Two weeks ago, I would have told you I might be writing an article about the four players fighting it out for one spot at the end of the Timberwolves roster. This is because the Wolves have 14 guaranteed contracts on the books, and I didn't think it likely that one of those players, namely, Chris Johnson, would be on the chopping block.
Given that Johnson is the only player yet to appear in the pre-season, and the relative effectiveness of Ronny Turiaf, it is looking more and more possible that the Wolves are seriously considering buying out Johnson in favor of another player.
Here's a look at the five guys fighting for what appears to be two spots:
Robbie Hummel: Hummel strikes me as the least likely guy to make the team. A late second round pick of the Wolves in 2012, Hummel spent last season playing in the Spanish ACB League. He parlayed a fairly impressive summer league performance into a camp invite, and here he is. He has appeared in two pre-season games thus far, and hasn't done too much of note. Hummel is a 6'7" small forward whose primary skill is shooting the ball. He's not a lights out guy, but has the ability to make shots from range. He's a relatively scrappy rebounder as well, but ultimately, after several knee surgeries, lacks the physical skills necessary to play in the NBA.
Oythus Jeffers: One of the more likely of the five to make the roster, I think. Jeffers is a 6'5" wing man who is extremely strong. He goes hard to the rim and battles on the boards, and has also shown some good defensive chops. He's a 28 year old who has been on the fringes of the NBA for the last several seasons, spending time in the D-league and earning a few 10 day contracts in the NBA along the way. He's an amazing story, really, as you can read about here, and seems to have impressed the coaching staff with his defense and demeanor. The one thing he doesn't seem to do well is shoot from the perimeter, but when discussing 14th and 15th men, well-rounded is not to be expected.
A.J. Price: Along with Jeffers, Price is a player with Wizards connections, having spent last season in Washington where new Wolves G.M. Milt Newton saw him everyday. Price is the veteran of this group, and is probably battling Lorenzo Brown for the 3rd point guard spot behind Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea. Price is a known quantity. He's a guy who isn't going to shoot it very well, but will distribute OK, won't kill you with turnovers, and will compete defensively. In other words, he isn't the worst guy to have around in an emergency. He's played in over 200 NBA games and more or less is what he is: a quality 3rd point guard.
Lorenzo Brown: Brown was the Wolves 2nd round draft pick out of North Carolina State this summer, and might have an advantage because teams always like their own draft picks to make it. He's a lengthy point guard who has pretty good defensive chops and appears to have some nascent distribution ability, but he's also probably a long way away from contributing.
Chris Johnson: I have to admit I'm a bit surprised by what appears to be happening with Johnson. He's the only player who has not appeared in the pre-season, and as far as I know, there are no injury concerns. Johnson had the advantage of having a guaranteed contract, and until recently, I didn't really think his roster spot was in jeopardy despite rumors from some of the local reporters that the Wolves were not committed to keeping him. Here's what I wrote about him this summer, after what was a pretty successful summer league performance in which he showed off the beginnings of a jump shot and some passing ability from the high post. I thought he'd have the opportunity to compete with Turiaf and Gorgui Dieng for back up center minutes, but it appears he's completely out of the plans. Which strikes me as odd; he's arguably the most talented player on this list, we are discussing the last two roster spots, and he has guaranteed money coming to him.
So those are the five. Guessing today, I would bet on the Wolves keeping Jeffers and Price. If it were my choice, I think I'd go with Jeffers and Johnson.
How do you see it?