With all of the free agency related news flying around the league (Hedo, Sheed, Ariza, Artest, etc) it's pretty easy to forget that there are some lesser names out there that could realistically help the Wolves should they be able to shed a roster space or two before the start of the season. Right now the Wolves have a completely unbalanced roster and I just cannot imagine a situation where they enter the season with the current status quo. If there is one piece of information that points towards a preordained trade on draft night, it is the fact that the Wolves currently sport a roster with 9 bigs, 4 points and Corey Brewer and Wayne Ellington. Something has to give. This isn't a roster you can take on a tour through 82 games. It is an absolute disaster waiting to happen at the 2/3.
Below the fold we'll talk about players that could fill the gaps as well as possible solutions for the roster imbalance problem.
The problem the Wolves have over the summer is that they are stacked at the 4/5 with expiring contracts that will likely be more valuable during the season than they will be right now. Thomas, Cardinal, Madsen and Smith give the Wolves @ $19.1 mil in expiring deals. If teams are looking to clear space for the 2010 free agency madness, the Wolves can give them nearly $20 mil (even more if you throw in Brewer and Gomes) of expiring deals in exchange for contracts running to 2011 and beyond...hopefully plus a pick or two. Remember, these contracts are not valuable in terms of cap-clearing right now. They mature in value between the opening day of the season and the trading deadline.
Beyond the expiring deals, the Wolves don't exactly have a mountain of realistically movable assets. Jefferson and Love aren't going anywhere. Brewer is coming off an injury so he's probably not going anywhere. That leaves Gomes and Flynn as the most likely movable assets. Could the Wolves move one of these assets for a legit 3? Would they? What about in conjunction with an expiring contract? Can the team move Flynn with no guarantee of Rubio coming over this year or the next?
Long story short, I believe it is very likely that we fans are looking at the players who will be on the starting day roster. I wouldn't rule out a Bobby Brown and/or Pecherov buyout, but beyond that, the Wolves will be hard-pressed to make a deal to balance their roster, especially at the 2/3. Unless the Wolves have something in mind for Flynn, I think they are much better served sitting on their expirings until near the trade deadline in an attempt to get a pick and a player from teams looking to clear 2010 cap space....or, they could sit tight and use that cap money for themselves.
What can they do in the meantime? First, Brown and Pecherov should be bought out ASAP. Brown is due to make $736k and Pecherov is on line for $1.5 mil. They are probably the two easiest buyouts on the team. Second, sign Paul Harris and Lee Cummard.
We have gone on and on about Harris for a while now but he would give the team a solid young prospect at the 2/3 who rebounds well, has good defensive potential and who can slash to the hoop and play in transition. Cummard is old for his class (thanks to a 2 year Mormon mission) but he is a remarkably versatile and effective player. We had Cummard ranked as the 6th best guard in the draft. He has a TS% of 61.6%, a 16.2 DR%, a serviceable assist rate, a fantastic TORate (12.1), he gets a lot of blocks for his position and he shoots .558 from 2 while having solid 3 point range. His big negatives are his previously mentioned age (24) and he's 185 lbs at 6'7". That's Brewer territory.
Both Harris and Cummard could likely be signed for single-year minimum deals. They would cost very little to acquire and they would do nothing to hurt the team's long-term plans for the expiring contracts and remaining assets. If they work out, the Wolves have found a diamond in the rough. If they don't, no harm, no foul. Here is what the rotation would look like with a Brown/Pecherov buyout and a Harris/Cummard pickup:
The remaining roster spot will depend on Mr. Rubio. If he comes over, you're set with tremendous flexibility going forward. If he doesn't, then...well, here's hoping that Ben Woodside has a good summer league and would be willing to take a 1-year deal.
Wrapping things up, the important thing for the Wolves right now is to a) maintain a large amount of expiring deals for the 2009/10 trade deadline, b) not pay a lot in both money and years for players to fill out this year's roster imbalance, and c) not take on any large salaries unless the player is of considerable skill and in the same age range as the current core group of players (18-24).
The Wolves are not going to contend for the playoffs this year. They're just not. What they are going to do is continue to marshal their assets in such a way that will give them maximum flexibility moving forward towards a 2011 or 2012 competitive lift-off date (when their core is 20-26). Paul Harris and Lee Cummard give them an opportunity to fill the two 12-18 mpg slots at the 2/3 that they simply do not have at the present time without breaking the bank or sacrificing anything approaching a useful asset.
Are we missing any players that would also fit this bill? Who else should the Wolves consider? Should they sign a veteran player like Keith Bogans or Shannon Brown?
What say you?