1. Ricky Rubio Ricky is becoming surprisingly controversial considering that he is the only player on the team with the skills to play the point guard position at an NBA level for more than a few minutes in a row. His injuries have been frustrating for sure but there is no reason to expect that he will be hurt again next year. I also don't think he will be traded but I guess anything is possible. Great use of a roster spot.
2. Andrew Wiggins Andrew earned last season's Rookie of the Year honors after coming to Minnesota in a dramatic Kevin Love trade that keeps looking better by the minute. The extent of his potential stardom is something that we can and will debate for years to come but at this point it's clear that Wiggins is an exciting young NBA quality player with a still emerging skill set. Andrew Wiggins will not be moved this summer. Excellent use of a roster spot.
3. Kevin Martin After years of publicly rooting for Kevin Martin to be traded I have finally reversed course. This is a very young team who sometimes struggles to score points. Kevin Martin's advanced age and ability to score the basketball addresses both of these deficits. Martin's once bloated contract now appears reasonable and his ability to shoot the ball mostly makes up for his now legendary defensive limitations. However, other teams might be willing to take on Martin's contract this summer for the same reasons it makes some sense for the Wolves to keep him. If Flip gets an especially attractive offer, or simply decides he wants to free up minutes for Zach Lavine, Martin could still be traded this summer. Reasonable use of a roster spot.
4. Zach Lavine Approximately exactly one year ago this week I was not alone in being distressed and distraught when the Timberwolves drafted Zach Lavine. Since then it has been a mixed bag with Zach. His athleticism is at times spectacular (leaping) and at other times concerning (strength), and his shooting from range has been encouraging while some of his decision making has been discouraging. There was also the unfortunate point guard experiment which is hopefully mostly over. Personally I find myself weirdly optimistic about Lavine but I have to admit that even this is rooted in tempered expectations. Given his draft slot, and the dearth of quality shooting guards in the NBA, I will see it as a positive if Lavine ends up as a solid reserve with the ability to spot start. Others may have higher expectations than I do and I am more than willing to be pleasantly surprised. Zach Lavine will not be traded and is a reasonable use of a roster spot.
5. Shabazz Muhammad The meat and potatoes of what I wrote above about Zack Lavine can be applied to Shabazz Muhammad- although many of the specific details will be different. Muhammad has proven to be a hard worker over these last two seasons and his high energy and unique skills make him an interesting player. Unfortunately he had some injury setbacks last year before we had a chance to fully determine if his emergence was temporary or permanent. Shabazz was an exciting player last year and he earned his status as a fan favorite. Personally, I think if could be worth exploring trade options with Muhammad but I don't think many people, including Flip Saunders, will agree with me. Also, to be clear, I like him and do not want to trade him just to trade him, it's just that I think I'm more open than most to including him in a smart trade. It's a moot point though because Shabazz Muhammad will not be traded and he is a good use of a roster spot.
6. Nikola Pekovic Oh how the mighty have fallen. Nikola Pekovic is an excellent basketball player. The problem for him is that he is very large and, as sometimes happens with very large humans, his feet and legs have a difficult time supporting his massive frame. This can be especially true when one such extra large person engages in athletic competition. Anyway, reports regarding Pek's offseason recovery have not been encouraging, with the latest suggesting he may not be ready to play by the beginning of the season. There has also been speculation that even when he is ready to play he will be under a strict minutes limitation- a sitiation that makes me further speculate that he could then end up hurt and missing chunks of games again next season. All this, coupled with the fact that he is still in the front part of a large and lengthly contract, make it seem highly unlikely that the Timberwolves could find a trade partner even if they wanted to. Nikola Pekovic is a very good basketball player, but his feet don't work very well, which makes him an unfortunate use of a roster spot.
7. Gorgui Dieng Gorgui Dieng is another Timberwolf who has been strangely polarizing amongst fans of the team. Occasionally spectacular help defense blocks perpetuate the believe that he is an excellent defender despite the possibility that most of the people reading this post could take him off the dribble in the open court. His offense is a weird mix of untimely turnovers and bank shots which he seemingly never misses. Combining these highly scientific stats into a complex electronic abacus we will find results which point to one clear conclusion: Gorgui Dieng is a competent NBA back up center. Competent enough, in fact, that he could start if needed but I'm hopeful that this will not be necessary for more than just a handful of games. Dieng's name comes up from time to time amongst the NBA trade machine aficionados but I have not seen him mentioned in any official rumors (whatever that is). I have no doubt that other teams would be interested considering the importance of having a good back up center but I will be surprised if Dieng is traded this summer. His contract is very reasonable (for now) and his position too important to the team considering the Pek situation. Good use of a roster spot.
8. Anthony Bennett There are exactly two reasons I can think of to keep Anthony Bennett on the team at this point. The first, and by far most compelling, is that the Wolves will have the number one overall pick three consecutive drafts all playing together. This, to me at least, is a very interesting novelty, although I will gladly concede that it contributes nothing to winning basketball games. The second reason to keep Anthony Bennett around is that someone does need to play power forward and he fits the physical profile of a person who could. Bennett is still relatively young, and his jump shot is every bit as smooth looking as Wes Johnson's. Who knows, maybe something will click and Bennett will turn into a solid rotational forward in the NBA. It's highly unlikely however that he will make this turn to the tune of being worth six million dollars next season which is why all reports suggest that the team is rightly shopping him as a trade feature. I suspect that Bennett will in fact be traded this summer, his size and potential might have one more click left on it before it wears off completely. This could also be hopeful thinking on my part. Perhaps I am emboldend in my optimism by Flip's success in last week's draft. I guess we will find out. Poor use of a roster spot.
9. Adreian Payne Count me amongst the subset of Timberwolves fans who was not impressed with the play of Adreian Payne last season. To me he frequently appeared lost on the court and a little wild with the ball. It will be interesting to see if he has improved because the team is in dire need of consistent play from the power forward position and all of the candidates, including Payne, provide cause for concern. I also don't want to dig too deeply into the trade that made Payne a Wolf other than to point out that the concerns that myself and others had at the time seem to be playing out now in real time. We enter this free agency period with some clarity on the roster but little maneuverability with which to address obvious issues. Both the roster spot, and the pick traded away to obtain Payne, could come in handy this July when the trades and free agency flurry takes flight. I highly doubt that Flip Saunders is looking to unload Payne so soon given what he gave up for him so I expect he will not be traded. Poor use of a roster spot.
10. Chase Budinger The theory of Chase Budinger has proven to be much more enticing than the reality of Chase Budinger. I was pretty happy with the initial trade that brought Chase over from Houston to Minnesota but injuries seem to have altered his athleticism to a substantial extent. Budinger did show some flashes of promise towards the end of last season, and maybe another five months of healing will restore his once impressive athleticism, but that does kind of seem like a lot to hope for doesn't it? The twitter machine has been suggesting that the Wolves are trying to trade Budinger this summer but my guess is that opposing GM's will share my skepticism. I suppose he is in the last year of his contract so maybe some team will give him a chance. I'll keep my fingers crossed. Chase Budinger is a mediocre use of a roster spot.
11. Karl-Anthony Towns There is just so much to be excited about right now regarding this young man. Finally, after hundreds of years of waiting their turn, the Timberwolves obtained the number one overall pick and it couldn't have come at a better time. Plenty has already been said in the last week about the versatility and two way ability of Karl-Anthony Towns so I'll cut my words short: no chance of being traded; fantastic use of a roster spot.
12. Tyus Jones Ok, let me get this part out of the way: personally I am not a big fan of the "local kid comes home" angle. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Tyus Jones being from Apple Valley is the single biggest red flag about the turn of events that have made him a Timberwolf. Otherwise I think the trade was fantastic. I'm not going to pretend that I had other prospects rated higher for his draft position. I didn't because I don't rank that many players. The 24th overall pick is always going to be a bit of a crap shoot and this year is no exception. I will, however, say that I am thrilled that the team found a way to package two second round picks (ok, three), that may have been difficult to use given the current roster constraints, to move up to draft a player that fits a position of need and who was appears to have been picked in about the right spot. If Jones can develop into a solid back up point guard, and it certainly seems possible that he can, that should be considered a very good use of those three second rounders. Tyus Jones will not be traded and is a good use of a roster spot.
13. Kevin Garnett Confession, I kind of don't want to write this one. I'm violently ambivalent about having Garnett return for another season's or (gulp) two of Timberwolves basketball. Last season's experiment to bring him back succeeded far more on a cultural level than on a competition level and I fear that we fans could be in for more of the same this season. Kevin Garnett can still play good minutes of basketball but the question remains if he can play enough of these minutes to warrant taking up space on a 15 man roster. Given the concerns over Pek's health, and the limitations our other front court players all have (keep in mind that being a rookie is a limitation), it becomes difficult to fully justify this. Still, it's going to be fun to see a whole season of Garnett with this team and I have no doubt that there will be moments of pure bliss for we long toiling fans of the team. Kevin Garnett will clearly not be traded and he is a curious use of a roster spot.
14.Robbie Hummel Reports have surfaced that the Timberwolves have extended a qualifying contract offer to Robbie Hummel, a move that signifies the team intends to bring him back so long as no other team throws him an obscene amount of money. I know that some fans will scratch their heads at the idea of using a precious roster slot on a player who will hopefully see limited court time if other players are able to remain healthy. Fans of this teams will do well to remember that this ability to stay healthy is a pretty big "if" and the versatility of a guy like Hummel at the end of the bench could help avoid the team making unwanted roster moves mid season just to field a team that works from a logistical stand point. Hummel will likely be signed and is a good use of a roster spot.
15. Nemanja Bjelica Baring any unforeseen moves, the final roster spot could go to Serbian forward Nemanja Bjelica. Bjelica had an excellent season last year while playing in a top Turkish league and at 6' 10'' he should have the ability to play the power forward position in the NBA. He has also shown the distance shooting necessary to spread the floor, which is becoming increasing important for forwards in the modern NBA. Unlike Hummel and Garnett, who are free agents, Bjelica's rights are owned by the Timberwolves so it does remain possible that the team will trade those rights if a contract agreement can't be made. Indications, however, are that the Wolves do in fact intend to bring Bjelica over and have him play for the team. Another advantage of this, despite his filling a position of need, is that even as a rookie he will be 27 years old and should help balance out the youth of the current roster. Nemanja Bjelica could be traded and is a good use of a roster spot.
So there you have it, 15 players for 15 open roster spots. My official guess is that there will be at least one more move this summer but I don't think it will be major. For the most part I think these are the players Flip Saunders is going to have on the team at the start of next season. Personally I still have some concerns at the guard position considering that Ricky is the only one with any real ball handling skills that is also old enough to legally order a beer. I also have concerns at the power forward position, although I have made peace with the idea of rolling the dice on Bjelica.
How about you? Do you think the team will make any more significant moves this offseason? Do you think they should? Let your position shine on forever in the comments section.
Here is a song I like that I think fits this article well: