How will the minutes shake out in the Timberwolves' frontcourt?
Unsurprisingly, the Minnesota Timberwolves responded to their brutal 15-win 2009-10 campaign by conducting a roster makeover. The short list of holdovers is headed by Kevin Love, Corey Brewer and Jonny Flynn (who's expected to miss the start of the season while recovering from hip surgery). The lengthy list of newcomers starts with Michael Beasley, acquired from the Miami Heat, and No. 4 overall draft pick Wesley Johnson.
Looking over this roster, a couple of things jump out: One is that most of these guys were in diapers when the Timberwolves entered the NBA in 1989. Then there's the number of "F's" you see on the roster. With this star-crossed franchise, those F's could be letter grades, but what I mean is the Timberwolves have tons of forwards.
When trying to sort out a roster, it's usually instructive to follow the money. Where is a team committing its time and financial resources? Where is it putting its future? In the case of the Timberwolves, I think they're committed to Beasley and Love. Having selected Johnson ahead of DeMarcus Cousins in the draft, they're obviously committed to the Syracuse product. I think getting minutes for each of these youngsters will be a priority.
If you start with the premise that Love is going to man the 4 while Beasley sees significant time at small forward, the picture becomes clearer. In the Timberwolves' perfect world, that would leave shooting guard for the rookie Johnson, who's been slowed in camp by a hamstring problem. Darko Milicic is the center, and Luke Ridnour is the point guard at least until Flynn is ready. Brewer, Martell Webster and Anthony Tolliver are the primary backups.
As a fantasy owner that means, relative to their current draft positions, I like Love and I love Beasley. Seriously, I think Love's ESPN.com live draft ADP of 59 is pretty reasonable, but as of this moment I'd probably rate Beasley (ADP: 90) nearly a round better. And, while I know preseason talk is cheap, both Love -- who clashed with head coach Kurt Rambis over playing time last season -- and Beasley are saying the right things about professionalism and maturity.
While I expect Johnson will receive every opportunity to win regular time, I can also see him needing a few weeks before he becomes a fantasy factor. I'd attribute that more to his status as a rookie then any lingering injury issue -- his hamstring problem seems to be getting better. As for the rest of the roster, Brewer had his moments last season, and he could remain solidly in the rotation if Johnson struggles. But if it's between the kid David Kahn drafted and the kid Kevin McHale drafted, I'm going with Johnson. Call me crazy. Anyway, all of this seems to leave Webster on the outside looking in when it comes to minutes. Plus, the ex-Trail Blazer is having problems adapting to the Timberwolves' pass-oriented offense. (Rambis apparently isn't using the word "triangle" these days.)
If you're looking for a sleeper, though, check out the center spot. Milicic's shot-blocking potential makes him worth a late pick in leagues of at least 12 teams. There's also Nikola Pekovic, who, after being drafted by the team in 2008, has finally come over from Europe. The 24-year-old from Montenegro is a 6-foot-10 bruiser. While he'll probably back up Milicic, people are already talking about Big Pek's awesome ink.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.