The Minnesota Timberwolves are Following the Memphis Model
Following the Memphis Model
Everyone likes to talk about the “OKC Model” for building a franchise, which is the model the Oklahoma City Thunder have used to develop a title-contending team: 1) Collect draft picks and use them on up and coming talent 2) develop your talent in-house with a good coach at developing young players 3) be prudent on who to keep and who to move for more assets 4) keep collecting assets, because young productive players are cheap and have a lot of upside.
Minnesota Timberwolves have followed a different model, which is unfortunate in a sense because they attempted to follow the OKC model awhile back. In 2009 the Wolves had made a shrewd amount of deals to give them a two-year window where they had five total first-round draft picks including three top-six picks. The problem, and the problem with most rebuilding projects, is if you don’t use the draft picks on productive players you are left with an empty cupboard of talent.
While it may lack a significant amount of appeal, the “Memphis Grizzlies’ model of success” is more in-line with what the path the Wolves find themselves on. While it may not be the sexiest “headline” ever, it is a model the Memphis Grizzlies’ have found quite a bit of success with. What OKC did was pretty astonishing and shows an incredible ability of front office management that most teams aren’t fortunate enough to have. The Memphis model, however, is more of a human model. It accounts for mistakes that your average small-market team is likely to make.
Step 1: Blow High Draft Picks
Unlike Oklahoma City, the Grizz and Wolves have had a varying degree of success with their high-level draft picks. From 2007-11 the Wolves and Grizzlies had the two second overall picks, three fifth overall picks, a third, a seventh, a fourth and a 12th overall pick. That is nine picks in four drafts within the lottery and of those nine picks, only three of them: Mike Conley, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio (ironically these three players were the fifth pick in three consecutive drafts between 2007-09) are the only realistically productive players of the group. Other draft selections like O.J. Mayo, Hasheem Thabeet, Johnny Flynn, Derrick Williams, Xavier Henry and Wes Johnson have not only failed to live up to their draft billing, but in some cases are barely good enough to be in the league.
Step 2: Hit on the Draft Picks when they Count
As mentioned in the previous slide, these teams drafted when it counts. Each team has hit on at least two first-round picks that have given them near-All Star level season, the before mentioned Love, Rubio, Conley and while I might not love him, Rudy Gay did have a few season (before he forgot how to shoot) where he gave the Grizzlies an excellent option at SF.
If you are going to miss on as many option as these teams have (Steph Curry, Paul George, and Joakim Noah to name a few) you better hit when it counts, and the Wolves and Grizz have.
Step 3: Find a 2nd Round Gem
Marc Gasol and Nikola Pekovic have been two absolutely key elements in the Wolves and Grizzlies plans for contention. Gasol has been one of the three best centers in the NBA and a possible top-15 player for the better part of the last three years and Pek has turned into one of the best offense post presences in the entire league. While Gasol is far superior to Pek, Pek is still a very key component to what the Wolves want to do.
Hitting on a second-round pick is pretty crucial to any plan that involved blowing as many first round picks as these teams have.
Step 4: Make a well-timed Free Agent Acquisition
When the Memphis Grizzlies signed Zach Randolph before the start of the 2009-10 season, they were one of the worst franchise in the NBA going 24-58, but once adding him they posted a 40-42 record and haven’t looked back since. In this run the Grizz have been on has been entirely in the Zach Randolph-era, and it’s no coincidence that his decline in play has led to a decline in team performance for the Grizz this season.
The Minnesota Timberwolves this offseason signed veteran swing man Kevin Martin and while they only sit at .500 on the season, it’s already clear the impact Martin has had. He bring wing scoring, shot creation and three point ability the Wolves have only dreamed of in the past and has flourished himself playing alongside MVP candidate Kevin Love.
Step 5: Find a Defensive Anchor
Tony Allen has been one of the top defensive studs in the NBA since he’s been a part of the Memphis Grizzlies, turning them from a good defensive team into a terrifying defensive team. My feeling is the newly acquired Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will be just that for the Wolves.
I don’t have unrealistic expectations for Luc Richard. The Wolves defensive personnel around him isn’t quite as good as Memphis’, but his individual ability to be that one-man-wrecking-crew on the perimeter is there.
While the “Memphis Model” is not one I would recommend for a franchise that is looking to find its footing like say, the Jazz, it has been a model that has now worked for two teams and factors in a considerable amount of human error into its equation. If you have wunderkind like Sam Presti as your head of basketball decisions, then lucky for you, but most teams are not as fortunate and they fall under the category of teams that should look into the “Memphis Model.”