The passing of last month’s trade deadline, when the Timberwolves brought Kevin Garnett back home in the final hour, didn’t mean the team was done tinkering with its roster as it heads toward the season’s final weeks and a summer that will bring another high draft pick.
On Thursday, the Wolves claimed 7-foot center Justin Hamilton off waivers and released rookie Glenn Robinson III to make room for him.
They did so to give themselves as insurance another big man whom Wolves coach Flip Saunders likes because of Hamilton’s size, young age (24) and skills that include the ability to stretch defenses with his perimeter shooting.
New Orleans waived Hamilton on Tuesday, fewer than two weeks after it acquired him in a three-way, trade-deadline deal that sent Goran Dragic from Phoenix to Miami and brought Norris Cole to the Pelicans. The Wolves made a claim for Hamilton, whom Saunders said he had trade discussions with Miami for the month leading up to the Feb. 19 deadline.
By releasing Robinson, the Wolves let go a second-round draft pick from last summer whom Saunders had called first-round talent. Until Thursday, the Wolves had decided against adding an extra point guard or big man because they didn’t want to give up on Robinson’s potential.
The Wolves never sent Robinson to the D League for development as they had wanted to do because they needed him in practices during a season rife with injuries. Numbers never got low enough, though, where Robinson played any more than simple spot duty on a team that foresees rookie Andrew Wiggins and second-year Shabazz Muhammad as its small forwards of the future.
“We really like Glenn,” Saunders said. “It was unfortunate for him he never really had an opportunity, and we didn’t see that changing. When we drafted him, we didn’t have Wiggins, so the dynamics of that changed. It’s tough to develop three young players at the same position.”
Hamilton’s presence gives the Wolves a 7-footer they call upon until power forward Anthony Bennett returns from injury, when Garnett reaches his minutes’ limit or doesn’t play one night in consecutive games and if Gorgui Dieng tires or Nikola Pekovic’s troublesome ankle sidelines him once again.
In a recent game at Houston, Saunders’ options in the frontcourt included playing Robinson or Wiggins at power forward.
“We didn’t want to get caught in a situation like that again, where Gorgui and A.P. are our only big guys,” Saunders said, referring to forward Adreian Payne.
Philadelphia drafted Hamilton 45th overall in the 2012 NBA draft’s second round after he had played his college ball at Iowa State and LSU.
Hamilton played in Croatia and Latvia and last season saw action in 39 games for the Heat’s Sioux Falls, S.D., affiliate in the D League, where he was named an all-star and was all-league first team and all-defensive first team . He played 32 NBA games, one with Charlotte and the rest with Miami.
“It’s a combination of everything,” Saunders said, referring to the insurance Hamilton’s size provides and the talent he brings. “I like his skill set. I like that he has got size. I like that he seems to have a pretty good basketball I.Q. We’ll know more when we get him in here.”
Pulling the plug ...
Point guard Ricky Rubio tweeted the other day that he’s taking the Polar Plunge for charity Saturday, a game day. “I want to,” he said Wednesday.
So is he? “No, “Saunders said. “I don’t know where that came from, but he would have been the first Spanish guy.”
• The Wolves worked out individually and lifted weights Thursday. On Friday, they will have their second full practice since Garnett arrived.
• Saunders said Pekovic could have played more than the 15 minutes he did in Wednesday’s lopsided loss to Denver. He said Pekovic worked out Thursday and “felt pretty good.”