State of the Cap: Minnesota Timberwolves

Thu, 09/08/2011 - 9:51pm

2011/12 Payroll: $53 million
2011/12 (Projected) NBA Salary Cap: $54 million
Roughly: $1 million under cap

Derrick WilliamsDerrick WilliamsHighlights: In 2009, the Wolves didn’t have anyone you would consider a legitimate star. Kevin Love definitely changed that. In his third season, the bulky power forward made remarkable improvements to his already solid game. Most obvious is Love’s rebounding prowess. He led the league with a gaudy 15.2 average, a number not seen since Ben Wallace in 2003. There was also his famous 53-game double-double streak, an NBA record. But Love’s ascension to stardom and All-Star status wasn’t just about cleaning up the glass. He improved his scoring average by 6 points a game to 20.2. He fine-tuned his three point shot into a weapon, hitting 41.7% of them. He got to the foul line more and shot 85%. Love has quickly vaulted himself into one of the top forwards in the league. He now needs to show that he can impact a team in the wins column... The big problem for the Wolves is that they only have him for one more season at $4.6 million. He’ll be a restricted free agent after that, but if the team doesn’t improve its fortunes, Love will be gunning for a new address. After KG’s departure, Minnesota fans sure don’t want to see another star power forward bolt.

After many doubts and delays, it’s official that Ricky Rubio will make his debut in a Timberwolf uniform (whenever they get back to playing games, that is). This is wonderful news for a franchise that hasn’t been relevant since KG roamed their locker room. So what if he can’t shoot very well and underwhelmed in Europe last year? Rubio is generating interest and ticket sales and that is all that matters for the time being. Eventually, though, he will have to play and show off the court vision and savvy moves that made him a YouTube darling. There is a lot riding on Rubio’s shoulders and it will be very difficult to live up to the hype, but at least the Wolves will finally have that chance.

It seemed kind of silly for Luke Ridnour to sign with Minnesota, and vice versa. Why would Ridnour leave the up-and-coming Bucks for a rebuilding project with the Wolves for basically the same money? And why would the Wolves want a veteran point guard when they already had Ramon Sessions and Jonny Flynn at the time and knew that Rubio was probably coming next season? It didn’t make much sense, but it certainly worked out fine for one year at least. Ridnour was an extremely efficient, stable presence to the Wolves’ young line-up. He scored 11.8 points per game, led the team with 5.4 assists, and shot an excellent 44% from downtown. At just $12 million total over the next three years, Ridnour is a great bargain and easily tradable when they decide to hand the team over to Rubio down the road. So far, this quirky move has paid off well.

Lowlights: Despite the lack of expensive contracts on this team, there is still some wasteful fat that needs to be trimmed. Darko Milicic certainly has not lived up to his deal as predicted by everyone not named David Kahn and Tony Ronzone. He doesn’t shoot well for a center, doesn’t rebound enough, is terrible at free throws, and has way too many cringe-inducing turnovers. He has always been a decent shot blocker, but that’s about it. He’s hardly worth the $15.5 million he’ll be paid over the next three years. Since they have few true centers and there is little trade interest for Darko, the Wolves are stuck with him for a while.

I know Jonny Flynn’s stock had dropped, but was he really so bad that all you could get in return for him was Brad Miller? Really? I could even understand it if Miller had just one year left on his contract but he has two for about $5 million each. Miller is no longer a worthy contributor on the court to an NBA team and Minnesota should be buying him out or trading him as soon as they can.

Nikola Pekovic had a lot of hype coming out of Europe and he is owed about $4 million each of the next two years. However, he wasn’t even able to beat out Darko for the lion’s share of minutes at center. Pekovic is a major bruiser, but the Wolves were hoping he would be a more viable option in the paint than he has shown so far.

The Future: The makeup of this team is all wrong. They have an All-Star power forward who is surrounded by a strange supporting cast. They have a couple corpses at center. Anthony Randolph played well at the end of the year while Love sat out, but he can’t play the 3 and won’t get much time sitting behind Love. Beasley and Williams are both scoring 4’s who can play the 3 a little but its not their best position and both can’t be on the floor at the same time as Love. Martell Webster and Wes Johnson are both 3’s who aren’t really 2’s, so if they are playing the 3 that means either Beasley or Williams has to sit. There really is no 2 guard to speak of on the roster at all. And then the point guard spot has the solid and efficient, but unspectacular, Luke Ridnour and the franchise savior himself, Ricky Rubio, who can’t shoot anywhere near as well as Ridnour but needs to play a lot more than him because of how the team has fed into Rubio-mania.

Their most glaring weakness is back court scoring. The Wolves don’t have a guard who can take over in the fourth quarter and make big shots. With Love, Williams, and Beasley, the bulk of their scoring is in the front court and a good shooting guard would help to distribute the points more evenly. Rubio will not be that player since he is a facilitator and doesn’t yet have the shooting touch. Ridnour is efficient but he has never averaged more than 11 points a game. Martell Webster shot the three very well last year but he has missed significant time due to injuries and he also hasn’t averaged more than 11. There simply isn’t anyone on the roster with the potential to fill the high-scoring shooting guard role. With their glut of scoring forwards, Michael Beasley is probably the odd man out. His attitude can rub people the wrong way, but he did average 19 points a game and is a proven scorer. Through a trade, the Wolves might be able to turn him into the 2 guard they so desperately need.

Out of this bizarre collection of players, the Wolves need to piece together a vastly improved team that can convince Love, and the fans, that things are headed in the right direction and the team will soon be playoff participants. Yikes. While this team has some intriguing talent, they will need everything to go right in order to achieve significant improvement. Rubio must make an immediant impact. Williams must show that the explosive scoring ability he had in college translates well to the NBA game. Love must maintain his lofty numbers. And other players will also have to step up. Wes Johnson has to make significant progress in his second season to avoid becoming another Wolves lottery bust. Martell Webster has to stay healthy and provide more scoring to go along with his excellent three point shooting. Anthony Randolph needs to find his role and make the most of it. And their new coach, possibly Rick Adelman, will have to find the right chemistry to mesh them all together into a team that can win more than 30 games, something they haven’t done in 5 years. If they can’t, Kevin Love will likely sign his tender to become an unrestricted free agent in 2013, forcing the franchise to trade yet another talent at forward because they couldn’t figure out how to provide him an adequate supporting cast. Needless to say, there is a lot riding on the upcoming season and Minnesota’s two new stars, Rubio and Williams.

Grade: C

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I just dont understand david kahn. i wonder who gets run out of town 1st kahn or al davis geesh

tcox314's picture
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With the current roster there

With the current roster there is no way the Timberwolves have a chance at getting to .500. Too many 3's, 4's, and tweeners. I am not against having a few tweeners on the team but having them along side multiple players that are fit for only one position does not work. Kevin Love is a great player but let's be real, he is gone once his contract is up so let's get something for him while we can. Wesley Johnson still has some value too so why not get rid of him while the value is still there. If we could keep Beasly at 3 and have Williams play 4, that is the start to a crazy athletic/young frontcourt. Bring in Rubio (still not sold on him) to run with these 2 and we all of the sudden have a fast paced/high scoring offense.

If we would trade Johnson and Love, we would need to get a 2-gaurd and a center. Why not get a big athletic center that can run the floor ala McGee, Jordan, Chandler. Either one of those guys would make our frontcourt the most athletic one in the NBA. It is tough to come by a good 2-gaurd that teams are willing to part with these days but there are some out there for the taking (Ellis, Mayo). Put either of those on this team along with one of those centers and this is a solid young team with playoff potential in a couple years.






upper_class_twit_of_the_year's picture
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53 straight double-doubles is
iguapops420's picture
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It's a modern day NBA record.

It's a modern day NBA record.

omphalos's picture
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I don't think the situation

I don't think the situation in Minnesota is as dire as so many people are making out. They need to clear the logjam at the 3 by trading either Beasley or Williams (I say Beasley, they need to keep clean off court and change their culture). Starting Webster would be the next step, he's only a little older than Johnson, is a 6 year vet, and a great outside shooter, which is what the T-Wolves really need. Johnson can play minutes off the bench at the 2/3, Anthony Randolph can play the 4, Darko, Pekovic and Miller can share spot duties at the 5, and their point situation is set with Rubio/Ridnour making a solid rotation of pass-first PGs.

The potential is there, and I think Adelman is the coach to bring them to respectability if not this season then the season after. He did a lot with basically nothing in Houston last season, and this group has a lot of room to grow.

Ideally, Kahn would try and use Beasley to try and get their first round pick back yet to enter the 2012 sweepstakes for Drummond, but it's unlikely.

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Kaaaaaaahhhhhnnnnn!!! sike, but the wolves arent going to be any better this year. I like williams, I think love puts up amazing stats but isn't a game changer and rubio is beyond expect another hi lotto pic where they draft austin rivers or some other pg/ sf tweener like they don't have one on the roster

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