Minnesota Timberwolves: Nicolas Batum's Return to Portland Trailblazers OK

Mike Nelson@Mike_E_NelsonCorrespondent IJuly 19, 2012

Nicolas Batum would have been a nice piece for Minnesota to add, but his return to Portland allows Minnesota to put money towards needs in free agency.
Nicolas Batum would have been a nice piece for Minnesota to add, but his return to Portland allows Minnesota to put money towards needs in free agency.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

On Wednesday, the Portland Trailblazers broke the heart of the Timberwolves’ front office by matching the offer sheet Minnesota made to small forward Nicolas Batum.

Batum would have been a strong pickup for a Minnesota team in search of consistent play from its wings. Batum would have excelled with Ricky Rubio in the open court, provide lockdown defense at either guard or the small forward position, and been able to knock down open three-pointers.

But what's done is done, and now that all the pissing, moaning and feuding relative to Batum has passed, the Timberwolves must move on. It's time for general manager David Kahn to focus on the team's interior.

Minnesota’s roster to date only boasts two players listed at 6’10” or taller (Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic). That obviously has to change.

Neither Love nor Pekovic are notorious post defenders, which means Minnesota has a gaping defensive hole inside to go along with a serious depth problem inside.

For those who are crushed that Minnesota missed out on Batum, look at it this way: If the Timberwolves had signed Batum, then they would have had zero dollars left to acquire players via free agency. They would have had to rely strictly on trades, which often get complicated (look at the Dwight Howard situation).

With Batum out of the picture, the team must focus on Boston center Greg Stiemsma and/or Lakers power forward Jordan Hill, who reportedly met with the Wolves on Monday.

Either big man would bring a physical presence to Minnesota’s interior, with Stiemsma more talented defensively and Hill offensively.

Stiemsma would be cheaper than Hill and a better fit given Minnesota’s need for an interior defensive presence. Love and Pekovic have the offensive interior covered. And according to 1500ESPN’s Darren Wolfson, the Wolves will acquire Stiemsma via free agency.

For those of you still reading and have been wondering how this is supposed to make you feel better about a Batum-less Timberwolves team, Minnesota still has an abundance of players to fill the shooting guard and small forward positions: Derrick Williams, Wes Johnson, Luke Ridnour, J.J. Barea, Chase Budinger and Alexey Shved all can play one or both of those positions.

Now none of those players are the lockdown defender that Batum could be, but Budinger mirrors Batum as a three-point shooter (39.1 percent for Batum, 40.2 percent for Budinger). Williams already proved last season he can be deadly in the open or half-court with Ricky Rubio as can Johnson.

Batum taking his talents back to Portland may not be the worst thing for the Timberwolves.