We’ve been accused in years past of having an overly optimistic view of the Timberwolves going into seasons, only to see great expectations (or, let’s face it, even modest ones) blow up in another lost season. This optimism even explains the piece of art you see with this post; friends say our annual “the Wolves could be better this season” blog season preview is a good reminder to check your smoke detector batteries.
As such, we’re trying something a little new this season: tempered realism. We’ll let the Wolves try to exceed our modest expectations. Under-promise and over-deliver. That’s the way to get ahead in 2014. As such, here are five things we think about this year’s team:
1) In the long run, we think the Wolves are better off having made the Kevin Love trade. We don’t think he could be the No. 1 player on a great team, and we don’t think the Wolves could have added anyone better than him without trading him. So we stand by this post from a few months ago: David Kahn, in botching Love’s contract, quite possibly saved the Wolves. It forced them to trade Love in his youthful prime, and we can’t imagine ever getting a better haul than what Flip Saunders achieved this offseason.
2) That said, we most definitely think there will be a drop-off in victories this season from last year. Our gut says even when you factor in all the close losses last season, Love was worth an extra 10 victories from last year to this one. So we’re saying this year’s Wolves are a 30-win team.
3) While including Thad Young in the Love trade could be construed as a sign the Wolves aren’t fully committed to a rebuild (they could have had a future first-round pick instead), we do like what Saunders is doing with the roster. Having a few veterans sprinkled in with all this youth is a good thing, in our mind, and it was encouraging to hear Saunders talk after the Wolves cut J.J. Barea about the move being geared toward the future and not wanting to give up on a promising young player like Glenn Robinson III instead.
4) Of all the young players on the roster, we think Zach LaVine will need the longest leash when it comes to figuring out just how good he is. LaVine is a great athlete, but his freshman year at UCLA was nothing special. Sounds a lot like Russell Westbrook (3.4 ppg, less than 1 rebound and assist per game as a UCLA freshman). We’re not saying LaVine is the next Westbrook. That would be crazy. But this was a pick that will take a couple of years to judge.
5) The Wolves should have a pretty nice bench this season. We look at their roster and see a lot of useful players and not a ton of roster filler. The downside is we’re not sure the starting five will be all that much better than the next five. We’re also not entirely sure how this team is going to score points on a nightly basis, which is half of the object of the game, but we certainly foresee this being a more motivated team and a better defensive team than in the Rick Adelman years. Maybe that adds up to a few more close wins. Maybe the youth comes together more quickly than we think. For now, though, 30 wins is our guess. But check those batteries anyway.
Rookie outside linebacker Anthony Barr has been named the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week after his 27-yard fumble return for a touchdown gave the Vikings a 19-13 overtime victory Sunday.
Barr, the ninth overall pick in May’s NFL draft, recorded eight tackles and a sack in the win. And on the first play from scrimmage in overtime, he forced a fumble after a catch by Buccaneers rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, scooped it up and returned it for the game-winning touchdown.
Barr is the first Vikings player to win the Defensive Player of the Week award since cornerback Antoine Winfield in 2010 and the first Vikings rookie to win since cornerback Cedric Griffin in 2006.
Barr is the sixth rookie linebacker to win the award since 2006. The others were DeMarcus Ware, Clay Matthews, Brian Orakpo, Sean Lee and Luke Kuechly. That’s pretty good company right there.
Barr ranks second on the Vikings with 54 tackles this season and his three sacks are tied for third on the team. He has forced one fumble and recovered three of them, which is tied for the NFL lead.
The league’s 3 p.m. CDT trade deadline has come and gone without the Vikings making a deal.
That’s not really surprising. For starters, typically the NFL trade deadline is by far the quietest of the four major American professional sports leagues. Although, there were a couple of trades today, with the one-win Buccaneers trading linebacker Jonathan Casillas to their major-league affiliates, the Patriots, and also sending safety Mark Barron, the seventh overall pick in 2012, to the Rams.
But it seemed highly unlikely the Vikings would make a deal, especially with them sitting at 3-5.
Sure, there are some areas on the depth chart that could have been patched over for the short term, but that wouldn’t mesh with the long-term plan of general manager Rick Spielman, who covets picks, in part because they allow him to move around on draft day and land the prospects he loves.
As for assets they could sell off, the Vikings did not have much to offer. Outside linebacker Chad Greenway could be playing his last season in Minnesota, but I’m not sure how much value, if any, he would have on the trade market. And while wide receiver Greg Jennings hasn’t lived up to his big contract, they would have had to eaten a super-sized cap hit next season had they dealt him. Plus, would it make much sense to trade your only veteran wide-out when developing a rookie QB?
In the end, I’m sure some phone calls were placed and received today over at Winter Park. But for a young, rebuilding team, it probably wouldn’t have made much sense for the Vikings to make a deal.