Shooting. The Wolves need shooting, and they need a player to fill the spot named for that skill: shooting guard. Last season's failed attempt to resuscitate Brandon Roy's career led to a second straight season in which backup point guard Luke Ridnour was forced to start the majority of games at the position. He and J.J. Barea are too small, Alexey Shved is more of a point guard and showed he wasn't ready, so something has to change.
There is widespread speculation that the Wolves will use their lottery pick on a two guard, but even if they do, they will almost certainly work to acquire a veteran of starter quality, as they aren't in a position to rely on a rookie in such a role for 2013-2014.
It's time to take a systematic look at who is or might be available on the market. We'll start with the free agents, but remember that, barring something truly unforeseen, the Wolves are unlikely to have more then the MLE to spend.
Kevin Martin: Coming off a large contract that has seen him go from offensive centerpiece in Sacramento to Houston and finally to sixth man in Oklahoma City, Martin is 30 years old and due a pay cut. He was still an effective player for the Thunder, though his days of 9+ FTA's/36 are clearly behind him. He still makes threes and free throws, my favorite ways to score. He remains an above average player, and knows Rick Adelman from their Houston days.
EiM's verdict: Probably not interested in the Wolves even with Adelman, and likely to command more money then the Wolves can pay. Would be a pretty good get, though, if it were possible.
Let's remember this Kevin Martin from a couple of years ago, shall we? Suffering is what we do:
J.J. Redick: Traded as a half-season rental from the Magic to the Bucks this season, he struggled. Still, he's been an above average player most years, and is a career 39% from three. Not an ideal size, but brings things to the table. He earned over $6M last season and will be looking for a raise.
EiM's verdict: Almost certainly too expensive for the Wolves, but a good fit. Not good enough a player to warrant finding painful ways to make room under the cap for, however.
Kyle Korver: Played mostly small forward with the Hawks this year, but a lot of off-guard in Chicago prior to that. One of the best three point shooters in the league, hasn't shot below 40% since 2008-09. Has size, manages to hold his own defensively. Coming off a season in which he earned $5M.
EiM's verdict: Maybe the best free agent fit for the Wolves. And I'm not even talking about pigmentation. Unfortunately, will probably get offered more money than the Wolves can afford, so unlikely.
O.J. Mayo: Mayo has a player option in Dallas for next season, but I'm assuming he opts out to become a free agent. He was unable to find a big deal last summer, and I'm not sure anything has changed, as he more or less had an O.J. Mayo season. He also got called out by Rick Carlisle late in the year for his effort. He'll probably be looking for a multi-year guarantee at more than the MLE, but I'm not sure it's out there for him.
EiM's verdict: which is scary, because rumor has it that Flip Saunders likes him. I don't see why, except he looks good taking a jump shot. He is a bit undersized, and isn't good defensively. He's more or less a below average/above replacement level guy. Not interested, certainly not at the MLE.
Marco Belinelli: Decent three point shooter, but that's about all he does. Made some banana sandwich plays in the playoffs. Bulls unlikely to bring back given their cap situation.
EiM's verdict: Not a starter. Mentioned here largely because he made less than $2M last season, and will probably be available in a similar price range.
J.R. Smith: Is going to opt out of his contract with the Knicks. His good season was marred by his struggles in the playoffs, but he can score, and does some other stuff too. He's pretty volatile, and may not be someone the Wolves front office sees as a fit. Still, he's got talent, which the Wolves need on the wing.
EiM's verdict: Unlikely to be interested in Minnesota given his social life, he would be a risk even if he were interested. Still, he might be a guy who finds it tough to get a contract bigger then the MLE, and in that case, might be worth taking a chance on. It's a roll of the dice, but hey, that can be fun too.
J.R. Smith highlights from 2012-13, cause why not?
Tony Allen: Regarded as one of the top perimeter defenders in the NBA, Allen has been a big part of Memphis' resurgence, and was had at a very cheap price ($3M this past season). He'll almost certainly be looking for more this summer, and it will be interesting to see how far the Grizzlies are willing to go to retain him, given his lack of an offensive game.
EiM's verdict: While it would be fun to see a Rubio-Allen backcourt (ALL THE STEELZ!), in truth it's not a good fit. Having both guards be non-shooters is death on NBA offense. Allen is a terrific player, and I hope he gets a nice deal somewhere, but it won't be with the Wolves.
Gary Neal: He's an RFA this summer with a small QO of just over $1M. I assume the Spurs would match any offer the Wolves could make, but I wonder if there isn't some sort of sign and trade to be made here in a deal that would structurally resemble the George Hill trade. I like Neal. He shoots it, doesn't turn it over, and has learned in the best environment in the league. He's not quite ideally sized for a two, but he and Rubio would make for an interesting pairing.
EiM's verdict: The Spurs probably wouldn't be interested, but I would inquire. If I can get a re-signed Neal for the next four years, that helps.
There are many other free agent possibilities, but none who would warrant a starting role: Richard Hamilton will be cut by the Bulls, but is probably done, Anthony Morrow wouldn't be a bad pick up as a bench shooter, nor would former Wolf Wayne Ellington (RFA). Nick Young is a UFA about whom the less said the better, and Ronnie Brewer, who the Wolves pursued last summer is back on the market after a tough year. Carlos Delfino will probably be cut loose by the Rockets and can still shoot it, but isn't a heavy minutes guy. A couple of guys I didn't mention because I don't see them as available are Gerald Henderson (RFA will be matched by Charlotte), and Manu Ginobili who isn't playing anywhere but San Antonio.
Now let's move on to:
Possible Trade Targets (Guys who I think are reasonably available):
Arron Afflalo (Orlando Magic). I decided to write this article after my back and forth with JerryZ on twitter about this. Affalo is owed $23M over the next three seasons, and presumably the Magic would move him looking for youth and flexibility. Affalo himself is only 28. He's not a bad player, but...he isn't that good either. His defensive reputation is not well supported by the evidence, and he had a terrible shooting year. I'm not so worried about that, but I am about giving up assets and tying up that much cap space in him.
EiM's verdict: I would consider trading marginal assets for him (Barea, maybe Williams, maybe 26), but not the 9th pick.
Jared Dudley: We've been talking about Dudley for years now, and he still has two years at just over $4M per left on his deal. A good shooter, and an above average player overall, Dudley would be a tremendous fit on the Wolves. He thrived with Steve Nash and no doubt would get similar opportunities with Rubio.
EiM's verdict: Like him. Close to ideal for the Wolves. Would strongly consider a deal built around the 9th pick. Don't know what Phoenix wants to do, but gotta figure they are in full rebuilding mode now and would be willing to move him.
Bonus Personality Points with Dudley:
Courtney Lee; The Celtics have a glut of guards and would probably be willing to move Lee, who is owed $16M over the next three years. That's a little steep, but he's a playable "3 and D" guy whose been a basically average player over his career. Decent, low-usage starter.
EiM's verdict: not clear what the Celtics would want in return; we've discussed a J.J. Barea deal, but would they go for that? Not clear to me that they would. Lee would be a decent fit, and while I'm not super enthusiastic, it's certainly something I would explore.
Brandon Rush: I put him here assuming that after his lost season, he will opt in to his $4M player option, though he might not, in which case he'd be an RFA. (He might do this if he sees a lack of playing time next year in Oakland, with Thompson and Barnes emerging). Rush shoots threes. That's about all he does, though he's been, on balance, a decent player overall. Not the guy I want as a starter, but better than nothing.
EiM"s verdict: If he opts out, he's a guy to talk to. If he doesn't, the Warriors will presumably want to dump him for no salary due to their cap situation, something the Wolves cannot do.
Evan Turner: The CH darling of the 2010 draft, Turner has disappointed overall, and with a new regime in Philly, might be on the outs. I'm not too interested, seeing as how he is still inefficient as a scorer and generally seems to need the ball in his hands. He does rebound well defensvely and can pass it, but lacks the skills the Wolves need. He did shoot much better from three in 2012-13.
EiM's verdict: not interested in paying him $6+M this season and dealing with his RFA.
Wesley Matthews: The Blazers might look to move Matthews in an attempt to get more assets and change things up. He is owed over $13M for the next two seasons, but, like Lee, is a fairly effective 3 and D guy. He'd be a pretty good fit for the Wolves, and it's something I would explore.
EiM's verdict: Hard to see what a deal would look like. Are the Wolves willing to give up the 9th pick for him? Do the Blazers want that pick?
Marcus Thornton: Here for reasons that aren't clear as I write. He's owed $16+M over two years, and while he's high usage and a decent shooter, that's all he is.
EiM's verdict: not interested. Too expensive, too limited, too one-dimensional.
Marshon Brooks: Don't know whether Brooklyn would move him, as he makes so little money. It would almost have to be something bigger, where they look to dump Humphries or something. Brooks isn't very good, I mention him here only because he was discussed at length around the 2011 draft, and had a superficially impressive rookie year.
EiM's verdict: not good enough, and no obvious deal to be made. Let's move on.
There are plenty of other guys who are probably available, some because of their price tags: Eric Gordon (and his lousy knees), I have to imagine the Pelicans would give him away; Ben Gordon once he opts in to his outrageous player option, Rodney Stuckey if you want to pay him $8.5M next year could be yours.
So, who did I miss? What do you think of these guys? Whose your favorite to play in front of the Wolves next superstar, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (or, you know, Shabazz Muhammad) until the young guy is ready to take over?