The Minnesota Timberwolves are in a curious position. On one hand, their season has been disappointing thanks to injuries to Kevin Love and other key players. On the other, they can't afford to have another lost season, as Love has expressed frustration with the lack of progress he has seen from the front office. So, what's the plan in Minnesota?
The Outlook for Minnesota
To start, things aren't pretty in Minnesota. On the season they've gone 19-31, which puts them 12th out of the 15 teams in the Western Conference. Worse, they have $66 million worth of salary going out this season, putting them over the salary cap.
The Wolves took a chance on Brandon Roy, but it has not worked out, as Roy is out indefinitely because of knee issues. That's $5.1 million more sitting out extended periods of time for the Wolves. The Timberwolves front office has inquired about buying out Roy's entire contract (on schedule to make $10.4 million in his two-year deal), but Roy's financial advisor has rejected the idea, reports 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson.
With both Love and Roy missing time, there has been plenty of reason for the Wolves front office to throw their hands up in disappointment. However, the light at the end of the tunnel has been the continued emergence of Nikola Pekovic. Pekovic is having a career season, putting up 15.9 points and 8.9 rebounds on 50.6 percent shooting. The question for Minnesota, though, is whether that light at the end of the tunnel is a saving grace or a train getting ready to barrel through them. Pekovic will be a restricted free agent this summer and will certainly command more than the $4.6 million he's making this season. Pekovic reportedly wants to stay in Minnesota, which may help net a "home team" discount.
CANIS HOOPUS: "Fortunately, Nikola appears to be happy with his current team and told the Pioneer Press that he wants to stay." - Free agent Nikola Pekovic happy in Minnesota, wants to stay with Wolves
The roster anatomy on Minnesota isn't pretty, either, as they are currently paying three point guards $12.1 million this season (Ricky Rubio, J.J. Barea, and Luke Ridnour). Ridnour, however, is mentally preparing to be traded before the deadline passes, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN.
The Knicks are one of several teams with interest in the Minnesota Timberwolves guard, according to a league source. Wherever it is, a source close to Ridnour said he's mentally preparing for a trade by Thursday afternoon's deadline. Ridnour, who is the Wolves' only player to appear in every game this season, is the most likely Timberwolves player to be moved.
The Timberwolves are already at $49 million on the books next season, pending on Andrei Kirilenko accepting his $10.2 million player option. Are they willing to go over the salary cap in order to keep their blooming big man? It's a tough situation for Minnesota to be in, but ultimately, it comes down to this: Love giveth and Love taketh.
Love in, Love out
In Love, the Minnesota Timberwolves have a franchise player once again. In December, Love made it clear he was unhappy in a candid interview via Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski.
"You walk into the locker room every year, and it's completely turned over," Love says. "There's new guys everywhere. And then it happens again and again. You start to wonder: Is there really a plan here? Is there really any kind of a … plan?"
It's difficult to tell in a season muddled with injuries, but Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor recently said this about Love, via Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press.
"I think Kevin and I are on the same page -- we've been on the same page -- so that's fine," Taylor said. "We're talking about going ahead. He wants to know how we're going to do next year, what we're going to do."
Whatever happens, the Wolves have two years to give Love reason to agree to his player option for the 2015/2016 season. Adding established players as opposed to two or three draft picks could be a start to finding an identity.
So you're saying there's a chance...
The Timberwolves have often been active "talkers" on the trade front, but they have yet to find the right deal. Is there a right deal for the Wolves? They're definitely searching, reportedly dangling draft picks and Luke Ridnour to try and balance out the roster a bit more.
It seems likely Minnesota will be an active team at the trade deadline. It's difficult to project what exactly they'll be doing, though.