Kevin Love doesn't have to worry about Andrei Kirilenko's looming defensive presence anymore (Getty Images)
Your Minnesota Timberwolves are a fascinating watch, Wolves fans. Whether behind brilliant or bodaciously bad moves, this team refuses to cobble together a squad in an orthodox manner. The recent culmination of events, as first introduced by Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski and confirmed Wednesday, will be a three-team deal that sends various assets out of Minnesota to clear up enough cap space for the team to sign Andrei Kirilenko, who played in his native Russia last season.
The New Orleans Hornets grab Robin Lopez and the Phoenix Suns acquire some draft picks in this deal, but we'll get to those teams later. They are, even with years of Steve Nash behind them and the craziness of NOLA's run as an NBA-owned team, not nearly as interesting as these Wolves.
Woj is reporting that the Timberwolves have cleared up enough space to agree on a two-year, $20 million contract with Kirilenko. The second year of that deal, that will begin months after AK turns 32, will be a player option. We're pretty sure he'll pick it up.
There is a lot to not like about this deal if you're a Minnesota Timberwolves fans, but before we address any of that, one has to acknowledge that the Wolves didn't really have any other choice in this matter.
The team built up its finances in an attempt to secure Nicolas Batum from the Portland Trail Blazers, throwing an eight-figure contract at the small forward that probably overrated his skill set. Strangely undeterred, to us at least, the Blazers didn't hesitate to match the offer, and the Timberwolves were left with a pile of cash to spend in what has been a seller's market since free agency started just over three weeks ago (has it only been that long?).
Kirilenko, though declining, will likely be an upgrade on second-year forward Derrick Williams, who was the hoped-for future small forward but disappointed at both the big and small forward slots during 2011-12 (he played more of his minutes at power forward, though that position is currently occupied by All-Star and Team USA member Kevin Love). He'll be an upgrade over Michael Beasley, whom the Wolves declined to retain. He'll certainly be an upgrade on Wesley Johnson, who played half of Minnesota's minutes at small forward last year and was one of the worst rotation players in the NBA that season — one of the worst lottery picks of the last half decade even without taking into consideration the fact that he was selected ahead of DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe and Paul George.
Kirilenko will be better than Martell Webster would have been. He'll be better than just about any other wing free agent the Wolves could have latched onto. He'll be good, even though it's still up in the air as to whether or not Kirilenko's best position is at the small forward.
Still, this is a disappointing outcome. That's a lot of money to spend on Kirilenko's declining years, as he probably hasn't been worth his likely 2013-14 price tag since 2005-06. Since then, Kirilenko has struggled to stretch the floor as a small forward, he's became frighteningly turnover-prone once moved into a consistent role on the wing, and never seemed to find his groove offensively once Deron Williams rounded into shape following a chubby rookie season, and Carlos Boozer returned from injury to take hold of Utah's big forward slot — and both occurred in 2006-07, a year after AK played over a fifth of his team's minutes at power forward while acting as a point forward at times.
This could be the position Wolves GM David Kahn envisions for Kirilenko, as the team prepares to be without Ricky Rubio for probably half the season and without Rubio at full strength until 2013-14 in the wake of last March's ACL tear.
Still, we mustn't excuse Kahn for being forced into this move.
He's only here because Johnson was a poor pick. He's here because Williams has underwhelmed thus far, and the move to grab Martell Webster was a bust. He's only here because he didn't read the tea leaves properly with Portland and that team's interest in Batum, all while waiving a center in Darko Milicic that he once lauded. Kahn didn't draft Kevin Love, and continued to employ a coach in Kurt Rambis that was still bringing the second-year forward off the bench for 28 minutes a game even when he was playing at a near-All-Star level. He drafted Rubio, fine, but one pick later he selected Jonny Flynn — a player that might not be in the NBA next season. And as much as we love Ricky's guile and defense, the man shot 35.7 percent from the floor last year. Criticize away.
The Timberwolves will fight for a playoff berth, and behind Love, AK and Nikola Pekovic, and potentially Alexei Shved, they will look like the bad guys from Delocated they will continue to be a fun watch all while working under the fantastic Rick Adelman. This move, until we find out the exact specifications of the lottery-protected first-round pick they sent out to cover the cost of Phoenix having to employ Johnson, will improve them.
You're still allowed to pick at it, though.
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