Column: What Will This Offseason Bring?
What Will This Offseason Bring?
I got a kick out of Rick Adelman’s answers down the stretch of the season, particularly when media members asked him about his time in Minnesota or his trek to 1,000 wins. Occasionally Adelman, who is so calm in demeanor, unleashed a one-liner about the Wolves’ inefficiency during the final month of the season over the past few years.
“No one told me about the Aprils,” Adelman said in one news conference down the stretch.
As far as the Wolves’ season goes, another April has come and gone—this one being much more favorable than in years past. Minnesota went 5-5 this month, compared to winning just once last year and having not won in April before that since the 2008-09 season. They went 4-30 over the past four seasons in April.
Now, what the Wolves do this offseason will largely determine if this month’s steps in the right direction will lead to more fruitful Aprils down the road.
It’s incredible how fast this season went by, even with all the setbacks. OK, I’ll admit in some regards that isn’t the case—it feels like Josh Howard played here three years ago much less in December. But overall, I’m sitting here thinking back to that first trip to Mankato for Training Camp in early October thinking this season absolutely flew by. A lot of that has to do with the character in that locker room. The players and coaches are all good guys, making it fun to come to work each day knowing there isn’t a personality you might clash with on any given afternoon. I know from experience, particularly during my time in baseball clubhouses earlier in my career, that’s not always the case.
So where does this locker room go from here? It starts with the draft, where Minnesota found out this week they’re slotted ninth and 26t in the first round (with that No. 9 pick able to move up in the lottery—holding a 1.7 percent chance at the top pick). Minnesota has four picks overall this draft, and they’ve got the decision to make right now how they’ll use them. Will they follow throw and draft four players? Will they use any of them to make a move for a more veteran guy?
When it comes to addressing needs this offseason, it starts with a shooting guard who possesses length, athleticism and a threat to score from distance. From Minnesota’s current draft position, does that mean a guy like Indiana junior Victor Oladipo? Some believe he’d be a good pick up. Or do you look to the free agent market? There’s a handful of players that are either unrestricted or have player/team options for the upcoming season that could be a fit at shooting guard. We’ll address that as we get closer to free agency.
The other option, of course, is making a well-timed trade like the Wolves did last season—sending the 18th overall pick to Houston for small forward Chase Budinger.
Speaking of Chase….
Budinger is one of three guys on this current roster that need tending to this offseason. Chase is an unrestricted free agent, Nikola Pekovic is a restricted free agent and Andrei Kirilenko has a player option for his second year.
Let’s start with Budinger and Kirilenko. Both are so important to this club based more off of how they open up things in the offense. They’re the team’s two best players when it comes to movement off the ball. Kirilenko is a guy who is best suited for helping this offense run while others are scoring by using his court vision to help make things happen. Budinger, as we saw in the final three weeks of the season, helps open up so much on the court even when his shot isn’t falling. Defenses need to respect this ability from distance.
Then there’s Pek, whose restricted free agency status is the biggest looming player-related question this offseason. If the Wolves decide to go the matching route, Pek could garner as a pretty hefty offer sheet from another team. In a league now seemingly driven by perimeter play, Pek is a force inside—someone who works hard on both ends of the floor, sets aggressive screens, pounds the offensive glass and is a teammate beloved in the locker room. Those are pretty desirable traits to have in a center, especially since those traits are a commodity in the NBA today.
All of those moving parts are important, but perhaps the most important piece is Adelman himself. He’s under contract and expected back, but with his wife going through a medical scare this year it is not out of the question he might re-evaluate his position with the team to be with her. It’s a decision he said they will discuss now that the season is over, and he’ll likely make the call within 2-3 weeks after the regular season so the team can properly move into the summer knowing its coaching situation. Adelman is the one who makes everything possible—he and his staff are building something that has been lacking since the famed and successful KG Era. They’re building belief, hope and progress.
This was the team’s best April since 2004-05. If healthy and together, this team seems poised to eclipse this month’s progress next season and, potentially, reach the playoffs for the first time in a decade. But a lot of what next April will bring depends on the ensuing months. These next 120 days will be crucial in maintaining and building what this team did in 2012-13 in hopes of reaching the level of expectation this franchise and its fans deserve.