Minnesota is on the books for over $51 M for the next three years, headlined by Kevin Garnett’s contract, which still has three years/$66 M remaining. While this seems like an incredible amount, a closer look at the numbers reveals that Garnett’s contract is reasonable given his production. Garnett is the league’s most efficient player at 30.3 per game and .778 per minute. At a salary of $18 M for last season, his $/EFF of $7,816 wasn’t far off the league average of $7,070.
Ricky Davis is signed for two more years at an average of $6.6 M per. The team would be hard-pressed to replace his 19 points, five rebounds and five assists at a cheaper price – his EPM is a mediocre .425, probably because he plays so many minutes (41.2 per game). However, the team’s VP of basketball operations – Kevin McHale – said in April that he was “very disappointed” with Davis’ defense this season, and this is an area that Davis will need to improve if the Timberwolves hope to return to the playoffs.
Mark Blount (4 years/$28.2 M) isn’t especially productive, but he did put up 10 points and five boards for Minnesota. Five boards a game isn’t very many for a center, but there aren’t that many rebounds to be had when Garnett is clearing 13 per game.
The Timberwolves’ guard situation is in flux. Their best guard, Marcus Banks, who averaged 12 points and five assists after the Davis/Wally Szczerbiak trade brought him to Minnesota, is a free agent and the team needs to re-sign him or find a suitable replacement in the draft or free agency. After trading away Sam Cassell (and a protected first round pick) to the Clippers for Marko Jaric, the team basically gave up on him as a starter. Jaric wants to play point guard, but at 6’7” is more suited for the off-guard role. The team owes him $32.8 M over the next five years.
Of all the Timberwolves’ contracts, Troy Hudson’s is the worst. He is signed for four more years at the tune of $24.6 M. This is a guy who averaged 10 points and three assists, while shooting a miserable 38% from the field.
Garnett is 30 so the window is slowly closing on his opportunity for a title. The team has gone backwards over the last three years; after a 58-win season in 2004, the team won 44 games in 2005 and just 33 in 2006. This is cause for serious concern.
McHale hasn’t proven to be very good at his job. The Davis/Szczerbiak trade was just okay, while the Cassell/Jaric trade has blown up in his face. He hasn’t drafted very well, either. In 2005, he passed on Danny Granger in favor of Rashad McCants, whose defensive intensity has since been called into question. In 2003, he drafted Ndudi Ebi instead of Leandro Barbosa or Josh Howard. Of course, McHale’s Joe Smith debacle cost the franchise its picks in 2002 and 2004, putting the franchise in a bad situation.
Yet this man still has a job. And it’s my job to help him.
If the team isn’t committed to Jaric, they need to move him and try to acquire a second tier player in return. It would make sense to land Mike James or Jason Terry via a sign-and-trade, and Jaric is probably team’s best trade asset. Garnett is the ultimate teammate and needs shooters and scorers around him. Davis is a start, but James and Terry would help immensely. Marcus Banks could also be re-signed and dealt if the team doesn’t think he’s the long-term answer at point guard. Banks is young, but still shot 47% from the field, so I wouldn’t be that quick to get rid of him.
A lot of mock drafts are predicting that the team will take Rudy Gay with the #6 overall pick. I don’t think this team needs another soft player with a questionable heart. Brandon Roy, Randy Foye or Marcus Williams would make more sense. Landing Roy at #6 would be a steal. The team could also use another big, but it will be tough to land one in free agency considering the team’s cap situation.
It makes a lot of sense to pair Banks with Roy in the backcourt, with Davis, Garnett and Blount up front. The team could then use Jaric to get a backup front line player, allowing the defensive-minded Hassell to relieve Roy and Davis. If the team decides to let Banks go, they need to find a way to land Terry, James or another point guard capable of scoring.
Minnesota’s EPM by player (league average = .445)
Player EPM League Rank
Kevin Garnett 0.778 # 1
Eddie Griffin 0.439 # 131
Ricky Davis 0.425 # 144
Marcus Banks 0.402 # 180
Mark Blount 0.395 # 189
Rashad McCants 0.360 # 252
Anthony Carter 0.350 # 264
Marko Jaric 0.348 # 268
Troy Hudson 0.325 # 287
Trenton Hassell 0.279 # 315
Justin Reed 0.267 # 324
Mark Madsen 0.257 # 335
Garnett is content to let others shoot while he dominates just about every other facet of the game. The key is to find players who shoot a high percentage while also playing tough defense. If McHale is able to add one or two solid free agents along with a good draft pick, he might be able to get Minnesota back in the playoffs within a couple of years. For some reason, I’m not holding my breath.