The center position for the Minnesota Timberwolves has certainly been an ongoing issue. Whether it’s been starting the undersized Al Jefferson at center or Jason Collins, Ryan Hollins, Oleksiy Pecherov, Darko Milicic, Nikola Pekovic…I think you get the point.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have never really had a great center (Jefferson was all right, but he created some matchup issues and wasn’t/isn’t a great defender).
The TWolves are currently working through some pre-draft workouts with the likes of Derrick Williams, Enes Kanter etc.
However, today, we’re going to run through some centers in the NBA, that the Minnesota Timberwolves could look to either sign in free agency, acquire via trade, or draft in the upcoming 2011 NBA Draft (June 23rd).
1.) Darko Milicic (Current TWolves Starting Center)
First off, let me begin by saying: Darko made leaps-and-bounds as a player this year, however I really don’t feel that he is “starting” quality. Simply put: A reserve at best. One of the biggest problems for Darko is that Rambis has him trying to do too much. It was actually part of Rambis’ gameplan to get the ball down to Darko on the first 4 or 5 possessions, to “try and get him going early”. However, the truth is, he is not an offensive center. He’s a defensive stopper (who’s routinely in foul trouble), that’ll give you 2-3 good blocks per game…along with 4 or 5 fouls. I’m in no way saying that we need to trade Darko, however, his position as starting center, needs to change. Darko is a reserve and nothing more.
2.) Nikola Pekovic (Current TWolves Reserve Center)
We saw some flashes on-an-off when the rookie got some playing time of some potential, however it seemed few-and-far-between. At 6-11 he’s just a touch undersized, however Pek makes up for it with his physicality (sometimes too much…routinely being in foul trouble…just like his buddy Darko). I can’t really say for sure if Pek will ever be starting material in the NBA, however, if he puts the work in to develop a few go-to moves in the post as well as learning how to be aggressive on D in the post without fouling, I see no reason why he couldn’t become a top-tier center in the League (a lot easier than these few suggestions make it sound).
3.) Enes Kanter (Lottery-Pick in 2011 NBA Draft)
The Turkish big man who was deemed ineligible to play in the NCAA is still a high-draft pick this summer. A lot of mock drafts currently have the big man going #4 to the Cleveland Cavaliers, however the Minnesota Timberwolves have certainly expressed interest in the 6-11 big man. With the #2 pick in the draft, the Minnesota TWolves have their sights on either Derrick Williams or trading the pick. One possibility has been to trade down in the draft-in order to grab Kanter. His rebounding, inside scoring and above-average D would be a solid complement to his would-be frontcourt mate: Kevin Love.
4.) Tyson Chandler (Dallas Mavericks) (FA)
This is a name getting tossed around a lot by Wolves fans and Wolves reporters. Tyson Chandler seems to be the ideal veteran big man the Wolves would love to have. Chandler is currently a member of the Dallas Mavericks and according to them, the have every intention on resigning their starting center. However, if for some unforeseen reason, the Mavs don’t resign him, the Wolves would likely make him an offer. Tyson would be the ideal center. Grabbing rebounds, playing lockdown D (was a member of the 2nd Team All-Defense this past year), he’d be the perfect pairing with All-Star Kevin Love.
5.) Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies) (Restricted FA)
Like Tyson Chandler Marc Gasol is a free agent this offseason and like Tyson Chandler, Marc Gasol is likely to be resigned by his current club. Marc is a big man with a lot of hustle, length, inside scoring and solid D. Marc won’t be going anywhere however because, unlike Tyson Chandler, Marc is a restricted free agent and there’s no way the Grizzlies are going to let their great future center ‘walk’. Like Kanter & Chandler before him, Marc would be a great complement to Love in the frontcourt and like Kanter & Chandler before him, he would greatly affect Kevin Love’s rebounding totals on both ends of the floor.
6.) Chris Kaman (Los Angeles Clippers)
Kaman is our first center on this list who isn’t a free agent, a draft pick, or a current ‘wolf’. Chris Kaman suffered with a severely sprained ankle as well as a slew of other injuries last season playing for the Clippers. In his place young DeAndre Jordan took the reins as the starting center and now, the Clips may be looking to move the former All-Star. Kaman is one of the best low-post scorers, a very ambidextrous player who also because of his size is an above average defender as well. Without a doubt one of the top 5 or 6 centers in the League right now. If the Wolves end up drafting Derrick Williams and keep him, they’ve talked about moving Michael Beasley. Beas is a small forward and would fill a HUGE gap in the Clips starting lineup. Beasley for Kaman would be a great trade for both teams. Beasley for Kaman ‘straight-up’ doesn’t work (salary-wise), but if the Wolves threw in Jonny Flynn (who they’re looking to basically dump) (this wouldn’t be a bad throw in considering how low his value is and how valuable Kaman would be) it would work financially for both clubs.
7.) DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers) (Restricted FA)
Another of the Clippers centers: DeAndre Jordan made a lot of noise this year as he was thought to be a bust. The defensive center teamed with ROY Blake Griffin as they created a lethal frontcourt in LA. DeAndre is a restricted free agent this offseason, so te Clips can match any offer he receives…and the way it sounds, that’s exactly what the intend to do, unless of course someone really overpays for the young center. With his size and defensive capabilities he’d be a nice match next to Love in the frontcourt.
9.) Greg Oden (Portland Trailblazers) (Restricted FA)
Another restricted free agent: Greg Oden. Oden has missed way too many games and considering who was picked after him (#2 pick Kevin Durant to OKC), there are many who’re thinking-BUST! However, when Oden is healthy he’s a great young defensive center, who also rebounds and will dump in the occasional shot as well as crash the O boards for 2nd chance points. If the Blazers decide to move on without him, there are a number of teams that could look to take a chance on him, hopefully the TWolves will take a hard look at the injury-plagued, but talented big man.
10.) Samuel Dalembert (Sacramento Kings) (FA)
Sam is a free agent this offseason. He was traded last summer from Philadelphia to Sacramento, but I’m not convinced this is where he’ll stay. The Kings have already said they’d love to have him back, but Dalembert will certainly garner a lot of interest around the league. One team I’ve noted in the past has been the New York Knicks, who’re looking for a large defensive center to play alongside Amar’e. Many see Dalembert as a Darko clone…a defensive center who is a great offensive player. Beyond the blocks, not much to Dalembert’s game. Also, with DeMarcus Cousins as the clear future center in Sac-Town, Dalembert will move on. He’s a possibility, but not much of an upgrade over Darko.
11.) JaVale McGee (Washington Wizards)
This has actually been a trade possibility for the Wolves if they decide to move the #2 pick. Some potential trades that would work include: McGee, Kevin Seraphin & the #6 pick in the draft to Minnesota for Jonny Flynn & the #2 pick. Another trade that would work would be JaVale and the #6 for Wayne Ellington & the #2 (you could also replace Ellington with Lazar Hayward). JaVale is an athletic young center with a lot of potential and a hard work ethic. He’d certainly be an upgrade over Darko. The Wizards are reportedly high on Derrick Williams, who’s projected to go #2, who they would then acquire with that #2 pick.
12.) Andrea Bargnani (Toronto Raptors)
Andrea Bargnani is a former #1 pick, but hasn’t really become the player people thought he would. Don’t get me wrong. The young 7-footer averages 20+ppg, but there’s far too many areas of his game that just “don’t work”. He can’t rebound or defend, like a 7-foot ‘center’ should. He’s also playing out of position at center in Toronto, however if he came to Minny, he’d be playing the 5 as well. He would make our team defense even more atrocious, but his scoring would be very valuable. The Raps are looking to move him and Minnesota has been a team that’s come up a bit lately in trade chatter.
13.) Marcin Gortat (Phoenix Suns)
After being traded to Phoenix last season, the ‘Polish Hammer’ proved he has what it takes to be a starting center in this League, after being buried behind Dwight Howard in Orlando for the beginning of his NBA career. The Suns aren’t really looking to move him, however for the right price, he could be had. A trade of the #2 pick, Martell Webster, Jonny Flynn, Wesley Johnson & Nikola Pekovic to Phoenix for Gortat & Steve Nash would work financially. The Wolves are already in discussions about Steve Nash for the #2 pick. With Flynn, Wes, & the #2 pick (Derrick Williams) the Suns would have their starting 1, 2, 3 for the future. For Minnesota, they’d have a great all-around center to complement Love as well as Steve Nash as their starting point guard and mentor to the young Rubio.
14.) Robin Lopez (Phoenix Suns)
Another, Phoenix Suns center: Robin Lopez, lost his starting job to Gortat and the Suns may see him as ‘expendable’ now. He may not be the most attractive name on this list. But the twin of Nets Brook Lopez is a big body who can rebound, block shots and get involved on offense would be a valuable asset. He’s still a young player as well and could grow and thrive in Minnesota. A trade of Lazar Hayward for Lopez OR Wayne Ellington for Lopez both work financially, though the Suns may not be willing to give up their young center for so little in return.
16.) Brendan Haywood (Dallas Mavericks)
Haywood has proven, that when motivated, he is a solid center in this League. However, he only seems motivated when he’s playing for a winner or has the starting center job. In Washington’s-‘heyday’ he was a great young center along with Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison & Caron Butler. Then the Wizards fell apart and so did his game. He was traded along with Butler to Dallas where he snagged the starting center job and was a huge asset for the Mavs. They signed him to a 6-year deal that pays him over $6M every year. Then last summer they traded for Tyson Chandler who stole the starting job and Haywood hasn’t really shown that spark he’s had this season. As such, with there starting center in Tyson (if they resign him) and Haywood’s massive contract they may look to try and unload him. I don’t like the idea of his massive contract on the books for the next half-decade, but he’s a quality center who’s all-around game would work in Minnesota. However, not playing for a winner, may be the problem. A trade of Martell Webster for Haywood OR Luke Ridnour for Haywood would both work financially. Both trades would help the Mavs as well. With Martell they get another great wing player (when healthy) and with Ridnour they have a proven veteran backup with the ability to be the playmaker.
17.) Anderson Varejo (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Varejo suffered a season-ending injury early in the year, but the big Brazilian is a solid defensive center in the NBA. If the Cavs decide to draft Kanter they’d likely be looking to move the expensive Varejo (not too sure if there would be a lot of offers). The Knicks/Bobcats/Blazers/Celtics and the Wolves? could look to get involved. The Wolves could offer Martell Webster for Varejo. They’d be trading their sixth man for a starting defensive center, something they need (Darko is obviously a defensive center, but he tries (as does Rambis) to (make him) do too much).
18.) Pau Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers)
This is actually a rumor circulating. The Wolves are reportedly looking for a veteran big man and if they were able to grab Pau Gasol, that would be huge for the Wolves. He’s familiar with the sets that Rambis runs since Rambis was Phil Jackson’s assistant in Los Angeles for a number of years. He’d bring veteran leadership and a great all-around game on both ends for the Wolves. A trade of Michael Beasley plus any combination of three players from this list: Luke Ridnour, Nikola Pekovic, Martell Webster, Darko Milcic as well as (most likely) the #2 pick.
19.) Bismack Biyombo (Lottery-Pick 2011 NBA Draft)
Beyond Enes Kanter, Biyombo is the best center in the draft (though he’s a stretch at center at just 6-9, but his insane athleticism & wingspan: 7-7 more than makes up for it). Some project Bismack as high as a #5 pick, but the current NBA Mock Draft 4.0 from Chad Ford of ESPN has the Congo-player going #14 to the Houston Rockets. The Wolves would obviously trade down for the big man, but he’s certainly an exciting possibility for the Wolves frontcourt…however, he also comes with a lot of question marks.
There are a number of other free agent centers available this offseason, if you follow the below link, you can find my full-story of Center FAs published just over a month ago. <http://minnesotatimberwolves.tumblr.com/post/5321211004/twolves-2011-potential-center-free-agent-targets#disqus_thread>
As always, remember to stay tuned for all your TWolves news, information & updates all year long. Thanks for reading and GO WOLVES!