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NBA: Deal a success unless Mayo becomes superstar

By Jim Souhan
Minneapolis Star Tribune
The Minnesota Timberwolves late Thursday found a team willing to take Marko Jaric, Antoine Walker and Greg Buckner. This means there are NBA franchises in even worse shape than the Wolves ó in this case, the Memphis Grizzlies.
It also means the Wolves couldn’t find anybody willing to take Rashad McCants.
By shipping Jaric, Walker, Buckner and No. 3 pick O.J. Mayo to Memphis for Kevin Love, Brian Cardinal, Jason Collins and Mike Miller, the Wolves found a guy who might occasionally lose to Mark Madsen in one-on-one ó Cardinal.
This could be a good deal, as long as O.J. Mayo doesn’t someday remind us that the Wolves, on June 26, 2008, once traded a true scorer for a guy, in Love, who is best known for his outlet pass.
This means the starting five next year could be Sebastian Telfair, Randy Foye, Miller, Al Jefferson and Love, with Ryan Gomes playing sixth man and Corey Brewer providing energy and defense.
That’s more intriguing than last year’s team, and dumping the regrettable Jaric and the irrelevant Walker and Buckner makes this deal interesting.
The only problem is this: The Wolves are notorious for taking the wrong guy in the draft. And trading Mayo, the consensus third-best player in the draft, for Love, who possesses some NBA skills but not necessarily NBA post size, has to scare anyone who has watched Kevin McHale & Company operate.
Getting rid of bad contracts is good. Acquiring Miller is good. Trusting McHale’s judgment that Love will be a good NBA player is worrisome.
Give McHale this ó if he hasn’t proven he knows how to acquire great players, at least he’s getting better at dumping bad ones.
He got the Heat to take Mark Blount and Ricky Davis, two of the worst players in the NBA. Now he’s gotten rid of Jaric, an incredibly overpaid player; and Buckner and Walker, who have nothing left.
This move gives the Wolves more scoring, in the form of Miller; makes them tougher inside, because of Love (presuming he can play); and clears the roster and the payroll for future acquisitions.
But you had to figure Mayo was better than Love, didn’t you? I mean, Mayo and Love both played one year of college basketball in L.A., and Mayo made a lot more money.
If you’re drafting a college player to help your NBA team, you want the kid who has raised eyebrows at the IRS, not the one who is assumed to have played for cafeteria cheeseburgers and NCAA-sanctioned sneakers.
This move puts the onus on Foye and Telfair to have breakout seasons. If Telfair can handle the point as well as he did at times last year, and Foye can be a dynamic player and improve his outside shot, suddenly all those double-teams of Jefferson won’t seem so wise.
Miller can shoot it. He can bury the three. Love can hit the open jumper and is a deft passer.
Even at it’s best, this move doesn’t transform the Wolves, but it does make them better. As long as Mayo doesn’t become the NBA star he has been forecast to be since he was a pre-teen, this deal could still look rational a few years from now.
And if the Wolves can start down the road to recovery, and maybe even eventually lure second-round pick Nikola Pekovic, a supposedly outstanding center from Montenegro, they could be a draft or two away from becoming a relevant Twin Cities sports franchise, right up there with the Swarm.
Say this for McHale: The team he’ll have on the floor for the first game in the fall of 2008 will be a lot more interesting, a lot more promising, than the team he put on the floor for the first game in the fall of 2007. That’s progress.
As long as Mayo doesn’t pass Love in NBA reputation by as wide a margin as he passed him in college basketball earnings, Thursday could someday be viewed as one of McHale’s better days, if you don’t mind damning him with faint praise.

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