The number of transactions done by David Kahn are a many splendored mess. Historically, Draft Night has been a particularly busy time for Kahn. In 2011, the opportunities were many to repeatedly trade down draft picks for cash, thereby raising enough of the capital needed to pay off the two years-early termination of coach Kurt Rambis’ 4-year contract. Suffice it to say, despite his record of wheeling and dealing, the majority of Kahn’s moves have been made during the offseason. And so my Minnesota Timberwolves Christmas list would have just one thing on it: for that to change and them to make an in-season adjustment.
With a front line as good as any the NBA has to offer, the Wolves can dominate the paint and bully their way on the boards and to the free throw line. They can defend (despite occasionally porous perimeter defense) without fouling. They can control tempo and share the ball. There are so many neon signs pointing at what ails the Wolves this season that it is painfully obvious to anyone familiar with sport, competition or board games to observe: The Wolves can’t shoot from the perimeter.
The struggles of Kevin Love to return to form after his hand injury have, of course, contributed to the inability of the Wolves to hit 3s, and if the Wolves weren’t already suffering through the loss of Chase Budinger and his meniscus, they would have the luxury of being patient enough for him to find his stroke. The combination of a slashing Andrei Kirilenko on the inside and Love camping out on the 3-point line before crashing the boards is certainly a inversely complimentary combination that defies conventional small and power forward traits, but one that needs the room perimeter threats provide to reach its full lethal potential.
Alexey Shved has been beyond a nice surprise, once again proving the lone bright spot from 3 in Sunday’s defeat at the hands of the New York Knicks, hitting 4 of 9 — but the cupboard has been bereft of any other sharpshooters able to take advantage of the ball movement and spacing provided by their existing offense.
Also Sunday in Madison Square Garden, point guards Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea both went 1-5 from 3. While they
each have tangible NBA skills and game situations in which they excel and contribute; Ridnour would surely be more productive (than the 20% he is shooting from 3 over the last 5 games) if he were relegated to his more appropriate workload as a backup; Barea’s hot or cold hero-ball is the kind of added luxury that, as we’ve seen in Dallas, can propel a team to championship success. With Rubio’s minutes restrictions to be lifted sometime in the early new year, one will need to go to make room for someone who can shoot consistently while being capable of defending the wing.
The other area of concern is Greg Stiemsma’s diminished contribution. So far, Pek has proven a rock to lean on. Despite playing through post-ankle surgery pains and sprains, Pek has struggled through to regain the superb form of (that one month of) last year. God forbid anything befalls the big guy, but what on Earth would the Wolves do without him? I love AK and Dante Cunningham as much as the next, and Kevin Love can play center in a pinch on most nights when he’s even available, but where would the Wolves be without Pek? The injuries the Wolves have sustained and carried on playing through have been amazing, but without Pek to anchor the interior, there is no .500 ball being played by Minnesota. Depth is a concern.
Random note: Josh Howard’s torn knee ligaments and non-guaranteed contract opened his roster spot up after he was waived this week. The candidates have been D-League hopefuls and un-rostered vets looking to catch on with a veteran club. Among them is former Spurs 2010 first round pick and former Big 12 Player of the Year, James Anderson. Why not?
The time for worrying about Pek’s contract extension or Love’s exodus isn’t now. There are fixable problems with this Wolves roster. A Jared Dudley, Anderson Varejao trade would put the Mayans back on alert. If the Wolves can use their asset’s ever-decreasing trade value (Derrick Williams) plus one of their duplicate point guard parts to net help with one or both of these areas, I will have wished a Merry Christmas.