Injuries took their toll on the Minnesota Timberwolves this past season as star players Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio missed significant time. With another disappointing finish, the T-Wolves finally fired general manager David Kahn this off-season and brought in Flip Saunders as President of Basketball Operations to try and right the ship.
The health (and happiness) of Love and Rubio are vital moving forward but the Timberwolves also have several other needs during this NBA off-season including the uncertain futures of Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko.
Minnesota Timberwolves (31-51 last year)
2012-13 Season Summary:
The Minnesota Timberwolves were a sexy sleeper playoff pick in the Western Conference during preseason predictions but once again fell short, missing the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season. A huge reason for that was due to all the injuries up and down the roster.
The T-Wolves began at a disadvantage since Ricky Rubio was still recovering from a torn ACL and LCL that forced him to miss the first month and half of the season. It only got worse as Kevin Love was unable to shake a nagging knee injury and had season ending surgery which sidelined him for 64 games. Brandon Roy and Chase Budinger were acquired in the off-season to provide some scoring punch on the wing but Roy couldn’t shake his ongoing injuries and only appeared in five games while Budinger suffered a knee injury six games into the season and was limited to 23 games of action. On top of that, Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko each missed significant time as well.
As a result, Minnesota was left grasping at straws especially on the wing where they tried but failed to find replacements by signing Mickael Gelabale, Josh Howard, and even former first round pick Lazar Hayward. Derrick Williams finally got his chance to play starter minutes at power forward but failed to capitalize on the opportunity. With all of this going on, the T-Wolves failed to take a step in the right direction and actually regressed.
2013-14 Projected Depth Chart:
C: *Nikola Pekovic/#Greg Stiemsma
PF: Kevin Love/Derrick Williams/#Dante Cunningham
SF: #Andrei Kirilenko
SG: Luke Ridnour/Alexey Shved/Malcolm Lee
PG: Ricky Rubio/J.J. Barea
NBA Free Agents:
*C-Nikola Pekovic (RFA)
#SF-Andrei Kirilenko (TO)
#PF-Dante Cunningham (TO)
#C-Greg Stiemsma (TO)
SG-Brandon Roy (UFA)
SF-Chase Budinger (UFA)
SF-Mickael Gelabale (UFA)
C-Chris Johnson (UFA)
2013-14 Team Salary: approximately $59.4 million
1. Pay Pek?: Pekovic is about to get paid this summer and receive a hefty raise from the $4.6 million he made this past season. Since he is a restricted free agent, the Minnesota Timberwolves does have the right to match any offer sheet Pek signs this summer. Any deal will likely cost at least $12 million per year since big men are always in demand in the NBA (i.e. Roy Hibbert and Brook Lopez getting max deals last summer.) I would be very surprised if the T-Wolves didn’t re-sign Pekovic and just let him walk without getting something in return.
2. Get AK47 to Stay: Kirilenko has a player option for this upcoming season worth $10.2 million. At 32 years old, he might choose to opt out in hopes of signing one final, long-term deal and have the opportunity to play for a contender. His versatility was very valuable to the T-Wolves this past season and he If Kirilenko opts out and doesn’t re-sign with Minnesota, finding a small forward will become a pressing need for the new front office team. Quite frankly, I don’t think the team can afford to re-sign both Kirilenko and Pekovic to monster deals so Kirilenko would be the more likely of that duo to walk.
3. Shooting Guard: Minnesota hasn’t had a true answer at the shooting guard position for a few years (the Brandon Roy experiment didn’t exactly work out, huh?) and once again enters the off-season with this being a hole in their line-up. Minnesota really runs four point guards in their two backcourt positions but adding a true shooting guard with prototypical size and the ability to knock down shots is sorely needed since the T-Wolves finished dead last in the league in three-point percentage; and by a WIDE margin. (MN shot 30.5%, second worst was Orlando at 32.9%)
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David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet (Yup, repeat champ… #humblebrag.)
You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.Powered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks