3. Minnesota Timberwolves (20-19, No. 9 spot)
The Minnesota Timberwolves have made significant strides thus far in their first year with Rick Adelman under the helm and Ricky Rubio manning the point. That first-round pick that was part of the package the New Orleans Hornets received from the Los Angeles Clippers isnâ€™t as valuable now due to the Wolvesâ€™ success. Just a game and a half back from the final playoff spot, they could solidify their positioning in the ever-changing West standings by making one trade. Moreover, as SI’s Lee Jenkins points out, the Wolves are on the clock since they refused to grant Kevin Love a full, five-year max extension and gave him the right to opt-out after year three in their four-year deal. Winning immediately is the only thing that would placate him to stay in â€™Sota beyond this new window, and it would only help his chances to raise his MVP candidacy into the top five, too.
The last time the Tâ€™Wolves made the playoffs, The Kid played the best season of his career, being crowned the leagueâ€™s MVP and leading them to a six-game battle with the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Since then, the Wolves have been every bit the part of a winter wasteland. David Kahn canâ€™t mess up any more moves from here on out, can he? Heâ€™s lucky Rubio has played like a young Steve Nash. His play as a rookie along with the credibility instilled by Adelman in the sidelines this season suggests that there is light at the end of tunnel behind Kahnâ€™s rebuilding plan. Still, the Wolves are far from a finished project. They wonâ€™t be getting any more help from ping-pong balls to add talent; they now have to bring in the appropriate veterans to complement and enhance the play of both Love and Rubio.
There have been rumors dating back to the draft that the Wolves have had interest in dealing Derrick Williams (or Michael Beasley) for Pau Gasol, and perhaps still do. This trade possibility doesnâ€™t make much basketball sense outside of the idea that Kahn might want to reunite Rubio with his fellow countryman. At any rate, the fact that theyâ€™ve played much of the season with Luke Ridnour out of position at the two, itâ€™s the most glaring area that needs to be addressed. They shipped out one â€™Cuse product, Johnny Flynn, quicker than playing in the legendary six-overtime UConn thriller, and the other in Wesley Johnson is surprisingly still starting and playing 22 minutes a game as he produces nightmare numbers (5.8 ppg/2.7 rpg/6.68 PER).
Consequently, the Wolves should target a primetime swingman scorer that could take the load off Love, someone that can get his own buckets while seamlessly finishing off-the-ball for Rubio. Be it Jamal Crawford or another shooting guard, Kahn must come through in the clutch before he has to listen to screams in â€™Sota he hasnâ€™t heard since the â€™09 Draft: Kaaaaahhhhhnnn!