With NBA Draft nearing, coming weeks crucial to Wolves' future
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A bevy of tough and team-altering decisions await the Minnesota Timberwolves this off-season. The process of resolving those issues is underway, with less than five weeks remaining until the 2011 NBA Draft.
After missing out the No. 1 pick at Tuesday's draft lottery, the Wolves select second behind the Cleveland Cavaliers, as well as at No. 20.
When asked what options the second pick gives the team, Wolves' president of basketball operations David Kahn refused to yield any insight.
"We won't know for several weeks," Kahn said in a post-lottery teleconference. "Even though the draft on the calendar it says June 23 it's eons away. It truly is eons away from where we sit tonight in terms of how the players perform first in Chicago (draft combine), and then in their individual workouts and the background work teams will do. "
But don't think the Wolves haven't fully begun to formulate strong ideas of what direction they will head in the coming weeks.
Arizona forward Derrick Williams is considered by many to be the second-best pick in this year's draft after Duke guard Kyrie Irving. At 6-foot-8 and 241 pounds, the question surrounding Williams is what position he will fill on an NBA roster. At the draft combine this week, he adamantly pointed out to scouts and reporters that he does not see himself as a power forward, but instead a strong threat at the three.
If Williams were to be selected by the Wolves, he would join a team that has a trio of options at small forward. Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph and 2010 first-round pick Wesley Johnson all logged playing time at the position last season.
Given the team's pressing needs elsewhere, the Wolves must determine if Williams' athletic scoring potential is too good to pass up. With that, speculation of a possible trade is swirling. They have started gauging the willingness other teams may have in pursuing the No. 2 pick. One early rumor is, as tweeted by Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio on Thursday, the Indiana Pacers have expressed interest in moving Danny Granger in exchange for the Wolves' selection.
While it is early and the validity of the rumor is unknown, the move would be in line with the Wolves' severe lack of veteran leadership. Posting an average age of 24, they were the NBA's youngest team last year, which makes adding more experience for next season a critical goal.
"There is no question that has to be part of our internal discussions," Kahn said. "Of course, I wouldn't say that means the draft pick won't be used because of other moves that could be made to accommodate that sensitivity."
Finding a consistent, everyday point guard is also a primary concern. Kahn has tried, unsuccessfully, in the past to find a go-to guard in the draft, selecting Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn in 2009. Flynn has largely been a bust in his two years in the league, while Rubio is yet to make his U.S. debut.
Renewed hope Rubio could join the team next season was sparked recently with the news of Kahn's trip to Spain to meet with the Euroleague star. It was thought Rubio would have to finalize his choice by May 31 - the deadline for players to sign under the current rookie wage scale as set by the NBA's expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement. But Kahn stated on Tuesday he would honor Rubio's wish and not comment on the situation until the Spanish League season is over. That likely won't be until after the deadline since Rubio's team, FC Barcelona, is currently in the quarterfinals of the league playoffs.
Regardless of Rubio's status, the Wolves are still in need of another player at point, which would allow Luke Ridnour to be used more off the bench.
"We need to stabilize the point guard situation," Kahn said. "I think that can be done in more ways than just what the draft presents. Having said that, the draft could present more opportunities to do so."
Roster moves aside, the preeminent question facing the team is one that upper-management has been reluctant to provide any clarification on. Kurt Rambis remains the Wolves' head coach, but the front office hasn't given definitive word if the second-year coach will indeed be back next season.
It is becoming increasingly likely the Wolves will enter the draft with their coach's status unresolved, as Kahn did in 2009. Rambis, who has two years left on his contract, has been noticeably absent from pre-draft workouts so far, instead staying in Los Angeles at his home.
The lack of a final decision from the Wolves raises the possibility the delay could be financially based, especially with the threat of a lockout hanging over the league. By holding off on firing Rambis, the team would prevent having to pay two coaches if there is a delay to the 2011-12 season.
Resolving Rambis' fate, along with coming tweaks and additions to the roster, will go a long way in determining the future of the Wolves and Kahn's as well.