Wolves President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders made good on his offseason-long chatter that center Nikola Pekovic would be in a Wolves uniform heading into the 2013-14 season.
Pek's five-year, $60 million deal with Minnesota is massive, but Flip insists it will pay off, saying this team has set itself up for success in this modern day NBA.
"This league has proven that you have to have three star-type players," Saunders said. "All three of those guys have the ability to be in the top five at their respective positions."
Star-type players? Interesting. Top five at their position? Even more interesting. ESPN 1500's Phil Mackey matched up the Wolves top three against other trios in the west, with the Wolves falling in at number seven.
Mackey used the stat win shares, a rather complicated formula that supposedly tells you a number of games that said player won for their team.
Rather than look at win shares, we will use player efficiency rating (PER), an all encompassing stat that shoots to find out which players impact the game the most in every aspect, allegedly making those with the highest score, the best players in the NBA.
Of qualified players, Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony were the top four in the NBA, which should give you a pretty good idea of how accurate this stat is (very).
We'll go with the top three performers in this category from every playoff team (in order of 2013 playoff seed) as well as Minnesota, even though that's been a pipe dream since '03-'04.
This will only count the players teams will have this year, not last years stats, and players that were lost with higher PERs will be in parentheses.
1. Oklahoma City:
Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka
Combined PER: 71.6
2. San Antonio:
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili
Combined PER: 66.4
Javale Mcgee, Kenny Faried, Ty Lawson
Combined PER: 57.1
4. LA Clippers:
Paul, Blake Griffin, Deandre Jordan (Traded Eric Bledsoe to Phoenix)
Combined PER: 66.0
Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph
Combined PER: 55.7
6. Golden State:
Stephen Curry, David Lee, Andrew Bogut (Lost Carl Landry to Sacramento, Jarrett Jack to Cleveland)
Combined PER: 54.3
7. LA Lakers:
Kobe Bryant, Paul Gasol, Steve Nash (Kobe hurt, status uncertain, we'll use him anyway. Lost Dwight Howard to Houston, Jordan Hill played on 29 games)
Combined PER: 55.7
James Harden, Dwight Howard (from Lakers), Terrence Jones
Combined PER: 58.5
Wolves: We'll go off Kevin Love's 2011-12 PER because we want to be optimistic.
Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Ricky Rubio (Lost Andrei Kirilenko to Nets, Chris Johnson only played 30 games, and it would be insane to include him)
Combined PER: 61.8
Of the non-playoff teams, the Trail Blazers are the only team that rank close to the Wolves.
Lamarcus Aldridge, JJ Hickson, Robin Lopez (from New Orleans)
Combined PER: 59.0
So those top eight listed above are your playoff teams, then there's the Wolves, then the Blazers who finished one spot above Minnesota last year, rankings look like this:
1. Oklahoma City 71.6
2. San Antonio 66.4
3. LA Clippers 66.0
4. Minnesota 61.8
5. Portland 59.0
6. Houston 58.5
7. Denver 57.1
8. LA Lakers and Memphis 55.7
9. Golden State 54.3
So does this mean that the Wolves will make the playoffs, these players are top five at their position, or that they're going to pan out to be stars in the league as Flip claims? No, but this current trio, at least by this supposed stat that quantifies the best players in the league, rates right up there with the best in the west.
That also doesn't mean it will translate to wins, but having the talent is a good start.