Although the lockout has officially started, and there may not be a season next year, that doesn't mean we can't speculate about where this year's free agents will end up.
It's no secret that the Timberwolves desperately need a playable center. Anthony Randolph is rumored to have put on some serious weight this offseason, and if that's true he could prove serviceable. However, I doubt Randolph will be ready to start at center this year leaving the Wolves with a hole at the position.
Minnesota is absolutely loaded at forward, but right now Darko Milicic and Brad Miller figure to get most of the minutes at center. Some believe Kevin Love will play center on occasion, but in reality his defensive skills aren't up to par.
The best way for the Wolves to address this need is through free agency, and there are a few different options at center that I believe could be an effective way for the Wolves to solve their problem.
Samuel Dalembert isn't necessarily a great player, but he could really help the Wolves out at center this season. He brings a lot to the table as far as defense and rebounding go, and he is a veteran player, something the Wolves apparently crave.
Dalembert is rumored to have wanted to go to a contender so he can win, but for the right price I'm sure the Wolves could lure him to Minnesota. The Wolves are on the rise, and Dalembert could get some serious minutes, possibly 30 a game.
For his career, Dalembert averages eight points and eight rebounds a game while adding two blocks as well. He would provide immediate help on defense and while it would cost the Wolves some money to get Dalembert on the team, he is much more affordable than any of the other elite centers in this class.
Marc Gasol didn't put up overly impressive numbers in the regular season, but he performed very well in the playoffs. Finding a good young center is extremely difficult these days, and Gasol seems like he fits the bill. At 26, he took a little longer than most to develop, but he's really coming into his own.
Marc Gasol would be a great fit with the Wolves because he's a legitimate center, and will continue to improve defensively. I'm not sure they are interested in bringing in another young player, but Gasol is a guy that can start for the Wolves for a long time.
While it's possible Gasol would join this team for the right price, the Grizzlies probably aren't going to let him leave easily. They have said they will match any offer sheet for him, so it's likely his former team's interest in keeping him around will be the reason he doesn't draw all that much interest in the offseason. Many teams want him, but they know they can't have him. Who knows, maybe it's worth a shot.
Nene is a very talented player. He is currently in his prime, and would be a great addition to this team as a veteran player. He gets it done on both ends of the floor, and would fit well into the style the Timberwolves want to play.
Nene probably wants to stay with the Nuggets, but if they can't work something out only a handful of teams have the money to actually sign him. The Timberwolves could be one of those teams.
Averaging 14.5 points and almost eight rebounds a game last year in only 30 minutes is impressive, especially when considering he shot 61 percent from the field. I'm not sure the Wolves would be willing to spend the money to get Nene, but he would certainly be a great option for the team if they will pay the price.
Tyson Chandler is by far the hottest name in this year's free agent market. He came up big in the playoffs, and seems like he has finally lived up to the hype.
Like Nene, Chandler is currently right in his prime. The way I see it, Chandler will never be better than he is right now, and he is going to be looking for a big paycheck this summer. Whichever team decides to sign him knows he isn't going to be a great scorer, but he can be the anchor to a defense.
The Timberwolves desperately need a defensive center that is starter quality and Chandler is definitely that and more. He is the veteran they need, and he would be a great signing that would get Minnesota buzzing.
The problem is, the Mavs won't let him go easily. Mark Cuban says that he is committed to re-signing Chandler, but if the new CBA limits them, he may slip away. There are many teams rumored to be interested in Chandler's services, and if the Wolves want him, they are really going to need to make him an offer he can't refuse.
This deal might require the Wolves to give him a fourth, fifth, or even a sixth year. I like paying Chandler $8 million next season, but I definitely don't like the sound of paying him $8 million when he's 33.
Chandler is a little bit injury prone, and will probably be looking for a long term deal in case his body breaks down. There is also the issue of effort. It seems at times as if Chandler isn't entirely interested in giving his all. If the Wolves are a 40-win team in Year 4 of that contract, will he bring it every night?
Overall, Chandler would be a good signing for the Wolves, but for a guy with as many red flags as him, they have to be careful. This isn't Dwight Howard we're talking about.
I know what you're thinking. How could Jordan possibly be a better option than Tyson Chandler? I believe he is far and away the best option for the Wolves for two main reasons.
First, he is significantly younger. At only 22 years old, Jordan is still developing, and he has a lot to learn. I know the Wolves don't need any more young players, but I really think Jordan is a great fit on this team.
Second, he is much cheaper. Donald Sterling is known for being cheap, and if the Clippers are trying to clear space to make a run at someone next offseason, Jordan may not be their first priority. They already have Chris Kaman as their starting center, and Jordan may be expendable.
Jordan is the best player no one is talking about in this year's free agent pool. Yes, he's a restricted free agent, but I don't think it's impossible to think the Clippers would let him go.
Jordan is a perfect fit for the Wolves because he would be great alongside Kevin Love. They compliment each other perfectly. Love is an excellent rebounder and scorer. Jordan can help with the rebounding, and protect the paint.
Last season, Jordan averaged seven points seven rebounds two blocks and shot 69 percent from the field in just 26 minutes of play, and the guy's only 22. He's improved in each of his three NBA seasons, and I expect him to have a solid career as a starter. He could definitely be a big part of the Wolves' plans going forward.
We'll see what happens with the lockout, but for now, the only thing we can do is speculate. Hopefully it's resolved soon.
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