NBA Pre-Draft Analysis: Minnesota Timberwolves

Jeremy SmithContributor IJune 19, 2010

PHOENIX - MARCH 16:  Al Jefferson #25 of the Minnesota Timberwolves handles the ball during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on March 16, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Timberwolves 152-114.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Great news for Timberwolves fans. Minnesota is out from under the contracts of Brian Cardinal, Damien Wilkins, Aleksander Pavlovic, Oleksiy Pecherov and Darko Milcic.They can also decline the option on Nathan Jawai if they so choose. That makes for a lot of dead weight off the roster. Granted, Darko did show some glimpses of relevancy during his stretch with the Timberwolves, so it is not at all unfeasible that Minnesota will retain his services for a reduced rate.

If you are Minny management, your job is pretty simple. There is not a lot of mystery on this roster. Kevin Love and Al Jefferson are your core. Johnny Flynn had a good first season and can now be named among that group. Corey Brewer is a nice player that makes an impact on both ends of the floor. Ryan Gomes and Ramon Sessions are strong players to have available coming off your bench. What you need is a leader at the shooting guard spot. And if that is not available at the fourth pick, you could settle for someone to play the three. 

Minnesota is not going to be a potential landing spot for a major free agent because there is so little with which to work up that way. They are a long way from being relevant in the Western Conference. So this pick is all about continuing to build. They covet Evan Turner. And he would certainly be the ideal fit. The problem is that he will not be available at No. 4. 

If Turner falls to No. 3, don't bet on the Nets passing on him as they could use his services as well. So if Minnesota wants to move up, Philadelphia will be that gateway. They do have picks 16 and 23 to package in any deal. So there are assets. But I would not bet on Philly moving down without a young player coming their direction. ESPN's Chad Ford says the Sixers want a young all-star. Short of Love and Jefferson, Minnesota has no one close to that description. If they were willing to take back the contract of Elton Brand, the Timberwolves could probably get the No. 2 pick by dangling either Jefferson or Love. But is that too high of a bounty to move up only two spots? 

That all depends on how much the organization values Turner. What he brings to the table immediately is certainly desirable. But most scouts believe Turner is nearly at his ceiling. Still, there is another scenario by which the Timberwolves could probably pry the No. 2 pick away from Philadelphia. 

That deal starts with putting the No. 4 pick on the table and ends with the rights to Ricky Rubio. Face it. Rubio is never going to play for Minnesota. And with the emergence of Johnny Flynn last season, the Timberwolves don't exactly need him. But he is a valuable commodity and a team that could use point guard depth, such as Philadelphia, would have to be attracted to the offer. 

If Minnesota can make that deal, they take Evan Turner at No. 2 and then Philadelphia is left to choose between Wesley Johnson and DeMarcus Cousins at No. 4. But I don't think Philadelphia pulls the trigger on the deal. It is most likely that John Wall, Derrick Favors and Evan Turner will all be off the board when Minnesota picks. That leaves Minnesota to take Johnson at No. 4. That is not at all a bad consolation prize. While Johnson sat out during Flynn's season at Syracuse, the pair most certainly has some familiarity already in place. Johnson is a versatile 6-8 wing that will provide athleticism as the starting small forward while still being able to fill in for intervals at the power forward. I'm calling it Johnson to the Timberwolves at No. 4. 

That leaves Minnesota to figure out what to do with picks 16 and 23. The prevailing feeling seems to be that they will take Paul George out of Fresno State at No. 16 and then take a not-yet-ready-for-prime-time international talent at No. 23. I disagree with that theory. Minnesota is in dire need of perimeter shooting and George fits that bill. If Minnesota covets him as much as is reported, they are likely too scared to wait. Word is that he is getting looks from a number of lottery teams. That could be enough for Minnesota to offer up a pair of picks to move back into the lottery and take George. Remember that Memphis was the Timberwolves' dance partner on draft night two years ago when they swapped O.J. Mayo to the Land of the Delta Blues for Kevin Love. So picks 16 and 23 to Memphis for pick 12 is not at all unthinkable. 

If the T-Wolves are forced to stand pat, then they will hope that George falls to them at 16. Then there is always the possibility that Kansas' Xavier Henry slides a little further than expected, making him a steal for Minnesota at 16. If the Clippers or another lotto team bites on George early, look for Minnesota to leapfrog a couple of other teams and take Henry near the back end of the lottery. They have to come away from this draft with a pair of players who can help right away and their best bet at doing that is making a trade somewhere along the way. So I don't expect they will hang on to that No. 23 pick long enough to use it.