In what is starting to seem business as usual, the Timberwolves made some more big moves on Thursday. The former fourth overall pick from the 2010 NBA Draft, Wes Johnson, was traded to the Phoenix Suns. In a three-team swap, the Suns got Johnson and a future first-round pick. The New Orleans Hornets received Robin Lopez, a center they coveted, and Hakim Warrick. The Wolves will get three second round picks and the cap space they were ultimately looking for.
That space was being made available for the team to sign free agent forward Andrei Kirilenko. According to Adrian Wojnarowki, the two agreed on a two-year deal worth a reported $20 million.
The Timberwolves look like they are taking Kevin Love's words (per ESPN.com) about getting better right now pretty seriously. The additions of Kirilenko, Brandon Roy, and Russian guard Alexey Shved ups the talent level and veteran presence for an already talented group.
Shved and Kirilenko were teammates last season in Russia and are currently both playing for the Russian team in the London Olympics. Having team chemistry is a big deal at the NBA level, and these two will be a step ahead of the curve.
During his tenure with the Utah Jazz, Kirilenko averaged 12.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. His biggest asset is his defensive ability. He is an elite level shot-blocker averaging two blocks per game, and had two seasons averaging over three blocks per game.
Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman is a defensive coach, if there is such a thing in the NBA. When he took the reigns in Minnesota, he was adamant about getting back on defense and getting stops. Kirilenko is a dream player for Adelman and should fit in perfectly with his new team. Don't be surprised if Kirilenko is starting by Christmas.
In making this trade, the Wolves officially end the embarrassment of pretending their former fourth overall pick in the draft Wes Johnson would ever play up to his potential. At least not in Minnesota. Unfortunately for Wolves fans that's all he ever was. Potential.
Adelman knows he has about a three year window to get very competitive in the Western conference. Otherwise, Love will opt out of his deal, or force a trade, Rubio will sign with a major market city, Roy and Kirilenko will be almost useless, and the team will be back to square one.
Wolves general manager David Kahn is not the best interview. In fact, the guy can be flat-out condescending to anyone he speaks to on camera. I am first in line to criticize his persona and some of the moves and draft picks he has made during his tenure in Minnesota.
A series of possibly extremely shrewd moves have me thinking the man just might be Will Hunting embodied. He has managed to pretty much keep the Wolves off the NBA's radar while he is stacking the talent around an already fairly strong team. They're getting taller as well, which is never a bad thing.
Ricky Rubio should be back by December, hopefully earlier. With him running the show in Minnesota and all the new additions of capable scorers, the Wolves are preparing to re establish themselves as a contender in the West. Barring injury, they should be back in the playoffs in 2013.