Wolves draft choice: Deal or no deal?

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 26, 2012 - 8:17 AM

The Wolves have the 18th pick in the draft, but their preference is to trade the pick, and they have many options.

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Lakers forward Pao Gasol might interest in the Wolves

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The Timberwolves own the 18th overall pick in Thursday's NBA draft. That doesn't mean they'll still have it by night's end. With a team already lopsided with young players, they'd prefer to trade it in a deal that brings back a veteran presence. Here's a look at their situation and some of their options.

Needs

• A perimeter player -- a shooting guard preferably or small forward -- who can handle the ball and create for others. It wouldn't hurt if he can shoot and knows what defense is, either. Wolves coach Rick Adelman made do with 6-1 Luke Ridnour as his starting shooting guard for most of last season out of necessity, but he prefers a legitimately sized scorer who can handle the ball and make plays, someone other than point guards Ridnour, Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea.

• An athletic big man who can block shots and protect the rim. Nikola Pekovic delivered a breakthrough season, but other than his considerable muscle, he's not a defensive force. Darko Milicic theoretically can be one as a shot blocker, but you can bet he never plays another game for Adelman, not after last season. If his contract is not included in a trade before then, the Wolves can use their one-time amnesty clause to remove Milicic's $5 million salary for next season from their salary-cap books from July 11 to 18.

Trade chips

• Forward Derrick Williams is the team's most valuable piece. He is working this summer to transform his body and game from natural power forward to small forward so he will better fit with a Wolves team that already has All-Star Kevin Love at power forward. The Wolves could trade Williams to balance the roster with a more natural wing player or big man. Or less likely, they could try to use him and their 18th overall pick to move up considerably in Thursday's draft.

• Pekovic. Yes, he became a bruising revelation last season with nightly double-doubles, but when Wolves boss David Kahn talks about his team's untouchable core, he only mentions Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. That means the big guy is available, but it'd have to be the right deal.

• This year's 18th overall pick as well as Memphis' protected 2013 pick.

• One of the team's extra point guards, Ridnour or Barea.

• Martell Webster's contract, which has value because it can be bought out this summer for a small sum.

Complicating factor

The Wolves would be in better position to make a sea-changing trade if they hadn't squandered so many assets already, namely draft picks they've turned into a collection of players -- Jonny Flynn, Lazar Hayward, Wes Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Webster -- who didn't or haven't yet panned out. If they had more, better young prospects, they'd be better aimed to make a blockbuster deal for a veteran star.

Shopping for stars

• Pau Gasol, Lakers power forward/center. Lakers brass is promising they're not trading the All-Star, which means you can expect him to be dealt in the coming days before the new punitive luxury tax hits in 2013.

The Wolves inquired about him at last summer's draft, but why? He'll turn 32 next month, he's owed $37 million over the next two seasons and the Wolves don't really need another power forward/center, right?

Answer: Adelman is 66 and under contract for two more years. He wants to win now and Kahn probably needs to get this team to the playoffs quickly to keep his job. A Gasol-Love-Rubio core could win 50 games next season. Acquiring his friend and fellow countryman also presumably would make Rubio even more of a happy camper in Minnesota.

• Jamal Crawford, Portland shooting guard. The Wolves pursued him twice -- as a free agent when the lockout ended in December and at the March trade deadline. He agreed to extend the opt-out date on his contract to Friday so the Blazers can try to trade him and the remaining $5 million option for next season. If they don't, the Wolves can try to sign him as an unrestricted free agent starting July 1. They certainly won't offer their 18th pick for him, but ...

• Brandon Roy, free-agent shooting guard. The Wolves wouldn't need to give away anything to sign the former All-Star, who essentially retired in December at age 27 because of bad knees. But they would have to convince Roy -- who announced recently that he is planning to play this season -- to come to Minnesota when other teams such as the Lakers, Warriors or Heat come calling.

• Kevin Martin, Houston shooting guard. Don't assume the Wolves are interested just because Martin played for Adelman twice before, in Sacramento and Houston. He's 29, will make nearly $13 million next season and is one-dimensional. He could become an option if the price becomes cheap enough.

• Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia shooting guard. Former coach Kurt Rambis once was willing to drive cross-country to fetch this guy if the Wolves had been willing to absorb Iguodala's massive contract for a relative song. He would fill the Wolves' need for a versatile, defensive-minded shooting guard, but he's still due more than $30 million for the next two seasons, a superstar sum for a guy who's not a superstar.

• Tyreke Evans, Sacramento shooting guard. The Kings purportedly are willing to trade the 2010 Rookie of the Year. He's not the dead-eye shooter you'd prefer next to Rubio, but at 6-6 he's a deft ballhandler who can create his own shot and get to the basket, all of which are Wolves needs.

• Josh Smith, Atlanta forward. The Wolves had discussions with the Hawks about him before last year's draft. He's the kind of athletic forward -- a jumping-jack, shot-blocking defender -- they seek. But with one year and $13.2 million remaining on his contract, they might not be willing to meet Atlanta's price.

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