It is the beginning of a new era in Minnesota. After 12 seasons in a Timberwolves uniform, the Big Ticket is gone.
Now, the Wolves, who have missed the playoffs the last three seasons, must move on and move forward by building around their new, young core. Twenty-two-year old Al Jefferson, low-post scorer extraordinaire, is now the centerpiece of the franchise, with 24-year old Randy Foye, and 21-year olds Corey Brewer and Gerald Green as the other building blocks that will grow together over the next few years.
As NBA TV's Frank Isola put it after the Garnett trade went down, the Timberwolves are "really competing four of five years down the road with teams like Seattle and Portland." So, while no one expects the Wolves to be competing for a playoff spot anytime soon, coach Randy Wittman has the next couple of seasons to evaluate his young group and plan for the future.
Randy Foye is the definition of a combo guard, and he'll have the ball in his hands on every possession. If he can build on his better moments of last season and eliminate the inconsistencies that come with being a rookie, he can make real strides this season.
Neither Gerald Green nor Rashad McCants, both members of the draft class of 2005, has yet to realize his potential, but they could both be solid role players down the line. Rookie Corey Brewer might just defend his way into major minutes immediately and Ricky Davis will continue to do what he does: put up good numbers on a bad team.
After Jefferson, the Wolves have an interesting mix of youth and experience up front. Mark Blount likely continues to start at center, while Juwan Howard, who doesn't necessarily want to be in Minnesota
, is a solid first big off the bench. When you add in youngsters Ryan Gomes and Craig Smith, you wonder if there's any playing time available for vets Mark Madsen and Theo Ratliff.
But things could certainly be worse. There are a lot of teams in the NBA who don't have a big man as talented as Jefferson to build around. Of course, they were in a similar situation 12 years ago.
-- John Schuhmann
Note: After press time, the T-Wolves sent Ricky Davis and Mark Blount to Miami for Antoine Walker, Michael Doleac, Wayne Simien and a first-round pick.
Enjoy savings off regular-priced tickets with a Season Ticket plan and check out the best teams in the league as they visit Target Center.
Al Jefferson is the man now. There was hype in Boston, but he always had Paul Pierce there with him. In Minnesota, there's no veteran star (he's the closest thing) and, even though it was a seven-for-one deal, he'll always be the guy they traded Kevin Garnett for.
Jefferson made slight improvement in his second year in Boston, but he made a huge leap last season, doubling his scoring and rebounding averages to 16.0 and 11.0 per game. He has become a serious matchup issue for opposing teams, but his passing (only 1.3 assists per game last season) could improve to take advantage of double-teams.
In general, there's a lot of room for improvement with Jefferson. If he continues to develop, the Timberwolves could certainly be a team to watch down the line.
-- John Schuhmann
||Al Jefferson recorded 38 double-doubles for the Celtics in 2006-07. He had recorded ony eight double-doubles in his first two seasons in the league.
Fourth season, Second with Timberwolves
Other than three seasons with Orlando and Cleveland, Randy Wittman has been with the Timberwolves organization since 1994. So, you'll excuse him if it takes him a while to adjust to the idea of not having Kevin Garnett to lean on.
But Wittman says that he's looking forward to his new challenge: taking a group of kids and teaching them how to win in the NBA. There are bound to be some frustrating experiences along the way, but for now, there's probably not a coach in the league with less pressure to produce wins than Wittman.
-- John Schuhmann
KNOW YOUR T-WOLVES
Mark Blount lists Bill Gates as the person he would most like to have dinner with.
Obviously their trade was one of those trades that initially is going to hurt their team because they are giving up one of the best players in the NBA. When you consider that KG probably would have left next summer anyway and were they going to make the playoffs with him? You could argue that but probably not in the West. They did what they could do. They got some good players back, they got some financial relief.
I really like Randy Foye, a good young player. I think Al Jefferson will have a chance to be an All-Star player down the road. I like Craig Smith. I like some of the other pieces. Ryan Gomes is a pretty good ball player. They are just going to be so young.
I like Corey Brewer. I think Corey Brewer is a versatile type player. He will fit for what they need. But again he is not a guy who is going to come in as a rookie and get them to the playoffs.
They don't have a true go-to guy. I guess Al Jefferson will be their go-to guy. It will be a rocky year for them but they know what they're getting into.
-- NBA Scout