Last year's reserves consisted of: J.J. Barea (until the end of the season, when he started the last 10+ games), Malcolm Lee, Wayne Ellington, Michael Beasley (excluding the first 10+ games of the season when he was a starter), Derrick Williams, Anthony Randolph, Darko Milicic (excluding the first half of the season when he was an everyday starter), Brad Miller, Anthony Tolliver and Martell Webster (except for the final 20 games, after Ricky got injured, when he became the starting shooting guard).
Of that list. There are three holdovers. All three of which will be reserves, once again this season. J.J. Barea is penciled in as the backup point guard (behind Luke Ridnour...until of course Ricky's healthy again). Malcolm Lee is a deep reserve guard, he's a work-in-progress and likely won't see a whole lot of playing time. Lastly, Derrick Williams. D-Will has improved significantly this offseason and should see time at both forward positions. The amount of floor time he'll see is VERY dependent on how much small forward he'll be able to play. A lineup of Barea, Budinger, Williams, Kirilenko and Love would be exciting and quite effective.
Wayne Ellington was traded to Memphis. Michael Beasley left via free agency and signed a three-year deal with the Phoenix Suns. Anthony Randolph left via free agency and signed a three-year deal with the Denver Nuggets. Darko Milicic was amnestied early in the summer and eventually signed a one-year veteran's minimum deal with the Boston Celtics. Brad Miller was traded to the New Orleans Hornets, then to the Phoenix Suns, he was bought out of the final year of his contract by the Suns and retired (he was in Mankato for a couple days to help Adelman and some of his staff coach the big men, just a couple days ago). Martell Webster was bought out of the final year of his contract and signed a one-year veteran's minimum deal with the Washington Wizards. Anthony Tolliver left via free agency and signed a one-year veteran's minimum deal with the Atlanta Hawks.
So, let's take a look at this season's bench. First off, we're not counting Ricky Rubio, so Luke Ridnour is the TWolves' starting point guard. The rest of the starting lineup: Brandon Roy (SG), Andrei Kirilenko (SF), Kevin Love (PF) and Nikola Pekovic (C).
The TWolves currently have 14 players under contract, as well as one player on a partially guaranteed contract.
At POINT GUARD...
The Timberwolves have J.J. Barea, Malcolm Lee and Will Conroy at point guard. Conroy is the player with the partially guaranteed contract. Although the TWolves already have an abundance of guards on the roster, Conroy could actually make the opening night roster. He would likely only be kept on until Ricky Rubio is able to return. As I said, Lee is a work-in-progress and likely won't see a whole lot of playing time. Barea is probably one of my least favorite TWolfs and for whatever reason, I can't really explain why. He's a talented guard with a real inept ability to slice through the lane, break down the defense and either maneuver in for an easy bucket or an easy assist, usually an easy basket (or at least, it would seem). I'd say there's a good chance that when Ricky returns, there will no longer be a need for the team to carry Rubio, Ridnour, Barea and Lee. We could see either Ridnour or Barea moved before the trade deadline. If they aren't traded, I could almost guarantee one of them would be gone next summer (more than likely Ridnour...unfortunately).
At SHOOTING GUARD...
The Timberwolves have Alexey Shved at shooting guard. Shved is the main backup to Brandon Roy at shooting guard. The rookie will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself. Watching him in the TWolves' first preseason action (vs. the Pacers on 10/10) he didn't shoot the ball very well (0-4 FG), but he did finish with a number of Rubio-esqe assists. He's appears to have that same unique court vision. Although he did struggle shooting from the field, word is he does have a great shooting stroke.
At SMALL FORWARD...
The Timberwolves have Chase Budinger at small forward. Chase is leaps and bounds above what we had last season at the wing positions (both starters and bench). Would you take Chase over Wes Johnson? Michael Beasley? Martell Webster? Wayne Ellington? Yeah...me too! Bud had a great preseason game vs. the Pacers, scoring 14 points. We actually have a wing player that can make a three-point shot! He's athletic, he'll grab rebounds and knock down open shots, but not much else. However, that's exactly what we need from him. Chase should also see some time at shooting guard (especially if Roy gets hurt or Shved faceplants on the "Rookie Wall".
At POWER FORWARD...
The Timberwolves have Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham at power forward. There won't be a whole lot of minutes behind superstar Kevin Love. That's why if Rick Adelman needs to find Williams minutes, he won't be doing so at the power forward (at least...not much). If D-Will proves he can effectively play the '3' he'll have improved his outside shot, his slashing ability and (most importantly) his perimeter defense. Williams was a definitely a disappointment in his rookie season, he'll have to make big strides this year if he wants to remain a Timberwolf. Remember Kahn & Co. tried desperately to trade him (more than once...twice...three times...four times...etc). I think we all want things to work for Williams on this squad, hopefully he makes the most of his chances (be they at small forward or power forward). Dante Cunningham was the returning piece in the deal with the Memphis Grizzlies that sent Wayne Ellington, away. Cunningham is an energy/hustle player that may not see a whole lot of floor time, but will give you everything he's got when he's out there (kind of like Tolliver in that way). Of course, with that kind of effort, he sounds just like one of Adelman's guys. Watching him in the game vs. Indy, he played only 8 minutes (3 of which were at small forward). He's definitely more of a power forward as his foot speed isn't quite at the level required to be a capable '3'.
The Timberwolves have Greg Stiemsma and Louis Amundson at center. Last season the Timberwolves had Darko Milicic and Brad Miller as their backup centers. I'd say any other two big men would be an improvement. Kahn was focused this offseason on improving the depth in the frontcourt. One of the very first names that came up was Greg Stiemsma. Greg will be the main backup (behind PEK). His specialty is shot-blocking. He'll be a force on the defensive interior as well as grab rebounds on both ends. He'll likely average around 10-13 minutes a game. Amundson was the TWolves' latest free agency signing. As of now he's penciled in as a third-string center, while also seeing time at power forward. Like Dante, Lou is an energy/hustle guy that'll defend, hit the boards and get a few putback buckets. He's also got a rockin' ponytail!
I honestly don't see where there isn't an upgrade. Great news, huh?
Want even better news? The starting lineup has only gotten better, too!
Now, Rick Adelman has the daunting task of splitting up their minutes. I'm sure he'll have little trouble, en route to his 1,000th win.
That's all for now, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!