Miroslav Raduljica's 2nd 10 day contract expires this week, meaning the Wolves will be faced with a decision about whether or not to keep him on the roster for the entire year. I am not in favor of this for a few reasons.
1.) Raduljica could not earn playing time while Nikola Pekovic was injured and the Wolves had no backup center. He was literally competing against no one and could not win the spot.
2.) Pekovic has returned from injury. I am not convinced this will last the entire year, but right now, backup center is not the biggest hole on the roster. The holes at backup point guard and backup power forward are now far more detrimental to the team's watchability and competitiveness.
3.) Raduljica is already 27. This team will not win anything this year, so this roster spot would ideally be used by trying to find a young player who can both crack the rotation now and has the upside to be a long term contributor.
With that in mind, here are some young players who could be signed away from the D-League and fit the Wolves short term and long term needs more than Raduljica. Some players on rosters in Europe, China, and Australia may also fit the Wolves needs, but are more difficult to sign during the middle of the season.
Joe Jackson, PG
My number one choice for this roster spot, Jackson was one of the biggest stories of the recent D-League showcase, leading Bakersfield to victory in the event. Jackson, an undrafted free agent from Memphis, was a top high school recruit who never quite lived up to the hype at the NCAA level. There have always been questions about his size, ability to play as a pure point, and shooting consistency, but he has reinvented himself as a defensive pest a la Patrick Beverley and has put up ridiculous numbers in limited time at Bakersfield. At the least, Jackson projects as a competent, defensive minded waterbug that won't force the Wolves to hemorrhage points on either end of the floor , and if his improved shooting and court vision are real he could be one of the best reserve point guards in the league on a team friendly deal for the next few years.
Tyler Johnson, PG
Johnson was an undrafted free agent from Fresno State. A score first point guard who played well in the Summer League and the D-League, Johnson was recently released from a 10 day contract with the Heat. Johnson hasn't seen much playing time in the NBA, but has scored efficiently for Sioux Falls. There are questions about his passing ability and he's not much of a ballhawk but his defensive numbers likely undersell his contributions on that end. Johnson is big and athletic enough to defend NBA guards and looked the part when I watched him play during Summer League. His shooting has consistently improved over the past several years to the point where he could be a net positive playing next to Rubio.
Tim Frazier, PG
Another slightly undersized point guard, the undrafted free agent from Penn State is stuffing the stat sheet for Maine (16/7/8 with over 2 steals a game). Maine is one of the few teams in the D-League that appears to play a semblance of defense, and possesses the best record in the league, which makes me think that Frazier's stats are more likely to be legitimate (unlike those on RGV and Reno). Frazier isn't a great shooter, but he can get to the rim, run an offense, and compete on defense. It remains to be seen whether he has the strength, athleticism, and shooting to stick around in the NBA, but if he continues to play this well on both sides of the ball in the D-League someone will give him a shot.
Khem Birch, PF
Birch scored very well in VJL's model for a fringe prospect and has played for the Heat's Summer League squad and D-League affiliate. If he continues to produce, it should only be a matter of time before they offer him a contract. Birch is your classic undersized center who still manages to pile up more than his fair share of rebounds & blocks through effort and athleticism. His skill level is not great and he won't help stretch the floor, but he's a solid passer and never takes a shot he doesn't have a good chance of making. Birch is also a little too skinny to be more than an acceptable post defender, but a team looking for energy and rebounding on their front line could do much worse - just look at some Wolves box scores for examples of this fact.
Willie Reed, PF
Reed is in his 3rd year in the D-League, and has received a couple 10 day contracts over that time, but failed to stick with any team. There's not much skill or finesse to his game, but he is an excellent rebounder, shot blocker, and pick and roll finisher. Reed doesn't have the upside of some of the rookies on this list, but he provides similar skills to garbage men like Thomas Robinson at a fraction of the cost and assets needed to trade for them.
More promising players currently on 10 day contracts: Nate "RIOT" Wolters, JaMychal Green, James McAdoo
The Wolves could also trade for a player currently languishing on a contender's bench. We are nearing the time of year where contenders begin to look to sign veteran buyouts to bolster their benches. That means that contenders with full rosters could be open to trading one of their young players for a future 2nd rounder should the opportunity to sign another veteran arise.
The Grizzlies and Hawks have the largest collections of young players I like who don't receive much playing time. Mike Muscala would be my best case scenario. In fact, letting Raduljica walk and cutting GR3 (who can't earn playing time on the team with the worst record in the NBA) for Joe Jackson and Muscala would be an excellent use of the end of the roster. Muscala dominated at the mid major level before going to Spain after graduating. He excelled in Spain last year, but struggled to integrate into the Hawks rotation after coming over from Europe in the middle of the year. He's posting excellent numbers in limited minutes this year, but there may not be room for him in the rotation behind Horford, Millsap, Elton Brand, Pero Antic, and Mike Scott. Meanwhile, Jordan Adams and Jarnell Stokes may not be available from Memphis, but it's not unthinkable that the Grizzlies could consider point guard Russ Smith redundant. Smith is undersized but is extremely athletic and plays an aggressive, attacking style that is often all too absent in Minnesota.
Whichever route the Wolves decide to take, they have options. As Hassan Whiteside and countless others before him have shown, there are good players floating on the periphery of the league. It's up to the front office to do due diligence to find them.
This video has nothing to do with basketball; instead it's a reminder that human beings are capable of impressive, scary feats.