Timberwolves Hold Plenty of Young Talent, but Lack True Leader


Timberwolves Hold Plenty of Young Talent, but Lack True Leader David Kahn
looked up and down his Minnesota Timberwolves roster this summer and saw a who's who list of has-beens and never-will-bes. So what did he do? He traded the one player of value to him for nickels on the dollar.

Al Jefferson is now headed to Salt Lake City, and the T-Wolves will try to survive with a pile of pieces off the scrap heap in their starting lineup. With six draft picks and a pile of trade pieces, the Wolves sure are deep, but whether they'll be good is another question entirely.

2009-10 Record: 15-67 (fifth in Northwest Division, 15th in Western Conference, missed playoffs)

Celtics' record vs. Timberwolves: 25-16 all time, 2-0 last season

Familiar faces: Delonte West (played three seasons with Celtics, traded to Seattle for Ray Allen), Sebastian Telfair (one season in Boston, traded to Minnesota in Kevin Garnett deal)

Key additions: Michael Beasley (traded from Heat), Martell Webster (traded from Blazers), Luke Ridnour (free agent), Kosta Koufos (traded from Jazz), Delonte West, Sebastian Telfair (traded from Cavaliers), Wesley Johnson (draft), Lazar Hayward (draft), Trevor Booker (draft), Nemanja Bjelica (draft), Nikola Pekovic (draft), Paulo Prestes (draft)

Key losses: Al Jefferson (traded to Jazz for Koufos), Ryan Hollins, Ramon Sessions (traded to Cavaliers for West and Telfair), Ryan Gomes (traded to Blazers, later waived and signed by Clippers)

Burning question: Who steps up to lead this team?

The Timberwolves' roster for next season is a legit 22-deep. No joke. But not one of those 22 guys looks ready to be the leader of an NBA team. Twenty-two pups, no alpha dogs. That might be a problem.

With the departure this summer of Al Jefferson, the Wolves are without a star player to be the face of the franchise. Jefferson was a double-double machine and a matchup nightmare; on a team full of young kids and unfamiliar faces, Jefferson defined the Wolves. Now he's off in Utah — so who fills his shoes?

There's Kevin Love, the talented young big man who will assume Jefferson's role as go-to post scorer. There's Jonny Flynn, the rookie point guard who made a name for himself last season. And there's Corey Brewer, the No. 7 pick in the draft three years ago who's still working to achieve his full potential.

All these guys are under 25. They're all recent lottery picks who may someday be star-caliber players. But they're all still growing, and they're not yet at the point where they can captain the ship. The Wolves have some talent, but they may be headed for an identity crisis.

2010-11 outlook: Winter in Minnesota is always tough, but I've got a feeling this one will be particularly brutal. The Timberwolves' core group of guys is several years away from fully maturing, and until then, they'd better get used to last place. Maybe Love, Flynn, Brewer or the latest lottery pick, Wesley Johnson, will surprise. But even if you account for all the upside in that group, a 30-win season is probably the absolute ceiling. No one ever said rebuilding would be easy.

Did you know? Ricky Rubio, the Timberwolves' No. 5 overall pick in the 2009 draft, is alive and well in Spain. He averaged 6.5 points and 4.0 assists per game with Regal FC Barcelona, the Euroleague champions in 2009-10.