NBA Sunday: Minnesota’s Trades
Minnesota Working on the Inevitable Trade
For weeks, the entire world has known that Minnesota has to make some sort of trade before or during this year’s draft. It doesn’t even bear worth repeating that they player likely available at #2—Derrick Williams—is a player who’d start three deep on the depth chart at small forward if the roster stays as currently constructed.
But while that potential trade remains hung up on what Cleveland does with the top overall pick (more on that in a bit), Minnesota has been extremely active on other fronts with a couple of big ideas in mind.
For one, the team really, really wants a true center, which is where rumors come from regarding Chris Kaman (Minny wasn’t interested, according to Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News) and Pau Gasol (who’d be involved in a Kevin Love swap—we’ll see about that one).
However, the team apparently has also been very active in shopping Jonny Flynn, especially now that Ricky Rubio is officially head for the NBA next season. There’s little need for the Spaniard, Flynn, and Luke Ridnour, so one of them needs to get moved. According to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, Flynn is the one on his way out, and New York could be a team looking to acquire him.
It would make sense for the Knicks to acquire Flynn (likely for Toney Douglass, who doesn’t solve a whole lot of issues for Minnesota but does give them some depth at shooting guard) because their only true point guard is Chauncey Billups, and he’s not exactly a spring chicken immune to injuries. Flynn would come in as the backup—something he’s accustomed to doing and doing relatively well.
Ideally, the Wolves would package Flynn and Michael Beasley for a big man, but that’s not a package likely to return anything particularly valuable. If the Wolves really want a franchise center, they might have to draft one, and Jonas Valanciunas and Enes Kanter are the only guys close to that in this year’s draft. Taking either with a good conscious requires trading down, which again brings us to the issue of trading the number two pick. That’s going to prove hard to do until Cleveland decides what, exactly, they’re going to do with the number one overall pick.
Cleveland Really on the Fence With Irving?
Kyrie Irving is the best player in this draft, and the Cleveland Cavaliers have the top pick in the draft. Point guards own this league now, and Cleveland can’t afford to strike out on this pick as they look towards rebuilding their entire post-LeBron future. Derrick Williams is good, as is Enes Kanter (though slightly less so), but neither is on par with Irving.
So why, oh why, isn’t Cleveland just putting Cavs’ fans heads and hearts to rest by saying, “Yes, we’re going to take Irving with the top pick”?
Because they also hold the #4 pick, and keeping their plans a mystery could mean keeping more options open for them at that spot.
Think about it this way—Minnesota really wants to trade the #2 pick, no matter who Cleveland takes. They don’t need Williams and now that they’ve got Rubio, they don’t need Irving either. However, for other teams looking at potentially acquiring that pick, it matters a great deal which player is there. Why would any team trade for the #2, an admittedly pricy pick to barter for, without having any idea what player they’d be acquiring?
If Minnesota can’t trade the pick, then they may opt to pass on Derrick Williams and go for Enes Kanter or Jonas Valanciunas instead. Considering Utah at #3 is hoping to draft some combination of big guy and point guard in this draft, there’s an outside chance that they pass on Williams as well. In that scenario, it’s not impossible that Cleveland could end up with Irving and Williams with the #1 and #4 picks.
It’s not likely that will happen, obviously, but it’s certainly more likely in that scenario than it would be if the Cavs just came out and announced they’d be taking Irving. Then teams would have five days to make their bids for Derrick Williams, and suddenly it’s a very different-looking draft for the Cavaliers.
This entire we-don’t-know-who-we’re-drafting-yet routine is just a poker face. No one really thinks they’re taking anyone but Irving, but the uncertainty Cleveland is creating only keeps options open for them and frustrates everybody else’s plans for Thursday night. That’s the team with the top pick’s job. That’s the advantage of having it.
Biyombo’s Bust Potential
Admittedly, this is a draft year in which the amount of “star power” is quite a bit lower than usual, but despite that fact, there are quite a few players who look to at least play significant roles on an NBA team for many, many years. There might not be a ton of All-Stars here, but there are plenty of good players.
Despite that fact, every year there are guys who come into the draft with plenty of hype and potential, yet never pan out. This year’s biggest potential for bustability is international center Bismack Biyombo, who’s garnered comparisons to fellow African player Serge Ibaka this early in his career.
It’s hard not to love the idea of adding a defensive presence like Ibaka to your squad, especially when one sees how far a player like that can come so quickly. Biyombo is extremely athletic, and when you consider the fact that he’s listed at 6’9″ yet his wingspan came in at 7’6″, there’s no doubt that there are teams salivating over this kid and his seemingly limitless potential.
But offensively, he’s arguably the rawest prospect in the draft, and despite that wicked wingspan, there are a lot of 6’9″ power forwards that are at a height disadvantage in the NBA, let alone 6’9″ centers. He’s got nothing in regards to a jumpshot, and unless he’s dunking offense is not going to come easily for him.
That’s why some teams are afraid of him, and apparently the list of nervous teams is growing. Biyombo wasn’t even one of the fourteen players invited into the Green Room for Thursday night, meaning the NBA doesn’t think he’ll go in the lottery. That’s not a huge surprise since lottery teams are drafting players they think are going to help their team in a huge way, either now or later. Biyombo isn’t shaping up to be that sort of player.
As someone in the 15-20 range, however, he could be perfect, especially for a team taking him with the second of two first-round draft picks. He’d be a scary player to put all your faith into, maybe scarier than any other player in the entire draft, but someone’s going to take him. He might not be the bust some GMs fear, but he’s going to struggle early in his career. The organization that drafts him has to know that; they’ll just hope the wait isn’t too long or too painful.