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Turning over the roster again....again (again)

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Once upon a time (and by that, I mean two months ago) the Minnesota Timberwolves traded the #18 pick in the 2012 NBA draft to the Houston Rockets for Chase Budinger.

And the people (us) rejoiced. Finally, the Timberwolves had an average/above-average wing player. Our big move was made. All that was left was to see who we'd spend the #58 pick on. In other words, time to pack it in and call it an offseason. Right?


Over the course of David Kahn's tenure, the Timberwolves have had a shocking 33 players put on the uniform in a mere 3 years.Of those 33, 26 of them are no longer with the team. In fact, of the roster that Kahn inherited, literally the only player left is Kevin Love.

The changes started immediately, with Mike Miller and Randy Foye being shipped out for the draft pick that miraculously became Ricky Rubio. Of course, Rubio wouldn't arrive stateside for another couple of years, so in the meantime, the Timberwolves basically fielded a team of Al Jefferson, Kevin Love (sort of...), Corey Brewer, Ramon Sessions and Jonny Flynn.

By the next season, the team had subtracted Jefferson and Sessions and added Michael Beasley, Wes Johnson, Luke Ridnour, and got a full year from Darko. The year after that....last year....the team added Rubio, JJ Barea, Derrick Williams, subtracted Corey Brewer, and (in a practical sense, at least) added Pekovic and subtracted Darko and Beasley.

Now the team has subtracted Beasley and Darko for real, as well as Wes, Martell Webster, Wayne Ellington, and Anthony Randolph (and maybe Anthony Tolliver....hopefully not), while adding Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Alexey Shved, Greg Stiemsma, Dante Cunningham, and Andrei Kirilenko. Add in Robbie Hummel (who will play this season in Europe), and the Wolves turned over literally half the roster in 2 months time.

And so if you look at the grand scheme of things, the Wolves have basically turned over the roster 4 times in 3 years.


After three consecutive seasons of terrible win/loss records, one would think the idea of freewheeling in the offseason would be a lesson long ago learned. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times....?

Instead, this turnover in particular has been the biggest one yet; very dramatic, and very expensive. We signed 3 time all star from a division rival (whom we ironically had drafted ourselves) out of retirement, then proceeded to wage a loud, rather personal war with that division rival over Nic Batum. We then signed a couple of Russians who alone cost nearly as much as the entire 2010 offseason.

So where is the motivation for all this coming from?

Well, for one, Glen Taylor was looking to sell the team. "Buy low, sell high" is great advice for a collection of stock options, but not so great for a whole franchise. You can't untangle yourself from a bad business overnight, like you can a sinking share. Investors want to buy franchises that are succeeding. A successful investment is a safe investment. (BTW, the team has been sold, but the transition will happen over a few years, with the mystery investor gradually buying into the majority over the course of several seasons)

Second, Kevin Love made some not-so-veiled noises about the state of the team. I'm definitely of the mindset that players should just keep their mouths shut and play, but there's no question that the Wolves have done a less-than-stellar job of putting a decent team around Love. This is by far the most competent roster the Wolves have fielded since Love arrived (and honestly, may ultimately prove to be its best ever). A lot still rests on the health of the backcourt, but even so, the Wolves haven't had this kind of balance since Sam and Spree, and haven't ever had this sort of across-the-board firepower.

And third, of course, the Wolves got a taste of success again last season. Right before Rubio's injury, our Pups were above .500 and headed for the playoffs. It's amazing what a hint of sunlight will do to the forecast. Suddenly the team goes from 'mired in an unwinnable situation' to 'just one step away'.

The good news is the team hasn't overextended itself. Some teams (like the Bucks) get a year of success and then sell the farm on anyone they can get their hands on to try and break through. The Wolves have fortunately been a bit more strategic, acquire players with proven track records and legitimate potential. Andrei Kirilenko has a long history of very good play. Brandon Roy has a long history of very good play (at least when healthy) Unlike previous rebuilds (reshuffles...reloads....whatever....) the Wolves didn't go for the gambling route on unproven Beasleys and a bunch of draft picks.

Hopefully this is the end of the revolving door. You can't expect to win without continuity. The Wolves have finally built a winning core group of players, with a great coach, and surrounded them with great support. No more excuses, no more 'next years', no more kicking the can down the road. The roster has been turned over more than enough for any competent team to know what doesn't work by now.