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Updated: June 26th, 2012 11:16pm
Zulgad: Wolves should be in no hurry to deal last year's top pick

Zulgad: Wolves should be in no hurry to deal last year's top pick

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

The NBA draft is Thursday night. Free agency will open Sunday.

All of this has led to rampant speculation about what the Minnesota Timberwolves will do as they attempt to upgrade a roster that features Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio as its star attractions.

The Wolves have been linked to Lakers forward Pau Gasol, Trail Blazers guard Jamal Crawford and free-agent guard Brandon Roy, who has decided to end his retirement but still has to scare teams because of his past knee issues.

On Tuesday, the Wolves made their first move, dealing their first-round pick, No. 18 overall, to the Houston Rockets for small forward Chase Budinger.

It didn't take much to figure out this was a trade made at the behest of coach Rick Adelman. David Kahn might carry the title of president of basketball operations for this franchise, but it's clear that Adelman is calling the shots.

In Budinger, Adelman gets a player whom he is familiar with from their time together with the Rockets. Budinger will provide a veteran presence for a coach who almost certainly felt his team had a shot at a playoff spot this past season before Rubio and Love were lost to injury.

Missing an opportunity to sneak into the playoffs means Adelman can hear the clock ticking.

He turned 66 on June 16 and has three years left on the four-year contract he signed last summer.

Adelman wants no part of a lengthy rebuild and likely sees no reason to add youth to an already young roster. Long-suffering Wolves fans probably feel the same way.

In this case, the decision to go out and get a 40-percent three-point shooter in Budinger makes sense. The Wolves need to add depth and they certainly require upgrades at small forward and shooting guard.

But the Wolves' willingness to make moves to improve their roster for 2012-13 should come with at least one caveat. That is this: It would be foolish to be in a hurry to deal forward Derrick Williams.

There have been plenty of reports that the Wolves are open to this idea.

The second-overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft -- some considered Williams to be the best player available -- Williams averaged 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in 66 games as a rookie. He played an average of 21.5 minutes per game.

Williams' inconsistencies were typical for a newcomer - especially one playing after a lockout wiped out the normal training camp -- but that isn't the issue the Wolves likely have with Williams when other teams call to inquire about his availability.

The issue with Williams is that at 6-foot-8, 241 pounds, he is probably best suited to play power forward. The Wolves already have an All-Star at that position in Love.

That shouldn't matter.

Williams said at the end of the season that he wanted to lose weight, just like Love did last offseason, and return as a small forward. He should be given every opportunity to do exactly that.

Williams is clearly a big-time talent and any deal made for the short-term that involves him could be one the Wolves will regret for years to come.

If Williams struggles in his second season this conversation can be revisited, but at this point the Wolves, and the rest of the NBA, simply don't know how Williams will develop.

There also is the issue of how long Love will be with the Wolves.

The Wolves did not give him the maximum contract offer when they had the chance last season and ended up signing him to a four-year deal worth between $60 and $62 million that includes an option for Love to get out after three seasons.

Love could decide to explore his options in the summer of 2015. If he does that, the Wolves would stand to benefit from having the ability to shift Williams back to the power forward.

This might be a worst-case scenario, but professional sports teams have to deal with the reality that things aren't always going to work out in the best case.

And we are talking about the Wolves after all.

There is a chance that short term the organization might be sacrificing something by holding onto Williams, but the potential long-term payoff almost certainly will make that look like a smart move. 

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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