On the eve of Opening Night, 2012-2013, reviewing the Minnesota Timberwolves offseason moves would ordinarily be a menial task.
Last season, long-suffering fans were treated to the familiar signs of Spring: the air slowly being pounded out of the ball, listless defense, and the launching of long, contested twos.
As end-of-the-bench flotsam was forced to fill in for injured regulars and the still standing jetsam exposed itself for all of the world — and the Wolves’ Front Office — to undeniably see, the fans groaned their resigned recognition: Spring had sprung.
There were fond memories, though…
Kevin Love emerged as an undeniable #1 option, hitting step back 3s and getting to the line at an incredible rate while retaining his status as an all-world rebounder.
Ricky Rubio proved more than a mythical, youtube prodigy from a foreign land, delivering on so many highlight reel promises and providing surprisingly stout perimeter defense — of a quality never before displayed by a Wolves point guard.
Nikola Pekovic bailed out more than a few lost possessions with a quick look to him in the post. You didn’t have to suffer seasons of Darko Milicic’s lazy hook shots to appreciate Pek’s ascension as an unmovable force down low.
These three lineup stalwarts shone bright enough early in the season to not only help the Wolves contend for the playoffs, but hide the dark matter that was left exposed by their early exits.
Even before Rubio’s knee exploded, Pek’s bone spurs hobbled him, and Love was knocked out of the season, Luke Ridnour was forced into yeoman’s work at shooting guard just to give coach Rick Adelman a second ball handler to initiate his Cliff’s Notes, lockout-edition offense.
At season’s end, Adelman demanded known quantities — as if his arrival didn’t signal the end of the ‘talent development’ portion of the David Kahn era.
The binge and purge that followed:
Before the draft, the Wolves traded away their first rounder for Adelman-favorite, Chase Budinger. They let space cadet Anthony Randolph and long-two chucker extraordinaire Michael Beasley walk in free agency. Underachieving good-guy Wayne Ellington was traded to Memphis for defensive spark-plug Dante Cunningham. Perennial punchline Darko Milicic was amnestied and Martell Webster was waived to make room for Nicolas Batum’s offer sheet. After Portland matched, Wesley Johnson was traded to Phoenix to make room for free agent Andrei Kirilenko. Alexei Shved soon followed from Russia with all the youth and promise of a lottery pick. Greg Stiemsma made the Boston switch with Darko complete. Lou Amundson filled out the front line. Leaving Derrick Williams as the lone potential-laden hangover remaining from last season.
That whirlwind of upgrades from embarrassing cluelessness to respectable competence would have been much-appreciated by the long-suffering Wolves’ faithful had it ended at Budinger’s acquisition. The banishment of so many useless parts at once was nothing but a shock for anyone paying attention. Youth and its questionable potential have been traded for age and its questionable durability.
The newest additions need only hold the fort until reinforcements arrive, and be competent, functional pieces after that to qualify as one of the best teams in Wolves history. It promises to be an entertaining ride.