Friday, July 13, 2007

What Could Have Been....

From guest writer Brian Fuller :

THIS is what could have been in the Target Center...

The 2007-2008 season will be the 13th for Kevin Garnett. In these last 12 years Garnett has made this franchise at the very least respectable in the NBA, making a couple of playoff runs during his career.

However, Garnett has never been able to make a serious run at the NBA championship. There are several reasons why this is. One of the biggest reasons has been GM of the Year Kevin McHale's inability to consistently surround Garnett with talent that would help push the T-Wolves over the top. So what I would like to do today is look at the team the Wolves could have been if they would have kept the players they had. Of course this is a truly fantastical scenario, and the likelihood of keeping all of these players is next to nil.

So this is what Minnesota's roster could have looked like:

PG: Terrell Brandon

Brandon, ever the sparkplug, came in to Minnesota and one year after the strike shortened season helped Garnett get the Wolves to 50 wins and the playoffs. Brandon was the pass-first point guard, averaging 17 points and 9 assists for the Wolves. Unfortunately, Brandon's effectiveness was seriously diminshed after knee injuries in the 00-01 and 01-02 seasons.

OR, PG: Stephon Marbury

What is there to say about Starbury that isn't already known? Marbury was a top-5 point guard in this league. In fact, Marbury (along with a vastly improved Garnett) helped the Wolves reach the playoffs in his first year with the club, averaging 16 points and 8 assists a game. Marbury and Brandon actually played one season together before Marbury was off.

Just think if Marbury had stayed around Minneapolis and both he and Garnett hit their primes. The two of them at their peaks could have made some serious runs. But it was not to be.

OR, PG: Chauncey Billups

This team has had 3 great point guards, so obviously it is not this area that was holding the Wolves back. Billups only played in Minnesota for a couple years, but once again, think about what the Wolves would have been like if he had stuck around; not only that, but if both he and Marbury stayed. The Wolves could have gotten away with playing a Billups-Marbury backcourt, which could have been one of the most prolific in history, perhaps a modern day Frazier and Monroe.

SG, SF: Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell

The problem with putting these two guys on the list is that by the time the got to Minnesota, both players were clearly on the decline, especially Sprewell if you look at what he accomplished in Golden State (career highs of 24.2 pts and more than 6 asts a game). These two players were solid, but it was honestly hard to see how both of these guys were going to help Garnett get to the Finals and win a championship. Cassell did his winning in his first two years, playing with Olajuwon, and Sprewell has always been a hothead (how he and the Knicks made it to the Finals in 1999 still baffles me...).

SF: Wally Szczerbiak

Wally's big problem is his knees. He was quickly becoming an excellent player for the Wolves, averaging 20.1 points per game in 05/06 before injuries sidelined him. If Wally had stayed healthy, things could have been radically different for Minnesota. The Wolves would not have been 25-26, and Flip Saunders probably would not have been fired (but knowing McHale, he probably would have still been).

SF: Ricky Davis

Now say what you want about Ricky Davis, but I like this kid. He is a solid player when actually given a chance. Davis could potentially average 6.5, 7 assists a game for a team. He is relied upon for scoring though, so that is what he does. He is also knocked for his past in Cleveland (the pre-LeBron era), a time that has given Davis a black eye.

However, Davis does have a solid skill set. He is a decent mid-range shooter and has an explosive first step, which he uses to get to the rim and finish or get to the line. And for his size Davis is a solid rebounder and an adept passer when he has people (like Garnett) who can finish.

PF, C: ???????

This right here is why the Wolves have never been able to make a serious run. The backcourt has always been there, but Garnett has never had a legitimate talent down low to help him out. Now I could throw out names like Radoslav Nesterovic or Mark Blount, but these guys aren't the best. For one, these two guys can't rebound to save their lives. Christian Laettner came and went in a flash.

The only big man worth mentioning is Tom Gugliotta. However, he was hitting his prime right when Garnett came into the league, so the two players never played together in their prime, which obviously is a shame.

So let's build a starting lineup of the All-Garnett Wolves, taking into account the fact that I have picked these 5 based on each of them playing in their prime with Garnett, who seems to be in his prime for the 11th straight year.

PG: Terrell Brandon
SG: Stephon Marbury
G: (Tie)Chauncey Billups/Ricky Davis/Wally Szczerbiak
F: Tom Gugliotta
C: Garnett

How well would these 5 players done in their prime together? It's hard to say. The egos on the team would have been difficult (especially Marbury and Billups together...) to deal with. And the team still lacks that bruising low-post presence. I like Garnett, but he just doesn't have that burly Wes Unseld-like feature to him.

Two more starting lineups for you. These are what they'd be like if the Wolves/Warriors trade would go through.

Minnesota, post-Garnett:
PG: Randy Foye
SG: Monta Ellis
SF: Ricky Davis
PF: Al Harrington/Andris Biedrins
C: Mark Blount

Once again, Davis gets to lead a team that seemingly will head for the number one pick.

Golden State with Garnett:
PG: Baron Davis
SG: Stephen Jackson
SF: Matt Barnes/Mickael Pietrus/Marco Belinelli (This kid will fit in nicely playing Nellie-Ball)
PF: Kevin Garnett
C: Al Harrington/Andris Biedrins

There you have it...what could have been, and what most likely will be...

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