Minnesota Timberwolves’ President David Kahn has been none too shy about making roster moves this offseason.
Those moves have been received with mostly negative reviews. Most people wonder if Kahn has a clue what he’s doing or if he’s just playing the NBA version of musical chairs.
What isn’t being said enough is that regardless of the Timberwolves’ success next season, David Kahn should be commended for not sitting on his rear end.
Rather than wait and see what last year's squad could do after playing another year together and ultimately risk another disappointing season, Kahn elected to change the look and style of his team.
Under head coach Kurt Rambis, the Timberwolves will continue to run the triangle offense. However, it won’t be the inside-out game that bored fans last year.
Gone is low-post stud Al Jefferson and fan favorite Ryan Gomes. In is the versatile and explosive Michael Beasley [Miami], and sharp-shooting Martell Webster [Portland]. These two are expected to come in and join the starting unit. They'll add balance and scoring punch to one of the lowest-scoring units in the NBA last season.
Also coming with them is lottery pick Wesley Johnson [Syracuse University] and floor general Luke Ridnour [Milwaukee]. They too are expected to join Michael Beasley and Martell Webster in the starting unit.
These new pack of T-Wolves are lacking in star power, but they give Minnesota their most balanced club in over three seasons and with it, their best chance at competing since the departure of Kevin Garnett.
Luke Ridnour is Key to Young Guys' Development
Luke Ridnour is a former lottery pick of the Oklahoma City franchise, once known as the Seattle Supersonics.
He was advertised as the next Steve Nash coming out of college. Whether it was a poor supporting cast, injuries, or just his own shortcomings, he never lived up to that billing.
That was then and this is now. Ridnour is coming off a season in which he helped the lottery-bound Milwaukee Bucks secure a sixth seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
He was vital in the development of Milwaukee’s star rookie, Brandon Jennings. David Kahn is hoping the 29-year-old floor general can have a similar effect on his newest club members, as well as second year point man Johnny Flynn.
Ridnour will be key in the development of third year forward Michael Beasley, and rookie swing-man Wesley Johnson. Unlike Johnny Flynn, Ridnour is a natural distributor.
He has the ability to get in the lane and find open teammates. As an eight-year veteran, he understands more how to run an offense and get teammates their touches. Flynn is still in the development stage in regards to running a squad.
With the Timberwolves shaping up to feature the scoring talents of Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson, it was key that the team found a point-man whose primary focus would be getting teammates the best look possible.
He will do just that, and for that, David Kahn should be applauded for making such a heady move.
Michael Beasley to Take On Leadership Role
As the Timberwolves' current roster stands, Michael Beasley is the team's most talented and versatile player. He’s also the team's highest paid player with his $4.9 million a year salary.
With such distinctions, much is expected.
Added to the fray is the fact that he has been the second leading scorer on a playoff team in both his NBA seasons. Beasley spoke of being the man coming out of college, Kansas State. Now he’ll get the opportunity to put his game where his mouth’s been.
Michael Beasley's tenure in Miami had its share of ups and downs, but make no mistake, the Timberwolves will benefit every bit as much as Beasley will.
In Miami, Beasley got a crash course on responsibility and accountability. The Heat didn’t afford him any slack in regards to being on the court and made him work for every minute he played over his first two seasons. That kind of practice has not been associated with the Timberwolves organization over the past few years.
Also, Beasley had the privilege of seeing arguably the best player in the game, Dwyane Wade, practice every day. He saw first hand where hard work, effort, and determination can get you.
Michael Beasley isn’t dumb, lazy, or irresponsible. He was just a man, not even 21 years of age, trying to figure out the person he wanted to be. After making just two mistakes in his NBA life, folks were quick to write him off as a bust; a label that is warranted in the most remote of ways.
The kid appears to have figured out the man he wants to be, and now he has his eyes set on showing everyone the player many hoped he would be.
David Kahn has expressed to Beasley that he expects him to be a leader of the Timberwolves. Beasley agreed with the sentiment, and appears eager to comply.
It’ll be interesting to see how the team reacts to Beasley asserting himself as a leader on a team returning as many as eight players. Beasley must not take a passive role with his teamates.
He needs to share the lessons of winning with his new teammates. He needs to be this team's best player.
Wesley Johnsons’ Versatility Will Be Key
If you’ve never watched Wesley Johnson play, shame on you. You’ve missed out on seeing one of the best collegiate stories in recent memory. The young man can flat out play basketball.
I’m not just speaking of his scoring abilities. Johnson is a complete player.
He will be expected to do everything, from being a consistent second option to Michael Beasley, to being a stopper on defense. If he works hard, like he has all his life, he has a legitimate shot at becoming this era's version of “Scottie Pippen." His potential is that high.
The best thing about Johnson is his competitive nature. The kid just doesn’t like losing. Watching him next season, fans won’t be left wondering if he gave maximum effort.
Look for him to compete with Michael Beasley for the team's lead in steals and he’ll compete with Darko Milicic for the team's shot blocking title.
Martell Webster Won’t Go Unnoticed
Flying under the radar is Martell Webster, the Portland Trailblazer acquisition. For some reason, nobody is talking about him, even though he’s arguably the third or fourth best player on the team.
Martell Webster is more versatile than anyone on the team not named Michael Beasley and will probably be one of the most consistent players this season.
He’s athletic and an extremely talented outside shooter, boasting a career 37.2 three-point percentage. He's a career nine point per game scorer in 23 minutes per.
Never really having a legitimate shot at being more than a complimentary piece to Brandon Roy in Portland, Webster might come out eager to show everyone the depths of his game.
That isn’t what David Kahn wants. Webster has been brought in to help with the development of the younger players, space the floor, and knock down open shots.
He will be looked upon as a leader because he’s one of the elder statesman. As long as he understands his role and what is expected of him, this should be a very profitable venture for both parties.
The Timberwolves Will Win More Than 30 games Next Season
David Kahn has done a decent job of finding low salary pieces with a high-reward-low-risk distinction. He’s also done a decent job at balancing his club, something that is very hard to achieve in the NBA.
While most teams went after big-name players, often resulting in misses, or over-spending on players that won’t result in a team winning more than five or more games than its previous season, David Kahn did the smart thing. He mapped out a logical plan to make his club better.
Timberwolves' fans should be happy. They finally have a pack of wolves that will be more bite than bark. We’ll see how good coach Kurt Rambis really can be now that the pieces are in place.