. But in 2014, he had his best all-around season in a Twins uniform, making a case that he has a long-term future with the club as well.
Plouffe had 40 doubles and a team-high 80 RBI while improving on defense to the point that advanced metrics show he’s gone from being a liability to above-average at third base. Twins Daily has a good breakdown of his improvement at the position.
Milone was largely ineffective in five starts for the Twins after coming over from Oakland, but he had 25 wins with a 3.92 ERA combined for the A’s in 2012 and 2013 and would give Minnesota a left-handed option in a rotation that is otherwise stacked with righties.
Fien’s strikeout numbers regressed in 2014, but at $1.375 million he remains a reasonable bullpen option at a low cost. Nunez hit .250 in 2014 while playing all over the infield and outfield.
We’ll preface this blog post with an asterisk to acknowledge that Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and his hand-picked head coach, Mike Zimmer, are still in that wonderful Kumbaya happy place that all general managers and hand-picked head coaches frolic during their NFL honeymoon periods.
Sometimes, these things last. Often times, they don’t. Typically, if there’s a bonafide franchise quarterback to smooth out the rough edges, trophies are won and good times between coach and GM are extended (See: Green Bay/Mike McCarthy/Ted Thompson/Aaron Rodgers).
The Vikings went 7-9 in Year 1 under Spielman and Zimmer. No one was happy to finish third in the NFC North and miss the playoffs. But there is justifiable optimism in the Vikings’ future based on a promising rookie quarterback that Spielman procured in a draft day trade and a solid coaching staff adept at tutoring quarterbacks and improving defensive production.
Wednesday, Spielman was asked to evaluate Zimmer’s first season. He gushed.
“I thought he did a great job,” Spielman said. “We sit there and I sit there with him on Monday, ask what he was thinking here and those things. I think even he is going to grow next year because this was his first opportunity to be a head coach and there’s no question about his leadership and the respect he has from those guys in the locker room.
“He’s as honest as it gets. He’ll tell you, if he screws up: ‘What do you want me to do? I screwed up.’ I think that helps make us such a good team, because we’re both similar. He talked a little bit during training camp, I put together all these game management things and we went through them. But it’s just like players, they learn by going through those live situations and you have to make those split-second decisions.
“He may have admitted he’d have done some things differently and he’ll continue to grow in that phase. But overall, I thought it was very good for a first-year head coach. Very good.”
The entire football side of the Vikings’ organization spent three days evaluating the roster last week. Spielman said he could see improvement in the working relationship between the coaches and scouting department because of their one year of experience together.
“Just heading into the second year now there’s such a clearer understanding about the direction we need to go as far as what specifically each position trait is required to be effective in this scheme,” Spielman said. “I don’t think 7-9 anyone here is satisfied with that record. We’re excited about the progress, but 7-9, no one is satisfied. I know our expecations are very high between myself and coach Zimmer, where we should be, and we’ll continue to work together to get to that point.”
Spielman was asked if there was anything unexpected with Zimmer.
“No, he’s really a good guy,” Spielman said. “It’s everything I hoped for and envisioned when we went through the process. I think the biggest thing is he probably, out of any new coach, had to deal with more adversity than anyone. How he handled that adversity, to me, he should be highly recognized for it. Because it was never, no matter what hit us, injuries or what else, there was never an excuse. ‘All right, it’s our job as coaches to figure it out.’ And we got positive results out of that.”
Outside of quarterback and maybe tight end, it’s conceivable that every spot on the field is a “position of need” that could be addressed by the Vikings with a high draft pick.
Running back? If Adrian Peterson doesn’t return, that a hole. Wide receiver? The stalled development of Cordarrelle Patterson and the desire to get Teddy Bridgewater more playmakers makes that a candidate. Offensive line? No doubt. Defensive line? Brian Robison will be 32 before the start of next year, and the interior line can always use more help. Linebacker? Anthony Barr is the real deal, but other spots are up for grabs. Secondary? Even with improvement last season, the Vikings could upgrade at corner and safety.
As such, mock drafts are pretty much impossible right now. And they will continue to be impossible for the Vikings right up until the time the draft actually starts and we see who is available at No. 11.
Mel Kiper Jr. acknowledges this much in his first 2015 mock draft for ESPN, which just came out Thursday. But he has to make predictions anyway, and the one he came up with for the Vikings is intriguing even if it means nothing right now.
Kiper has Minnesota taking Louisville WR Devante Parker at that first-round slot. Parker played all four years in college and is, of course, a former teammate of Bridgewater’s with the Cardinals.
In many ways, he seems to be the receiving equivalent of Teddy: above-average in almost every area, though not exceptional — a well-rounded, high-character player.
Writes Kiper: Teddy Bridgewater showed he can be the long-term answer at quarterback if his development continues, and while there are also questions along the offensive line, Parker is a tantalizing talent at this point, as I think some teams will have him graded as the best receiver in this draft class once they’ve wrapped up evaluations. This is A.J. Green lite, and he’s not that lite. Parker doesn’t just have the leaping ability and length to go up and get it and beat even longer defensive backs at the catch point, he can create space with his short-area explosiveness underneath. Teddy needs another weapon. Here he is.
To be honest, we’d much rather see the Vikings spend the pick on an offensive lineman. But if drafting Louisville players becomes GM Rick Spielman’s new fascination — as opposed to just Notre Dame players — the track record so far is pretty good.
We swear we’re not trying to pile on here. But goodness, the national stuff coming out on the Cavaliers and Kevin Love just keeps getting worse. The latest we’ve read comes from ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, and the portion on Love — coming after Love was benched for the fourth quarter in a loss to Phoenix, the Cavs’ 9th in their past 10 games — isn’t pretty:
His defense has been predictably shoddy much of the time, but as a team, the Cavs’ transition defense and overall communication are routinely abysmal. The Cavs got down by 19 against the Suns before making a comeback, mostly without Love, but James and Kyrie Irving‘s combined 13 turnovers were more of a culprit than Love’s defensive issues.
On offense, where Love should be a monster, he hasn’t been very often.
“I’ve seen Kevin fall down with the ball more times this season than the rest of his career combined because he’s always in positions where he’s uncomfortable and he’s forced into trying to make some sort of move to get a shot, and that has never been his game,” said one veteran NBA coach. “They almost never put him in position to get the ball that he did in his last few years in Minnesota and I can’t figure out why.”
So Love is the same guy on defense, but he’s being used improperly on offense. A lot of that is on the Cavs, but Love is bearing much of the criticism. Windhorst concludes at the end of the piece:
They are still a long way from having a lost season. But, wow, are they a long way off course.
If it gets worse, we’ll alert Stu that there’s a new candidate for the Increasingly Lost Season feature.