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Updated: May 6th, 2012 9:08pm
Wessel: Wesley Johnson among five likely on Wolves' trading block

Wessel: Wesley Johnson among five likely on Wolves' trading block

by
1500ESPN.com

The Minnesota Timberwolves are watching the NBA playoffs at home for the eighth consecutive year after finishing 26-40 in Rick Adelman's first season as coach.

Both Adelman and president of basketball operations David Kahn made it clear during their season-ending press conference that changes will be made to the roster in what will be a crucial 2012-13 season to the franchise.

Here is a closer look about who will be here and who won't be here when the Wolves try to end their NBA-long playoff skid next fall.

Untouchable

Kevin Love: It should come as no surprise the man who dipped into the MVP discussion before a concussion ended his season is regarded as the lynchpin to this rebuilding project. Love finished the season fourth in scoring and second in rebounding after signing a contract that will keep him in Minnesota through at least 2014-15 season, with a player option the following season for a cool $16 million. Kahn likely regrets not giving Love the full maximum contract for five years, but even the most optimistic of critics couldn't have predicted Love would be this good this quickly. Love will be here. The keys to the franchise are his. The Wolves have their superstar they can build around. The question will be, can they surround Love with enough talent that will not only convince him to use his player option, but sign a deal that could make him a Wolf for life?

Ricky Rubio: Rubio was the other name, along with Love, that Kahn mentioned as a cornerstone to the franchise going forward. It is unclear whether or not Rubio will be ready for the start of next season as he continues to rehabilitate from ACL surgery, but nobody has questioned the determination of Rubio to comeback stronger than before. Rubio's impact on the team became even more obvious once he was gone. The Wolves went 5-20 after losing their rookie of the year candidate for the season on March 9 in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Rubio is the type of player who makes those around him better and, as Kahn pointed out, is the type of player others will want to play with. Having a pass-first point guard on the roster can only help in bringing in free agents.

Likely staying put

Nikola Pekovic: The giant from Montenegro came out of nowhere to surprise everyone in his second season with the Wolves. With the exception of just how good Rubio actually was, Pekovic's emergence in the middle was the pleasant surprise this season. He is under contract for $4.6 million for next season and Kahn will likely begin talks to extend him past next season. Kahn didn't make any mentions about Pekovic being untouchable when talking about the roster next season, but you have to believe it would take a big offer for Kahn to unload Pekovic next season. Conventional wisdom says he will be back.

Luke Ridnour: His name will likely come up in trade conversations, but it seems the veteran will be back next season. When the team signed J.J. Barea last December, it appeared Ridnour was the most dispensable player on the roster, but Ridnour turned out to be one of the more crucial players to the roster before an ankle injury ended his season. Originally brought in to be a backup/mentor to Jonny Flynn and Rubio, Ridnour has started 119 of his 124 games played in Minnesota, even adjusting to an off-guard spot once Rubio took over as the starting point guard. Ridnour is a veteran and it is clear that Adelman is big fan. So is Love, who went as far to say that he wants to play with Ridnour until the "wheels fall off." If Love gets to have the offseason input he is seeking, odds are Ridnour would be a player he wants the team to keep around.

Fielding all offers

Wesley Johnson: There likely won't be many takers, but the Wolves would do anything to cut their losses on Johnson and get out from under the $4 million they owe him next season. The former No. 4 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft continued to solidify his status as a bust in his second year, averaging 6.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in 64 starts. This was a swing and a miss by Kahn and getting even a rack of practice balls for him would be worth the deal.

Derrick Williams: The No. 2 overall pick -- the highest pick in franchise history -- failed to live up to the even the most modest of expectations in his rookie season. Williams was highly touted out of Arizona and it was a safe bet that Kahn would have hung up the phone if suitors came calling, but Williams seems to be a man without a position for the Wolves. The ability to sell high on Williams is past, but that doesn't mean there won't be buyers out there over the summer.

J.J. Barea: He's booked to be a Wolf through the 2014-15 season at about $4 million a year after signing with the team in December. It is worth noting the Dallas Mavericks -- whom Barea helped win a championship a year before -- only offered him a one-year deal. Kahn gave him four. The biggest asset Barea brings is leadership. Adelman standing up for Barea after he went on a rant about his teammates quitting said a lot. Kahn would listen to offers for Barea, but it is obvious he and Adelman both are fans.

Wayne Ellington: Making just $2 million next year, Ellington isn't an expensive player and could be a smaller piece in a bigger trade. He did average 6.1 points in 19.1 minutes this season and is a serviceable bench player who can shoot the ball a bit.

Malcolm Lee: The Wolves saw enough in Lee to give him a guaranteed contract after selecting him in the second round of last year's draft. Making less than a million per year, Lee is cheap and -- like Ellington -- could be a chip in a bigger trade.

Good as gone

Michael Beasley: The team can sign Beasley to a $8.1 million qualifying offer or allow him to be an unrestricted free agent. All signs point to the Wolves cutting the cord on Beasley, who was given two years to prove he is worth his salt and failed to do so. Yes, injuries have played a part, but even when healthy, Beasley has never been consistent enough to justify him being the second-highest player behind Love.

Anthony Randolph: His qualifying offer is much cheaper than Beasley's at $4 million and is therefore a bit more likely to get picked up, but odds are Randolph's apathetic run with the Wolves is complete. Loved by Kahn for his length and athleticism, Randolph simply never gave the impression to anybody that he actually cares about basketball. Adelman never came and spoke out against Randolph, but it was fairly evident he was one of the players that Adelman was talking about when he discussed the need to bring players in who care about winning.

Martell Webster: The Wolves have a $5.7 million option on Webster next season, but they'd be foolish to pick it up. At the age of 26, Webster's body appears to be broken down after two straight back surgeries. The money saved on letting Webster walk would be better invested elsewhere.

Darko Milicic: The man Kahn once infamously referred to as "manna from heaven" showed the amount of determination typically reserved for a slacker in summer school. Darko clearly quit on the team midway through the season and Adelman noticed, benching him and all but saying his run in Minnesota is done. The team owes Darko $5.2 million next season but will likely use their amnesty clause on him or potentially use his expiring contract has a chip in a trade.

Brad Miller: The big man is hanging up the high-tops after 14 seasons in the NBA.

Free agent

Anthony Tolliver: His deal is up after making $2 million last season. Tolliver is considered to be a good locker room guy and it appears the Wolves seem in favor of bringing him back on the cheap.

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