Category: Offseason News

Kevin Love stars in new SportsCenter Ad

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We know Kevin Love has been very marketable in the past in his past spots in Pepsi’s Uncle Drew  and Yahoo! Sports’ Fantasy Sports ads, but he has done it again. This time, he’s the in-studio barista for the SportsCenter anchors with his own signature drink: a Double-Double espresso. And you see the effects of Love’s concoction when the anchors take the air.

Here is Uncle Drew and here is the Yahoo! spot, in case you missed them.

(Also, Happy Birthday to Ricky Rubio today!)

Timberwolves Media Day: “It’s a New Season”

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If there was one common theme among Timberwolves players at media day it was that this was a new season. The injuries, the missed games and consequential losses are things that the team is looking to put behind them as they move towards the coming season. In fact, most players brushed back most questions regarding the injuries with the same dismissive answers that make you wonder if they got together and planned out their answers. That’s alright. With so much promise to this coming season the Timberwolves have little reason to look back.

Even when pressed about what they thought of injuries already rearing their ugly head as it has with Chase Budinger, the player’s expressed sympathy for their teammate, but were far from dejected. Where some fans have already begun with the “Here we go again…” diatribe, the Timberwolves reminded us that injuries are a part of professional sports and that players will miss some games. In short, they’re not paranoid, and they’re not checking underneath their beds for the Injury Boogeyman every night.

Kevin Love, who arguably endured the most trying season of all last season, was perhaps the fastest to close the door on any questions concerning last season. When pressed about his relationship with former general manager David Kahn and Flip Saunders, Love just said that “The past is the past,” and went on to praise the job that Saunders has done so far. When asked if he had a message for fans for this coming season he just said that it was a new season– a sentiment many of his teammates also wished to stress to their fans.

Love and the Timberwolves know that how far they go will be dependent in part to the growth of their All-Star power forward. Rick Adelman said that he wanted to see Love expand his game to becoming more of a facilitator and more of a factor on defense. This wasn’t Adelman calling Love out, either. Love said he knew what his coach was talking about and added that he knew that he wanted him to setup a few more plays for teammates (Love called his approach to passing as able, but not always willing.) and — along with his teammates — work to improve as defenders. J.J. Barea added in his availability that Love’s leadership will be a big determinant of their success will also be Love’s growth as a leader and that it has to be him to step in to that role.

Adelman himself said that he is looking forward to having Kevin Martin in the fold, who has he coached during much of the guard’s career. Interestingly enough, Adelman said that Martin came to him last season asking when they were going to reunite. Adelman believed this to be indicative of how much Martin believes in his system and said that now that he has the personnel, he is looking forward to adding more Motion sets to their predominantly Pick ‘n Roll attack from a year ago in hopes of being able make their attack more dynamic.

Additionally, the team addressed concerns over their ability to get defensive stops by saying they expect their to be  a great focus in camp on team defense, not just individual defense. Much of that will be helped by communicating and playing together over time, or as some people may call it: chemistry. Despite their improved offense, the team is aware of their flaws on defense, but it’s encouraging that they appear to be on the same page about how to limit the damage on that end of the court.

If anything, there was a sense of excitement; not just over the new acquisitions or having a new decision maker at the helm, but over the return of last year’s injured players and finally getting an extended look at their three best players on the floor together. Also, you cannot understate the morale boost that Rick Adelman’s return to the bench gave the players. With their best players and one of the game’s best coaches in hand, the Timberwolves have all of the reasons in the world to look at the road ahead.

Weight Watchers

Of course, you can’t talk about the Timberwolves without talking about the weight of their players. Even I fell victim to this trap on Twitter when Love came up to the microphone with his face noticeably slimmed down in what appears to be the best shape of his career. Derrick Williams was also one of the offseason’s biggest losers, having dropped from 250 pounds to 235 pounds with the idea to be better-suited to play the small forward position in a  stacked power forward rotation. Yet, the funniest moment regarding player weight questions was when Shabazz Muhammad and Barea were on the stage together when Muhammad was asked about his weight and Barea turned his head and laughed.

It’s the offseason, JJ. We know it’s not important, but we are out of things to talk about at this point!

Way Too Early, Super-Tentative Opening Night Starting Lineup

This was one thing that Adelman let out that gave us a better idea of where the Timberwolves are headed in the wake of Budinger potentially missing extended time. Adelman said that the guards will probably be Ricky Rubio and Martin; Pekovic and Love at the four and five; but then finished off by saying “probably Corey at the three.” If Budinger winds up missing camp and/or preseason it might make sense to have Brewer start the season as the starting small forward to ease Budinger back into things.

So here is the way too early, super-tentative opening night starting lineup for the Timberwolves:

PG: Ricky Rubio (Duh.)

SG: Kevin Martin (Kinda duh now with Budinger possibly out.)

SF: Corey Brewer (Wasn’t so duh a week ago.)

PF: Kevin Love (Duh)

C: Nikola Pekovic (Duh.)

Ronny Turiaf is the Man (And You Won’t Convince Me Otherwise) 

Seriously. He’s my new favorite player and he hasn’t even played a minute of basketball for the Timberwolves.

Perhaps the best moment was when him and Derrick Williams were supposed to hold their press conferences jointly and Derrick was late, so we proceeded without him. Mid-question, Turiaf notices Derrick standing off to the side and tells him to join us. Derrick says he wanted to make sure he wasn’t interrupting, which is funny because this exchange probably interrupted things more than it would have if he just pulled up a chair next to him.

Turiaf and Williams went on fielding questions from the media for another seven minutes or so. Derrick had the same jaw surgery that Kevin Love had awhile back with the same doctor that corrected his bite and said that he was feeling great because it helped his breathing. Turiaf, was not only an entertaining interview, but also mentioned that he’s made money so he’s only here to make something special happen, which was cool.

As they were getting up to leave, Williams before Turiaf, Ronny calls out, “Thanks for joining us, Derrick!” You might’ve had to be there, but it was perfectly timed.

Rick Adelman will officially return to the Minnesota Timberwolves next season

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Rick Adelman will return for his third season at the helm for Minnesota.

After last season, in which Minnesota watched key contributor after key contributor go down with serious injury after serious injury, it would be understandable — if unexpected — if Rick Adelman decided to hang up his coaching clipboard.

But according to Star Tribune reporter Sid Hartman, Wolves owner Glen Taylor confirmed that Adelman will once again glower at his team on the sidelines this season.

There never has been much doubt about Rick Adelman returning as Timberwolves coach, but it wasn’t for sure until he brought his coaching staff out to his home in Portland, Ore., last week and laid out the plans for this season.

Wolves owner Glen Taylor confirmed Adelman’s return Sunday. “Yes, he did [say he’s coming back],” Taylor said.

Adelman’s return, while not a surprise, was somewhat in doubt. After two disappointing season (due to injury, to be sure, but disappointing nonetheless) combined with his wife’s health problems last year, retiring — at the very least — had to be on the radar for him.

That said, it’s hard to imagine that he would pass on the opportunity to coach Minnesota’s much-improved roster, with talented 3-point shooting being added in Kevin Martin and returning in Chase Budinger, as well as the newly long-term inked Nikola Pekovic. The offensive potential for this team is extremely high, and Adelman is known as a coach who can bring out the best in his offenses. There is a lot for him here, and he is certainly smart enough to realize that.

Adelman is an extremely talented coach, and it seemed unlikely (and unfitting) that he would leave the NBA after a losing season. How the Wolves perform this year, and how the injured ranks hold up, may determine whether or not he sticks around for a fourth season, but it’s definitely good news hearing that he plans to return for 2013-14. Be sure to visit NBABettingPredictions for all your betting desires.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

Nikola Pekovic receives five years, $60 million from Minnesota

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We are a little late pulling the trigger on this story, so by now you probably know that the Wolves agreed to terms Wednesday with big man Nikola Pekovic on a hefty new contract that will keep him in Minnesota for the foreseeable future.

It will be easier to defend this deal as the season stretches on, especially if Pek can stay healthy. For two consecutive years, Pekovic has averaged over 18 points and 10 rebounds per 36 minutes (and over 25 minutes per game, importantly). He is big, strong and talented. He moves well out of the pick and roll, diving to the hoop and setting enormous screens. He has great touch around the basket and solid footwork. Perhaps most importantly, he has super badass tattoos. We know all this about Pekovic, and all of these things are reasons to celebrate his signing. Long live the Nikola Pekovic era.

In a league where JaVale McGee makes $11.25 million in 2013-14, agreeing to $12 million for a player like Pekovic is not bad at all. In fact, it’s a really solid contract, especially since Pek’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, also represents Kevin Love. Wolves fans are fretting about keeping Love happy, so re-signing a talented center represented by Love’s agent is probably a really good place to start rebuilding the bridges David Kahn blew sky-high during Love’s last contract negotiations.

So the deal is solid. That leaves us with the biggest question: How good is Minnesota’s core?

How good is Minnesota’s core?

Let’s assume for a second that, for the next five years, the Wolves will go to war with Love, Ricky Rubio and Pekovic. This is far from a certainty, but it’s a decent bet given that A) David Kahn is gone, placating Love to a certain extent B) players in Rubio’s situation almost always take the extension on their rookie deal to get guaranteed money and C) If Pek’s contract DOES turn out to be bad, good luck moving that thing.

Where does that put Minnesota? It’s hard to tell.

That uncertainty is the only reason I’m not elated about this deal. If we compare Minnesota’s model of talent gathering to Oklahoma City’s, there are similarities. A supremely talented superstar is paired with a uniquely talented point guard and joined by a talented-but-somewhat-flawed big man. All of the players are young and the team hits a rough patch at first, but as they grow together, they have the potential to be a dangerous team.

The problem for me is that after several injury-plagued years, we just aren’t certain what we have with Minnesota. When Oklahoma City went about signing their star players to longterm deals, the Thunder had a much better idea of what they could expect over the next five years. Durant had led the Thunder to the playoffs. The team was clearly on the rise. There were very few question marks.

You could argue the Wolves have had awful injury luck and, of course, you’d be correct. Losing Rubio in his rookie year was unkind. Losing Love for much of last year was equally so. But unfair or not, the absence of both players has created a lack of certainty that this particular team has the requisite talent to make a deep playoff run eventually, at least not a level of certainty like the one that surrounded Oklahoma City.

Again, this argument isn’t entirely fair. Kevin Durant isn’t just a superstar, he’s a once-in-a-generation superstar. Whatever team employs him during his prime is automatically a title contender. Pair him with Westbrook, and a team’s fortunes are inevitably good. The Wolves don’t have the luxury of having a once-in-a-generation talent. Instead, they have Kevin Love (clearly a star, but equally clearly not Durant) and a lot of unknowns.

Banking on those unknowns was a good decision. It was time to lock up the next few years and build around a core, and that’s what the Wolves began to do by giving Pek a big pay raise. It was strong action that showed direction and solid decision making. Every franchise needs a direction, and Minnesota has settled on one. After years of David Kahn waffling both in the draft and in the offseason, having a direction is refreshing.

But whether or not Minnesota’s newly locked-up core proves to be the core of a deep playoff team remains to be seen. And with over $32 million tied up between three players over the next two years before Rubio has received his extension, that uncertainty is nerve-wracking.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

There’s a Time and Place for Everything: This Was Neither

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You’ve probably heard by now that Timberwolves rookie Shabazz Muhammad was kicked out of the NBA’s rookie program for having a female visitor, as we’ll word it. Which I suppose is relieving to know that it’s not drugs or anything, but it’s still not allowed, and still gets you kicked out. For someone who has been as scrutinized as Shabazz has the last year or so, this was exactly the type of thing that he didn’t need.

It’s not that he had a woman in his room; he is a 20 year old, after all. It’s the fact that he broke a pretty simple rule to understand. I think the other ones are no drugs, no weapons, no fighting or leaving the toilet seat up. Okay, I might have made that last one up…

To his skeptics this is exactly what they were waiting for– Muhammad to do something that could be taken as a distraction. To those following the team, this is a welcome break in a relatively unexciting offseason (Kidding!) And for those who supported Muhammad and believed he had wised up, they’re frustrated.

From everything that I’ve read and watched on Muhammad, he’s not a bad person by any means. In a lot of ways he’s undergoing the same growth that all of is did at that age just on a much bigger platform where each indiscretion is amplified one hundred fold. But still, he broke a simple rule that wouldn’t be a big deal if he literally did it anywhere else but here. Lesson learned: even the small rules are important.

This is one of those things that doesn’t feel like a big deal, but is a big enough deal to be talking about. I mean, was it really worth the likely-inevitable fine coming and having to answer these questions up until training camp starts? Couldn’t you just wait? (Well, maybe not. I guess I don’t really know.) This is one of those things they talk about staying out of your own way since this is entirely preventable.

One way or the other Shabazz got an idea how the NBA works whether or not he stayed for the entire program. Which I think is actually a pretty clever dual, either way, lesson for the NBA to pass on to incoming players.

Shabazz gets booted from NBA Rookie Symposium

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Muhammad the chick magnet

I’m a little late to the party here but the news is certainly worth mentioning.


Minnesota Timberwolves guard Shabazz Muhammad has been sent home from the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program, the team confirmed Wednesday.

USA Today reported Muhammad was dismissed for violating a rule by bringing a female guest into his hotel room. Muhammad also will be fined, according to the report.

“We have been made aware of the circumstances surrounding Shabazz Muhammad’s dismissal from the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program in New Jersey,” Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said. “The team fully supports the NBA’s rules and policies in all matters pertaining to this situation, and we will abide by the league’s action.”

The four-day program, held in Florham Park, N.J., helps rookies get anointed into the league through a series of seminars, instructions and guest speakers. Nearly 50 rookies or players are participating in the program, which ends Friday.

The report stated that just hours before Muhammad was sent home, players were given rules for the program, which included no guests unless approved by administrators.

That’s just downright hilarious. I mean, I understand the seriousness in the situation, like the fact that this symposium could very well help dictate a young professional’s life, such as Muhammad’s. But as an occasionally inappropriate, immature 20-something myself, I completely understand. Plus, wasn’t he just filling his manly desires to spend a nice, quiet evening in the company of a woman?

Hopefully this isn’t a glimpse into what could be a massive headache for Rick Adelman, Flip Saunders and company, though. Muhammad is known to have attitude issues despite his “gym rat” mentality. He’s the kind of privileged player that will take instances like this for granted and neglect to correct the behavior. Or perhaps he’ll be so embarrassed by the whole fiasco, he’ll take the time to realize his mistake and only work harder to cover up the blemish this will leave heading into his rookie season.

We’ll have to wait and see if this has any short-term effects on his standing as a teammate and future asset to this franchise, but for now, this is just pretty much comical. Well, at least for me it is.

What’s Happening in Vegas: Miami Heat-Timberwolves Preview

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All right, Timberwolves fans. Today is the day you’ve been waiting for. Yes, finally, today is the day that you can watch your favorite team on NBA TV at 3pm CST as they take on the Miami Heat (3-2). Like the Timberwolves, the Heat are coming off of a close loss on Sunday night to the Hawks. However, they’re not the ones coming off of a back-to-back– that’s the Timberwolves.

As for names to watch on the Heat Myck Kabongo was a draft pick in last month’s draft. You may also recognize forward Jarvis Varnando from such things as garbage time. Other than that, Anthony Marshall has played well at times, too.

The Timberwolves will be hoping to see Shabazz Muhammad strike that perfect balance between attacker and facilitator. Gorgui Dieng will look to have a better game than he did yesterday and it would be nice to see Chris Johnson utilized in ways that get him more involved in the offense. Demetri McCamey played well, which was fun, but the Timberwolves will be looking to see more from Lorenzo Brown and Brandon Paul continue to make their case to hang around.

You cannot forget about Robbie Hummel, either. He’s been by far the team’s most steady and productive player this summer league season, and you would love to see him continue to succeed in the hopes of hanging around with the Timberwolves next season.

Well it’s almost that time: time to get ready to head down to COX Pavilion to get ready for today’s tilt. Be sure to follow the @howlintwolf account or my account (@DerekJamesNBA) on Twitter as I’ll be live-tweeting from media row.

Rumor: Timberwolves Eyeing Corey Brewer…Again?

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While the team addressed their need of perimeter shooting, they incidentally compromised the integrity of the perimeter defense. At least if you’re going to do so you should have constructed an offense capable of running anyone out of the building on a given night, which the Timberwolves may have probably done. However, while the team may be more and more unlikely to retain Andrei Kirilenko, there may be another option available who you may just recognize.



Yes, Corey Brewer. That Corey Brewer.

Brewer would actually be a far better fit than he was during his initial stint with the team. Then he was asked to be a consistent contributor offensively which is just not who he is as a player. Now, he’d be responsible for bringing energy and playing good defense as the team needs, which he is capable of doing; any offense he contributes would only be a bonus.

When he hasn’t been asked to do too much — like he was at the start of his career with his Timberwolves — he has been a valuable rotation player in Dallas and in Denver. And in Minnesota he could reprise a similar role and solidify the Timberwolves’ chances at the postseason.

The fact that Brewer has hung around so long might mean that the Timberwolves could get him at a bit of a discount since the small forward/shooting guard market has shrunk considerably since the beginning of free agency. Meaning the team could save some a few slivers of cap space in case they need to later on. This would also make it highly unlikely Kirilenko is gone, but Brewer would be younger and cheaper than AK47.

So, this may be nothing concrete yet, but it’s certainly an interesting idea and one that could prove to be a very good one for the Timberwolves.

Timberwolves Eyeying Matt Barnes?

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Now that the Timberwolves have seeming addressed their shooting issue by retaining Chase Budinger and bringing Kevin Martin into the fold, the team will look to round out their bench. Without much more than a few million in cap space remaining, any help the team will be seeking will have to be of the bargain kind. One of those names that’s out there and was mentioned by ESPN 1500′s Darren Wolfson was Clippers free agent Matt Barnes.

Barnes is one of those players that manages to sneak under the radar despite being a valuable rotation player just about every season. Despite playing for eight teams in ten seasons, he is a career .451/.331/.730 shooter who has never made more than $3 million in one season, so he would likely be affordable as well. Additionally, it will help that he has had very little in the way of an injury history and is still capable of being a 20-25 minute per game player if it came down to that.

According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles, the Clippers would be hard-pressed to bring in free agent Carl Landry and retain Barnes, giving the Wolves somewhat of an advantage. It’s not as if Barnes would command much of a raise from his ’13 salary of $1.2 million since he took a $7 million dollar paycut from 2012, so it’s not as if there would be some major bidding war here, and the Timberwolves would be able to save some space.

Should the Timberwolves go further into talks with Barnes and ink a deal, this is rough idea of what the roster would look like, not necessarily in any particular order:

C: Nikola Pekovic/Gorgui Dieng/Chris Johnson

PF: Kevin Love/ Dante Cunningham/Derrick Williams

SF: Chase Budinger/Derrick Williams/Matt Barnes/Shabazz Muhammad

SG: Kevin Martin/Shabazz Muhammad/Alexey Shved

PG: Ricky Rubio/Luke Ridnour/J.J. Barea/Alexey Shved

Of course, a lot of this could change and several players are likely interchangeable from position-to-position, but this is a seemingly deep team, especially if Muhammad can contribute even semi-consistently. As for Barnes, he would be able to perform in a similar role in Minnesota with Rubio as he did in Los Angeles with Chris Paul by getting open and waiting for the pass. In fact, Barnes shot .345 percent from three and was assisted on those .941 percent of the time, so he won’t try to do too much.



In particular you can see Barnes shot very well from the left side of the floor from beyond the arc and was an effective midrange shooter within the arc from the right side. If players like Martin (Click the link, DO IT), Budinger, and Muhammad are effective from range, Barnes’ efficiency will be just that much more valuable. Really, it would only diversify what should already be a  pretty potent offense if they were to bring Barnes on.

More than that Barnes is a decent rebounder for his position with an average Usage Rate and also doesn’t commit too many turnovers. At a salary around what he made last and on a short-term deal Barnes could really be a terrific fit for what the Timberwolves are trying to do as they work to finalize the roster before next season. I also decided that Matt Barnes is the hill I’d rather die on, instead of Nick Young.

Timberwolves re-sign Chase Budinger, sign Kevin Martin

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Will Kevin Martin help the Wolves end their playoff drought?

Yesterday, the inestimable Henry Abbott wrote a must-read piece on 3-point shooting and what the NBA Finals taught us about the importance of treys in the league. Although he never mentioned Minnesota by name, his findings are a good indicator as to why the Wolves struggled last year.

NBA coaches have long been far too timid with 3s — merely attempting more has long predicted winning more games, thinking which is only slowly catching on. 3-point shooting has long been seen as a condiment, a little something to sprinkle onto your time-tested offensive diet.

When your opponent packs the paint like the Spurs did, 3s quickly become even more important. They go from being condiments to survival food. Either you can get the defensive players scrambling far from the hoop to close out shooters or you cannot. Either you can punish opposing coaches for playing two plodding 7-footers (by making them run out to cover someone far from the hoop) or you cannot. Either you can efficiently turn possessions into points even without layups, or you cannot.

If you cannot do those things, you’re basically done.

There’s no denying that the Wolves were done last year. Minnesota shot .305 from 3-point range, good for 30th in the NBA and well below the range in which the 3-pointer is a good, efficient shot. Opposing teams adjusted accordingly, and before long, the Wolves were trapped within themselves: Unable to space the floor with shooters and as a result, equally unable to create efficient shots.

Minnesota’s two most recent signings are indicators that the Wolves were well aware of their struggles and are now intent on fixing them. Chase Budinger will return to Minnesota — hopefully free of any lingering effects from his torn MCL suffered last November — while Kevin Martin will join the backcourt and, essentially by default, will almost certainly take over the starting shooting guard role. Here’s the breakdown on their contracts:

  • Chase Budinger: 3 years, $16 million
  • Kevin Martin: 4 years, $28 million

As has been pointed out elsewhere, this brings Minnesota to within $4 million of the salary cap which essentially precludes Andrei Kirilenko’s return. This has been cause for quite a bit hand-wringing around the internet, as most people are less than thrilled that Minnesota went from a middle-of-the-pack defensive team to a lower-end defensive team with the two signings. Everything Minnesota has done over the past couple of years has been geared toward one thing: Keeping Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio on the team long-term. Will being a contender for the eighth seed in the playoffs be enough to keep Love interested?

It’s impossible to say for sure, but unlike a lot of commentators around the internet, I like these deals. Consider:

  • Minnesota’s starting five is likely now Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger (OR SHABAZZ MUHAMMAD!! BELIEVE THE HYPE!!!), Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic. That’s two steady 3-point shooters (don’t forget: Budinger shot 48% from the corners in his last season in Houston), an enormous presence in the post and the high pick-and-roll, a magical unicorn point guard and an all-world power forward. Minnesota’s offense will be undeniably explosive.
  • Defense, individually, will be a problem. But an NBA defense should never be built around individuals. The best defenses are team exercises (and don’t forget: Minnesota’s coach once fashioned the league’s fourth best defense with a roster that prominently featured Mike Bibby and Peja Stojakovic). Minnesota, of course, won’t be as good at defense as Miami — a team with elite athletes and an excellent Xs and Os coach — but they might be middle-of-the-pack, and a middle-of-the-pack defense might do the trick with a high-powered offensive roster like Minnesota’s.

There are a lot of directions the Wolves could go from here in the offseason, but they don’t have a lot of cap room left. Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea are both movable players who could play nice roles on other teams. Derrick Williams might be enough to entice a rebuilding GM (and it’s worth noting that there are going to be a LOT of teams in the Tank-for-Wiggins sweepstakes who might be interested in a player with a lot of upside like Williams who also won’t conveniently win you any games). And, of course, there’s the ever-present problem of Nikola Pekovic’s looming restricted free agency.

But whatever happens next, signing Martin and re-signing Budinger addressed Minnesota’s biggest need and, perhaps, fixed the Wolves’ offensive spacing problems. For my money, we should view this as a good thing.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.