It appears as though Timberwolves’ President of Basketball Operations David Kahn is waiting until the week between Christmas and New Year’s to do his shopping. With the news that swingman Josh Howard was diagnosed with a torn ACL and subsequently released, the Wolves are down yet another wing player. Kahn has admitted that the Wolves need to add another player, but head coach Rick Adelman has also cautioned against simply adding a player to have another warm body. Still, the Wolves don’t have a (healthy) true small forward on the roster (Dante Cunningham, Andre Kirilenko, and Derrick Williams have been playing there, but power forward is the ideal position for each of them) and adding one is a certainty.
In fact, the injured Chase Budinger is the only natural small forward on the entire roster. When he is healthy, Kirilenko will continue to start in that spot and Budinger will receive nearly all of the small forward minutes off the bench. With the incredible rash of injuries still affecting Adelman’s squad, they have no choice but to add another wing player. The following are the various options in no particular order, along with my analysis of each player and how such a move might impact the Wolves moving forward.
Michael Redd – The best pure shooter on the free agent market is almost certainly Redd. Unfortunately, that is the only above-average skill that he possesses at the injury-riddled age of 33, and he is decidedly below-average at pretty much everything else. In fact, he hasn’t been a net-positive NBA player since the 2008-09 campaign with the Milwaukee Bucks. The other issue is the rumor that he wants a fully guaranteed contract, and the Wolves are loath to guarantee money to a player in order to maintain salary cap flexibility moving forward. My take: They could do worse. If Adelman really wants someone to come off the bench and just shoot corner threes off of beautiful Rubio-assists, than Redd is your guy. Unfortunately, he won’t play any defense, so spot minutes are the only thing he would be useful for.
Lazar Hayward – The former Wolves’ draft day acquisition is a free agent after being waived by the Houston Rockets after being shipped there in the James Harden deal. Hayward played in 26 games off the bench last year for Oklahoma City, averaging 5.4 minutes and 1.4 points per game on 34% shooting. Unfortunately, Hayward’s label as a shooter that can’t shoot has stuck, and has shot just 28% on three point shots in his two-year NBA career. In theory, he can play solid defense on big threes and small fours, but I’m not convinced. The Wolves apparently already had him in for a workout over the weekend. My take: Stay away. Not particularly good at anything, and barely average at only some things. This would seem to be exactly the “warm body” situation that Adelman is trying to avoid.
Maurice Evans – Evans is 34 years old, but still appears to be a serviceable player. At 6’-5”, he is a little small to guard many small forwards, but can hit an open three point shot and is a solid defender overall. He also began his NBA career in Minnesota with a 10 game stint back in 2001-02, so there’s that. My take: I think I would be fine with this, as long as Adelman thinks he can get some solid minutes from him as an undersized small forward. He played well for playoff teams in Atlanta from 2008-2010, and I’m convinced he’s a better option than a guy like Hayward.
Mickael Gelabale – Not exactly a household name, but count me as intrigued. According to ESPN 1500’s Darren Wolfson, Gelable’s agent contacted the Wolves about him wanting to play here, and according to some folks, the feeling is mutual among Wolves’ brass. Of course, he has also allegedly contacted all 30 teams. Gelabale was a 2005 second-round draft pick of the Seattle SuperSonics, and the Frenchman played two seasons in Seattle before logging 16 games in the D-League and heading back overseas. He has played well in Europe and was solid for France’s Olympic team in London over the summer, and the consensus is that he is a long, tall (6’-7”), athletic defender that can hit an open three pointer when needed. He has little-to-no offense skills as far as creating a shot or getting to the basket, but he appears to be able to catch an alley-oop, play good defense, and shoot at a respectable clip from beyond the arc. My take: Assuming a non-guaranteed contract will do it….sure, why not? Gelabale seems to be the exact player the Wolves could use to spot Kirilenko on the defensive end of the floor for the time being, and be a solid 10-12th man off the bench down the stretch, filling in for Budinger at the small forward position for 5-7 minutes a game when needed. He does have an NBA opt-out that must be activated between January 1st and 30th, so that seems to fit Kahn’s announced time frame for signing a player.
James Anderson – Anderson was just recently released by San Antonio, and has more or less languished on the Spurs bench for most of the past three seasons after being the 20th overall pick out of Oklahoma State in 2010. At 6’-6” with a solid outside shot, Anderson is an intriguing fit on the Wolves. He will reportedly be in for a workout this Wednesday. My take: This is probably my number one choice, as far as a realistic option with some upside that is on the free agent market. He has not gotten much of a chance to this point, only averaging 11.8 minutes per game last season in 51 games for the Spurs, and only playing in 7 total D-League games. There is some potential there with his size and decent shooting ability, although it remains to be seen if Adelman is willing to take on a younger player at this point in the season.
Donte Greene – Greene was mentioned by Wolfson in the above Twitter link regarding Anderson’s upcoming workout. At 6’-11”, Greene is a curious option for Kahn and Adelman to explore. He struggled on both ends of the floor over four years in Sacramento. For his size, he does not rebound well at all and likes taking outside shots a little too much for someone who is not particularly adept at making them. My take: Just. Say. No. This would be about as bad as the Wolves could do, considering that Greene a) Is not good, b) Is too big to play small forward and is obviously not a shooting guard, and c) is really, really bad.
What Would I Do? I’m glad you asked. Assuming James Anderson looks decent in his workout this Wednesday, I would offer him a non-guaranteed contract. My second choice would be Gelabale, and my last option would be Michael Redd, as long as Redd understands that he is not allowed to do anything but shoot open three pointers for 8-10 minutes a game.
Eventually, I expect Kahn to swing a February deal for some real wing help. He is allegedly very interested in adding Orlando’s J.J. Redick, who continues to be a very underrated all-around player. He is an adequate defender, and has always been a knock-down shooter. Having an option to rotate Redick and Shved in the back-court with Rubio moving forward would be a wonderful luxury to have. It would also make one of J.J. Barea/Luke Ridnour expendable, and with Orlando apparently asking for more than Derrick Williams in a trade, a package would likely include Barea or Ridnour along with Williams. Redick has an expiring deal at the end of the year, so the Wolves would have even more money to re-sign some combination of Pekovic/Budinger/Redick after shedding two contracts that would have been guaranteed for 2013-14….Other names to keep an eye on moving forward: Kyle Korver (ATL), Anthony Morrow (ATL) and Jared Dudley (PHX).