2011 NBA Offseason: Minnesota Timberwolves

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Minnesota Timberwolves (Last Year: 15-67)

2011 NBA Draft Team Grade:

Minnesota made the right selection in picking Derrick Williams second overall, but it will not fully make sense until Michael Beasely and/or Anthony Randolph are traded so minutes can open up for Williams. After that, David Kahn was very David Kahn-like, making six draft day trades and moving out of the first round from the 20th pick to add even more selections for the future. Malcolm Lee is a solid value at No. 43 and could stick on the roster due to his defense. The Tanguy Ngombo pick is worthless as reports say he is 27 years old and will never play in the NBA. (Team Grade: Meh)

Live 2011 NBA Draft Grades:

2. Derrick Williams, SF, Arizona
I love Derrick Williams but don’t love him on Minnesota quite yet. If David Kahn can deal Michael Beasley or Anthony Randolph for an asset, and open up some playing time for Williams, I will like this pick a lot more. Regardless, the Timberwolves HAD to take Williams. (Pick Grade: Makes sense)

20. Donatas Motiejunas, F, Lithuania (TRADED TO HOUSTON)
“The only way this pick makes sense is if Motiejunas gets dealt. Otherwise it just adds to the already clogged frontcourt in Minnesota.” That is what I wrote before finding out Motiejunas is being dealt with Jonny Flynn to Houston for Brad Miller, No. 23, and a future first-round pick. The deal makes sense since it could give Minnesota a 2012 first-rounder that they don’t have, plus you know Flynn was getting dealt at some point with Ricky Rubio in town. I am not sure how Brad Miller makes any sense for the T-Wolves though. (Pick Grade: Makes sense)

28. Norris Cole, PG, Cleveland State (TRADED TO MIAMI)
(Insert joke about David Kahn drafting a point guard). And then take it back, because this pick was dealt to Miami for No. 31 as the T-Wolves deal back for a third time. (Pick Grade: HUH?)

31. Bojan Bogdanovic, G, Croatia (TRADED TO NEW JERSEY)
The T-Wolves have traded back for a fourth time and sent this pick to the Nets for cash and a 2013 second-round pick. Does David Kahn have a clue as to what he is doing or just making trades because it’s fun? (Pick Grade: HUH?)

43. Malcolm Lee, PG, UCLA
The T-Wolves acquired Malcolm Lee from Chicago (43rd pick) in the earlier deal in which they moved down from 23 to 28 (before they moved down to 31 and before they traded 31 for a future pick. Confused?) Lee is a great perimeter defender but underachieved at UCLA. (Pick Grade: Meh)

57. Tanguy Ngombo, F, Congo
This guy gained some steam this week as a possible second-round pick, so of course David Kahn would take him. (Pick Grade: HUH?)

*** 2011 NBA Offseason Needs and Free Agents listed below this comment box. ***

2010-11 Season Summary:
The good: Minnesota actually did improve this past season, finishing with two more wins than they did in 2009-10.

The bad: Minnesota was still the worst team in the league and only won a pathetic four games against teams with a winning record.

Despite being the door mat of the NBA, Timberwolves general manager David Kahn had this optimistic quote at his end-of-the-year press conference, “I don’t see the team needing a complete overhaul. Those days are behind us.” While the Timberwolves may not need a complete overhaul, they proved they are still light years away from being a relevant NBA franchise.

Their roster only boasted one player over the age of 26 this past season, and Kahn acknowledged the growing pains that come with having such a young, inexperienced team. But whether or not he was accurate in saying, “I think that our talent level from when I first arrived is significantly higher” has yet to be seen. Talent is nice to have, but finding a group of players who can complement each other is the key that the Timberwolves clearly struggled to find this past season.

In 82 games primarily filled with misery, there were actually several bright spots. Kevin Love rattled off a ridiculous 53 straight double-double stretch highlighted by a 31-point, 31-rebound performance against the Knicks. He posted 11 20/20 games, led the league in rebounding and earned the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award.

As fun as it is to crap on Kahn, he actually found two great values via trade. Michael Beasley was acquired from the Heat for a second-round pick and finished second on the T-Wolves in scoring in rebounding. Kahn also capitalized on the Knicks’ desire to land Carmelo Anthony and acquired Anthony Randolph. The talented yet erratic Randolph tapped into his potential near the end of the season, averaging 11.7 points per game in Minnesota and almost 20 points in the final five games when Love was out with injury.

2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Darko Milicic/Anthony Tolliver/Brad Miller/Nikola Pekovic

PF: Kevin Love/Derrick Williams/Anthony Randolph

SF: Michael Beasley/Martell Webster/Lazar Hayward

SG: Wesley Johnson/Wayne Ellington/Malcolm Lee

PG: Ricky Rubio/Luke Ridnour

NBA Free Agents:

PG-Sebastian Telfair (UFA)

Offseason Transactions:

Timberwolves sign PG Ricky Rubio

Timberwolves acquire C Brad Miller, 23rd pick, and 2013 first round pick from Rockets for PG Jonny Flynn and 20th pick

Timberwolves acquire 28th pick and 43rd (Malcolm Lee) from Bulls for 23rd pick

Timberwolves acquire 31st pick, future second round pick, and cash considerations from Heat for 28th pick

Timberwolves acquire cash considerations from Nets for 31st pick

Timberwolves acquire Tanguay Ngombo (57th pick) from Blazers for cash considerations

2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $47.3 million

NBA Offseason Needs:

1. Figure Out the Ricky Rubio/Point Guard Situation: We are entering the third summer of “will he” or “won’t he?” Rubio’s contract buyout with his Spanish team decreases this offseason making the possibility of heading to the NBA more reasonable from a financial standpoint which has been a sticking point the past two years. The question still remains of whether Rubio actually wants to play for the Timberwolves. I maintain my stance from Day 1 that he will never suit up for Minnesota, and if it does become more evident this summer that my belief is indeed the case, the T-Wolves need to address their need to improve their point guard play and look to trade Rubio’s rights.

Luke Ridnour is better suited coming off the bench and should not be a starter in the league. Jonny Flynn does not seem to be the point guard of the future either as he suffered through a horrible sophomore slump this past season. Plus, Minnesota had more turnovers than any other team in the league and finished 25th in assists. Those numbers cannot solely be blamed on the point guards but finding an upgrade at the position would certainly help those stats.

2. Defense: If the fact that the Timberwolves allowed more points than other team in the league isn’t good enough reason for Minnesota to get more defensive this offseason, I don’t what is. While Kahn has added some talent, most of those players are offensive-minded.

Love and Beasley are both defensive liabilities as the starting forwards, and the team does not have an intimidating shot blocker. (Yes, I know Darko averaged two blocks per game but I certainly would not consider him an intimidating inside presence.) Corey Brewer was probably the team’s top perimeter defender but he was dealt for Randolph leaving a hole for someone to lock down the opposing team’s best wing scorer. Of course cutting down on the turnovers offensively (see offseason need No. 1) would assist the T-Wolves in giving up less transition buckets and help them become a better defensive team.

3. A slasher: None of the current wing players (Beasley, Johnson, Webster, Ellington, Hayward) are able to put the ball on the deck and get to the basket with any effectiveness on a consistent basis. They are more in the catch-and-shoot variety or have other players set them up for a look at the basket.

Minnesota needs somebody who can create his own shot on the perimeter, attack off the bounce in one-on-one situations and finish at the rim. Johnson could maybe develop into that player but will have to show more assertiveness in his second season.

4. Regularity: In two years, Kahn has almost completely overhauled Minnesota’s roster by playing a hot potato game of bringing in new talent and getting rid of Kevin McHale’s guys. In fact, Love is the only holdover from the pre-Kahn Timberwolves’ 2008-29 team.

If Kahn truly believes that this nucleus is going to grow and develop into a winning team (which is a mistake, in my opinion), then he needs to stick with this roster in hopes of bringing some regularity to the lineup so the guys can build chemistry with one another and find roles on the floor. If you add in Rubio and a top pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, it should only help that process.

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