Some may say it is too early for a team to throw in the towel on a season and begin exclusively playing young players. In Minnesota, I say it is time to do so. Attempt to package Theo Ratliff's $11,666,666 salary with Antoine Walker ($8,547,000 with one year after this remaining). Look to move Marko Jaric (about $27,000,000 over the next four years) to a team looking for scoring from the point guard position. If they cannot move Walker, then it is time to buy him out. Minnesota should target a young wing player who can score or a legitimate center that can help them in the future.
Among the team leaders in minutes played, Ratliff, Greg Buckner, and Marko Jaric all fall in the top seven. Why? Why is Walker getting more than 15 minutes per game? The Timberwolves have put together a nice, promising core that needs experience and growth. Al Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Randy Foye, Rashad McCants, Corey Brewer, Craig Smith, and Gerald Green are all promising players all 25 years old or younger.
The coaches and management need to let these kids play together for extended time. This way, after the season, Kevin McHale and the rest of the management can accurately access what they have. Each one of these players have questions around them, but if they do not get extended time this year, then they will not be able to answer them:
- Can Jefferson be a superstar or more of a second leading scorer?
- Can Telfair run an NBA team
- Is Gomes more than just a hustle player?
- Is Foye a point guard or undersized shooting guard?
- Will McCants ever be more than what he is today?
- Can Brewer be counted on to score consistently in the NBA?
- Do Smith's abilities extend beyond rebounding and post defense?
- Is Green a potential 20 point per night guy?
However, if Minnesota continues to play some of their veterans significant minutes, then the team will not be able to determine what they have and what they need. This is an important season for Minnesota in the start of their rebuilding and they cannot waste it away.