Can the 2023 Blizzards Weather the Storm?
- By Michael Schmidtke, Day 1, 2023
MINNEAPOLIS - Unlike a weather event, the Minneapolis Blizzards have been fairly easy to predict since joining the league. They have just been bad. To make things easier they are in the middle of a loaded Western Conference and just traded away their best player in Lamar Claxton. Wait! Don't go battening the hatches just yet! The news isn't all bad.
The only good thing about being a a losing team is that you are a winner come draft time and the franchise feels that they won big. Minneapolis scored pick number 3 in a draft that was said to have a predictable number 1 and 2 and anyone's guess after that. The people who predicted that were right, and it wasn't until the last hours before the draft that the Blizzards locked in Connecticut's Donovan Mobley. It came as a shock to many who last heard the Blizzards were all but set to select Markese Walton but flip flopped at the last minute for the promising wing prospect. The Blizzards also managed to add another young player in the second round and that was Arizona's Aaron Taphorn. He's another athletic and more raw type player but the Blizzards are pretty high on him early on and project him getting some big minutes which is pretty uncommon for most second rounders.
After the draft the Blizzards moved the much maligned Jaleen Rifkind for Jamrcus Norwood and then it was free agency time. Armed with enough money for two potential maximum deals the Blizzards struck early signing Donnell Wallace a redistricted free agent who would go on to be sign and traded from the Skyhawks. Wallace only averaged 14.9 points per game in 32 minutes last season with the Skyhawks so was it a steep price to pay someone 24 millions a season for? In that regard, Minneapolis went on to trade veteran Lamar Claxton to the skyhawks as compensation but in reality it was designed to give rookie Donovan Mobley more freedom and hopefully increase Wallace's scoring. It's a huge risk for a huge financial price especially for a conservative type general manger, but one that they are hoping will pay off.
After a hot start the franchise kicked a few tyres on some big men mainly Isaiah Foreman but ultimately overfilled the roster (17 maybe 18!) with some veterans and some lesser names that will hopefully fill some roles. Let's take a look at how the roster stands before training camp begins with the rotation top to bottom.
Slay showed signs last year but perhaps didn't have a team that was built for him and the changes are hoping to improve his output. Rees will most likely back up with GM favorite Bakari Kostur in the rotation with Keith Woodberry in a mentor role only.
Expect a bit of a rotation between the SG/SF positions but let's just go ahead and put Mobley as a guy who will get all the freedom to learn his trade. Veteran Aaron Gayle was brought in as part of the rotation and Derek Snow will get his chances as a capable role player still.
Incredibly thin here are small forward especially with Jacob Joseph will be cut. It is likely that Mobley will split time between the 2-3 along with Gayle who can step in at times. In hindsight probably a position the Blizzards management should have paid more attention to but there are options there.
Double Donovan's! Galloway showed glimpses last season and it's hopeful this year will be more consistent and productive with extra help across the board. Jiri Palacek is another positive player with room to grow and also to an extent Shaheed Duke. Overall this position compared to the rest of the league is a bit of a concern.
Moses Wentworth is gone but he has been replaced but some wily veterans in Jamarcus Norwood and Dwight Hill. Aaron Taphorn will get the nod as a promising rookie but should he struggle Norwood is a leader on this team who will hopefully provide some artillery.
"Overall we just want to improve and in that regard, it's possible we might take a step back losing Lamar Claxton but hopefully it's two steps forward in the future with a potentially high scoring back court featuring good distribution, inside and outside scoring so a lot will ride with the trio of Mobley, Slay and Wallace. Galloway should benefit from a spread offense but we face some battles on the defensive end down low. There won't be any Minneapolis miracles this year but you have a dedicated general manager with a mindset to keep improving on the way to playoffs int eh next few seasons.