Timberwolves Trade of Jefferson to Jazz is about Assets, Not Players

Joe M.Correspondent IIJuly 15, 2010

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 19:   Al Jefferson #25 of the Minnesota Timberwolves shoots over Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers on March 19, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

As the rumors of the Timberwolves “haul” for Al Jefferson surfaced Tuesday morning with the trade to the Utah Jazz, my initial reaction upon hearing the paltry compensation was “What, that’s it? I mean, its good we finally got him moved but a lowly first-round draft pick from Utah that we’ll probably never see since its so well protected, so much to the point that it will eventually become cash someday. Where is the Marko Jaric-like “after so many years it loses its protection and goes to us no matter what?”

As more information came out, it was speculated that the players involved would and could be foriegn since Rambis liked a few guys on the Jazz roster overseas that he scouted.  The additional pieces we got back could also be a second round pick. Still kind of lame if you ask me.

What I did know and hinted at in my last article was, we would likely not be getting a player back, and if we did, he’d be a bench player at best, since, with our recent additions, where was he going to play? Better yet, how was he going to crack this lineup?

David Kahn is all about balancing the roster.

Depth by natural position

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PF-Kevin Love

SF-Michael Beasley, Gordon Hayward, Ronnie Brewer, Wesley Johnson, Martell Webster

C-Darco Milicic, Nikola Pekovic, Ryan Hollins

SG-Wayne Ellington

PG-Johnny Flynn, Ramon Sessions, Luke Ridnour

Actual position

PF Love, SF Beasley C Milicic SG Johnson PG Flynn

Bench: Webster, Ellington, Sessions, Pekovic, Hollins, Brewer, Hayward, Ridnour

While I would have wanted Butler’s Gordon Hayward in any dea.  There were post-draft implications that we would have got him with our second first-rounder had he been available, another off our roster would have had to go since we are currently capped, actually over the cap.

As you can see one too many players (Sessions) will have to go.  There is also no room for Bjelica this year.

We still have a shot at a modified Sessions for Randolph trade that many would like to see, even though that would give us yet another combo, versatile SF who plays like a SG (Webster, Brewer, Johnson) clone.

I’m not sure if that is a good thing or too much repetitiveness. Still, it's hard to deny that all can shoot which along with passing (Rubio, Milicic) is the second key component of the triangle offense as I understand it to be able to work effectively.

Kahn almost seems to be the antithesis of McHale. Not only does he get things done (make trades, keep fans on their toes never knowing what may happen), he’s always looking two steps into the future, first by adding first-round picks versus taking them away but he got a generous $13 million in cap space when Jefferson was dealt.

While I eluded to this in my proposed Jefferson, Sessions to NY deal for Randolph and a future first-round pick, I had us down for roughly $14 million in space with this in mind. What we do with it is anyone’s guess, but my suggestion would be for Kahn to wait until next year’s RFA list to make any addional moves or to use or move that very valuable asset.

Restricted free agent portion of FA coming next?

The NBA postseason works in four phases: pre-draft trades, draft night/trades, post-draft deals-the stage we are in now, and finally, almost as a last resort/touch-ups is signing any RFA’s a team may want to gamble on since they are often the hardest to pull off due to teams generally not wanting to lose them since they hadn’t anticipated getting the offer.

We know how much Kahn likes restricted free agents—Hollins and Sessions as examples of his moves last year, specifically Sessions who came very late, so never rule that out, don’t be surprised, especially if Kahn can move an additional body or two (Brewer or Hollins) once he gets done with Sessions.

I’m in the camp hoping we can get Ricky Rubio's homeboy Rudy Fernandez of the Blazers—not only to make Rubio happy and use as a bargaining chip for him to come over here, but also to give the fans something that they want. This is where the additional body to be moved comes in since Fernandez would need a roster spot.

Kahn tied at the hip to Rubio

Finally, Kahn cannot be judged not only until after this initial three-year contract is over, but also until we see if Rubio ever plays in a Wolves uniform. Since that is what Kahn built his early legacy on, and all these moves from the very offense on revolve around it.  To critique him before we see if he can deliver him or not would be unfair.

If he can’t, let's see what assets we can get for him. It should be plenty, and knowing Kahn, it will be at least fair, which is more than I can say about the previous regime. If he can but Rubio fails, then we’ll know but we’ll have to judge how the other pieces fit in around him. Perhaps they'll lift his game and hide his faults. What I do know is all signs point to the kid “getting it,” and I doubt so many people would be that off. First-round picks fail all the time, but I feel Rubio isn’t just a first-round pick because too many good things have been said about him.

Critiquing the trade

Once again, for those thinking I am giving Kahn yet another free pass, consider the fact that I was all ready to (finally) rip him for getting a bogus first-round pick from Utah that we’d never see and a lousy second-round pick for a borderline all-star, albeit one with questionable knees.

I think we can all agree Kahn sold high and did about as well as could be expected. My lone criticism—and its a big one—is why we would aid a fellow division rival in Utah, especially one that was seemingly on the ropes after losing both Kyle Korver and Carlos Boozer to free agency. Makes me wonder if Kahn knows something about Jefferson and his knees or if his defense (and lack thereof) is really the bigger concern than just not fitting into our offense.

With that said, I expect Jefferson to fit right in and for his numbers to go back “to their old 20-10 pre-surgery self” that so many anticipate. He’ll get ripped until we see what he can do with the assets he just acquired yesterday, leaving ESPN’s talking heads and non-biased fans laughing as usual, but actual fans who follow the team content as seems to be the theme.