Message Board
NBA en espanol

ESPN Auctions
Monday, September 30
What's the point? Wolves still deciding

By Marc J. Spears
Special to

College of St. John's; Collegeville, Minn.

Preseason schedule (all times ET)
Oct. 8: Milwaukee, 8 p.m.
Oct. 11: at Miami, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15: Chicago, 8 p.m.
Oct. 18: at Indiana, 8 p.m.
Oct. 19: Boston, 8 p.m.
Oct. 21: at Chicago, 8:30 p.m.
Oct. 25: Indiana, 8 p.m.
Team roster | Depth chart | Offseason moves

Camp question
No doubt, the biggest question for the Wolves is when or if point guard Terrell Brandon will return this season and how will the team survive without him. Brandon played just 32 games last season due to knee problems, and word is that it's 50-50 he will be back this season. Even in the best-case scenario, it is very doubtful that the Brandon will be able to play in the season opener against Denver on Oct. 30. Without Brandon and Chauncey Billups (who's now in Detroit), the Wolves' best point guard option is newcomer Troy Hudson. Hudson averaged 11.7 points and 3.1 assists per game as a reserve for the Magic last season. Rookie Igor Rakocevic isn't expected to give much help this season. The Wolves are still considering free agents like Rod Strickland and Mark Jackson, and have two free agent point guards of their own in Robert Pack and William Avery.

Camp project
With the departure of Billups and the uncertainty over Brandon, the Wolves are in need of a dependable third scorer. Minnesota would be ecstatic if center Rasho Nesterovic can develop into that player. The 7-foot, 248-pounder enjoyed his best NBA season in his fourth campaign, averaging career highs of 8.4 points and 6.5 rebounds. The Slovenian showed the ability to average double-digits in scoring by averaging 11.3 points per game during the first round of the playoffs against Dallas. This season, it's time for Nesterovic to show and prove. The sad thing for Minnesota is that if Nesterovic does finally reach his potential this season, it could lose him next summer as an unrestricted free agent.

Who to watch: With Chauncey Billups skipping town and Terrell Brandon breaking down, former Orlando mighty mite Troy Hudson could make a big impression in camp and earn the starting job. Don't laugh. Hudson's point-per-minute ratio was very good and he's a lock from the line. Give him Kevin Garnett to pass to and we might have a solid fantasy play here.
— Eric Karabell

Camp comeback
The Wolves would like to see Joe Smith come close to the form in which he averaged 18.7 points per game six seasons ago. Last season, the forward barely averaged half of that at 10.7 points per game, the second-lowest average in his seven-year career. The Wolves ended up having several draft picks taken from them as punishment from the NBA because they signed Smith to a contract under the table. In return, Smith has done little to ease the pain. The 6-10 Smith was inconsistent last season and has yet to live up to his billing as the No. 1 pick of the 1995 draft. When the Wolves most needed Smith in the playoffs, he was non-existent averaging 4.3 points per game. Minnesota needs Smith to step up this season.

Camp controversy
With Kevin Garnett likely to be the starting small forward, there will be a battle for the starting power forward spot between Smith, Marc Jackson and Gary Trent. Smith started 63 games last season and is the favorite to win the job. Jackson, a candidate for Rookie of the Year in 2001, was a disappointment for Minnesota last season, averaging just 4.6 points in 22 games after being acquired from Golden State. The brawny Trent, who averaged 7.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in 17.8 minutes as primarily a reserve last season, could end up being the best option.

Marc J. Spears, who covers the NBA for the Denver Post, is a regular contributor to