David Kay begins his 2010-2011 NBA previews with the worst team in the league. The Minnesota Timberwolves are giving new meaning to the phrase re-building behind oft-criticized general manager David Kahn who is the opposite of Benjamin Linus when it comes to having a plan.
Minnesota Timberwolves (15-67 in 2009-2010)
2010-11 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Darko Milicic/Nikola Pekovic/Kosta Koufus
PF: Kevin Love/Michael Beasley/Anthony Tolliver
SF: Wesley Johnson/Martell Webster/Lazar Hayward
SG: Corey Brewer/Wayne Ellington
PG: Jonny Flynn/Luke Ridnour/Sebastian Telfair
Head Coach: Kurt Rambis (2nd season)
2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $43.6 million
Offseason Moves: (click on links for further analysis)
-Timberwolves sign F/C Anthony Tolliver to 2-year, $4.8 million deal
-Timberwolves waive G Delonte West
-Timberwolves acquire G Delonte West and PG Sebastian Telfair from Cavs for PG Ramon Sessions, C Ryan Hollins, and 2nd round pick
-Timberwolves sign PG Luke Ridnour to 4-year, $16 million deal
-Timberwolves acquire C Kosta Koufus and two 1st round picks from Utah for PF Al Jefferson
-Timberwolves acquire PF Michael Beasley from Heat for two second round picks and cash considerations
-Timberwolves sign C Darko Milicic to 4-year, $16 million deal
-Timberwolves sign C Nikola Pekovic to 3-year, $13 million deal
-Timberwolves acquire SF Martell Webster from Portland for SF Ryan Gomes and SF Luke Babbitt (16th pick)
-Timberwolves acquire SF Lazar Hayward (30th pick) and F Nemanja Bjelica (35th pick) from Washington for PF Trevor Bookers (23rd pick) and C Hamady Ndiaye (56th pick)
Off-Season Grade: D-
The T-Wolves had a very Kahn-ian summer (and that is not a good thing.) Minnesota turned five draft picks into four small forwards and a foreign big man who will likely never play in the NBA. The free agency period began with the top priority of giving $16 million to Darko Milicic because he showed a faint pulse in his brief stint in Minnesota at the end of last season after being one of the biggest busts in the NBA for the past seven years.
Kahn then acquired Michael Beasley for next to nothing, but was fined $50,000 for openly talking about Beasley’s previous fascination with marijuana. While I like the Beasley deal, his acquisition prompted Kahn to deal his best player, Al Jefferson, for Kosta Koufus and a pair of future first round picks. At least, Kahn didn’t sign another point guard to a long-term deal. Oh wait… he did that by giving Luke Ridnour a 4-year, $16 million deal which then led to dealing last off-season’s key free agency signing, Ramon Sessions to Cleveland for cap space. But at least Kahn did not compare Darko and Chris Webber to Webber’s face on NBATV. Oh wait… You think you have a headache by reading all of that… imagine how Timberwolves’ fans feel.
While nine new players come to Minnesota, it is hard to say that those additions will make this team better. The Timberwolves are the youngest team in the league with an average age of slightly more than 23 years and chemistry will be a major issue with so many new faces.
With Big Al gone, the T-Wolves will have a major void for a scorer. Kevin Love, Jonny Flynn, and Corey Brewer are by no means “go-to” players in the NBA and it would be asking a lot of fourth overall pick Wesley Johnson to assume that role during his rookie season. Bringing in Beasley, Martell Webster, and Ridnour add needed depth and scoring punch to the bench, but that will not matter when the second unit comes in and Minnesota is already down 15 points.
Even sniffing the post-season is a completely unrealistic goal for this team. 2010-2011 will be all about these young players trying to find a togetherness and develop their game to hopefully be pieces of the puzzle for the future. There is no question Minnesota will be Taylor Swift-live singing bad and I would not be shocked at all if they do not reach their 15-win total from last season.
Looking Ahead to Next Summer:
Ricky Rubio. Ricky Rubio. Ricky Rubio. Next summer we will find out if Rubio will indeed come to the NBA and call Minnesota home as he will be able to get out of his overseas contract without having to pay a massive buyout. Kahn has continually insisted that he would wait for Rubio to become a member of the Timberwolves and truly believes that will happen. Most fans are hoping the dazzling point guard can be the franchise’s savior, but from day one of this marriage I have expressed my belief that the Spanish sensation would never play a game in a T-Wolves jersey and I am sticking with that theory. If that does happen, will Kahn trade away Rubio or call his bluff and hold his rights hostage? The Kahn Era may not produce a whole lot of winning basketball but damn is it full of off-season intrigue and entertainment.