The Wolves currently have 13 guaranteed contracts on the roster, leaving two roster spots available to round it out with washed-up veterans, novelty players and/or Caucasian prospects. Let’s take a look at the best of what’s left.
1. Nothing special. An additional big body, preferably a traditional center. But PF’s who can rotate in and defend/fill a spot/simply not be a liability should be considered.
2. A reserve swingman. With Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko both being susceptible to injury, it is only a matter of time before Luke Ridnour could be playing small forward in crunch time again. And while this shockingly worked in several big games last year, such a situation is about as ideal as spending an eternity in Hell unwrapping CD cellophane wrap (the bane of human existence).
3. Not much else other than perhaps a talent consolidation via trade, but that is not the purpose of this. It’s safe to say a PG is generally not needed at this point. Thus, any such player will be omitted from the remaining dudes (or dudettes in Jonny Flynn’s case). Combo guards in the build of Luke Ridnour and Barea were also omitted. A guard added would ideally be able to defend the small forward position, and is more a SG/SF-type.
4. A novelty player! Lets do this!
5. A veteran, quality locker room guy.
Cash Available: None. Minimum salary exception only as the Wolves are over the cap.
Now that the filter has been placed on the list, here are some free-agent possibilities:
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Centers and Bigs (In no particular order):
1. Ben Wallace: Above-Average Sized Ben reportedly wants back to Motown but the Piston’s uber-non-talented roster is full. Washed up? Check. Novelty player? Debatable. Ben still has some defensive ability and would be a good veteran addition as a former NBA champ. Provides toughness. Remember, expectations for this spot should be low. Keep that mindset strong going forward.
2. Krylyo Fesenko: The ideal 3rd center. Still relatively young and experienced….oh, nevermind, he is terrible. Moving on.
3. Jerome Jordan: The Wolves are reportedly interested in him. He played sparingly last year for New York. At the very least, a training camp invite might be in order. He doesn’t seem to bring a lot other than size. In truth, you are not reading something written by a Jerome Jordan expert. Ask a Knicks fan for their take. I’m sure it will be perfectly objective.
4. Erick Dampier: If 2012 season averages of 0.1 PPG don’t scream “I’ve still got it” I don’t know what does. He would be a novelty pickup mostly, and a 3rd tier on the Novelty Scale at that. Completely washed up, but notable enough of a name to keep on the list.
5. Yi Jianlian: Remember, we are talking about a 14th man here. There is no mistaking Yi has some ability to contribute at the NBA level. He is more of a stretch 4, and would complete a near-global tour for the roster. Can hit a mid-range jumpshot, which is at least one somewhat uncommon skill for any player at any position.
6. Tony Battie: Perennial role-player veteran. Limited skills at this juncture in his career. Little left in the tank. Provides a big body.
7. Anthony Tolliver: AT, how we love your personality and effort. Would like your attitude back, but get that shooting stroke back! If you’ll take the minimum, you’re in. AT was a good defender early in the season and was really proving his value on that end, but production fell off a cliff on offense and he shot too much to boot. He has it in him.
8. Hassan Whiteside: Once lauded as a future star on our staff draft board years back, Hassan UpSide never got a fair shake in Sacramento. Does he have anything he can contribute at the NBA level? He can’t possibly be any worse than Thabeet? An intriguing look to say the least.
9. Daniel Orton: The Magic could have kept and attempted to develop him the wake of the foreseeable Dwight trade, but that franchise is more doomed than the 2008-2011 Wolves. Orton may have some potential beyond most of the free agent bigs on this list. (EDIT: Orton quietly went to OKC awhile ago. My mistake)
10. DeSagana Diop:
Let’s just move on.
11. Troy Murphy: When Giant Mutant Macaulay Culkin is available, you go all in. Murphy hasn’t done much these past two years but as a destitute man’s Kevin Love, he may be worth a look as an injury replacement
12. Lou Amundsen: While 12th on this list, Lou is actually a good look. Tough, dirty workhorse. He would rank high on this list if it were ranked as such. Lou may be ready for a better deal than the minimum, but if not, the Wolves should be calling.
13. Ivan Johnson: Ivan the Terrible! A Twitter sensation and put up some decent numbers last year for an older rook.
14. Kenyon Martin: Still has game left. Likely headed to a contender if anywhere. Energy guy at this stage in his career, which fits the bill.
15. Eduardo Najera: The Wolves are rumored to be interested. The fans are not happy about it. He underwent skull surgery. That will get him back into form for sure.
16. Brian Scalabrine: The guy who always stays too late at your party and just awkwardly sits on the couch after everyone has left and you just want to go to sleep. That’s Scalabrine. Not sure what he brings to the Wolves other than filling a spot and adding a body in practice. A novelty pickup for sure. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of the fan discussion if Kahn picked him up? If you are one of those people, you probably take the concept of a 14th man way too seriously.
17. Brian Cardinal: Provided excellent locker room leadership during The Dark Years of Darrell Rhombus and The Year of the Pecherov. Once traded for Darko and brought back a month later. Love loves him. It’s no mystery the Wolves need a wise sage in the locker room who is beyond contributing regularly to fill Brad Miller’s role. BC might be the guy.
18. Mehmet Okur: Used to be really good not too long ago. Hurt himself. Not sure what he would be able to bring at this point, yet the Wolves are reportedly interested in him.
19. Chris Andersen: Birdman! Last and NOT least. Should get strong consideration for his shot blocking, athleticism, and overall novelty appeal.
Guards and Swingmen (In no particular order):
1. Adam Morrison: bAMMO! Get him Kahn! Give the guy a shot! I’m not sure what else the guy has to prove to get back into the league. He has undergone some major Hester Prynne treatment, yet still can actually play. Why is this? Watch me put him #1 on this list and defend it….and get Prynned myself. Jokes aside, I actually hope Ammo gets back into the league. The Novelty King. Outdoes even Scalabrine in this regard.
2. Leandro Barbosa: More of a PG/SG combo but is worth including because he is one of the best free agents still available. He can knock down the corner 3 and handle the ball. His size and skillsets are a hair redundant but that shouldn’t keep him completely off the radar. Likely headed to LAL like everyone else good.
3. Mickael Pietrus: Completely ideal addition. Exactly what I had in mind in writing this list. Money is a problem. Pietrus reportedly isn’t interested in a minimum salary deal, and if he were, would simply re-sign with Boston. Unfortunately not realistic unless he remains unsigned deep into next month. Solid defensive guy who can shoot at at a somewhat decent clip.
4. Jason Kapono: If you want a guy who can stand there and nail a 3, Jason Kapono is your guy. Not being facetious. There is room for those guys on any team.
5. Michael Redd: Former all-star mired by injuries. A theme is developing. Played some surprisingly decent ball in Phoenix last year as a role player. Redd should be considered for a scoring punch should the guards fall to injuries.
6. Matt Carroll: (See: Kapono, Jason). Can knock ‘em down. Sort of a modern day Fred Hoiberg-lite. Even down to the shot release. Maybe not down to the b-ball smarts, however.
7. Marquis Daniels: Another guy who would rank higher if this list were actually ranked. His stats will not wow anyone, but he can fill a role. That’s what this list is for: not finding a star, but a guy who can provide dependable minutes in emergency situations. Daniels would be one of them as a solid defensive wing.
8. Lester Hudson: Started his own Linsanilty bit with the Cavaliers this past season, putting up random 20+ point games, and then somehow vanishing into the sunset after riding Memphis’ bench.
9. Gilbert Arenas: Another former All-Star who can handle the ball and score. Little left in the tank, which seems odd considering he just turned 30 in January.
10. Tracy McGrady: (See: Arenas, Gilbert). His relationship with Rick “Thomas Durant from Hell on Wheels” Adelman might give the Wolves a leg up in the T-Mac sweepstakes. Little left other than a mentor status but he can still score a bit when needed.
11. Matt Barnes: Call me crazy, but yes. Barnes provides a killer instinct and consistent effort/energy. The minimum cash and lack of consistent role sure makes this a stretch, but if Barnes were added as a 14th man this would be a great addition. The Wolves need a complete jackass on the team and that isn’t a joke. Probably not realistic.
12. Derrick Brown: Put up about 8 and 4 last year for CHA as more of a traditional 3/4, hence the confusion on where to put him. Fit is a question, but his production was above most others on this list. Then again, he played for the Bobcats…
13. Damien Wilkins: Perhaps would remind us all too much of The Year of the Pecherov. One of Kahn’s first acquisitions in 2009. He can still defend and score a bit and fits most serious criteria for a 14th man. Should we congratulate him for this?
14. Dominic McGuire: Defense is the name of the game. About as bad on O as Sagana Diop. But, defenders are always a good thing to have on the roster and if McGuire is open to the minimum, he should get a serious look.
15. Maurice Evans: Veteran presence. Can still score and shoot the 3 at a fair clip.
16. Alonzo Gee: You may not remember, but Gee was on the Wolves training camp roster during The Year of the Pecherov. He was waived, made a name for himself in Cleveland and is now likely far out of reach at the minimum.
17. Bill Walker: Can score a bit and is experienced to a degree. Added mostly to appease a TWB forum member who loves the guy. Not sure he has the smarts to warrant the role.
18. Donte Greene: Worth including because he has played plenty of minutes in his career, but mostly bad ones. Perhaps the worst chucker this league has seen in recent memory.
19. Sam Young: Probably realistic, but does little on the court to warrant a spot.
20. Carlos Delfino: Likely out of the Wolves’ price range and in need of a bigger role, hence the limited praise offered. (EDIT: Jeff Goldblum Delfino has signed with Houston).
Overall, there are very few exciting names on this list. In fact, that list of bigs is about as foul as it can get. However, it seems to make much more sense to add a player for the minimum prior to training camp so that said player can become familiar with the team immediately if and when injuries will occur. Because they will. It won’t be long before the Wolves enter a stretch with both AK47 and Roy out of action. And there are Pek’s feet to consider. When that happens, having able bodies will be critical. It spelled disaster for the Wolves last year after all.
Who do you like? Who was overlooked? Remember this is a deep bench addition. Think of these potential signees in that context alone. The Wolves aren’t hunting for a starter here.