Category: 2012 Offseason

Roy un-retires with T-Wolves; Batum still on wish list

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Roy is signed, and Batum remains Wolves' coveted free agency prize

On what seemed to be a dull, bare night on the Timberwolves’ front regarding free agency, took a full 180 and united a boisterous fan base with two awfully big moves.

It started off with the big news that Brandon Roy will be officially coming out of retirement to join the Wolves on a two year, $10 mil deal. It sounds like Kahn’s pitch worked out but it’s Roy and his agent’s pitch that leave me curious. Roy was forced into early retirement because his knees literally ground into dust. No one wants to play the game in pain, which left Roy with no choice. But just one year away from the game and an illegal medical procedure made famous by Kobe Bryant and Roy states he’s healthy enough to play in the NBA yet again.

Is it possible for a man with no cartilage in his knees to withstand the physicality and speed of the NBA? Even for someone with All-Star credentials such as Roy, I certainly have my doubts. Whatever he and his agent had to say in that meeting with Kahn, Taylor and other T-Wolves’ contingent, must’ve struck a nerve so deep to give assurance that he is fully capable of making this comeback worth his while, as well as the Wolves’.

For fans, this is a huge addition. Roy’s reputation alone brings great joy and hope for Wolves fans everywhere. The fact that they’re bringing in a former All-Star in through free agency gives the fan base subtle reassurance that David Kahn and the front office are doing everything they can to make winning now a plausible — if not guaranteed — situation in Minnesota. There are still other moves to make but the fact that they’re creating a solid base with players that seem to want to come here and play in Adelman’s system is certainly a positive.

Speaking of those other moves, the next big move tonight was the word of Nic Batum officially agreeing to sign an offer sheet from the Timberwolves. The details: a four-year deal worth $45 mil including bonuses that could amount to $50 mil. Woah. Batum is a simpleton but a great example of the Wolves’ determined efforts to find pieces that are going to fit on this team now and still have room to grow. He’s a lanky swingman with the ability to play the 2 or the 3. But more importantly is how he plays either position; he is a perimeter hawk with a smooth stroke and the ability to make plays for himself. Really, he’s the perfect kind of player to plop into Adelman’s corner-based offense and let run the sidelines in the open court alongside Rubio.

But it’s never gonna happen.

Earlier today, the Trail Blazers told the Oregonian that it’s within Batum’s “best interest” to stay in Portland, and that they’d match any offer that Batum decided to agree to. It didn’t take long for Batum to call up Minnesota and agree to their offer. But even with a wholehearted desire to play for the Timberwolves — How refreshing is it to hear someone say they want to play here? — it looks as if Batum won’t get his chance to play here. At least for four years.

Just because Batum has the desire to play in the Twin Cities, doesn’t mean that Portland is simply going to let him walk. Just like Eric Gordon and his passion to play for the Suns, there’s no way in hell the New Orleans Hornets are just going to let him go.

Because of Batum’s RFA — restricted free agent — status, Portland has the right to match any offer within three days of July 11th, the official “signing day” of NBA free agency. And because Batum is a very good and underrated 23-year old, Portland isn’t going to not match the Wolves’ offer.

It would be suicide.

The best chance the Wolves have at landing Batum now is via sign and trade. They would need to build some sort of package around D-Will and other pieces — Martell Webster/Brad Miller deals, draft picks, etc. — to have any hope of acquiring him. Again, reports say that Portland has already denied any such D-Will package. Williams plays the same position their star does — just like the Wolves — and so his value isn’t nearly as high on their list.

It’s going to take a little work and a whole lot of luck to bring Batum here to pair him with his former Blazer teammate, Roy. But the fact that the Wolves are attempting the impossible, and stirring up some bad blood with a fellow division rival, makes this entire situation awfully fun to cover. Even if it’s likely to end for worse, it’s still worth the debate.

Musings on the Budinger deal

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This morning, we all probably woke up to the same breaking news of the Wolves trading the 18th overall pick in Thursday night’s draft to the Houston Rockets for swingman Chase Budinger. As breaking and exciting as it may be, there needs to be some analysis to pick the deal apart and attempt to pick why Kahn, Adelman and the front office made this happen.

Before even getting into it, I laid my head to rest late last night thinking about the rumors that had Kevin Martin coming to Minnesota for the 18th pick. That’s why the news this morning actually took me by surprise in the moment. I thought, “Did Kahn ask for the right player? Did he screw Martin and Budinger’s names?” But the more you think about it, the more Budinger makes more sense than his former teammate Martin.

For those who don’t know diddly squat about Budinger, he’s a legit 6-foot-7 wing player with bullseye accuracy from deep and a white boy swag to him (He dunked over P. Diddy in this All-Star Break’s Dunk Contest). In the ’10-’11 season, head coach at the time, Rick Adelman, grew fond of the former second round pick’s skills and inserted him into the starting lineup for 22 games, in favor of Terrence Williams, a former lottery pick. However, last season, Budinger did lose playing time to Chandler Parsons but didn’t see much of a decline in his numbers.

Budinger has carved a niche to his NBA game as a role player playing the 2 or the 3. Mentioned earlier, he’s a great three-point shooter. Last season he converted threes at a 40-percent clip, and nailed 48.5-percent of his corner threes. The Wolves, collectively, only hit on 36-percent of their corner threes thanks to the poor shooting of Wes Johnson and Martell Webster. He makes a great addition for someone who can clean up off penetration from Rubio in the corner. He’s not one-dimensional either, and has better ball-handling skills than Johnson, although still not great. And neither his is defense but it’s not putrid like Michael Beasley’s.

Clearly the move is an immediate upgrade at the wing from years past, and I stress the word immediate. The one knock you can have on this deal is that the value wasn’t there; the 18th pick in the draft could/would/should produce younger, sexier talent with the chance of awakening a sleeper star. But I’ll be the one to tell you that your odds of that happening aren’t likely. Some of the most notable 18th overall picks in NBA history include Mark Jackson, Joe Dumars, Theo Ratliff, JR Smith and Ty Lawson. Just one, Dumars, has been inducted to the Hall of Fame. The odds of finding insane talent and value at pick 18 are slim to none. That’s why acquiring a proven player, someone who has posted an actually good career low win shares per 48 minutes of just 0.95 (WS/48 is “an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player per 48 minutes,” according to Basketball-Reference; the league average is 1.0) is of much higher value than an unproven rookie with an unknown amount of development to go.

Overall, I really like this deal. It immediately helps our desperate need at the wing and also makes Beasley and Webster assumably expendable at this point. That, in turn, will free up nearly $13 million in cap space this coming offseason, and give flexibility beyond that because Budinger is owed not even $1 mil next season.

Sitting here thinking about why this trade could be bad, there comes but one thought. For all those bashing the trade because Kahn made the wrong move or didn’t get enough for the 18th pick, just stop it. Kahn didn’t make this move, Adelman did, or at least he facilitated it, I’m sure. Adelman coached Budinger in Houston and obviously really liked him enough to throw his name to Kahn and say, “Make it happen.” Because of that, you have to wonder who’s really running this team and, more importantly, this pivotal offseason. Is it Kahn or is it Adelman? You have to hope there’s not a power struggle up top. If it’s Kahn running the team, you have to worry about what might come during free agency and the types of contracts he may be throwing on the table. If it’s Adelman, you have to hope that he’s not planning on stocking this team full of vets he’s coached before, especially ex-Rockets. Adelman’s a successful coach but the Rockets were always so-so under his command. Do the Wolves really want to become the next Rockets of the NBA? The team that always plays good but never good enough. The goal has to be championship, not just bottom-dwellers of the Western Conference playoff seeds, therefore allowing Adelman to takes reigns over the personnel could spell out mediocrity in big, legible writing. The two must learn to coexist through this offseason or there will be an awful lot of discouragement from the front office, something no young team should have to put up with.

Anyways, I don’t believe that’s the case. It’s just a simple musing I conjured up sitting at work all day. Again, I believe that this trade is definitely a step in the right direction towards having a solid offseason. Improvements are needed in tons of areas and this deal helps shade in a couple of those. The real craziness begins July 1st. Are you ready?!

Breaking: Wolves trade 18th pick for Chase Budinger

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In case you haven’t seen it yet, this comes from ESPN:

The Minnesota Timberwolves have agreed, pending league approval, to send the 18th pick in the 2012 NBA draft to the Houston Rockets for Chase Budinger and the draft rights to Lior Eliyahu, two league sources confirmed to

Although sources stressed that no deal is imminent, the Rockets have had substantive discussion about sending their other two first-round picks (No. 14 and No. 16) to the Sacramento Kings for the No. 5 pick. The Rockets have also been exploring moving point guard Kyle Lowry to a team in the top 10 to acquire another pick.

Sources say the Rockets are hoping to acquire enough assets to entice the Magic to trade Dwight Howard to them.

There will be much more analysis throughout the day. Feel free to join the immediate conversation on Twitter.

White's promise

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Royce White came to workout for the Timberwolves just last week. The workout went well — not spectacular — but maybe just good enough to tip Kahn’s hand at taking him with the 18th pick of this year’s draft.

Word from ESPN’s Chad Ford is that White, as of yesterday, has cancelled the rest of his workouts with other teams. Ford tweeted yesterday,”He’s pulled out of all remaining workouts and gone silent. Not injured.”

The only explanation for White’s sudden hiatus means that he must’ve gotten a promise from a team he’s pretty happy with in the first round. Draft promises are sticky situations. Who’s to say what opportunities present themselves on draft night in terms of players falling or even trades? Things can change very quickly and that promise your team just made may end up wrecking everything up.

So who’s stupid enough to promise White a selection?

Perhaps it was David Kahn and the Timberwolves.

Since working out here last week, White has been enamored with the idea of playing for the Wolves. Minneapolis is White’s homecity, and there’s almost no better feeling than coming home to play for the team that you idolized and rooted for growing up. White’s workout here was good but his interview was better. Since the workout process started, White has been very open and honest about his anxiety disorder since revealing the truth mid-way through the college season.

Head coach at Iowa State, Fred Hoiberg, has also been outright and truthful about his former player. Hoiberg believes that White’s game is best-suited for the NBA, as long as any coach is willing to buy in to White’s unorthodox style of playing the point as a power forward. And because Hoiberg, a former player and exec for the Timberwolves, has such close ties to Minnesota, there may be some hidden information that he’s given Kahn that no other team has received.

That’s all speculation at this point, even the promise, but there is something fishy going on, even if it’s not with Minnesota. According to Ford, both the Celtics and Hawks have come to like White’s talents, as well as the Warriors. But none of them are in the right position to actually take him, except the Warriors at 7, which may be a little high. Instead, the Wolves, sitting at pick 18, are in prime real estate to take White. So even if that promise came from a team below the Wolves’ pick, there may be a wrinkle in their plans already, unless they plan on trading up for him.

The Wolves really do have a great pick with 18. There are many options available. Trades will be flying and it could surely get moved as a casualty. Or they could stay-put and take a flier on someone with great talent like White and see what he can do; he’s certainly the type of player that, if his head is on right, can replace Michael Beasley’s output plus more. It’s a good time to be a Wolves fan.

Terrence Ross: A chance at wing redemption

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Yet another great post from our draft guru, Nick Bullock. Enjoy the read!

In my last post, I explained why I think former Baylor forward Quincy Miller will likely be the Timberwolves pick at No. 18.

Although I am less than enamored with Miller, I do think he’d be the logical choice given the players I expect to be sitting there for Minny. And I have little concern Miller will be available to the Timberwolves, because he had a dreadful combine and the teams ahead of the Wolves aren’t in dire need of a small forward.

Recently, however, I have seen a couple mock drafts showing Washington swingman Terrence Ross drop to No. 18. Aside from packaging the pick in a trade, this would be my ideal scenario. (I favor Jeremy Lamb, but I expect him to be off the board between Picks 6 and 14.)

My reason for loving Ross is simple: He has a chance to be everything Timberwolves fans, and David KAAAHN, initially hoped Wes Johnson could be. He is a lights-out shooter, a great athlete, a lockdown defender and a perfect complement to Ricky Rubio.

I realize the fear I may have just instilled in all of you by comparing him to Wes Johnson, but if I’m being honest, Johnson’s skill set as advertised is a perfect fit for the Wolves. The problem was that skill set was falsely advertised.

For a shooter — and that’s all Wes is offensively — he sure misses a lot of shots. His true shooting percentage last season was 70th out of 83 qualified shooting guards. (Note: Johnson played 41 percent of the Timberwolves small forward minutes, but John Hollinger’s rankings only listed Wes as a SG).

Also, for a supposed defensive stalwart, he was rather ordinary. If Thabo Sefolosha showed us anything this post season, it’s that there is room in this league for players that contribute zero offensively if they are spectacular on the other end of the floor. Against small forwards last season, Johnson allowed his opponents to record a 15 Player Efficiency Rating (PER), according to That is precisely the league average. Against shooting guards last season, Johnson faired a bit better, allowing an opponent PER of 18.1. But let’s then remember that as a rookie in the 2011-2012 season Johnson played 40 percent of the team’s minutes at shooting guard, where he finished with an opponent PER of 14.3.

But enough said about Wes; this post is about Ross. Let’s address his ability to fulfill the role we once thought would belong to Wes.

Shooting: What I like about Ross’ shot is the rhythm he shows getting into his shot. He has a very simple and repeatable motion. He also uses his legs and gets good elevation, not surprising given the 37.5 inch vertical he recorded at the combine. He also has a very quick release, so he doesn’t need much room to get the shot off.

But what I like best is Ross knows he is a good shooter, so he is often looking for that open three. When he is open in the corner Ross is ready to enter he shooting motion before the ball even reaches him. All of this will make him a great spot up 3-point shooter — something the Timberwolves desperately lacked last season.

To be sure, Ross is capable of scoring in other ways, as well. He has shown a decent step-back move — which has led many an NBA shooting guard to success — and he is good at probing the baseline for easy layups. He is good coming off screens, and his athleticism also makes him quite adept at flying in for put-backs.

Defense: Ross didn’t test too well at the agility and sprint tests at the combine, and the game film tends to reflect this. He also has rather short arms (6-foot-7.25-inch wingspan), so he won’t be the kind of defender to affect shots with his length. The reason why he could be a good defender is because he is very instinctual and tenacious. He has very active hands and his timing is superb, which is part of the reason he averaged 0.9 blocks and 1.3 steals per game as a sophomore at UW. He is a lot like Ricky Rubio in this way, minus the wingspan, of course.

Team fit: Unlike some of the other two guard prospects in this draft (with the exception of Jeremy Lamb and Bradley Beal), Ross plays beautifully off the ball. We all know Rick Adelman’s desire to keep shot creators on the court. Barea, despite his skill running the pick and roll, is incapable of playing without the ball in his hands. Ridnour changed the way he played enough to fit the role, but it was a bit of a square-peg-in-a-round-hole situation, especially at the end of the game, when you know every possession will run through Rubio. The Timberwolves desperately needed someone to pair with Rubio in the backcourt at the end of games who could both slip to the basket (like Wes), hit the open three (like Ridnour), defend the position (like Martell Webster? like no one?) and occasionally take his man off the dribble.

I tend to disagree with the notion that this team needs a starter that can create his own shot. Sure, it would be nice, but only if he plays well with the Wolves’ two cornerstones, Love and Rubio. Also, when you have a passer like Rubio, why take the ball out of his hands?

Although a little slight, Ross is also tall enough to play small forward, and will probably excel in the role when the team goes small.

Negatives: It’s not, however, all sunshine and roses with Ross. He is pretty poor at creating shots for teammates. His handle is average (Wes, anyone?) often leading to turnovers when he drives. And despite his ability to slash to the basket, he averaged just 2.7 free throw attempts in 31.1 minutes per game last season for the Huskies.

But this is what you get when you pick outside of the lottery: flawed players.

At best, Ross could be a more-athletic, cheaper Aaron Afflalo or a more-talented Courtney Lee, a desired offseason target of many Wolves fans, including this one. At worst? Probably Wesley Johnson.

But that shouldn’t stop KAAAHN from making this pick if available. After all, Wes was a good fit. He was just a poor prospect. Picking Ross at No. 18 seems to me like the perfect mix of need and talent.

Instant Impact, Part III: Draft

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This is a three-part series detailing the three mediums through which the Wolves can improve their roster: Free agency, trades and the draft; and who they could possibly target via those outlets.

After already writing about free agency and potential trades, that leaves but one medium to acquire a player that brings instantaneous results, albeit even to the smallest degree, during this oh-so important offseason, and that is the NBA Draft. It’s easy to get swept into the flurry of buzz that any major league sports’s draft brings but I want to take a step back and express my opinion. I do believe the Wolves will end up moving this pick because it could help sweeten our end of any trade offers — I said in another piece that we have very little of value to trade away outside of Derrick Williams. But if they decide that the trade offers aren’t worth it, the Wolves actually sit in a nice spot in this draft. Sure, it’s not as deep as everyone originally predicted but there are 20-25 guys that should go in the top 15. That means there is going to be some worthy talent sitting at #18.

There is one big difference in approach looking forward to this draft. The Wolves don’t want “potential” with this pick, though, which is usually the case drafting likely anybody. Rather, they need a rookie who can come in and help right away. It’s no easy feat finding a rookie with the professionalism, skill and maturity to step into the NBA game and contribute right away, which is mostly why I believe the Wolves will look elsewhere to improve.

But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Here’s are just a few options that I think the Wolves could take at 18, who could come in and help this team immediately.

1: Terrence Ross, SG, Wash.

Just as I say the Wolves would be better off selecting a senior from a solid program or someone with a strong character that may help you now more than later, I choose Ross as the #1 target. Ross is leaving Washington as a sophomore, so he’s more experienced than a freshman. The thing I like about Ross, though, is how much he can possibly cure for a team that needs many remedies.

Ross is a huge shooting guard or an average sized small forward. His length and athleticism combine to give him one of the more NBA ready bodies amongst other shooting guards available in the draft. But beyond his size, Ross is one of the better shooters in this draft. There’s nothing more the Wolves need than a knock-down shooter from behind the arc. That would take a ton of pressure off both Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love. There’s so much more that Ross can do on top of his shooting too. He’s a good defender and actually a decent ball handler in pick-and-roll situations.

Ross is probably the best possibility at #18 for the Wolves. All of the intangibles listed though have helped boost his stock into a potential late lottery pick. There’s a good possibility he won’t be available but if he is, Ross gives the Wolves the best mix of value in terms of NBA ready and star potential for that mid-first round pick.

2: John Jenkins, SG, Vanderbilt

The skill that translates best from college to the NBA is shooting. A great shooter is a great shooter, no matter what league they play in. That’s why Jenkins’ talents are very serviceable.

Jenkins is a junior out of Vanderbilt, where he averaged over 19 ppg the last two seasons. All three years at Vandy, Jenkins nailed better than 40-percent of his treys, including his freshman year when he nearly hit 50-percent of his three attempts. Just like all great deep-ball shooters, Jenkins also hits his free throws, which the Wolves desperately need from their 2-guard.

Overall, Jenkins has a lot of JJ Reddick in him. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing because Reddick is making good money in Orlando but they’re both one-dimensional players. The Wolves wouldn’t mind that when that one-dimension will improve a category they need badly but Jenkins at #18 doesn’t leave a whole lot of room in terms of value. He’s a decent target.

3: Kevin Murphy, SG, Tennessee Tech

Wait, who?

Look him up. For those of you who don’t watch/follow college basketball as religiously as I do, a quick Google search and minimal research will tell you just who this guy is.

Murphy is a senior graduating from Tennessee Tech, where he led the team in scoring with 21 ppg. His offensive skills are really impressive of a guy at such a small program. He’s selective with his shots, something often overlooked when reviewing college tape, even though he’s known as a volume shooter. To get get looks like that, you have to be creative, and he can do just that. He possesses this turnaround jumper, sort of Kobe-esque, that was so deadly and efficient and nearly impossible to defend.

But there’s a reason he played for Tennessee Tech. Murphy has significant flaws to his game, including lackluster defense and serious inefficiencies at the charity stripe. I still love Murphy’s pro prospects because he’s a leader. He’s had to carry a lame program on his back for four years, saying a lot about his character. Murphy is a definite reach at #18 but he’s a player that you reach for, if that makes sense.

Instant Impact, Part II: Trades

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This is a three-part series detailing the three mediums through which the Wolves can improve their roster: Free agency, trades and the draft; and who they could possibly target via those outlets.

Part I of this series focused on the approach the Wolves should take heading into free agency as well as a few names they could go after. Part II is going to focus on potential trades.

If free agency isn’t the way to look for immediate impact from a great player, then perhaps the Wolves look to the trade market. Big names such as Dwight Howard will float around all summer. The problem is the Wolves don’t have the extra assets to sweeten any deal. Rubio, Love and Pek are likely untouchable, leaving very little left to swing a trade.

The biggest piece they have to build a deal around is Derrick Williams. Williams’ rookie campaign was neither a homerun or a strikeout; it was sort of like a hard-hit liner to right field, so it only came out as a single. He showed that he is strong enough to battle underneath but possesses that soft touch to hit some threes when he has to (Maybe a little too often even). His defense isn’t good and it’s mostly a problem because Adelman couldn’t figure out what type of player he can guard. There’s no question that he has the moves on offense to play a small forward and attack as well as hit the jump shot, but he certainly can’t guard the opposition on the other end.

Because Williams is still full of potential, he’s the likeliest candidate of this young core to be dealt away, probably paired with the 18th pick. Now the question is what can they get for a package like that. Before I get into that, let’s look at Kahn’s trade history thus far. He made the deal for Michael Beasley, shipping away a second-rounder and a peanut butter sandwich — Not actually — which was certainly worth the price of giving Beaz the audition. Kahn also swung multiple deals last draft to accumulate some cash and stayed away from picking a player they really didn’t need.

So clearly Kahn has a knack for getting some good value out of trades. It’s been nothing extraordinary but good. This offseason could be drastically different, as Kahn will look for bigger names in a more headlining type of deal. Of course he can still take it easy and just look to break even by bringing in a simple role player just to shake up the roster. But I believe it’s time to dream bigger than that.

With that, here are five potential trades that could mean immediate impact both on and off the court.

#1: Derrick Williams, #18 pick and Luke Ridnour to the LA Lakers for Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol

Gasol’s name has been floating around the trade rumor bin for a while now. It’s about time someone does something about it. There are likely going to be more glitzy packages out there for Gasol but this one makes a lot of sense for both sides.

The Wolves are indeed giving up a lot but what people need to start realizing — again — is that Gasol is a former all-star and one of the NBA’s best big men. He had an incredibly down year but there’s no reason to think that it’s the start of a trend. Lakers head coach Mike Brown implemented, well, nothing in terms of offense. Switching from the extravagant triangle offense in which Gasol excelled to a simplified pick-and-roll offense is like transferring from aeronautics to algebra; it’s so simple that it’s actually difficult. I don’t think all of the pressure in LA and the rumors swirling helped that team’s chemistry either.

Gasol would fit in much better here than he does currently in LA. The Lakers of old are done, and once they realize that, bringing in Williams to groom would be a very good addition. Just like the Lakers, the Wolves of old are now done and moved on with a youthful roster but need a veteran or two sprinkled in to gain a sense of leadership and guidance.

Gasol has all the intangibles to fit in nicely with fellow Spaniard and friend Rubio as well as the rest of the crew. Although his defensive skills aren’t exactly what the Wolves are looking for, you just can’t pass up the opportunity to grab one of the game’s elite big men to form a scary frontcourt in Love, Pekovic and then Gasol.

#2: Derrick Williams, #18 pick and Brad Miller’s contract to the Memphis Grizzlies for Rudy Gay

Rudy Gay

I mentioned in Part I at how OJ Mayo is a legit target to go after in free agency. Well, if the Grizzlies indeed want him back, they may need to shed some cap space to do it, which means Gay could be on the outside looking in.

Gay was part of the strong recruiting class Kahn attempted back in 2010. But before he could board his plane to Minneapolis, the Grizzlies called back and said they’d offer him the max to stay in Memphis. Game over. Now the Grizzlies have their hands tied behind their backs because they have a lot of money invested into just three players, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Gay (Even Mike Conley makes a hefty paycheck). In order to balance out the budget and roster, one of those guys will have to move, and the easiest would have to be Gay.

The Wolves have been pleading for a player of Gay’s caliber ever since Garnett left. Sure, we found one in Love but nothing beats having a versatile and freakishly athletic wing player who can score all over the court. We’ve never had that, unless you count JR Rider.

Again, the price could be steep but with this one you may even need to sweeten the deal that much more because of Gay’s age compared to Gasol. And, just like Gasol that I forgot to mention, Gay is owed a lot of money, $15+ a year for the next four years. That crimps any chance of resigning Pekovic and maybe even Rubio. GASP!

So is it worth it? Probably. You have to look at it in the short term. Could Gay, a fantastic scorer and stout defender, propel the current roster to championship hopes within the next 3-4 years? I think so.

#3: Derrick Williams, #18 and Luke Ridnour to the Indiana Pacers for Danny Granger and Darren Collison

Darren Collison Danny Granger #33 of the Indiana Pacers congratulates Darren Collison #2 after Collison shot a 3-point shot late in the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics on January 6, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Indiana Pacers defeated the Boston Celtics 87-74. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
Danny Granger and Darren Collison

D-Will, and good draft pick and cool-hand Luke all for Granger and Collison? Yup.

Williams, again, is the easiest piece to formulate any sort of trade, and in this one, just like #2, they get back a wing who can score religiously and may be on the fritz with their current squad. Granger, despite posting great numbers for the last six years in Indianapolis, is ready to be moved aside for a younger, bigger, more athletic player in Paul George. And now at 29 years of age, a lot of teams may look to Granger with a sense of caution. But not the Wolves. Not a team so desperate for a scorer at the 2 or 3 positions.

Granger would come into Minny and immediately start at the 3, keeping Wes Johnson at the 2 — Yikes. Just imagine the size of that perimeter, though, Rubio at 6’4″, Johnson at 6’7″ and Granger at 6’8″. Granger possesses all of the tools to get to the basket as well as hit open threes more consistently then our former small forward, Beasley.

Now, I’m sure many of you are wondering why exchange Ridnour for Collison. My answer: Why not? Ridnour would be missed indeed but Collison is a cheaper option as a backup with more defensive capabilities. JJ Barea and Collison may seem redundant but not when it comes to defense, and that’s why it’s worth the switch. It’s just a way to shake things up a little bit but also bring another dynamic to the backcourt at a cheaper price tag.

#4: Derrick Williams, #18, future first rounder and Luke Ridnour to the Sacramento Kings for Tyreke Evans

Tyreke Evans

I’m dreaming now. The others are more than plausible, but this, this right here, probably not. But hear me out because it’s not completely farfetched.

Tyreke Evans, since winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2010, has seen a steady decline in his production. You can blame the injuries but I also have to point out that the Kings just aren’t the team for him; as much as he thinks he’s a point guard, he still needs a true ball-handler at the point to set him up for success. That point guard can be Ricky Rubio, no doubt. Rubio and Evans could form a fearless backcourt, strong enough to hang with any of the West’s guard combos. They would be big, fast and a steamrolling monster on offense with a plethora of ways to score.

The Kings would get a special deal here but they also take a risk. First off, they pair DeMarcus Cousins with a true power forward next to him in Williams and also score with the two first rounders headed their way. But shipping off Evans puts a serious dent in their plans for a true point. Can tiny Isaiah Thomas fill that role? Or even, dare I say, Jimmer Fredette handle the bulk of responsibility at the point?

That’s the art of trades, though. In a league full of intelligent businessmen, you have to sacrifice value to gain value. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

#5: Derrick Williams and #18 to the Golden State Warriors for Klay Thompson and #7

Klay Thompson

Now back to reality. This is arguably the most realistic, fair and probably my favorite deal. It’s not a groundbreaker only getting the sure player in Thompson but he’s a darn good one at that. Thompson would come in and fill that huge need of a sharpshooting guard to pair with Rubio. That duo could combine for 100-plus dimes-to-treys easily, considering how deep Rubio can penetrate the lane and kick the ball out to a likely wide-open Thompson. It could be deadly.

The sweetener in this deal is obviously the draft pick coming back from the Warriors. I believe it’s possible they move out because Williams was the second overall pick last summer and Thompson was taken at 11. To balance out the trade, the two squads exchange draft picks and both teams go home happy. The Wolves move up for a chance to improve their front court and the Warriors move back to 18 in a very good draft from picks 1 thru 20.

Now I just want to finish with this disclosure: None of these trades are actual rumors at the moment. Some were formed off of rumors and that’s it. The likelihood any of these happen are about as likely as David Kahn reading this himself and writing me a letter thanking me for my recommendations.

Instant Impact, Part I: Free Agency

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This is a three-part series detailing the three mediums through which the Wolves can improve their roster: Free agency, trades and the draft; and who they could possibly target via those outlets.

The Wolves made distant and visible strides last season that even some of the harshest critics took notice to. It mostly came from within the organization (i.e. the dominance of Kevin Love, the sudden emergence of Nikola Pekovic, etc.) but also from abroad (Ricky Rubio’s contributions were imperative to the first half of the season’s hot run).

Looking at those under contract for next year, there are still plenty of names that will be able to provide immediate help in hopes of solidifying a starting lineup and bench platoon capable of making the playoffs. But the challenge to any GM in the NBA — or any sport, for that matter — is to find personnel outside of the current roster that can come in and not only help the team but gel seamlessly with the guys already in place. After all, there’s nothing worse than bringing in a new guy who only ends up being a locker room nuisance.

Because there are multiple outlets to acquire that complementary piece — or even pieces, if you’re feeling lucky — I’m going to lay out a three-part series highlighting specific players that can provide instant help in next year’s quest. I will divide the players into the three categories by which the Wolves can obtain them: Free agency, trades and the draft.

Let’s kick it off with free agency. Since Kahn’s reign began back in 2009, his work in the free agent market has been sub-par to say the least. He has nothing really to hang his hat on. Instead he has two backup point guards signed to identical four year, $16 million contracts. It’s not to say he hasn’t tried, though. Back in 2010, Kahn looked to make a big splash by talking to marquee names on the market such as Rudy Gay and David Lee. Unfortunately, Gay cancelled his flight after the Grizzlies said they’d give him a max deal, and Lee seemed close to signing after Kahn dined and wined him but — luckily — ended up in Golden State.

It’s obvious Kahn was searching for that big name to headline a desperate team back in 2010. But with two of the NBA’s brightest up and coming stars in Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, there needs to be a drastic change in the approach towards free agency this summer. Instead of a headliner, the Wolves need supporters. Well, they’re in luck because the crop of free agents is slim on big names but bountiful with players ready to come in and simply contribute even in a lesser role. Watching the NBA Playoffs, I found it’s imperative that a championship team have at least 2-3 of those role guys on a team, unless you’re the Miami Heat, of course. But the OKC Thunder are chock-full of those guys. Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison, Derek Fisher. See, told ya.

These guys are just as important to team success as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are. Because of that, it will be Kahn’s duty to find these gems within the passel of 2012 free agents. Now, the Wolves will have just enough money to pursue one, maybe two, tier 2 and tier 3 free agents (Roughly $12 million if they decline options on Beasley and Webster, as well as other easy moves). But there are two issues that come from leaning on free agency: 1) The money, and; 2) The commitment. I didn’t lie saying the Wolves will have some cash to spend but it’s not plentiful by any means. And tying that money up in to a long-term deal would hinder the ability to sign someone in 2013 — James Harden, anyone? — or extending a deal for a current player like Pekovic.

Having said that, here are three mid-level targets that I think the Wolves could/should go after during free agency in hopes of filling out the roster with the most flexibility possible for next season.

#1: Courtney Lee:

Courtney Lee and Kobe Bryant - Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers
Courtney Lee

Rumor has it that Kevin Martin may be on the Wolves’ radar. He’s familiar with Rick Adelman and his system; he’s a solid offensive player with all the tools the Wolves lacked from that position last season (Ability to take it to the hoop, hit open threes and get to the foul line). But Martin’s glaring weakness is on defense, which certainly doesn’t bode well for the Wolves, and his enormous contract is quite the burden.

Well, since Martin won’t help in that area, why not go for the other shooting guard in Houston? Lee has been a bit of a journeyman in his NBA career thus far but he’s awfully young still. At just 26, Lee has already played for three different organizations in four seasons. At every stop, he’s played up to par, averaging 10 ppg for his career, and a serviceable 44-percent shooting percentage. Clearly, Lee’s not going to light up the board but he is capable of hitting timely shots and going for 20+ on special nights.

Diving deeper into Lee’s body of work, in the month of April last season, Lee actually averaged 14 ppg and even hit nearly 43-percent of his three-pointers. Because of that last month, Lee may have improved his stock just enough to score an extra few million dollars on his next deal.

But as I said, Lee’s specialty is his defense, which the Wolves so desperately need. Lee immediately fits in with the Wolves because of his defensive prowess but his spot-up scoring and athleticism doesn’t hurt. Playing alongside Rubio would only give him more open looks from deep. All things considered, Lee would easily step in and be the starter alongside Rubio in the backcourt from day 1. Or at least he should.

The skinny on Lee, he’s a restricted free agent this summer, meaning any offer a team gives him, the Rockets have a chance to match that offer and retain his rights at that price. When it comes to restricted free agents, the trick is to offer just enough so that the former team doesn’t match but not too high to where you lose value in terms of price. Lee could be had at a low-medium offer, say $5-6 million a year because the Rockets still owe Martin a lot of money, which gives the Wolves a great shot at him.

O.J. Mayo

#2: O.J. Mayo:

Remember back when Mayo was a T-Wolf? Can’t say that trade for Love didn’t work out for the best, but what would you say to having both Mayo and Love on the same team? Well, it could happen.

Just like Lee, Mayo is a restricted free agent, but rumor has it that the Grizzlies are interested in retaining his services, which only means more money for the Wolves. Is it worth it?

Mayo didn’t transform into the Kobe-lite player many thought he could’ve been from his high school days. But that’s no matter because he’s still made a decent living in Memphis. His role has drastically changed, from star (pre-draft) to starter to sixth man, and he’s been very professional through each step, which has to say something about his maturity. Mayo, although many of you won’t agree, is best-suited in that sixth man role, especially for the Wolves. Allow me to explain. Take the OKC Thunder (I use them a lot because, hell, what a great franchise). They have one of the best shooting guards in the league in James Harden. He’s not perfect at any one aspect on the court, rather he’s above-average across the board; the true do-it-all player. The Thunder have dubbed Harden their sixth man for strategic purposes; once Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are ready for a breather, Harden comes in fresh, ready to tear up the opposing team’s bench players (Because they probably switched out their starters around the same time too).

Mayo can play that role for the Wolves, like Michael Beasley did last season. Everyone needs a scoring punch off the bench. And whether Mayo is starting or not shouldn’t matter because he’d likely be on the court to end the game and potentially hit that clutch shot. That’s what Mayo would be brought in to do. He’s a scoring savant in need of a change of scenery, not necessarily a change in his role but scenery for sure.

#3: Anthony Tolliver:

Anthony Tolliver

Hey, I never said that player has to come from another team. Tolliver is an unrestricted free agent this summer. All signs point to the Wolves retaining his services but just to make sure, I’m throwing him on this list.

I see Tolliver playing a Collison-like role on a championship team. He’s just a great all-around guy, who’s guarantees 110-percent of his effort every night. Tolliver is a top-notch hustle defender capable of defending guards and forwards alike. He’s so versatile and does exactly what’s asked of him to the best of his ability. Because he’s still young, mistakes happen and Tolliver saw his fair share last season as well as inconsistency on the offensive end but nothing alarming enough to ship him off.

Tolliver can resign for the Wolves for cheap, maybe another two year, $4 million deal, which gives the Wolves money to play with in other free agency plans. That’s why resigning Tolliver is a no-brainer as well as a must. It really can’t hurt.

Predicting Pick #18

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The draft is very special to NBA fans, especially Wolves fans. Even without a lottery pick, the hype is still brewing and the conversations keep flowing. This is a guest piece from Nick Bullock, an experienced sports journalism guru. Like I said, the draft is so special that it needs a special guest. Call Nick our Draft Pundit, and this won’t be his last piece.

When I was asked to share my thoughts on whom the Timberwolves would draft this year, I realized I would first have to take my best guess at all 17 preceding picks.

I know which player I hope the Wolves draft. I have a hunch which player David KAAAHN would land in a perfect world — or at least in his world. And, of course, we all know who will be the No. 1 pick. But I hadn’t thought much about picks No. 2–17.

First, as an aside: I am not Jonathan Givony, Chad Ford or Jerry Zgoda. I have not attended the NBA draft combine. I do not have any scouts on speed dial. All of these picks are based merely on what I have seen from each player. The picks represent what I think each team will do, not what each team should do. Finally, I will not offer an explanation for picks No. 1–17 because this is, after all, a Timberwolves blog.

To the mock draft:

  1. Hornets – Anthony Davis, PF
  2. Bobcats – Bradley Beal, SG
  3. Wizards – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF
  4. Cavaliers – Harrison Barnes, SF
  5. Kings – Thomas Robinson, PF
  6. Trailblazers – Damian Lillard, PG
  7. Warriors – Andre Drummond, C
  8. Raptors – Dion Waiters, SG
  9. Pistons – Meyers Leonard, C
  10. Hornets – Kendall Marshall, PG
  11. Trailblazers – Jeremy Lamb, SG
  12. Bucks – Tyler Zeller, C
  13. Suns – Austin Rivers, SG
  14. Rockets – Jared Sullinger, PF
  15. 76ers – Perry Jones III, PF
  16. Rockets – Arnett Moultrie, PF/C
  17. Mavericks – Terrence Ross, SG

Here we are. And here is what we know:

  • Minnesota desperately needs perimeter scoring.
  • Luke Ridnour is a point guard, not a two-guard, even though he played the position admirably.
  • There is no SG or SF in KAAAHN’s mind; both are simply “wings.”
  • Despite Pek’s quantum leap forward in his second year, KAAAHN still seeks a shot blocking big.
  • Rick Adelman was openly reluctant to do so, but he still gave Derrick Williams 21 percent of the team’s minutes at the three, according to Williams can be considered nothing but an abject failure at the position so far, though I hold out hope that a slimmer Williams may be able to defend the position. Adelman probably lacks such faith.

All of this leads me to think the pick will end up being Quincy Miller, former Baylor small forward. I also have a nagging fear that KAAAHN likes former St. John’s small forward Moe Harkless at this spot.

But let’s focus on Miller. Like his teammate Perry Jones III, Miller never quite lived up to the hype his freshman year at Baylor. He averaged 10.6 points and 4.9 rebounds in 24.4 minutes per game. He shot 44.7 percent from the field, 34.8 percent from three and 81.6 percent from the line. The 6-foot-9 forward does not appear to be the most explosive athlete, but perhaps this was because he was still recovering from an ACL tear suffered during his senior year of high school.

Miller has a game that leaves you wanting more. He has a pretty good handle for a small forward — something Wolves fans long for after watching Wes Johnson turn the ball over on his every foray into the paint.

Despite a low and slow release, he possesses a relatively accurate jump shot and should be able to hit the NBA three after a year or two. The poor release may not be a huge issue because Miller is quite tall for a small forward.

Miller was able to get his own shot with relative ease at the college level, but because of his lack of explosiveness and average jump shot, I have my doubts as to whether that will translate. He also tends to rely on a bit too much on his pull-up jump shot. It often went in because of his height advantage, but that won’t necessarily be the case in the pros. He also overused a pretty looking drop step that he followed with an up-and-under move to his left, which he shot with his right hand. By the end of the season, defenders keyed on the move, staying home on the second move and forcing him to shoot a contested fade away. Again, he often made it, but he’d be better off using that move to post up smaller forwards and draw them in the air, instead of picking up his dribble off the drive.

Nevertheless, he has the makings of a decent offensive arsenal and should be able to score consistently at the next level. Defending opposing small forwards may be another matter.

Because of his skinny frame he was routinely pushed off the defensive boards while at Baylor. His impressive length (his 9-foot-1 standing reach was fifth-tallest at the combine) will help on the defensive end, but his middling foot speed will likely prevent him from every being more than merely average. Although there is a possibility that could also improve as he distances himself from the ACL surgery.

This is an imperfect comparison, but the way he moves with the ball reminds me of a poor man’s (a very poor man’s) Kevin Durant.

Perhaps, I have been a bit too harsh. I do think Miller could be a third scoring option on a winning team, and a definite improvement at the small forward position for these Timberwolves. In fact, if the draft plays out just as I projected above — doubtful, I realize — this is the pick I would make, not just the pick I expect the Wolves to make.

Most draftniks seem to think KAAAHN would still prefer to move this pick, perhaps packaged with Williams, to bring in a veteran wing. This is the same old song and dance as years past, so I remain skeptical the pick will be moved.

As for the player I think KAAAHN hopes will fall and the player I hope will fall? Well, let’s just save those for a future post.

Kevin Love named to All-NBA Second Team

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Kevin Love was named to the All-NBA Second Team

Today the NBA announced its All-NBA teams, and, needless to say, Kevin Love was elected to team numero dos. Now, honestly, this honor means next-to-nothing except that Love must’ve had a very good season to the oblivious simpleton, and his accomplishments didn’t go unnoticed by the NBA. But if these “teams” were legitimately concocted to honor the league’s best at their respected position, then I believe our very own K-Love should be shining alongside four others on the All-NBA First Team. Sure, a team of Kevin Durant and Lebron James playing the two forward slots is too good to be true but you can’t mean to tell me that either can play substantial minutes at the power forward position.

It’s no big deal but I guess it’s worth congratulating him for. He had one hell of a season, one certainly to remember, and, hopefully, it’ll only get better from here on out. Congrats, Kevin.