14 games ago, the Minnesota Timberwolves traded veteran forward Brian Cardinal for Darko Milicic. Losing Brian Cardinal was actually a big loss as far as leadership and a voice in the locker room goes.
In enters Darko Milicic, a player that stands seven feet plus, with an amazing wingspan, a great build, and nimble feet that enables him to close out on shooters and block shots.
Watching the footage of Darko in Europe, and his days with the Grizzlies and the Orlando Magic, you can definitely tell that Darko is not the same player. His confidence is at an all-time low, his aggression is low, very very unselfish, unwilling to shoot at times, but the skill level has to be in question for the Wolves.
Standing next to Al Jefferson and Kevin Love, Darko's a giant and makes Jefferson and Love look like "little boys". I question as to whether it's Darko's skill that's so good, or Jefferson's and Love's skills (certain skills between them) that are that bad.
Al Jefferson and Kevin Love are both non-defensive bigs, although Kevin Love has shown effort in this department. But as it stands right now, Darko is the Wolves best post and paint defender.
As a Timberwolf, Darko posted his first double double the other night against the Los Angeles Lakers, posting 16 points and 12 rebounds (5 offensive) to go along with three assists, one steal and a block. He's now averaging six points, six rebounds, 1.5 assists per game and one block per game as a Timberwolf. A decent statline that's probably disguised as being out of shape, out of place in the Wolves offense, or whatever reason you can think of.
As a writer and fan of the Wolves, I'd personally like Darko back for one more season, as whether you'd like to admit it or not, he fits in well in the triangle offense, and does a lot of fundamental things that the Wolves need at this moment and time.
But Darko has been stating that he wants to go back to Europe for the last few weeks, until now.
"Yeah, I'd come back. That's what I'm looking for," the seven footer said just a month after being rescued from exile on the Knicks' bench. "Minnesota came up and they kind of trust me. They gave me a chance, and I like it."
30-35 minutes of playing time next season and the starting job.
I'd honestly like to say that there is a possibility for that assuming the contract is right and dosen't eat up cap space. The question is, can he fulfill that starting role the way the Wolves need it be filled?
As in, double doubles on a regular basis, a couple of blocks a night, and passing within the triangle the way he has been while remaining unselfish?
David Kahn and head coach Kurt Rambis have taken a liking to him.
"I think he likes doing all the things he's doing out there," Wolves coach Kurt Rambis said. "I just wanted him to be in an environment where he sees the potential of how he can fit in to how I envision our team playing."
But would David Kahn put that type of agreement in a contract of some sort, or would he advise head coach Kurt Rambis to fufill that request?
Too early to say, team President David Kahn said from Milwaukee, where he and Rambis scouted NCAA tournament games Sunday. "We don't have a policy, one way or the other. I'm just pleased to hear he's enjoying it here."
Why is it too early to say?
The 2010 NBA draft.
Let me reiterate that the Wolves will have a plethora of picks in a big mans draft, as well as Nikola Pekovic waiting to join the Wolves next season. However I will say that I don't think that any of the big men in the draft can do what Darko can do for the Wolves next season.
Although he's out of shape, he has the tools that rivals some of the best big men in the NCAA's entering the draft.
Demarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors, Cole Aldrich, Greg Monroe, Patrick Patterson, Jan Vesely, Donatas Motiejunas, Ekpe Udoh, Solomon Alabi, and Hassan Whiteside are all bonafide first round picks for next season, all big and possess different qualities about their game.
Darko is like Demarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, and Jan Vesely because he has an all around game, whether it's in the post or the mid range area, and has an intense persona at times when the game get's going. He has Greg Monroe's passing ability, Cousins intensity (without immaturity), and Vesely's emotion and athleticism.
He's like Hassan Whiteside because he has shot blocking capabilities and the ability to lock down the paint. He has Solomon Alabi's size and frame and at times can be very intense.
A lot will be analyzed in these last ten games, and more than likely the Wolves will get a big man in the draft.
Darko's future is up in the air right now, but because of the impact that Darko can have at times he may be given a good shot.
"I want to talk to these guys, for sure," Milicic said. "It's not about money, it's about seeing how they see me on this team next year. I don't want to guess, am I going to be a starter? I don't want to guess nothing."
Yeah, that confidence could translate to his game. If that does, then maybe, just maybe, we will see that left handed force of nature become that starter.
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