Zgoda's NBA Insider: Wolves' guards are no small problem

  • Updated: February 16, 2013 - 6:43 PM

It's not clear what the Wolves will do at the trade deadline, but it is clear that more than the near future applies.

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Minnesota Timberwolves guard Luke Ridnour breaks through the defense of Houston Rockets guard James Harden, back left, and center Greg Smith.

Photo: Stacy Bengs, Associated Press

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Before he skipped town on his five-day All-Star break, Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman was asked what he wanted from the upcoming Thursday trade deadline when he returned to work.

"Anything I want to see?" he asked back. "I don't know ... LeBron, Kobe."

There he goes, starting trade rumors, although it wasn't immediately known whether his two were legit or some of those trade rumors Denver coach George Karl recently admitted he used to concoct with his coaching brethren just to see who could get theirs published by a gullible press first.

If this season had gone differently, the Wolves probably would have been buyers at Thursday's trade deadline.

With former No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams or one of their guards to dangle, the question is whether they will be buyers, sellers or neither in a season that has all but slipped away from them while they wait for Kevin Love to return from his broken hand in late March.

"I think we have to look at all possibilities," Adelman said. "Anything to improve our team we should be looking at, we have to look at, not only for right now, but for the future, too, if it fits for the future. If we ever get our guys together, we think we have a pretty good core group."

The danger here: The Wolves get tempted by a desperate, short-sighted deal they think will get them within sniffing distance of the playoffs in a season that started with them promising their fans nothing but that.

With Los Angeles Lakers star Pau Gasol and Cleveland's Anderson Varejao both out injured until well after the trade deadline passes, those temptations aren't quite calling as much as they might have been.

Still ...

"You do have to be a little cautious and make sure you're making a decision that makes sense, that it's just not going to get you three more wins this year," Adelman said. "Something that's going to make sense for the future."

Utah's top scout and a handful of other teams' scouts came to town for the Wolves' weekend doubleheader against the Lakers and New Orleans earlier this month, doing their trade-deadline due diligence on a Wolves team that could trade one of its point guards -- Luke Ridnour foremost, or J.J. Barea -- for a legitimately sized shooting guard.

"If you watch our team, you see what our strengths and weaknesses are," Adelman said.

The most glaring weakness is their lack of backcourt size. Adelman has relied increasingly on a three-guard lineup that provides ballhandling and playmaking offensively but suffers because of that lack of size defensively.

"We're not real big at the guard spot," Adelman said. "We've done a pretty good job maintaining with that. We've just got to look at the team in general, and we've got to remember to look at the people who aren't playing right now, too."

Love's eventual return will mean a diminished role once again for Derrick Williams. Like Love, Williams is naturally an undersized power forward who would be the team's most valuable trade piece if he delivered more performances such as Wednesday's 24-point, 16-rebound game against the Jazz.

Chase Budinger's return sometime in March will give Adelman a proven backup to starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko, and Budinger also can add backcourt size in certain situations if the team can't swing a deal by Thursday.

"We have to think about all those things," Adelman said. "You do have to be a little cautious and make sure you're making a decision that makes sense."

Countdown to trade deadline

Thursday is the NBA's trade deadline and the Wolves could trade veteran Luke Ridnour for a bigger guard by then. Here's some options they'll consider:

Raja Bell/Alec Burks, Utah: The Jazz, intent on making the playoffs again, seek a long-term answer at point guard but might opt for Ridnour's stabilizing veteran leadership while injured starter Mo Williams remains out at least another month. Burks is a young, gifted shooting guard with talent, but the Jazz isn't likely to deal him. Bell is a veteran defender with size who has been exiled from Utah all season.

Evan Turner, Philadelphia: The Sixers have gauged trade interest in the 2010 draft's second overall pick who just never has quite fit their system. At 6-7, he'd add needed backcourt size, but does he possess the shooting and playmaking abilities needed at shooting guard, or is he really a small forward? And would the Sixers be willing to swap one underachieving No. 2 overall pick for another?

Ronnie Brewer/Iman Shumpert, New York: The Knicks don't need another point guard, but they do need another bench scorer if they intend to challenge Miami and Ridnour is more the latter than the former anyway. The Wolves pursued Brewer in free agency last summer before he signed with New York and then was relegated to the end of the Knicks bench. Shumpert is a promising defender just back from ACL surgery, but he probably isn't going anywhere.

Courtney Lee, Boston: Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is out for the season because of a torn ACL and Lee, Jason Terry and Avery Bradley aren't really point guards. Lee played for Rick Adelman in Houston, and the Wolves had some interest in the 6-5 swingman during last summer's free agency.

Longer shots

Eric Gordon, New Orleans: Huge contract and questionable knee.

DeMar DeRozan, Toronto: Wolves could have drafted him No. 6 overall in 2009 rather than Jonny Flynn.

WOLVES WEEK AHEAD

Wednesday: vs. Philadelphia, 7 p.m. (FSN)

Friday: at Okla. City, 7 p.m. (FSN/ESPN)

Player to watch:

Kevin Durant, Thunder

Maybe the guy more than anyone who you'd want with the ball with the game on the line, he very well could win the MVP award over LeBron James, even though he shouldn't.

VOICES

« SO I'M GOING TO GET OUT OF TOWN. »

Wolves coach Rick Adelman, implying he'd slip the wrath of the team's medical staff with an All-Star break vacation after playing Ricky Rubio a season-high 40 minutes on Wednesday.

 

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    Thursday is the NBA's trade deadline, and the Wolves could trade veteran Luke Ridnour for a bigger guard by then. Here are some options they'll consider:

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