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Updated: June 25th, 2010 12:52am
Pelissero: Wings addressed, Wolves next will try to replace Jefferson

Pelissero: Wings addressed, Wolves next will try to replace Jefferson

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by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Al Jefferson, please report to the general manager's office. You may not survive the week as a Minnesota Timberwolf.

With Derrick Favors headed to New Jersey, David Kahn didn't find a replacement in the post for his leading scorer and rebounder on Thursday. (No offense, Nemanja Bjelica).

But the way Kahn conducted his draft said everything about his commitment to upping the tempo next season -- and that means Jefferson is going to be left behind.

Kahn entered Thursday night with three first-round picks. He parlayed them into four players, including three wings -- Syracuse's Wesley Johnson">Wesley Johnson at No. 4, five-year veteran Martell Webster in a three-player trade with Portland and Marquette's Lazar Hayward">Lazar Hayward at No. 30 after dealing down with Washington -- Kahn thinks could run the floor together this season.

You can argue Johnson doesn't have the upside of DeMarcus Cousins, but the Kentucky big man's lack of athleticism and speed turned off the Wolves.

You can argue the wisdom of giving up the No. 16 pick to get Webster, who's been in the NBA five years and averaged all of 8.5 points per game.

And you can certainly argue the Wolves might have overbought on Hayward, whom many projected as a mid- to late-second round pick.

Kahn's priorities were clear, though: wings, shooting, toughness, defense and the character to succeed amid a rebuilding process that's just getting started.

"We have a lot of work still to do -- tremendous amount of work still to do with the roster," Kahn said on the suite level of Target Center shortly after the draft ended.

"But we will start attacking it, literally, (Friday) morning, about continuing to build pieces for this roster and make it the best team it can be as quickly as possible."

The Wolves made one move with the salary cap space in mind on Thursday, stuffing Ryan Gomes (and the June 30 buyout they didn't want to pay) into the deal for Webster.

Their next move probably is finding a taker for Jefferson, his bum knee and the $42 million remaining on the final three years of his contract.

Bjelica -- the 6-10 Serb drafted 35th, with the other pick acquired from the Wizards -- may come over this year, but he won't be ready for a prominent role until he adds strength in his upper body.

The Wolves used their final pick, No. 45, on 6-11 Brazilian Paulao Prestes, who's still under contract without a buyout in Spain.

So, the Jefferson-Kevin Love combo inside lives for at least another day, and Kahn said he didn't come close to trading Jefferson this week despite numerous reports.

That could change soon -- perhaps even before free agency opens on July 1.

Which should come as some consolation to the fans who blew up message boards and Twitter as Thursday's events unfolded, with Nevada's Luke Babbitt (briefly a Wolf at No. 16) and Clemson's Trevor Booker (just as briefly at No. 23) exchanged for players with similar skill-sets to Johnson before Kahn's draft wrapped with two unheralded foreigners.

Kahn said there was one player -- Butler wing Gordon Hayward? -- the Wolves thought about moving up from No. 16 to grab, but they didn't end up getting a shot at making a splash that way.

And so a team that's averaged 25.2 wins since 2005-06 will have to let the days, weeks and months prove this wasn't another draft-night disaster.

"It's been hard here for five years," Kahn said. "I get it. It's awful, and people have been really pained by it. People want to really embrace this team again."

It's still way too soon to say whether Kahn's big summer will pay dividends come November, but one more link to last season's mess should be gone soon.

As soon as Kahn can unload Jefferson.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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