Point Guard Conundrum

I know that typically I focus on baseball and the Minnesota Twins, but if you were around when Off The Mark first started, I mentioned that I would occasionally forage into other topics. I apologize if some of you are turned off by this post about the Timberwolves, but I follow all of Minnesota’s four major sports teams. Baseball is certainly my biggest sports interest, but I have enough knowledge of the other three sports to talk about them from time to time.*

* In order of knowledge: Baseball, basketball/football, hockey. If I’m talking hockey, one of three things has probably happened: I have nothing else to post, something really interesting just happened, or I honestly feel like I have a serious suggestion for the Wild.

As many of you know, the Timberwolves are struggling once again. It’s a bit depressing to see a 4-7 record in their last 11 games as an improvement, but that’s the case after a 1-15 start to the season. Thanks to that terrible start, the Wolves possess the 2nd worst record in the NBA this year (the New Jersey Nets are 3 games worse at 2-25). Even if the Wolves do not finish with the worst record this year, they still have a shot at the #1 pick in the draft thanks to the lottery. Although the past does not suggest the Wolves will move up in the draft (the Wolves have never improved their draft positioning by way of the lottery), finishing second to last would still give them a great chance of picking the top prize in next year’s draft: Kentucky point guard John Wall.

John Wall

If you would like a scouting report on Wall, here you go. I know so little about this guy, I had to use Google to find out that he attends Kentucky, so don’t expect me to tell you what I think about him. If he’s as good as Darren “Doogie” Wolfson claims, then whoever gets the #1 pick should take him. If this happens to be the Timberwolves, then he’s an absolute must…except there’s a problem.

First, they just drafted Jonny Flynn, who is averaging 14.0 points and 4.2 assists per game in his rookie season. Then there’s Ramon Sessions, who signed a 4-year contract in the offseason and is averaging 8.4 PPG and 3.1 APG as the mentor and backup to Flynn. Lastly, the Wolves have Ricky Rubio, the guy who has dreamed of playing in the NBA since who knows when, except for when his chance is given to him by Wolves GM David Kahn. So what’s the problem? All three are point guards.

Jonny Flynn

Ramon Sessions

The Rubio issue is rather complex. Without doing any research,* here’s what I can tell you about him. He is currently 19 years old (18 when drafted) and plays professional basketball in Spain. When drafted, he was still under contract with DKV Joventut with a buyout clause somewhere around or above $5 million. However, by NBA rules, the Wolves were only allowed to pay $500,000 of this buyout. GM David Kahn tried to get some sponsorships lined up for Rubio so he could pay for the remainder of the buyout himself, but right when the Wolves and DKV Joventut had reached an agreement, Rubio backed out, stating that he wanted to stay in Spain so he could be better prepared for the NBA.** He eventually was traded to rival team FC Barcelona after this whole ordeal. FC Barcelona agreed to lower the cost of the buyout (around $1.4 million) provided that Rubio stays with the team for 2 years.

* I lied. I went to Rubio’s Wikipedia page and an ESPN report for some of this info.

** Additionally, it’s been said that he was pressured into staying by his teammates, the Spanish media, and members of his hometown.

Although it’s disappointing to see him stay in Spain, in the near future it probably is for the best of the Timberwolves and Rubio. The alternative would be rushing him to the NBA, which would make him the basketball equivalent of a New York Met farmhand (see: Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber) which would hurt both parties. However, it’s not the readiness that concerns me; it’s the question of if he actually wants to play in Minnesota.

Ricky Rubio

Before the NBA draft, Rubio was asked to play word association with some NBA markets. He gave positive answers for Sacramento and Oklahoma City, but his response to Minnesota was, “Too cold.” Opinions were mixed over his intent of this answer, with some stating that Rubio was simply joking, whereas others took it to mean that he would not willingly come to Minnesota. Oddly enough, Kahn seemed to know that Rubio would not want to come to the NBA this year, so he drafted Jonny Flynn after Rubio, despite both of them being point guards.

Now back to John Wall. If the planets align and he becomes a Timberwolf, then the Wolves have 4 point guards under control (even though Rubio is not in the NBA, the Wolves still have his draft rights). Also, if it is true that Rubio does not want to play in Minnesota, then he becomes a tradeable commodity. Some people consider him to be a great point guard in the future, so if this mindset remains true and he doesn’t want to be a Timberwolf, then David Kahn should consider shipping him off to another team. No team needs four point guards, and I’m pretty sure several teams don’t even need three.

Unfortunately, trading Rubio would still leave the Wolves with Wall, Flynn, and Sessions. With all three at 24 years old and younger next season, (Wall will be 20, Flynn 21, and Sessions 24, all for the majority or all of the season) none really stands out as most desirable to be traded. It seems a bit excessive for the Wolves to trade 2 point guards away, but it’s possible that it may happen. Wall and Flynn are likely future starting point guards, and there’s no way that Sessions should be on the third string. Carrying all three while giving everyone a fair amount of playing time and without moving anyone to shooting guard (where all three are undersized) is a rather difficult problem to solve. Anyway, my forte is baseball, so this is an issue that Kahn and the Wolves can sort out themselves. Trading Rubio to make room for Wall is just my two cents. Who knows, maybe the Wolves will view this similarly to the Twins with last year’s outfield and keep everyone on the roster…provided that Wall ends up on the roster in the first place.

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2 Responses to “Point Guard Conundrum”

  1. Josh Says:

    Unfortunately, this is a problem we will never have to worry about because we have zero draft luck!

    However, if the stars align, here’s what I would do:

    1. Keep Flynn. I think he is a young star in the making. I don’t think he is Dwayne Wade or Chris Paul, but I think he will certainly be top 10 during the heart of his career.
    2. Trade Sessions. ESPN recently mentioned Sessions as the 5th most likely trade candidate who signed a free agent contract this summer. I agree. He signed for 4 years, but at fairly reasonable costs. He’s a solid fringe starter and would be a shrewd acquisition for a playoff team in need of backcourt help.
    3. Keep Rubio. He won’t be here until 2011 anyway, so you might as well hold onto him. Rubio will put butts in the seats and is extremely marketable. He’s either a boom or bust. If they find the need to deal him, they should receive a decent package in return.
    4. If they have the #1 overall pick, trade it. Some team would pay a mint to draft John Wall. Get a #1 in 2011 (when we lose our draft pick in the Marko Jaric trade to LAC) and a player in return.

    The Wolves are certainly moving in the right direction. With Big Al, Flynn and Love, plus Gomes, Ellington and Brewer… there’s some starting depth and decent bench guys. Add in the 3 possible draft picks next year and a crap-load of money in free agency and the Wolves are primed to make a move. I’m calling a Joe Johnson max contract or perhaps a guy like Chris Bosh.

  2. Andy Says:

    The way I see it, the Wolves are better off trading away the rights to Rubio for whatever they can get. The biggest suitors for Rubio are, of course, the Knicks of New York. I’ll get to my reasoning for trading Rubio’s rights later. As of now, the Wolves have Sessions, Flynn, and Wilkins all able to play the point position. Sessions and Wilkins can also play shooting guard. I agree that they should trade Sessions away for a veteran to mentor Corey Brewer and maybe another draft pick.

    Now for the draft. If, as Bryz says, the planets align and the Wolves draft John Wall, I think they would have 1) a pair of explosive players able to play the point and 2) a player who can play shooting guard as well due to his size and arm length. If this would be the case, my projected starters would consist of Flynn, Wall, Gomes, Love, and Jefferson.

    That’s without the possibility of the Wolves signing a free agent this coming offseason. As the most likely signing, I see Rudy Gay. Best case realistic scenario: Joe Johnson. With that in mind, you would plug Gay or Johnson into the previously mentioned lineup and I see a playoff bound team.

    In any case, the Wolves have multiple opportunities to make themselves better and David Kahn has a plan to try and make this team into a Lakers-like franchise.

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