Biggest Questions and Answers for Minnesota Timberwolves This Offseason
A team in constant turmoil like the Timberwolves has a long history of solving major problems with temporary and uncertain answers.
Minnesota is heading into a crucial first offseason under new general manager Flip Saunders. It will be his first opportunity to turn back the clock to the glory days of Kevin Garnett and beyond.
Instead of watching the NBA Finals on television again, Saunders has to execute to turn the tides.
No longer can stopgap solutions be brought in to solve major problems. There can be no more "high risk, high reward" signings because as we learned under David Kahn, that money might as well just be flushed with the team's ever-doubtful playoff hopes.
Is Nikola Pekovic Coming Back?
Despite Pekovic expressing his desire to stay in Minneapolis, things will never be that simple.
Restricted free agency will land Pek a monstrous payday which he very much deserves. Minnesota will have to quickly decide exactly how important he is to the future of this team.
They can decide he is a vital part of their success and that they cannot afford to move on without him. On the other hand, they can come to the realization that things did not work out ideally while he was in town.
Pekovic truly is imperative to the Timberwolves. They went a measly 5-20 with him out of the lineup this season
Minnesota could come to terms with the fact that the league is going small. Allocating huge amounts of money to a center in a league continuing to go smaller may either give them a huge advantage or handicap them both on the court and financially.
Pekovic dominated this season and really came into his own averaging 16.3 points and just under nine rebounds a night. Flip Saunders will have the unenviable task of determining just how much the hulking Montenegrin is worth.
Is Pekovic too injury prone to warrant an eight-figure salary? Is the team better off with an athletic shot blocker in the paint that ideally would only be relied upon to catch lobs from Rubio on offense?
Your move, Flip.
Answer: Pekovic receives an offer of $45-plus million and Minnesota matches, keeping him in town.
What Do We Make of Derrick Williams?
The former No. 2 pick out of Arizona two short seasons ago made huge improvements in his sophomore season.
D-Will started out in Rick Adelman's doghouse after failing to seize his opportunity in a starting role following Kevin Love's broken hand. As the season went on, Williams improved by leaps and bounds after the All-Star break.
His hesitant blocked layups from his rookie season turned into more powerful dunks. His inconsistent decisions in the mid-range game turned into confident 18-foot jumpers and malicious drives to the rim.
Could Saunders come to town and see D-Will as simply the team's biggest trade asset?
Moving up in the draft is something Saunders did not sneeze at, and there are teams looking to trade down. Even Cleveland.
Williams averaged 15 points per game after the All-Star break while still receiving under 30 minutes a night. He has proven that when given big minutes, he provides big numbers.
Still only 21, the franchise must determine if Williams has shown enough in terms of his weight loss, work ethic and overall improvement to warrant a spot as either the starting small forward or sixth man.
There is no question Adelman has been tough on him. He has answered the bell and earned his role on this team. If Saunders looks to trade him he will get plenty in return, but as the only member of this team who has stayed healthy the last two seasons, that is not a risk they can afford to take.
Williams already means more to this team than they realize.
Answer: Williams stays put; puts up more highlight plays just like this.
Who Will Knock Down Threes Next Season?
Minnesota was dead last in the NBA shooting the long ball this season. They barely cracked 30 percent, over a full two percent lower than any other team.
Much can be attributed to the loss of Kevin Love and Chase Budinger for the majority of the season. As arguably the team's two best outside shooters, they put up enough bricks to rebuild the Target Center this season.
The in-house options will have to improve. Derrick Williams, Alexey Shved and Ricky Rubio will all need to up their percentages more next season to keep defenses from collapsing the paint.
If Pekovic does indeed return, having shooters will keep help defenders off of him and in turn, keep him healthier and more productive.
While Saunders will undoubtedly look to acquire more shooters in the draft and free agency, health must be less of an issue.
Answer: Budinger is re-signed
Who Does Flip Saunders Sign in Free Agency?
Is Minnesota's interest in O.J. Mayo legitimate?
It would be a reunion of sorts after Mayo was traded on draft night for Kevin Love. Whoever Saunders brings in, they need to be able to play defense and hit open shots. Simple as that.
This team has lacked enough shooters to stretch the floor for years. Every shooting guard they draft turns out to be a terrible shooter.
Rashad McCants. Corey Brewer. Wesley Johnson. See where I'm going with this?
Whatever route they take in free agency, shooters, shot blockers and overall depth are the most pressing needs. Defense improved dramatically last season but could stand to get even better.
Guys like Tony Allen, Jason Maxiell or Carl Landry would also go a long way towards improving this team. Scoring options off the bench after all the injuries were far and few between. Besides Williams and the occasional outbursts from J.J. Barea, the bench was disappointing.
Another body on the front line would do wonders for Minnesota. Miami would not be where they are without Chris Andersen. Golden State had Landry when David Lee went down. Memphis has Darrell Arthur and Indiana has Tyler Hansbrough for energy and offense off the bench.
Minnesota was left with only Dante Cunningham when Love went down. With his broken hand came problems previously unknown.
Answer: Team signs Mayo and Maxiell as safe free agency options
Can Saunders Come Through in the Draft?
With the number nine pick of the draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select...hopefully anyone who isn't a bust.
David Kahn worked his way out of town by swinging and missing in the draft time and time again.
Aside from D-Will and Rubio, Kahn had nothing to show for his plethora of first rounders. He missed on Jonny Flynn at 6th overall. He traded Ty Lawson at No. 18 for essentially nothing. He traded Luke Babbitt at No. 16 for Martell Webster. Wesley Johnson left town quietly after two disappointing seasons as a 4th overall pick.
Saunders needs to hit a home run this year. He needs to make a triumphant return by bringing in a player that will be a staple to this team for years to come.
This draft is not full of superstars, but any player they can take at No. 9 could easily end up being as good as the guys in the top three. Luckily for Minnesota, it is a good year for shooting guards and centers.
Minny might not luck out enough to land Victor Oladipo, but guys like C.J. McCollum from Lehigh or Alex Len from Maryland are huge upside prospects that could fall right into their laps.
This draft may be the biggest question of all. Drafts tend to turn out poorly for this franchise, and Saunders could usher in a new era by making the most of his two first rounder this year.
Answer: T-Wolves draft McCollum