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Timberwolves Confusing Roster Shuffle

Guys are getting swapped in and out, and yet the Wolves refuse to address their glaring need at point guard.

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Not much in the way of Timberwolves news from this morning, as they flew to Phoenix following their win in Indianapolis to prepare for a game with the Suns on Friday. Mo Williams had his day in the sun after dropping 52 on the Pacers, and now holds the club record, which amuses Kevin Love:

Elsewhere, the Pelicans made it official and signed Nate Wolters to a 10 day contract. And the Wolves remain without a point guard. Let's review the roster shuffling that has gotten us here:

The Wolves were granted a roster exception (essentially a temporary 16th spot) in late November because they had four players down with lengthy injuries--Ricky Rubio , Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic, and Ronny Turiaf.  Needing either a point guard (Zach LaVine was playing much more than anyone wanted, and Mo Williams clearly couldn't handle heavy minutes) or a center (they were down to Gorgui Dieng at that spot), the Wolves opted for power forward Jeff Adrien. Adrien, forced to play out of position as the back up center, did well, and while he clearly is not a center, he proved a tough rebounding, high energy addition to the squad.

The Wolves, however, were still short of playable guys in certain spots, and were reduced to playing Corey Brewer at point guard when Mo Williams missed time with a back problem, to say nothing of the disaster minutes Zach LaVine was providing, through no fault of his own, as he isn't ready to play in the NBA and isn't a point guard.

Meanwhile, the Wolves traded Corey Brewer and the injured Ronny Turiaf for three point specialist Troy Daniels and 2nd round picks. This left them at 15 players, right at the NBA limit. The injury exception went away once Turiaf was no longer on the roster, because it requires 4 injured players.

It became clear that Flip didn't want to extend LaVine, because whenever he could, he reduced his minutes in favor of Williams, never mind the fact that the 32 year old should not be playing so much. Still, as the date for Adrien's guarantee loomed, the Wolves started looking into signing former Bucks and Chinese League flame out center Miroslav Raduljica. In one way, this made sense, since the Wolves still only had one active center on the roster. On the other hand, they had essentially zero pure point guards, with Williams really being more of a combo-scoring guard.

In order to make room for Raduljica, the Wolves decided to cut ties with Adrien since he was the only non-guaranteed contract on the roster. This was a mistake from the standpoint of actually keeping the team's best players, since Adrien was a better back up four than anyone else on the roster, but not a surprise.

In the meantime, however, the Bucks parted ways with 2nd year point guard Nate Wolters, putting him on waivers in order to sign Kenyon Martin. The Wolves, desperate for a point guard, signed Raduljica to a 10 day contract instead, and ignored Wolters, even while having players on the roster that could be cut, costing very little in actual dollars.

Specifically, Glen Robinson III remains employed, now for the rest of the season. However, had he been cut prior to 1/10, he would have cost almost nothing in remaining salary, as most of the $250,000 guaranteed his contract called for had already been paid. Now his total $500K is guaranteed, which still isn't much beyond a rounding error in the current NBA economic world.

I have no problem with Robinson being on the roster, but I have to wonder: if they are so high on the guy, and are rebuilding, why can't he get in the game? Consider the Pacers game: Shabazz Muhammad was out with his abdominal injury, and Robinson still didn't play, as the minutes went instead to a monumentally struggling Chase Budinger, a marginal NBA guy Troy Daniels, and Robbie Hummel instead. That's fine, but then what's the point of keeping Robinson? I hope the guy does well and has a career, but I have to imagine there are a dozen similar guys available every summer: 6'7" wing guys with good but not exceptional athleticism and OK but not remarkable basketball skills.

He's a guy that doesn't play on a brutally short roster, with an obvious, desperate need at point guard. And yet, the Wolves refused to use his roster spot to fix that obvious problem, as Nate Wolters made it through waivers and signed with the Pelicans.

The amazing thing is that the coach clearly knows Zach LaVine shouldn't be playing; of course Mo had the huge game on Tuesday which accounts to an extent for his heavy minutes, but LaVine played only 4 minutes in that one, and Flip used Troy Daniels ahead of him off the ball as well. LaVine got some time against the Spurs in the game previous, but much of that was off the ball, even though Mo was still suffering from an ankle injury that had caused him to miss a game in Milwaukee (a game in which, despite LaVine being the only "point guard" available, Flip still limited him to 27 minutes and actually went with Robbie Hummel at the point for an extended stretch in the 4th quarter).

I get that wins are not the biggest priority at this point, but Ricky Rubio has been out for two months, and appears unlikely to return much before February. And it's not as if Flip has just decided to go with LaVine for development purposes no matter what. It's one thing to be rebuilding, it's another to go three months without a point guard, especially when opportunities to bring someone in have existed throughout.

Basically, I want an explanation. I can't discern any plan regarding the roster. They brought in Adrien, who plays a position that wasn't the biggest need, because they felt he was the best player available. OK. Then they cut him because they need size in favor of a guy who is now half way through his 10 day and didn't appear against the Pacers. Meanwhile, they rarely have even 12 healthy bodies, and are keeping around a minimum salary guy who never plays. I can't make sense of it.

I don't like watching a team that lacks anyone that can get them running any kind of offense. Essentially, the offense has devolved to either a) cross screens to get a wing in the mid-post, or b) a pick-and-...drift that either leads to a 20 footer for a power forward or Mo launching.

The point guard spot has been a festering wound since Rubio went down, and the POBO has refused to address it. The coach must be furious by now. I can't see how those two can continue to get along.