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Minnesota Timberwolves
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(Note: This was done before the Timberwolves traded Ricky Davis and Mark Blount to the Heat for Antoine Walker, Michael Doleac, Wayne Simien and a conditional first-round pick.)

An opposing team's scout sizes up the Timberwolves

This is one of the most drastic examples of a team that said we can't win with what we have. It was so bad that they traded a franchise guy to get out from under his salary and start completely over. The only thing I can remember like this is when Philadelphia traded Charles Barkley [15] years ago ...

Some will say Kevin Garnett's big contract was the franchise's undoing, but I see it the other way. This is one of the rare exceptions where the franchise has failed the player, not vice versa; I can't even believe this is coming out of my mouth. Maybe Kevin's not Michael Jordan, and maybe he's not quite good enough to win it all by carrying a team on his back. But he's still pretty damn good and he's always been fairly selfless as a teammate, and they had a lot of success with him. So if you want to place blame, look at what he had around him. It has looked like a rudderless ship. In this case, the player did everything he could in the time he was there and he was a consummate pro, but when it came down to it, the ownership and management weren't able to put things around him to win. Ultimately, it cost Flip Saunders his job, though I don't know if he was the one who should have been fired ...

Ultimately, the Timberwolves decided they'd gone as far as Garnett was going to take them, and they wanted to send him somewhere where he would have a chance to win. The owner [Glen Taylor] mandated that he be traded, and it can only be a matter of money because Garnett never caused much trouble. I know for a fact the owner mandated it before the draft, and they did not want to take anything back that didn't fall under the category of cap relief, expiring contracts, draft picks or inexpensive young players. They were not going to take back expensive veterans. If the Lakers had called offering Kobe, my understanding is that the Timberwolves would have had no interest. They wanted nothing to do with taking on money. They wanted to cut their salary hit, get contracts they could get rid of, field a fledgling team and hope to start all over ...

Good luck, Randy Wittman. It's going to be a reap-and-sow thing there this year ...

Al Jefferson at his best will never approach the level of Garnett in his prime. Jefferson has a chance to be a very good player. He'll have some 20-10 years, and he might play in an All-Star game or two. But he'll never be an MVP candidate, and he may never be the best player on his team except for right now. And you'll never be able to build a team around Jefferson. It's not even fair to the guy to compare him to Garnett. Has Jefferson ever done anything eye-popping that makes you say, 'Wow?' He doesn't play above the rim. He is a lunch-pail, workmanlike, physically tough, low-post-scoring power forward who is an exceptional rebounder, and that's really good. Is he a nice piece? Definitely. But if they're looking at him as the man they'll build around, they won't go far ...

Jefferson has to get better at making passes out of double teams, but that will happen as he sees more of them. He's not a threat on the perimeter or in the pick-and-pop, though I'd prefer his low-post skills anyway. Defensively, he's not an exceptionally fast lateral defender and he's prone to foul trouble against quicker guys, though he can occasionally recover and block a shot ...

Gerald Green gives them some hope. If they can be patient, Green could be a 20-point guy in two years. Not only does he have the athletic ability, but he can shoot the ball and he has some skill offensively. He's going to be boom or bust, which makes him the X-factor in the trade. You pretty much know what you have right now in Jefferson and Ryan Gomes, but if the light comes on with Green, he could be a surprise. Then the trade could look better than it does right now ...

Second-year guard Randy Foye is another fundamental part of their rebuilding. The first thing they'll have to decide is whether he's a point, a shooting guard or a player who defies position. I don't get overly excited about Foye, though he showed that he wasn't overwhelmed as a rookie. The bottom line is that he's going to be a good player in our league for a long time, and if he turns out to be a point guard, even better. He's not a classic shooting guard but does enough things well as a passer and off the dribble, and he has the size and strength to be a [good] defender. So he gives them some flexibility to draft or trade for a point guard or shooting guard to pair with him ...

Corey Brewer may be another Tayshaun Prince, a long, lanky, defensive-minded wing player who is always going to guard the other team's best perimeter scorer, and a guy who can shoot it pretty well himself. He'll have to make some adjustments with his strength, but coming from a winning program [at Florida] should help Brewer as much as it helped Prince [from Kentucky]. I wouldn't expect miracles, but I would put him ahead of Rashad McCants based on McCants' knee injury last year ...

McCants has been an enigma since college. Obviously, he's a talent who can shoot the ball and score, but last year was a wasted season with his injury. They'll have to give him a long look to determine whether he's part of the future or not ...

Two other young players who could be part of their future are Craig Smith and Gomes. They're both undersized power forwards. Gomes has shown an ability to step out and shoot and also to play some small forward, but they're both role players who are best suited to coming off the bench ...

Sebastian Telfair is a true example of why teams need to be careful about choosing guards and small players who turn pro out of high school or -- according to today's rules -- one year out of college. It's harder to evaluate them, and there is a much greater margin of error. In Jefferson's case, everyone knew he would be a rebounder and a serviceable big man, which is valuable in our league. But Telfair -- I don't know that I even like him as a backup point guard. I do know he isn't a starter. He's a shoot-first, me-first guy, and that hasn't changed in his three NBA seasons. He's cat-quick and fast getting down the floor, but I don't see him making other players better. At least if he'd gone to college for a few years, then you might have known what you were getting before drafting him ...

I won't be surprised by anything good or bad from Ricky Davis this year. I would fully expect him to be in get-mine mode. He's going to try to feign leadership and do things to win when it's easy for him to do that, but when things aren't going well, that's when he strays. He will be a definite 20-point scorer, he will get a ton of shots, and fantasy basketball owners will be thrilled with him. He might also be a candidate to be traded at the deadline ...

Mark Blount is a guy who tantalizes you, and yet for a guy of size and apparent ability, he cannot rebound and he cannot block one shot per game. He's 7-foot and mobile, but his lack of rebounding and shot-blocking and the fact that he had 67 assists in 82 games last year make you wonder if winning is important to him at all ...

If Juwan Howard doesn't get traded, maybe he can serve as something of a veteran leader -- though I think that kind of talk can be completely overrated. A guy who plays 15-20 minutes isn't going to have much of an impact on guys who are playing all the time ...

It's not going to be a good environment for veteran players with that franchise. For starters, you know they're not going to pay you. And you have no hope of winning: That much will be obvious by December. If a guy's contract is expiring, he'll be very unlikely to be traded. I bet they wouldn't trade Theo Ratliff's expiring contract for Shaquille O'Neal. But I think they'll try to trade guys like Blount, Howard and Marko Jaric. They might have to keep Davis just for the points they can get from him ...

I would expect their fan base to diminish. The fans have every reason to sour on management, and they're going to be bad for a while. These are the Celtics of two years ago, with seven former Boston players on their roster. And those Celtics were a losing team themselves.

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