What do the Timberwolves need in the upcoming Draft?
For the first time in a long time, this question may be a hard one to answer. Also, for the first time in a long time, Timberwolves’ fans will not be hanging their hopes for the future of the franchise on an incoming rookie to-be-named. The Wolves’ young players have shown a lot of promise early in the season and have led their fans to believe good things are right around the bend.
One thing is clear as we look forward to the draft and the offseason—the Wolves are not looking for more role players or backups. David Kahn has stated publicly that they are looking for that one piece that will bring this puzzle together.
What that piece is and how they will find it, is still a mystery.
Let’s look over the current roster and see where the Wolves stand to improve the most:
Wolves’ fans have yet to see either of their young, promising point guards in action this year. The hope is that Jonny Flynn will come back from his hip injury to have a strong sophomore season.
I, personally, have high expectations for Flynn. The Wolves have tweaked their offense to allow for more pick 'n roles, which is believed to be Jonny's preferred style of play.
In the midst of Flynn's development, the basketball world waits to see what’s in store for Ricky Rubio. Whether he signs with the Wolves, stays in Europe, or has his rights traded to another NBA team remains to be seen.
Either way, the Wolves have a plethora of options at the point guard position and, in all likelihood, will not be targeting another one in the 2011 draft.
Whatever questions Wolves' fans had about Kevin Love before the season, it’s safe to say they have all been answered. Beyond his amazing 31 and 31 performance, Love is averaging 19 points and 15 boards per contest (leads the NBA), and has established himself as one of the young, up-and-coming stars of the NBA. At 22 years old, the Wolves have a great talent in Love for years to come.
Anthony Tolliver, who was acquired in the free agency market last offseason, has become an immediate fan favorite with his contributions both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. He will give you 100 percent effort every night and do whatever he can to help the team win. And at 25, Tolliver’s best years are still ahead of him.
With Love and Tolliver holding down the fort, I doubt the Wolves will be thinking power forward come draft day.
I said before the season started, “What if Michael Beasley just blows up this year and becomes the star small forward we've been looking for for so long? How sweet would that be?"
Well, he’s done just that. Many believe Beasley is on his way to super-stardom. He has a ways to go before he gets there, but his size, skill set, demeanor, competitiveness and everlasting energy all tell me not to bet against this 21-year-old.
The Wolves have two other players in Wesley Johnson and Martell Webster who can play both wing positions. We will get to them in the shooting guard discussion.
Bottom line, with Beasley's stock skyrocketing, I would bet my mortgage that the Wolves will not be selecting a small forward with their first pick.
Two weeks ago, I would have told you the center position is without a doubt the Wolves’ biggest weakness. Today, it looks as though the center position has become a forte for the Wolves.
That’s right, Darko Milicic is making a very strong case for the Wolves' starting center of the future with his recent play. Of course, it’s going to take more than a good month of basketball to secure this title, but after all the humiliation he has endured, it’s hard not to pull for Darko.
He has the size, athleticism and defense, now it’s a matter of whether Darko can become a consistent offensive threat. His recent performances suggest that he is becoming that, and then some. He's playing with confidence and has recently outplayed some of the best big men in the NBA.
If Darko really can turn his career around, David Kahn should be in store for a lot of apologies from the national sports media, right? Fat chance, "It was simply blind luck!"
Regardless, the starting center position currently looks to be filled. By the end of the year, we should know for sure if this new Darko is here to stay.
Wes Johnson dunks over Pau Gasol
The shooting guard position is still up for debate. Wesley Johnson has shown flashes of brilliance in the first 16 games of the season, but has also shown a lot of inconsistency that is often seen in rookies.
His play thus far begs the question: Will he be able to develop a complete offensive game?
He has the size, athleticism and shooting stroke to be a Rudy Gay-type player. But can he learn to put the ball on the deck, knock down contested shots, and create for himself and others? Overall, can he become the type of player that can take over a game? These questions should be answered over the next two seasons.
Martell Webster has been sidelined the entire regular season as he recovers from surgery on a nagging back injury he sustained in the playoffs last spring. In the preseason, he demonstrated consistent three-point and mid-range shooting while also dazzling us with a few athletic moves to the hole. At 23, many believe Webster still has a lot of game to show. Notably, he's spent the majority of his career playing behind one of the premier players in the NBA, Brandon Roy. Without Roy in his way, Webster looks to have a breakout year of his own.
The Wolves will get a good look at Webster this year once he returns from injury, but the shooting guard position may still be in need of a big time talent when it’s all said and done.
The good thing is that there are no longer gaping holes in this roster, and this season should expose any holes there may be.
To me, it appears that the Wolves are desperately lacking a guy that will come in off the bench and score double figures every night. They need that Jamal Crawford/Jason Terry/Lamar Odom type of guy.
And while that guy may already be on their roster in the form of Martell Webster or Wes Johnson, they could always use another guy like that. Corey Brewer isn't that guy and it seems inevitable that the Wolves will be cutting ties with him this offseason.
If Ricky Rubio decides to come over, the Wolves could have conceivably the most lethal bench in the NBA by next year. Consider a second string of:
PG: Flynn/ Rubio
SG/ SF: Johnson and/or Webster and/or an off-season pick-up
PF: Anthony Tolliver
C: Nikola Pekovic.
Thus far, the individuals in college basketball have not impressed me like recent years. The only guy in this entire draft class that could help the Wolves right away would be Harrison Barnes, the freshman from North Carolina. Barnes has the whole package of athleticism, ball handling, and a smooth shooting stroke. Consequently, he looks to be a lock at the No. 1 overall pick so I won't be getting my hopes up with the Wolves’ lottery luck.
Kahn stated publicly this past offseason that he didn't want to add any more rookies to this roster. So, unless by some miracle they can land Barnes, the Wolves will most likely try to use their cap space and trading chips to acquire a shooting guard or small forward without going through the draft.
Thanks for reading and let the debate begin.