Alexey Shved will need to deliver a lot more on defense next season
Needless to say, the Brandon Roy experiment did not work out for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
As new GM, Flip Saunders' first order of business needs to be bringing in a legitimate building block at shooting guard to put this team over the top. Even he knows that this team floundered in mediocrity before Latrell Sprewell and Trenton Hassell were able to provide their respective offensive and defensive punch back in the glory days of 2004.
One thing for certain is that this team cannot go into next season with Luke Ridnour as the starting shooting guard and expect to compete for a playoff berth.
It is simply inexcusable.
No knock on Ridnour, but he is a small un-athletic point guard at 6'2". Playing off the ball he gets worked on defense on a nightly basis.
Head coach Rick Adelman told Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press how upgrading the position was paramount.
"It's too hard to play point guards at that spot. Luke (Ridnour) is overmatched all the time playing bigger 2-guards. We have to find a way to get more size there," he said.
Luckily, this is a good offseason to have this problem. As Saunders makes his triumphant return to Minneapolis, his other big priorities will be resigning center Nikola Pekovic, mending the franchise's relationship with their superstar Kevin Love and figuring out what to do with former No. 2 pick Derrick Williams after a much improved sophomore-campaign.
There are a number of ways Saunders can attack this problem.
First, he has the option of promoting Alexey Shved to the role. The rookie from Russia was sporadic during his inaugural season in the league, but clearly already formed a bond with Ricky Rubio.
Shved showed glimpses of what made him such a coveted free agent. At times he looked to be a prolific outside shooter with substantial ball-handling and passing skills. However, far too often he was overpowered on defense and struggled to get his shots up against more physical defenders.
Over the offseason, Shved needs to beef up. His wiry frame may have been a non-issue overseas, but in this league he will never be able to stop players like Dwyane Wade or Joe Johnson without packing on a few pounds.
Another option at shooting guard would be to hit the free-agent market.
There is a bevy of free agent guards including O.J. Mayo, Kevin Martin, Tony Allen, J.J. Redick and Tyreke Evans. Any would be a substantial upgrade over Ridnour.
A knockdown shooter next to the other-worldly passing of Rubio would be a match made in heaven.
For a team that was dead last in the NBA in three-point shooting by a fairly significant margin at just over 30 percent, this team flat out needs shooters. Re-signing Chase Budinger would be a great start, but a bona fide scoring threat from the outside in the starting lineup would be the best thing to add to this team. A Mayo or a Martin could be the missing piece on this team.
Finally, the Timberwolves picked another good year to stink. Projected to pick ninth overall in the NBA draft, there will be a handful of shooting guards for them to look at.
NBADraft.net currently has Minnesota selecting the uber-athletic and always controversial Shabazz Muhammad out of UCLA. Muhammad is a dominant scorer that has some flaws in other parts of this game that are correctable. The bottom line is he can score from anywhere on the court.
Victor Oladipo out of Indiana and C.J. McCollum out of Lehigh are two other options that could be on the board for the T-Wolves. Oladipo would give the team a tremendous boost on the defensive end and his non-stop motor would have a contagious effect on the entire team.
Maybe Minnesota will finally luck out and get the first pick in the draft and be lucky enough to get Ben McLemore.
After all, David Stern kind of owes it to this snake-bitten franchise after 15 years in the draft lottery without moving up a single spot.
From top to bottom, this is a deep and talented team. Their core is a strong one that should put them on line for contention in the coming years. With a shooting guard to help fill in the cracks, this team could vault right to the top of the conference.