The Three-Pointer: Wolves sign Mike James for four years

Categories: Timberwolves
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ESPN.com is reporting that the Timberwolves have signed free agent point guard Mike James to a 4-year, $25-million contract. While teams cannot officially confirm signings until tomorrow, Minnesota has been pursuing James assiduously, and, according to ESPN.com, beat out rival suitors by extending James out to four years rather than the three Dallas and Houston were apparently offering.

What does this mean?

1) The huge Boston trade can now officially be labeled a colossal mistake.
This signing, on top of drafting combo guard Randy Foye in the first round, means the Wolves have made Marcus Banks half-past redundant.

Indeed, the players currently on the roster who can now play either the point and/or shooting guard include, Foye, James, Jaric, Hudson, McCants, Davis, Hassell, and Wright. That's eight guys, including four who have logged time at point guard. Goodbye Banks, who was spun as the key to the trade by Kevin McHale and his assistant, Rex Chapman, at the time of the deal.

It also makes Ricky Davis fairly dispensable. KG and Davis were already having trouble divvying up touches and determining who was the waystation for the half-court offense. Throw scoring combo guards Foye and James (who averaged more than 20 points and nearly six dimes a game for Toronto last season) into the mix and where does Davis fit in? Indeed, what the Wolves need is a deadly scorer from the wing who can also finish in transition--Wally Szczerbiak, anyone? And what they need most of all is a guy who gobbles rebounds. Whatever you think of Mark Blount's pretty jump shot, he ain't that guy.

2. A trade for a big man is inevitable. Isn't it?
Despite McHale's assurances that the Wolves had plenty of options available with which to "tweak" a team that needs a massive overhaul, there are actually precious few tools available to the franchise, and the Wolves have used their top two--the #6 overall pick in the draft and their midlevel exception to the salary cap--to shore up their backcourt. But their top need (at least in my opinion, although McHale usually just included it among three or four top priorities) was a rebounder and staunch defender in the paint to take some of the pressure off KG. Right now it looks like the best, perhaps only way to do that would be to utilize the $4 million trade exception they earned in the Celtics deal in a trade package that includes Davis, Jaric, or even Hassell, to land a bona fide big man. Otherwise, they have to cross their fingers and hope someone like Darius Songalia can be had for the lower level exception of less than $2 million a year--not likely.

Right now, last year's front court holdovers include Garnett, Blount, troubled Eddie Griffin, and Mark Madsen. Justin Reed, a game but undersized swingman, is an unrestricted free agent. Craig Smith, the second round pick from Boston College is likewise undersized. Going to war in the Western Conference with this crew--without at least one other quality rebounder and interior defender--is sheer lunacy.

3. Pick a personality, any personality.
Are the Wolves a running team? That was the plan, the latest plan, stated when Foye was signed. Well, James is 31, signed for four years, and specialized in the half-court pick and roll with Chris Bosh and Charlie Villaneuva last season for Toronto. Like the rest of the Raptors he played horseshit defense, but not to worry, since the Wolves' 2005 infatuation with building a defense-first squad lasted about as long as a Jennifer Lopez marriage.

Memo to the braintrust: To run, you need to rebound missed shots. This collection of Timberwolves will have difficulty making opponents miss, and more trouble yet rebounding those misses.

It's looking more and more like KG will have less to do with generating offensive ball movement and more to do with rebounding and interior D than ever before. Anyone who has covered the team knows that these things are not his preferences--he likes to ignite the offense. Is he on board with these moves?



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