MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves have accomplished their summer mission to bring better 3-point shooters and more positional balance to the roster.
Now the questions left for this team to answer are whether it can successfully guard anyone and how to divide playing time among a suddenly deep, if healthy, group.
The Timberwolves finalized contracts on Friday with a pair of small forwards whose skills were central to their plan, Chase Budinger and Corey Brewer, and another, first-round pick Shabazz Muhammad, whose playing-time prospect appears dim for this season after a flurry of post-draft moves.
Budinger agreed to terms last week on a three-year, $16 million contract. Brewer agreed to a three-year, $15 million deal on Wednesday. The Wolves had to maneuver through the league's complicated salary cap rules before they could actually sign them, which led to the trade of guard Luke Ridnour to Milwaukee.
Brewer, of course, was the seventh overall pick in the 2007 draft by the Wolves, but he didn't hit his stride until after he left. Last season with Denver, he averaged 12.1 points in 24.4 minutes per game. Shooting is not his forte, but the Wolves badly needed a reliable defender on the wing, and his athletic ability to run the fast break with fancy-passing point guard Ricky Rubio was what cemented him as the right fit to replace the departed Andrei Kirilenko.
"It's always different when you come in with the expectations of a top-10 pick and you're counted on to carry a team. He's not going to have to carry this team," President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders said.
With Budinger and another veteran acquisition, shooting guard Kevin Martin, Brewer is probably bound for an energy-off-the-bench role. With him, Derrick Williams and the rookie Muhammad, finding time for everyone will be tricky. Williams played a lot of power forward when star Kevin Love was hurt, but with Love back and Dante Cunningham and Ronny Turiaf behind him, that's a crowded position, too.
Saunders stopped short of declaring this the deepest team in the franchise's woebegone history, but he said the group might be more versatile than the 2003-04 squad he coached with Kevin Garnett, Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell that reached the Western Conference finals. That's the only year out of 24 that the Wolves have advanced past the first round of the playoffs.
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