The Minnesota Timberwolves have a big question mark at center. Last season, Darko Milicic was a serviceable warm body. Anthony Randolph showed flashes of potential, but is still rough around the edges. The team also has Brad Miller, Nikola Pekovic and Anthony Tolliver up front.
The organization also has to figure out how to get minutes for Kevin Love, Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley.
In order to begin to answer these questions, the team must figure out who to start at center. While Darko is a decent defensive player, his offensive skills leave a lot to be desired.
Some analysts have said Anthony Randolph should start at center.
Let's examine the differences between the Serb and the LSU product.
Size is the biggest difference between Darko and Randolph. Randolph is 6'11" and 225. Darko is 7'0" and 275.
Randolph also has a Stretch Armstrong-like wingspan. An arm span of 7'3" is a huge attribute to any center.
Randolph has the speed to keep up the much talked-about "up-tempo" basketball that the Wolves are looking to play next season.
Nonetheless, the Timberwoves were a terrible defensive team. They got pushed around by bigger and more athletic centers.
Advantage: Darko. Randolph needs to bulk up.
Randolph is a quick, athletic big man who has excellent ball-handling skills. He showed he has the ability to get some points (scoring in double figures the last five games). He also dropped 31 against the eventual NBA champions. Randolph is primed to fit in well with new point guard Ricky Rubio. Randolph still has work on his post game.
Darko is a lot clunkier in the paint. He didn't give the team consistent points and turned the ball over a lot. While he can pass and posts up better than Love and Beasley, don't expect the Wolves to make the mistake of running the offense through him.
Advantage: Randolph. His speed and athleticism make him a better potential to fit in with the up-tempo offense.
Randolph has the wingspan of a 747. Fingertip to fingertip, the LSU standout measures 7'3". However, Anthony needs to work on his discipline in order to match up better down low.
Darko can block shots and matches up better with centers like Dwight Howard. Darko averaged around two swats a game last year.
Advantage: Darko. Randolph has potential, but he still needs to work on the mental aspects of his defensive game. Love and Beasley are still shaky defenders, so it would behoove the team to have an established defender on the floor.
The frontcourt is where the Wolves have the most questions. Here is what the depth chart for the 5-4-3 spots looks like:
Center: Darko/Brad Miller/Anthony Randolph/Nikola Pekovic/Anthony Tolliver.
Power forward: Love/Derrick Williams/Anthony Randolph.
Small forward: Beasley/Derrick Williams/Martell Webster/Wes Johnson/Lazar Hayward.
The only two sure things in the frontcourt are Love and Beasley.
Potential-wise, Randolph has the highest ceiling.
After seven years in the league, everyone has pretty much seen what Darko can do. Miller has experience, but is slowing down. Pekovic and Tolliver are fine backups that will not start on consistent basis.
However, Randolph and Tolliver are not true centers. The team won't have too many options when playing big men with scoring potential (Howard, Brooke Lopez and Dirk Nowitzki).
A Beasley-Love-Randolph frontcourt with Rubio leading the way carries the potential for some great SportsCenter highlights. But will it win games for the team?
Advantage: Darko, due to the fact that he's a known quantity. But, if things get dicey, look for the Wolves to try Randolph in the middle.
This will all hinge on who the coach is next season. The short list for the job seems to be: Don Nelson, Larry Brown, Sam Mitchell and J.B. Bickerstaff.
Mitchell is a fan favorite in Minnesota. Bickerstaff is a veteran coach, but isn't a big name by any means.
This situation affects Randolph more because he he has not reached his ceiling yet. Randolph needs a mentor to develop his game.
The gut feeling of this writer says that the Wolves should stick with Darko. He is not a great choice, but provides good defense (which is the team's biggest weakness).
With that being said, Randolph fits better in the team's long-term future. He's young, raw, exciting and has the potential to put up some big numbers.
A quote from the blog Canis Hoopus sums up the extent of the Wolves' problems at frontcourt:
"What I am not in favor of is position by committee. I am not in favor of a three-man rotation of Wes, Beas and Williams at the 3 every night where they each play 15 minutes. Ditto Ant/Darko/Pek at the 5. One of the most important elements for any franchise...rebuilding or contending, is defining roles for the players. Very rarely does the revolving door strategy work."
Read the rest of the intriguing post here.
Randolph also has the potential to shape this team's identity. Darko will always have that No. 2 pick stigma surrounding him, and his career will (sometimes unfairly) be labeled a bust.
If Randolph bulks up his frame, disciplines his defense and the front office selects the right coach, look for No. 15 to be the center of the future for the Wolves.