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A summer of uncertainty for the Timberwolves?

The league’s worst record. A roster full of players stuck in the “potential” category. Life isn’t very good if you are a fan of the Minnesota Timberwolves. But with a number 2 pick in the NBA draft and the prospect (and I use that term loosely) of Ricky Rubio finally coming to the NBA in the summer, can the T’Wolves start climbing towards respectability? Or is it another summer of uncertainty.

Without doubt, Kevin Love confirmed this season that he is the player the Timberwolves need to build their team around. A double-double machine, Love just needs someone in the frontcourt to play next to him. Wes Johnson can be a nice piece going forward, Michael Beasley showed some flashes of what he could be and if Jonny Flynn can rediscover the form of his rookie season, he could be a nice piece off the bench. They’ve got a few young pieces and cap room going forward, so the future doesn’t look that bad for the T’Wolves. I’m not saying they will be challenging for a championship in the next few years, but would a playoff push be too big a challenge?

Let’s start by breaking down the big questions for the Timberwolves this summer. Firstly, this year’s draft. The T’Wolves pick second in what many have described as a terrible draft. Kyrie Irving would be a nice fit for them, as the team needs a point guard to run the team, but as Irving is the consensus number 1 pick and set to go to the Cleveland Cavaliers, he will probably not be available at number 2.

I would probably go for Enes Kanter at number 2. I know the motto for a draft is “best player available” and draft on talent instead of need, but I don’t believe Derrick Williams would be a good fit in Minnesota. Williams is a “tweener” forward, not big enough to play PF and too slow to play SF. And with Mike Beasley, Martell Webster and Wes Johnson all on the roster, Kanter may be the better fit. Also, Williams isn’t a great defender and it’s debatable whether you could have Love, Beasley and Williams and actually be good on defence.

Now I’m sure the T’Wolves would love to trade their pick and get out of this draft, the question is what they could actually get in return without taking on some bad contracts.

The T’Wolves are pinning their hopes on finally being able to get Ricky Rubio over to the NBA , two years after drafting him with the 5th pick in 2009. Now if Rubio actually wanted to play in Minnesota he would be in the NBA, he would be here by now, as it’s believed that the Spanish point guard wants to play in a big market like New York, LA or Miami. If he comes over and wants to play in Minnesota, great, but should the Timberwolves think about trading his rights?

Most teams would be interested in Rubio, as he’s young and there is still that perception that he could be the next Jason Kidd? If Minnesota did want to trade his rights and the number 2 pick from this draft, they could be able to get something special in return? If New Jersey can get Deron Williams for Devin Harris and Derrick Favors, would it be absurd to rule out getting someone like Chris Paul for Rubio and Derrick Williams or Kanter?

The T’Wolves need a good defensive center to pair with Love and a PG if they want to get out of the NBA basement and back to the Kevin Garnett days of respectability. To do that they need to improve through trades and the draft, as none of the superstar free agents of 2012 (Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams), will be going to Minnesota in free agency. This summer? There aren’t many options for the T’Wolves. If they opt for Derrick Williams in the draft, it would be interesting to see if they went for someone like Yao Ming or Greg Oden in free agency. If there isn’t much interest from the league and they can get them quite cheap, they might be worth a go (if they can be persuaded to go to Minnesota that is).

What do you think? What does the next year hold for the Timberwolves?

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Byron Scott becomes first casualty of the season, fired by Hornets

The New Orleans Hornets have fired head coach Byron Scott after the team’s disappointing start to the season, where they slumped to 3-6 after losing to the Suns last night. Hornets GM Jeff Bower will take over coaching duties in place of Scott.

Scott led the Hornets to 2nd place in the West in 2008, with a 56-26 record, picking up the Coach of the Year award in the process. But injuries took their toll on the team last year, with the Hornets losing in the first round of the playoffs to Denver, which included a 58-point loss in game 4 of the series.

We are only two weeks into the season, but the warning signs date all the way back to last season. Injuries to key players highlighted a lack of depth in the squad, with reserves Hilton Armstrong and Sean Marks playing key minutes in games. In the offseason, center Tyson Chandlers was traded to Charlotte for Emeka Okafor, a move that annoyed Chris Paul but Okafor is more of an offensive threat than Chandler. It didn’t make sense though from a financial standpoint, the Hornets are supposedly looking to cut payroll, trading the likes of Rasual Butler to the Clippers for basically nothing, but took on Okafor’s large contract ($63 million over 5 years), which is a big gamble. Sure, Okafor is virtually a double-double machine, but Chandler’s contract would have came off the books next year.

And then there’s this season. The Hornets have looked horrible defensively, losing by more than 10 points in five of their six losses. Mo Peterson at shooting guard looks terrible, as does Julian Wright at small forward. James Posey has done nothing since he joined from Boston (don’t get me started on the $25 million over 4 years for a reserve – doesn’t matter if he has two rings), and Peja is one of the most overpaid players in the league ($13.3 million a year) for a man who seems to have lost his scoring touch and can never stay healthy. Even David West’s numbers are down. The only player who is performing well is Chris Paul. CP3 is carrying the team by himself and his numbers (26.1 ppg, 9.3 apg, 1.56 spg) are career-highs. But not even CP3 can carry the team by himself. It seems like he doesn’t trust his teammates anymore – and the only time New Orleans can click on offense is when CP3 is orchestrating it.

Scott’s sacking can only be a good thing. This team was struggling and hopefully Bowen can inject some fresh life into the franchise and get the role players and the starters to contribute and not just rely on Chris Paul. And with the competition in the West being even stronger this season (what with teams like the Suns, Rockets and the Thunder over-performing), then the Hornets need to step it up to make the playoffs. Dwayne Wade showed last season that it is possible for one man to get a team to the playoffs, but that was in a weaker Eastern Conference – but CP3 is going to need the likes of West, Peja and Okafor to help him out to even get anywhere near the dizzy heights of two years ago.