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This is the second part of a two-part series of my ramblings on the Minnesota Timberwolves upcoming offseason. The first part, which you can read here, focused on the current makeup of the team and the situations they’re facing right now. In Part II, you will learn more about the options the Wolves have this summer and moves that I would personally endorse to finally turn this team into a playoff contender. Enjoy!
Have you ever started a project but realized you didn’t have the right tools to complete it?
You’re hanging up some sheetrock in a friends house. Why? I don’t know, you’re just a really nice guy. But you get there and realize everything’s in place but the sheet rock screws! DOH! You’re not about to hammer nails into it, everyone knows that, so you make the run to get the screws and come right back. But by the time you’re back and finally able to get the job done, you’ve wasted nearly an hour going back to get what you should’ve already had. Time wasted.
That’s a little bit what I think about Timberwolves right now. David Kahn did a fairly decent job of creating what we thought a winning team, a playoff team might look like. Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, even Nikola Pekovic headline what might be a solid team with the potential of making a run in the playoffs with some rambunctious, entertaining play.
But see, Love, Rubio and Pekovic might be the tools you need to get the job started — the sheetrock, the drill and perhaps some gloves — but the Wolves are missing a big part still: “The screws.” And without those, the project won’t be finished and you’ll only be set back on time until you get them.
Welcome to 2013 and we’re finally coming back from the store. Now comes the time we finally get those screws and start building this house for the future.
Okay, enough of the poor synonyms, let’s talk about how the Wolves should move forward. In part I of my ramblings, I outlined where the Wolves are at currently and what means they might be able to fix the team moving forward.
I’ll start with the draft because that is what comes first naturally. The lottery last Tuesday revealed to us the Timberwolves hopelessness of ever moving up in the NBA Draft but that’s no matter. There are many other teams that have thrived drafting in the middle of the pack. Take Indiana for example. They’re battling against the defending champs in the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, and if you look at their team, no one was drafted higher than DJ Augustin, who was drafted 9th by the Charlotte Bobcats back in 2008. Their newfound superstar in Paul George was taken 10th in 2010 — the same year we took Wesley Johnson.
Obviously the Wolves don’t have the same level of luck as the Pacers have found in the past 5 years but it’s more than that. It’s all about good management and understanding the value not just at your position but the whole draft. Our good friend Chad Ford has told us time and time again that this is not an earth-shattering draft in terms overwhelming talent. But that’s not to say there aren’t great players eligible that won’t make your team better immediately as long as you identify and go after them.
So who are they and will they be available at #9 and #26? Well it’s important to break down any big board by need first then value. The Wolves’ needs are clear as day: They need shooters, preferably shooting guards, and perhaps another big body to challenge Greg Stiemsma for backup center or strictly as insurance if Pekovic bolts via restricted free agency. With that, you can rattle off a few interesting names such as Ben McLemore, Victor Oladipo, Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, CJ McCullom, Shabazz Muhammed, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Anyone jump out at you besides the first three? No, I didn’t think so.
Chad Ford has the Wolves going McCullom at #9 along with countless other mocks. Why? Because it fits both need and pretty fair value too. Or does it? My biggest beef against McCullom is that he creates imbalance in our backcourt. He’s an American Alexey Shved put simply enough. He’s a stronger shooter than Shved but not as good of a playmaker and he lacks size at the 2-guard — he’s only 6-foot-3 compared to Shved’s 6’5″ frame. We need shooters but what we don’t need is another Randy Foye, which is what I see in McCullom.
So, if McCullom is the only other logical option without reaching, the Wolves are in a serious hole unless someone drops, which isn’t likely in this thin of a draft. That means it’s time to pick up the phone and either move up or out entirely. The Wolves can’t be afraid to spend too much to go get what they want/need. I believe that Oladipo is exactly the player they need at the 2-guard, so why not jump up to the top 5 to get him?
With players like Derrick Williams, Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea ready to unload, I say the Wolves make a play to move up into the top 5 to get that player they truly desire. And in a draft weak on superstar types, you have to come out with one of the players that at least has been dubbed with potential. The trade target I see: The Phoenix Suns.
Derek outlined what it would mean to trade Derrick Williams to Charlotte, who picks 4th. But I say bypass that and send the scatter-brained Suns an offer they can’t refuse:
Minnesota receives: 5th pick in the 2013 draft
Phoenix receives: Derrick Williams, Luke Ridnour and the 9th pick in the 2013 draft
That’s a lot. I know, I get what you’re saying but hear me out. Phoenix might not be happy that they picked up our trash twice already (Bye bye, Beaz and Wes) but who’s to say Williams is trash? Because he most certainly is not. 2013-2014 will likely be his breakout season, as long as he’s in the right situation and able to thrive. And if he was in this draft, he may be vying to be a top 3 pick anyways. With no other definitive scoring options, especially at the power forward position, Phoenix can feature Williams and reap the benefits for it. Luke Ridnour is a sound point guard and an able shooter to back up Goran Dragic because Kendall Marshall clearly isn’t ready for a larger role quite yet. And the sweetener is getting our 9th pick, dropping only four slots and still in position to grab something else they need, because they certainly could use it.
That’s the kind of deal the Wolves have to make to assure they grab onto either McLemore or Oladipo and leave this draft feeling accomplished. Because, otherwise, they’ll leave feeling a little sunken with an undersized, injury-prone combo guard like McCullom (Or Foye 2.0).
A deal like that also gives them flexibility with the 26th pick. They could take a big man in preparation to Pek’s pending departure or as a leveraging tool to ship off Pek and his contract a few years down the road. A project is what those are called. Or go with an international prospect — Sergey Karasev and Giannas Adetokunbo — that we can groom along with the rest of the team. Or go with an American shooter such as Allen Crabbe from California or Tim Hardaway Jr. Hell, sell it for a couple million because that seems to be the going rate for a late first-rounder. Still, the most important part of this draft is what they can get out of that #9 pick. Remember when I said it’s all about knowing the value of your pick AND the draft. Trading up with no remorse to get your target is exactly what it means to know the value of the draft.
Once the draft is over and fans are all hyped, keep the ball rolling into free agency. Convince Andrei Kirilenko to re-up on his option. The Wolves absolutely have to keep him, even at $10 million. Another guy they need to keep is Chase Budinger. Shved got all the hype as the 2-guard of the future but it should’ve been Budinger if he didn’t get hurt. He’s long, athletic and without a doubt the best corner 3-point shooter on the team and one of the best in the league. Even with an Oladipo or McLemore on the team already at this point, I foresee Budinger being the starter for a short time and then move to sixth man once the rookies come into their own a bit more. That shifts Shved to the third or fourth guard off the bench but that might do him some good anyways.
The biggest elephant in the room in terms of free agency is obviously our beloved behemoth, Pekovic. This is a big predicament. Everyone is on one side or the other: keep him, let him go, keep him, etc. Well, not me. I’m straddling the fence and will up until the drama starts to unfold. Pekovic is a rare breed. The strongest man in the NBA has found his niche as an effective post player, great free throw shooter and a developing help defender. But there are still glaring holes in his game that don’t necessitate a max contract. It’s unfortunate that the NBA overprices restricted free agents and team’s get handcuffed because of it. A team such as Portland will show no remorse throwing max money at the undeserving Pekovic because he fits a need and the market naturally overpays RFA’s.
So what do you do? Well, unfortunately for our cap flexibility, you have to match it. But it’s not all bad. As long as they can find a big man with that 26th pick (Which is my favorite option currently) to show the ropes and carry along the way for 2-3 years and challenge Stiemer in that time, Pek and his contract will become expendable and he’ll still likely be a top 8 center in the league by then. He gets moved for younger pieces/draft picks and we hopefully have a center groomed to step in as a serviceable replacement. And in those 2-3 years we have Pek as a starter, we’ll be going to the playoffs with the fiercest man in the league and one of the only ones who can out-perform Dwight Howard or give someone like the Heat fits because they can’t defend him. It’s a win-win as long as there is that long-term plan set in place for Pek and the money he’ll be sucking in.
Other than some internal cleaning, free agency should be a breeze and relatively quiet for the Wolves. There’s no need to go out and overpay anyone to come in; we’re already doing that with AK and Pek. Like I’ve said a thousand times, this roster has playoff-caliber talent, all they need is to stay healthy and perform to their abilities. I can’t recognize any free agent in a valuable price range that can come in and help this team any better than what Budinger, AK and Pek could do if they just stay home. Keep it easy on yourself.
Obviously there are plenty more options for the Wolves to look at but I’ve exhausted ways they could draft, trade and sign free agents to keep the team intact but still get better. The opportunities, especially trades, will open up and become more apparent once the playoffs finish and things start shifting, phones start ringing and activity picks up. Flip and the Wolves just have to realize that a lot of what they want is already in-house and the other targets have to be aggressively sought out in the draft by moving up to get them. If this is really the time they want to make their move, you have to go get it and not sit back hoping something right just falls into your lap. The league doesn’t work like that, life doesn’t work like that. To make your mark, it takes some careful consideration but a quick trigger.
Again, I just want to elaborate that these are my own opinions and ideas. I hope they stir up some feelings inside of you and spark a little bit of discussion. Feel free to discuss with us on here in the comments or feel free to tweet at me: @Howlintwolf.