Minnesota Timberwolves: Grading Each Position As They Currently Stand

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Minnesota Timberwolves: Grading Each Position As They Currently Stand

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves kicked off their off season with a big move when owner Glen Taylor decided to give general manager David Kahn the boot. Kahn had enough time to make plenty of mistakes on his way to wasting several draft picks that may have led to the Wolves' securing a couple of future All Stars. Within days of Kahn being let go, Taylor brought in a familiar face in Flip Saunders to replace him. Saunders comes into a great situation at the moment with a relatively young team, having two cornerstones in place with point guard Ricky Rubio and power forward Kevin Love.

Aside from those two, Saunders will also enjoy the pleasure of having a true center on his roster in Nikola Pekovic. These three guys will be the future of the Wolves many successes to come. Outside of them, Minnesota has a few question marks and areas that could be improved through either free agency or the draft.

One of those areas is their swingman position. The Wolves brought in Andrei Kirilenko and Chase Budinger to fulfill that role, but Kirilenko was the only proven starter due to a season-long injury to Budinger. When Kirilenko was healthy, he provided a lift in a way that no other player on the roster could give. Budinger displayed promise when healthy for just a few games, but there wasn't enough evidence to justify making him the permanent starter. Minnesota had to start Luke Ridnour at the two-guard spot all year long due to Budinger's injury, and Ridnour is a lifelong point guard. That experiment was less than satisfactory, if you ask most fans.

Then there is the question of the bench. Who will make the lasting impression needed to maintain their role in the rotation? Last season, Minnesota brought in a couple of 10-day contracts that wound up staying for the rest of the season, giving the Wolves a lift in limited minutes when called upon. Will those players be retained? Furthermore, did their play last year even merit a second look at bringing them back?

Going into Saunders' first season as president of basketball operations, he will need to do a little grading with the front office in order to plan out their needs in the draft and free agency. Here are my grades for each of the Wolves' positions as they currently stand.

Ryan Heckman is a writer for RantSports.com covering the NBA and NFL. Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.

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Point Guard: B+

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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Give this back court another year, and we could very well be talking about a grade A at this position. Both Ricky Rubio and Alexey Shved are talented point guards, with Shved coming off only his first year in the NBA. At times, Shved exploded offensively, especially from outside the arc, when the Wolves needed points the most. He should be a viable backup for years to come in Minnesota. Rubio, on the other hand, is one of the best passers the league has at the moment and is also a phenomenal defender in terms of forcing turnovers. Give Rubio a little time to develop his jump shot, and he will propel himself into elite status.

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Shooting Guard: C-

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Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Wolves brought in Chase Budinger to potentially start at this position, but he was injured nearly all season long. In turn, Minnesota had to start a point guard, Luke Ridnour, at the two-guard spot every game this past year. Ridnour clearly showed he does not have what it takes to keep up with all of the better shooting guards in the NBA both offensively and defensively. This is an area that Saunders will need to address first and foremost heading into the free agency period as well as the draft. Budinger may be an option off the bench, but many question whether he can get it done as a full-time starter. Look for the Wolves to add another two-guard this offseason.

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Small Forward: B-

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Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Andrei Kirilenko was brought in to be a versatile forward in the Wolves' rotation, and that's exactly what he was able to provide — when healthy. Due to so many injuries this year, the Wolves also went out and signed free agent Mickael Gelebale, who played surprisingly well in limited minutes. Kirilenko will most likely still be the starter next season, but there isn't much behind him. Derrick Williams can contribute at this position because he is experienced at both the small forward and power forward, but right now we also aren't sure if Williams will stick with the team or be traded eventually. Bringing back Gelebale for insurance may not be a bad idea, even if he is signed as a reserve. For now, it's Kirilenko's show and the Wolves are praying he can stay healthy all of next year.

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Power Forward: A

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Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Does it get much better than a guy who can rebound at an elite level as well as score with the best of them? Kevin Love has been more than what he was expected to be when the Timberwolves brought him in as a rookie, and they couldn't be happier with his production so far in his career. The problem last year was the inability for Love to stay healthy. Going into 2013-2014, Love has said he will come back stronger and better than ever. Provided that holds to be true, the Wolves are in great shape at the power forward position. Keeping forward Dante Cunningham in Minnesota will also make sure the Wolves have enough depth here. Cunningham is still very young and is a versatile guy who can score and provide momentum off the bench.

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Center: B

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Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Who would have seen this type of play coming from Nikola Pekovic during his rookie season? I doubt anyone would have thought "Pek" could turn out to be such a consistent center in the NBA. But, for the Wolves, that's exactly what he has been able to be when healthy and on the floor. Again, rolling with the injury theme here, Pekovic was hurt last year for quite a while, but he provided consistent play down low when in the lineup. The Wolves have a decision to make on whether or not to give him a long-term deal, and I think that will be one of the very first things Saunders will focus on. Pekovic is a consistent scorer and very good rebounder which, when paired with Love, makes the two a fantastic duo in the front court. Backing up Pekovic is Greg Stiemsma and Chris Johnson. Stiemsma is a solid defender, while Johnson provided a lift in momentum at times last year when Pekovic was injured. Bringing back Johnson may be a long shot for Minnesota, but they are still in good shape with Stiemsma coming off the bench to relieve Pekovic.

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