As another disappointing season is coming to a close for the Minnesota Timberwolves, their off-season to do list has grown over the course of a season that promised a lot of hope to fans. Instead, they will extend their playoff drought to 10 years once the season comes to a close on April 16th.
For someone who watches a lot of the games on my computer, I have been disappointed twice as much this season as I was the past two seasons under head coach Rick Adelman. He used to be a great coach, but he had better, more complete teams when he was with the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets. He told to new basketball general manager and former Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders to keep around and bring in “his” guys, guys who fit “his” system. Chase Budinger has been hurt much of the past two seasons and, when healthy, has been extremely bad. Dante Cunningham shoots 45% from the elbows and top of the key (17 feet and in), a shot that should be made 50% or more of the time, especially when all his shots are open shots. I was looking forward to watching Kevin Martin play this season, and I enjoyed the first 15 games or so, until I realized he just isn’t very good at anything but shooting, and he only shoots 42% from the field. Adelman refuses to play rookies Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad, and I don’t know why. Over the last few games, Dieng has rebounded extremely well and even had a 20-20 game last week. He is handicapped into playing J.J. Barea (the most frustrating player on the planet) because the Timberwolves don’t have a serviceable second point guard behind Ricky Rubio. At the beginning of the season, the Timberwolves roster looked extremely good on paper. Rubio and Martin at the guard spots, Corey Brewer and Kevin Love at the forwards and Nikola Pekovic at center. However, Pekovic has missed time with injury, yet again this season, even after signing a big contract this past offseason.
So where do the Timberwolves go from here?
1. New coach: Nothing against Adelman, but he needs to go. His “Corner Offense” simply doesn’t work in the 4th quarter and he leaves bench players in too long during certain periods of the game, especially the first three minutes of the 4th quarter. He is tired and worn down from coaching so many years in the NBA. He is stubborn and reluctant to play the two rookies on the team, both of whom have shown some promise and his rotations are inconsistent.
2. Sign better free agents: Everyone thinks a team has to make a big splash in free agency. However, that’s not the case. There will be some valuable unrestricted free agents this summer and the list includes guards Rodney Stuckey, Jerryd Bayless, Shannon Brown, and Brandon Rush; and forwards Spencer Hawes, Darrell Arthur, Andray Blatche, and Trevor Ariza. Of course you have to get the right price for the right player. Stuckey is a proven scorer and doesn’t mind coming off the bench. Bayless is in the same boat as Stuckey; great shooter and capable of playing point or shooting guard. Brown is an athletic, gritty defender who is capable of shooting a respectable percentage from three. Arthur, Blatche and Ariza are all tough players. Blatche is the most offensively-skilled player of the group, while Arthur has developed a nice mid-range game since coming out of Kansas and is a good shot-blocker, and Ariza has a championship with the Los Angeles Lakers, has always been a solid perimeter defender, and might be looking for one last contract in the NBA. Hawes is a reliable three-point shooter for a 7-footer and is also a good passer and rebounder.
3. Amnesty Barea, dump Budinger, Cunningham and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: The Timberwolves traded away Derrick Williams for Mbah a Moute and it hasn’t worked out. He doesn’t play and just isn’t very good offensively or defensively anymore. As for Barea, Budinger and Cunningham, just chalk it up to three more free agency signings that didn’t work out for the Timberwolves. While Barea provided us with some semi-memorable moments, he has been more frustration than excitement.
4. Trade Pekovic; maybe Martin too: Despite signing him to a big contract in 2013, Pekovic is an oft-injured center who can’t defend the rim, and that’s someone the Timberwolves need. Could Dieng be that guy? Maybe. It’s too early to tell. In exchange for Pekovic, the Timberwolves could end up with two pretty good players. Clearly they won’t be stars, but it would upgrade the roster. Martin is 31-years old and is a one-way player. He isn’t even a decent defender. He is getting paid $7 million a year over the next three years, so his valuable will probably be at its highest now.
A roster with two or even three of the free agents I mentioned above mixed in with Love, Rubio, Dieng, Muhammad, Brewer, Alexey Shevd, Pekovic and Martin (because they likely won’t be traded) and a new coach (maybe Saunders?), would put the Timberwolves in a better place for next season, which may be Love’s last season in Minnesota.
It’s time to consider some major changes.