Why the Minnesota Timberwolves Have Made All the Right Moves so Far
In the aftermath of a disappointing conclusion to the 2011-12 season, the Minnesota Timberwolves have made all the right moves.
Last year's squad flirted with playoff contention, but couldn't recover after their electric point guard Ricky Rubio tore his ACL in March.
While Rubio has continued his rehab, the Wolves organization has made wise decisions this offseason to build around superstar forward Kevin Love.
Whatever has gotten into frequently scrutinized GM David Kahn recently is resulting in a positive direction for the franchise.
Here are the moves the Wolves have made to improve the roster, why the moves have been effective and why the team can contend for the playoffs as long as Rubio is healthy.
Taking a Chance on Brandon Roy
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According to multiple reports and ESPN.com's news services, the Wolves have offered Roy a two-year contract worth $10.4 million.
It isn't official yet, but Roy and the organization have allegedly come to a verbal agreement.
Before his early retirement, the former Portland Trail Blazer was considered by some to be a superstar. He was selected to the Western Conference All-Star team three years in a row between 2008 and 2010.
After injuries in both knees plagued Roy throughout his entire career, he felt he couldn't carry on anymore.
After Bryant nearly led the league in scoring this past season, Roy figured he could give it a shot with the procedures.
Apparently the results have been encouraging enough for Roy to make a comeback.
The presence and leadership Roy brings as a former face of a franchise is invaluable. He would also help defense with his versatility, as the Wolves ranked 25th in points per game allowed.
If Roy is anywhere near the player he once was—or somehow better—the Wolves have themselves the bargain of the year in free agency.
Drafting Robbie Hummel
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Due to the trade made for swingman Chase Budinger, the Wolves didn't have a first round pick in this year's draft.
The only pick they did have—a late second-rounder from Oklahoma City—was well spent on Hummel, who endured five rocky years at the University of Purdue.
Hummel's perseverance, determination and love of basketball don't even need to be professed in a scouting report.
It's obvious, considering he endured a college career that seemed constantly hampered by injury.
The worst of the damage was tearing his right ACL not once, but twice in both his sophomore and senior seasons.
The second time it happened, the season hadn't even started, and Hummel served as an assistant on the Purdue coaching staff.
Incredibly, Hummel found a way to fight through the adversity, obtain a medical redshirt, and return to the court for the Boilermakers for a fifth and final year.
He may not become the best pro ever. He may not have an ideal position in the pros or possess "prototypical" athleticism, according to his DraftExpress scouting report.
What Hummel does bring to the table are immense intangibles and a wealth of basketball knowledge.
At the very least, he could serve as a valuable role player as long as he's able to stay on the court.
Signing Greg Stiemsma
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As offensively skilled as Kevin Love is, the knock on him has been on the defensive end.
Enter Stiemsma, who was a restricted free agent and played for the Boston Celtics last season.
After the Celtics took big men Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo in the first round of the draft, the franchise decided not to match the Wolves' offer.
According to TwinCities.com's Ray Richardson, the one-year deal is worth over $2 million, which is more than the Celtics could afford.
The Wolves take a season-long flier on a guy who provides immediate depth to the team's front line. He also is a huge asset in terms of interior defense, something the team has sorely lacked.
Six points, four rebounds, three assists, four steals, five blocks and five fouls.
Talk about being active and filling up the stat sheet.
Love dropped 25 pounds during the lockout, and his improved conditioning should only help him defensively moving forward.
Typical center Nikola Pekovic is pretty nimble for his size and has a soft touch. Love often drifts to the perimeter on offense anyway, and has the frame to possibly improve out there defensively.
Is it possible that head coach Rick Adelman plays all three of these guys at the same time, with Love at the 3?
It sounds insane, but this is just one of the potential problems the presence of Stiemsma creates for opponents.
Trading for Chase Budinger
It's hard to believe the Wolves cracked the top 10 in the NBA in points scored in 2011-12. The team ranked 27th in the league in shooting percentage, including in the bottom third from beyond the arc.
Budinger bounced back from a sophomore slump of sorts with the Houston Rockets to shoot over 40 percent from three-point range.
As a result, Budinger was deemed expendable, and was shipped to the Wolves for the team's 2012 first round pick.
Budinger addresses two key needs for Minnesota on the perimeter: size and shooting ability.
Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea made up an undersized backcourt and got most of the minutes at the 1 and 2. All of them are considered point guards; none of them could really shoot from the outside.
Wesley Johnson and 2011 No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams didn't pack devastating punch from the outside, either. That's especially true for Johnson, who seems like a lottery bust.
Kevin Love, who plays the 4 position, can't be the one launching treys at a volume higher than everyone else on the team.
With Budinger, the Wolves have the three-point marksman that they desperately need. The fact that Budinger is also 6'7" is a bonus.
Appeasing Kevin Love
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It's been public knowledge for a while that Love has not been happy with the team's direction, and how the roster needs an upgrade.
Credit Love for being candid, and for conveying his passion to bring the Wolves to the promised land as the team's premier player. It was evident in Reid Cherner's article in USA Today:
"My patience is not high...Would yours be, especially when I'm a big proponent of greatness surrounding itself with greatness?... If I don't make the playoffs next year, I don't know what will happen."
It's absolutely vital that the franchise holds on to Love. That will be easier since he just signed a four-year extension, but keeping him interested and excited about the direction of the team is a must.
All the moves the Wolves have made should translate to improved defense, better outside shooting and more size and depth overall.
Head coach Rick Adelman should be able to get a lot out of this Wolves team in 2012-13, and has a much more versatile, balanced roster to work with.
Love loves the coaching staff, and with a revamped squad surrounding him, don't be surprised if these offseason upgrades result in the team's first playoff appearance in nearly a decade.