Apr 11, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Ronny Turiaf (32) blocks Houston Rockets guard Francisco Garcia (32) at Target Center. The Minnesota Timberwolves win 112-110. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Off-season player profile: Ronny Turiaf

This is Part Eleven in a thirteen-part series that will examine all players currently on the Wolves’ roster that played for the team last season. We’ll be omitting Kevin Love, because…well, you know why.

When the Timberwolves signed Ronny Turiaf before last season, it was to provide insurance for an oft-injured starting center (Nikola Pekovic) and his supposedly raw rookie backup (Gorgui Dieng).

After Turiaf missed two long stretches of games last season and Pekovic missed his usual chunk of contests, Dieng was forced to play heavy minutes out of necessity. And he played very, very well.

Turiaf played in just 31 games in 2013-14, but was a positive contributor when he saw the court. His addition made a lot of sense for a team that had set it’s sights on contending, and coupled with an injury-prone starter, it was an intelligent move.

Over the course of his career, Turiaf has proven himself to be one of the better backup centers in the league. He’s consistently averaged 15-20 minutes per game, and as long as he isn’t forced to be over-exposed by playing heavy minutes, he’s an extremely valuable piece to a contending team.

His role on this year’s team will be different, as (health-permitting, as always) Dieng has proven himself to be a more-than-worthy backup to Pekovic.

Unless the front office has a surprising, blockbuster trade lined up for either Pekovic or Dieng (highly unlikely on both counts), Turiaf is a trade candidate that makes a lot of sense. At this point, it seems likely that any trade involving Turiaf may not happen until February’s deadline, when contenders are willing to give something up for a good backup big man.

Not only that, Flip Saunders likely covets the locker room influence and vocal on-court presence of Turiaf, given the young grouping of talent on the current roster. Along with Thaddeus Young, Saunders will rely on Turiaf’s veteran status to have a positive effect on the host of rookie and sophomore players.

That said, Turiaf is too good of a player to be a third-string center. It’s always possible that Saunders has a plan to move Turiaf once the two centers in front of him make it through training camp healthy, or something along those lines.

Look for his production this year to be in line with his career: great defense, good passing, and lots and lots of energy, both on and off the court. The role he plays is very important, and it will be of better use to a true contender than a rebuilding squad like the 2013-14 Timberwolves.

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