The state of the T-Wolves — not that bad?

ESPN named the Minnesota Timberwolves as this season’s Team Turmoil.

But Benjamin Polk says that things aren’t so bad:

It’s fashionable at the moment to ridicule Kahn as an abrasive, unqualified hack. It’s clear the man has had some awfully low moments this summer and that he and Rambis haven’t yet found that transcendent player who will give meaning to their long-suffering franchise. And it’s equally clear that the Wolves are going to lose a lot of games this season.

But if you scan this lineup — Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Wes Johnson, Martell Webster, Corey Brewer, even Darko Milicic and Michael Beasley — you’ll find a lot of young, smart, athletic, hungry players. These are players who want to learn, who want to run, who want to move the ball and play defense. Aren’t these just the type of players who would seem to fit well into Rambis’ up-tempo-and-triangle offense? And when you consider the Wolves have roughly $10 million in cap space, doesn’t the picture look a lot less ridiculous than this chaotic offseason might have suggested?

Am I just being naïve? Is it wrong for Wolves fans to hold on to even these tiny shreds of optimism? Let me tell you a story.

For the three years beginning with their six-game Western Conference finals loss to the Lakers in 2004 and ending with the Kevin Garnett trade of 2007, the Wolves slowly melted down. With very few exceptions (KG among them), the team became a nightmare of ball-hogging, extravagant contract demands, intentionally careless defense and mediocre effort. As the front office hemorrhaged draft picks, this collection of aging jump-shooters and corrosive personalities contributed to the firing of both Flip Saunders and Dwane Casey and helped hasten the KG era’s sad, pathetic end. What I’m saying is: We’ve seen turmoil and this isn’t it.

I don’t know that arguing your currently mismanaged team isn’t as bad as your previously mismanaged team really gets you anywhere. Things are bad in Minnesota, and they’re probably worse than they were in KG’s final years because at least at that point fans had a superstar to rally around.

As for Kahn, the guy is a joke right now, and seriously needs one of these moves — be it Ricky Rubio, Wes Johnson, the acquisition of Michael Beasley or the re-upping of Darko Milicic (yes, this guy is depending on Darko Freaking Milicic) — to give him some credibility in the world of NBA general managers.

No disrespect to Johnson, but if you know you’re going to move Al Jefferson, why pass up a talent like DeMarcus Cousins? He’s a true center and would have been a solid fit alongside Kevin Love on the front line. Throw in the fact that Kahn passed on Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings twice in last year’s draft (while trading away arguably the next-best PG in the draft, Ty Lawson) and this T-Wolves roster could look a lot better.

And it’s not like Kahn has kept a low profile. While sitting in with color commentator Chris Webber during one of the summer league games, he compared Milicic’s passing ability favorably to Vlade Divac and suggested that Webber’s career path was somewhat similar. When C-Webb understandably took umbrage, Kahn went on the radio a few days later and called him a schmuck. Let’s just say that the guy doesn’t seem too savvy.

Maybe Ricky Rubio will eventually come and save the day, or Beasley will suddenly fulfill his considerable potential, but until that happens, Kahn is going to have a big fat bull’s eye painted on his chest.

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Larry Sanders, the surprise of Summer League?

PHILADELPHIA - MARCH 19:  Alfred Aboya #12 of the UCLA Bruins shoots against Larry Sanders #1 of the VCU Rams during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Wachovia Center on March 19, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Maybe the term ‘surprise’ shouldn’t be applied to the 15th pick in the NBA Draft, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Bucks’ first rounder, who was most often described as ‘raw’ by the draft punditry.

A little background: Sanders is 21 and left VCU after his junior season. He averaged 14-9 with 2.7 blocks per game last season. He’s 6-10.5 in shoes and has a monstrous 7-5.75 wingspan, giving him a standing reach of 9-4, which in his draft class trails only DeMarcus Cousins, Solomon Alabi and Jerome Jordan, who all have a standing reach of 9-5. His athletic tests (vertical 28″, lane agility 12.49) were not good, though he can really run the floor for a guy his size.

He also had a good Summer League…here are a few comments from around the internets:

Matt Moore, CBS Sports: The Bucks are going to have a fleet of capable, talented power forwards this season. Sanders was one of the most impressive rookies in Vegas, playing solid defense, showing off a well-balanced frame, and looking very much like a versatile offensive option. Sanders’ mid-range game was considerably better than expected. He showed nice tough with the ball and again, is a mountain in terms of size. He needs to work on his spacing and defensive awareness, but it was a very impressive showing.

TrueHoop: How will Larry Sanders’ game fit in with Milwaukee’s existing parts? His sound face-up 18-footer will help a Bucks offense that was choked for open space in the half court. He also gives Brandon Jennings another dependable partner on the pick-and-roll and wins almost every race to the rim in transition. A Sanders-Andrew Bogut tandem could eventually constitute the best defensive frontcourt in the league. Milwaukee is unlikely to reach the highest echelon in the East with its firepower, but by blanketing the paint with two capable pick-and-roll defenders who can block shots and clean the glass, the Bucks have the makings of a team that could post a stingy defensive efficiency rating in the high 90s.

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What are the Grizzlies doing with Xavier Henry?

Xavier Henry smiles after being selected by the Memphis Grizzlies as the 12th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft in New York, June 24, 2010. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Xavier Henry elected to sit out of summer league because his agent couldn’t come to terms on a contract with the Memphis Grizzlies. (Memphis Commercial Appeal)

NBA rookies are slotted into a salary — a number that can be negotiated between 80 and 120 percent.

The Griz are offering Henry 100 percent of the rookie salary and have proposed that the additional 20 percent be earned through bonuses. Griz brass contend the incentives are easily attainable.

However, it has been customary for NBA lottery picks to receive 120 percent of the slotted salary without hurdles to leap.

So who looks bad in this case?

Both parties are to blame.

Griz owner Michael Heisley and Tellem seem to have engaged in a power struggle over relative chump change by NBA standards, and neither has Henry’s best interest at heart.

While it is standard for rookies drafted in the lottery to receive the maximum contract allowed, it is just as customary for rookies to play in summer league without a signed deal.

Teams pay for insurance to cover the player’s worth for that week. Memphis did just that so Vasquez could participate in summer league without a deal. Then, all parties go back to the negotiating table and get a contract done before training camp.

I was unaware of the 80%-120% range, so at least something good came out of this situation.

The writer blames ‘both sides,’ but the Grizzlies started this struggle by only offering 100% instead of the standard 120%. Henry may not respond the way other rookies have in the past, but there’s no doubt that the team started this conflict.

Meanwhile, Henry missed summer league and is now further behind the curve.

Did ESPN do a good job covering the draft?

The Big Lead says ESPN’s coverage was unimpressive.

We’ll get into some detail below, but here are our main gripes with ESPN’s 2010 NBA draft coverage: 1) College players are being drafted, so why are NBA analysts the ones doing most of the talking?; 2) Far too much LeBron/free agency talk (a smattering was inevitable, but it was relentless; food for thought – Does the NBA need to consider pushing up free agency or pushing back the draft?); 3) there was zero energy from the ESPN talking heads. Maybe it was just a dull, predictable draft, or perhaps the flurry of trades killed whatever flow the draft could have had. But in a word, last night was dull. Was there even one distinguishable moment?

There are two separate issues here: 1) the predictability of the draft, especially the early picks, and 2) the quality of the coverage.

The first part of the draft was a snoozer, and that pretty much made the whole night a snoozer. Chad Ford nailed the top 8 picks, and there were no trades, so there were no surprises. After the marquee names are off the board, the draft became a grind, and that’s not really ESPN’s fault.

I thought Van Gundy was funny when given the opportunity and did a decent job adding levity to a night that needed it. Like TBL goes on to say, Jay Bilas needs a foil, someone to argue picks with, so ESPN should bring in another college scout type to play McShay to his Kiper. One NBA guy (JVG) is enough. He can put the pick into perspective and discuss the free agency rumors that are bouncing around.

Tweeting the 2010 NBA Draft

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