The Timberwolves are looking better this year than they have in a long time. We have a young dynamic duo in Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. Love just got a new contract extension to stay with the team for four more years, but the fourth year is a player option. That means this organization has three years to establish direction and propel the team into contention, otherwise they will most likely lose one of the franchise cornerstones.
The current roster is still young and it certainly could grow up into a contender. However, is anyone still enamored with Michael Beasley's upside? Though I see some improvement at times, his shot selection is far too inefficient for my tastes. For some reason Anthony Randolph is having his minutes yanked around by Rick Adelman (I can't see the reasoning behind it while watching, but I trust Adelman's decision), which can only lead to questions about how much of our ability to contend for a championship should be relying on him fulfilling his potential. Darko Milicic is the same as he has ever been, but at least Adelman is making the most out of him. Nikola Pekovic has looked like a beast at times, but he still collects fouls at an alarming rate. Wesley Johnson looks lost on the offensive end of the court - for some reason he is afraid of taking open jump shots in the rhythm of the offense, but he'll dribble once after passing up an open 3-pointer to shoot a semi-contested 20-footer. Johnson does look decent when passing the ball or crashing the offensive boards, but it is clear he still has a long way to go before he becomes the player we thought we were getting with the fourth pick in the draft (never mind that the player we thought we were getting wasn't the player many of us wanted to get with that pick). Wayne Ellington is actually beginning to look like a competent back-up shooting guard, and not just a waste of roster space. Then there's Derrick Williams. It's too early to make a definitive call on this guy. He clearly shows flashes of brilliance and has been Rubio's favorite alley-oop partner so far. But Williams also shows some signs of being willing to settle for inefficient, Beasley-esque, mid-range jumpers too often.
What if the Wolves could set themselves up to contend immediately and into the foreseeable future? Below the fold is my suggestion for how to do exactly that. It's a simple, straight-forward two team trade that I believe makes sense for both teams. Really it would have to be structured as two separate trades with the same team, but that's just a CBA related formality.The first trade:
New Orleans receives Beasley, Randolph, Johnson, and Brad Miller.
The second trade:
New Orleans receives Williams, and some combination of two first round draft picks (Utah's protected 2012, Memphis' protected 2013, Minnesota's own 2013 or 2014 - we've seen that the Stepien rule is not currently in effect based on the Chris Paul trade).
Minnesota receives Eric Gordon.
The first trade could be tweaked to include either Milicic or Pekovic (I wouldn't part with both - just for the sake of roster balance) instead of any one of the other players if New Orleans prefers.
The motivation for the Hornets making this trade would be to reduce payroll long-term and collect young players and draft picks in the process. Eric Gordon is rumored to want to play back in Indiana after this season anyway, so he may be willing to play out next season under a qualifying offer to enable him to sign with the Pacers via free agency in 2013 rather than playing on a team going nowhere.
Minnesota's motivation for making this trade is to complement Love with another defensive oriented center and fill the starting roster with NBA caliber players. While I would be concerned about Gordon's desire to play back home in Indiana, I think he'd be reluctant to leave a team that is built to contend for championships for the next decade.
Minnesota would have the following roster:
C - Okafor; Milicic; Pekovic
PF - Love; Anthony Tolliver
SF - Ariza; Martell Webster
SG - Gordon; Ellington
Would making this trade catapult the Wolves into contention this season and for years to come? Which team would balk at this deal? Would the Wolves be better off letting the kids grow up together? What say you Canis Hoopus?