Sportando interviewed 5 Eyewitness journalist and 1500 ESPN contributor Darren Wolfson in order to know something more detailed about Timberwolves' future after Kevin Love's departure to Cleveland:
- Kevin Love is headed to Cleveland. Which can be now the strategy of Flip Saunders? Tanking or growing with the group immediately to reach playoffs?
Definitely not tanking. If that was the goal than Thaddeus Young wouldn't be part of this transaction. The idea is to deliver a great eff-you to Kevin Love by making the playoffs without him. But in the stacked Western Conference, not sure that's realistic. More realistic is a high draft pick next June. But not by design like Philadelphia.
- Timberwolves acquired Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and Anthony Bennett. Which could be Bennett's impact next season? Is Saunders interested in making him an important player or is he only a piece of the trade?
In talking to Flip Saunders 1-on-1 Saturday afternoon, he's pumped. Bennett isn't a starter. But he's a guy who certainly has a chance. Flip cited his weight loss, his shoulder being fully healthy, and the corrective surgery done to fix his sleep apnea issue. Signs point to Bennett having a nice bounce-back year. He'll be a role player.
- Who do you think is the "winner" of this deal?
Cleveland definitely is. But considering the circumstances -- Love was leaving as a free agent next summer -- the Wolves are too. This is a heck of a return. It's rare when two fanbases can be thrilled with the results. I think Cavs and Wolves fans are in this case.
- What Cleveland needs to become a real contender? Three all stars are not enough to win a title.
I disagree. I'd make the Cavs the favorite in the East, and depending on the Spurs' health, maybe the overall favorite to win the title. LeBron is the best player on the planet, and now they have two other top-10 to 15 players. To have guys like Mike Miller and Shawn Marion off the bench is solid.
- Next year's starting five will likely be Rubio-Martin-Wiggins-Young-Pekovic. Can we say this is Rubio's moment?
Rubio is on notice. The Wolves are trying to sign him to an extension, and so far his agent, Dan Fegan, is balking at the idea of a 4-year, $43 million deal. That's plenty for a player of Rubio's caliber. It's a lot more than Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague makes -- maybe a better player -- and is what Golden State All-Star guard Stephen Curry makes. But Fegan is seeking the 5-year max. That's not happening. The situation is pointing toward Rubio being a restricted free agent next summer. In other words, the 2014-2015 season is huge for Rubio. He should improve his shooting under Flip and we know he has unbelievable athletes to cut to the hoop and catch alley-oop passes.
- Rubio is now the new face of franchise. A face of franchise requests a contract as face of franchise. In your opinion which is Rubio's value at this time? Can Saunders consider the idea to let him free at the end of the season and wait for offers to match?
Wiggins will be the face of the franchise, in my opinion. Answered some of this above. But his value at the time is what only the Wolves are willing to pay him: 4-years, $43 million. His value next summer will be what the league will pay him and then the Wolves will decide if they want to match the offer. And yes, I think at the moment the Wolves are plenty fine with letting another team set the market next summer.
- Last season it was a big problem with defense, expecially with Love. Do you think this new team can be immediately stronger than the last one?
This team will be markedly better defensively. Wiggins and Young will get big minutes. Dieng will get more minutes too. Subtract Love's below-average defense with one elite defender and one above-average defender and the team defense will be better.
- Can Pekovic develop in an All-Star player considering now he is the best offensive terminal?
He needs to prove he can stay healthy. His minutes will be trimmed in an effort to keep him on the court. The West has worthy centers. So making the All-Star team will be tough. But Pek is a good player. He just has to play in more than 70-games.
- Which could be Zach LaVine's role in this team? The player seemed more ready than expectations during Summer League.
LaVine will play. You'll see him play a lot with new acquisition Mo Williams. The Wolves love him. Flip worked him out recently in Seattle, and came away thoroughly impressed. His work ethic has been fantastic this summer. The Wolves still feel like they stole him at pick No. 13.
- Do you think Pekovic and Dieng can play together?
Some. Depends on match-ups. Maybe against a team like Memphis. Dieng can move his feet. So he can guard power forwards. But with Young and Bennett and even Robbie Hummel getting a few minutes as stretch '4', I don't think we'll see Pek and Dieng much. But I also wouldn't say we'll never see it. I can see it in small stretches vs. certain teams.