Rookie Depth Chart Battles: Minnesota Timberwolves

Over the next month or so, I will be a writing a series of articles exploring the depth charts of NBA teams, and more specifically, where the rookies from the 2011 draft fit into those depth charts. Thanks to MTD for the idea.

This is the second installment of my post-draft series, and with the lockout officially beginning I may have a bit more time to get these written.

This time I am taking a look at the depth chart of the team that picked second this year: the Minnesota Timberwolves. This is probably going to be one of the more difficult situations to sort out, when you throw in the #5 pick from 2009 Ricky Rubio making his NBA debut, a likely coaching change, and an absolute mess of a roster. Here we go!

#2 - Derrick Williams

  • Position: Forward
  • Measurables: 6'9" 248 lbs
  • 2010-2011 Statistics: 19.5 ppg, 59.5 fg%, 56.8 3fg%, 74.6 ft%, 8.3 rpg

Derrick Williams was the consensus number two player in this draft, and Minnesota wisely elected to go with talent over need with the second overall pick. He is a big-time scorer who played PF at Arizona, but calls himself a SF in the NBA.

He is an explosive player with deep range and a knack for putting the ball in the basket. There are questions about his position in the NBA, however, and he does not significantly effect the game in any area other than scoring at this point.

MIN Forward Depth Chart: Kevin Love(PF/C), Anthony Tolliver (PF/C), Anthony Randolph(PF/C), Michael Beasley (SF/PF), Wesley Johnson (SG/SF), Martell Webster (SG/SF), Lazar Hayward (SF)

You see my dilemma (one I share with whoever the T'Wolves' next coach is). This is a roster full of tweeners. Wes Johnson is clearly a SF, but the lack of a true SG on the roster and a surplus of talent at SF means he has to play out of position. The same is true for Webster.

Michael Beasley made the transition from PF to starting SF last year, and his skillset is somewhat similar to that of Williams. There is likely not room for both players on the roster long term, and I am expecting a trade at some point. If Minnesota decides to see what they have before making a trade, we will likely see the T'Wolves All-Star PF Kevin Love slide over and play big minutes at C allowing Williams and Beasley to play together.

Williams' place on the roster: Unless Minnesota pulls off a trade before the season starts, Williams will have to work hard to earn playing time.

As the roster stands now, Williams figures to start the season as Michael Beasley's back-up. But you don't take a player with the second overall pick and play him just fifteen minutes per game, so we will likely see him playing beside Beasley as often as we see him giving Beasley a breather. A Williams-Beasley-Love frontcourt wouldn't exactly be the best defensive line-up you've ever seen, but it sure would give opposing teams fits on offense. If Beasley is traded, Williams is the starting SF and will play big minutes.

Expectation: Williams will start slow while adjusting to the pro game and fighting for playing time, but one way or another he will become a starter at some point during his first season. He will get plenty of ROY buzz if he earns a starting spot early enough. He will make an All-Rookie Team. 14-16 ppg and 4-6 rpg.

#43 - Malcolm Lee

  • Position: Guard
  • Measurables: 6'5" 200 lbs
  • 2010-2011 Statistics: 13.1 ppg, 43.7 fg%, 29.5 3fg%, 77.8 ft%, 2 apg, 3.1 rpg

After several trades back in the draft, Minnesota finally ended up with the former Bruin Malcolm Lee in the second round. Lee is an athletic combo-guard who projects to be primarily a defensive stopper in the NBA.

MIN Guard Depth Chart: Ricky Rubio (PG), Luke Ridnour (PG), Wes Johnson (SG/SF), Martell Webster (SG/SF), Wayne Ellington (SG)

Minnesota does not have a true SG on their entire roster, other than Ellington who is probably best as a 3rd-stringer.

Lee's place on the roster:

Lee's primary competition will be Wayne Ellington, the man who currently fills the emergency combo-guard role for the T'Wolves. To earn a contract Lee will likely have to beat out Ellington. If Lee can focus on defense and continue to refine his jumpshot, he could earn that spot. And with Webster's inability to stay healthy last year, there could be an opening in the rotation at some point during the season.

Expectation: Lee makes the team and will crack the rotation at some point due to injury.

2009 #5 - Ricky Rubio

  • Position: PG
  • Measurables: 6'4" 180 lbs
  • 2010-2011 Statistics: Euroleague - 6.5 ppg, 31 fg%, 22.4 3fg%, 83.6 ft%, 3.6 apg, 3.2 rpg, 1.7 spg, 22.7 mpg; ACB - 5.3 ppg, 33.1 fg%, 37.8 3fg%, 77 ft%, 4.4 apg, 3.4 rpg, 1.7 spg, 23 mpg

The teenage superstar from Spain is finally making his NBA debut now that he's no longer a teenager. Barring a season-long lockout, Rubio will be playing for Minnesota this year. David KAAAAAAAAHN!!!!'s reputation and possibly his job could rely on the young Spaniard living up to the hype that surrounded him leading up to the draft in 2009.

Rubio is a mystery to many NBA fans considering the only time many have seen him play was in the 2008 Olympics against Team USA, but he has quite reputation as a basketball prodigy. His greatest strength is his creativity and ability to distribute the ball. He's a very crafty and intelligent player who should excell in an open system that likes to get out on the break. His jumpshot still needs a lot of work, however, and we have yet to see how he will perform against NBA athletes.

MIN Point Guard Depth Chart: Luke Ridnour, Sebastian Telfair (FA)

The PG situation was dreadful last season. Luke Ridnour is a good player, but if he's the starter of a team without a LeBron James-like superstar, you're not going to be very good.

Jonny Flynn, who Minnesota selected with the 6th pick in 2009 (right after Rubio), came into the year injured and was a complete flop (and is now a Houston Rocket). Sebastian Telfair certainly is not the answer. Wayne Ellington ran the point at times last year, but neither he nor Malcolm Lee are a threat in any way to Rubio's playing time.

Rubio's place on the roster: In all likelihood, as long as Rubio isn't a complete bust he will be the opening day starter at PG for the T'Wolves.

I still question Rubio's ability to score, but this roster is in desperate need of a playmaker and that is what Minnesota is hoping he can be for them. The roster is full of spot-up shooters, and now they have someone to get those shooters the ball. Luke Ridnour had his career year in Milwaukee while mentoring and splitting time with rookie Brandon Jennings, and a return to that role could lead to another productive year for the veteran floor general.

Expectation: I haven't bought into the Rubio hype completely, but he will be the starter and will get every opportunity to put up some numbers. He'll make the rookie All-Star team. 8-10 ppg and 7-9 apg.

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