Exching

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Before Shabazz Muhammad's 20-point outburst against the upstart Phoenix Suns, it would not have been crazy to think that the Minnesota Timberwolves forward would have spent most of his rookie season on the bench. The No. 14 pick out of UCLA had only played more than 20 minutes in one other game and only scored in double-digits once before Tuesday..

Before the draft, Doug Gottleib had warned GMs against taking him, saying that he was a "very average athlete" who was kind of small for a forwardand did not defend, rebound or pass the ball. There were off the court issues as well: The Los Angeles Times report that Muhammad's father, Ron Holmes, had fudged his age, he was caught sulking when a teammate of his hit a game-winning shot. On top of that, Rick Adelman tends not to give rookies playing time right away.

But there Muhammad was, scoring at will against Phoenix, a Western Conference team that the Wolves need to pass in order to make the playoffs this year: 24:20 minutes played, 8-13 from the field and 20 points. All were career highs.

Adelman's hand was forced, of course, just as it had been with Derrick Williams a year ago. Last season, when a rash of injuries transformed the Wolves became basketball's version of The Walking Dead, Williams suddenly got a lot of playing time. Similarly, while Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio have dodged the injury bug this season, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and now Ronny Turiaf are sitting courtside in a suit and tie and Muhammad is getting more minutes.

Williams never found a role with Minnesota. He was too small to be a 4 in Adelman's system and didn't look natural at the 3 so hewas eventually shipped to the Sacramento Kings for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. It's easy to dismiss Williams as another failed draft pick, but he appears to be a fit in Sacramento where he's getting regular playing time and scoring with some regularity. Yes, it's easy to laugh at him when he misses a wide-open NBA Street-style off-the-backboard dunk, but it's harder to acknowledge that he scored 16 points when the Kings came to town and beat the Wolves in mid-January.

The difference between Williams and Muhammad is that Williams was drafted at No. 14 and Williams was selected No. 2 overall. It's easy to look back now and ask why the Wolves didn’t nab Klay Thompson, a Morris brother or Kawhi Leonard that year, but all four of those players were selected outside of the top 10. Williams was the consensus No. 2 pick and the only player to make it to an All-Star Game is Kyrie Irving, who went first overall.

Looking at the pick in context, there was no other viable option other than Williams unless the Wolves wanted to trade down. That's not the case with Muhammad: The Wolves chose to trade down in this case, dealing Trey Burke, the No. 9 pick, for picks No. 14 and No. 21. When a team selects a player later in the draft, they are looking for a fit and, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, they were looking at Muhammad and Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk. When the Boston Celtics moved up to take Olynyk, Flip Saunders chose Muhammad.

That's the other key here: Saunders chose Muhammad. This wasn't David Kahn; this was Saunders, the beloved former coach, and should be judged accordingly. Saunders may not have known that Martin, Pekovic and Turiaf were going to go down, but Muhammad was the guy he selected, Burke was the guy he traded, and this isn't going to look good if the Wolves trade away Muhammad for cents on the dollar as they did with Williams.

Tom Schreier can be heard on The Michael Knight Show from 2-3:00 on weekdays. He has written for Bleacher Report and the Yahoo Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.
It's time for Kevin Love to go. He is a star player that has been put in a poor situation, was knocked around by management and deserves better. For the Wolves organization, it's time to turn the page, suck up the loss of another franchise player and move on..

Hanging on to Love is a losing cause at this point. Yes, there's new management; yes, the team is spending money; and yes, they did improve last year, but the damage has been done, and both Love and the Wolves could benefit from a breakup.

The best move for Minnesota right now is to trade Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers. They own the No. 1 pick (somehow), and Minnesota could use another star to latch onto. In the past, it was not the cold weather or the size of the Twin Cities that put off Love, it was the mismanagement of the team and his mistreatment that upset him.

Dec. 11, 2012 was the day that the handwriting was placed on the wall. Love told esteemed NBA writer Adrian Wojnarowski in a Yahoo! Sports Article that he was fed up with owner Glen Taylor, then-GM David Kahn and his less-than-max contract. While Taylor and Love seem to have made up, and Flip Saunders has replaced Kahn, the organization still put guys like Darko Milicic and Michael Beasley around Love and drafted Jonny Flynn and Wesley Johnson instead of Steph Curry and Paul George early in his career. That combined with the fact that he did not get a max contract seem to have caused irreversible harm to the organization's relationship with Love.

Like the Target Center itself, the Wolves need to be refurbished. It's time to send Love on his way, acquire the No. 1 overall pick Minnesota has somehow missed out on in 10 consecutive lottery appearances and build around a new superstar: Andrew Wiggins.
It is in Minnesota that Wiggins, a Canadian, can become Maple Jordan. Instead of putting him on a team with bare cupboards or where he is not a fit, he will be put into a situation where there is a need at small forward and veteran players around him that will take pressure off the 19-year-old Kansas University star.

Here is how this will work: Using a trade suggested by Rob Mahoney of SI.com, Minnesota will deal Kevin Love, J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved for Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson and the No. 1 overall pick. This unloads Love, who could leave as a free agent for nothing, Barea, who became notorious for pouting at the end of the bench and drawing technical fouls at the end of games last year, and Shved, who is a talented player that probably could use a change of scenery after spending most of last year on the bench.

In turn, the Wolves get a franchise player in Wiggins when they draft him No. 1 overall, a veteran defender in Varejao who could be waived if it doesn't work out, former No. 1 overall pick Bennett for value, a rotation piece in Thompson and Waiters, who was a No. 4 overall selection in 2012.

For the Cavaliers, they get a great package to offer LeBron James should he choose to leave Miami. Instead of playing with the suddenly aging Dwyane Wade and sometimes disappearing Chris Bosh, he'll get to play with Wes and Uncle Drew. This will keep Kyrie Irving in Cleveland, woo LeBron back home and give another hapless franchise a chance to compete in the easier Eastern Conference.

It's a win-win for both teams and, more importantly for the Wolves; a chance to start over once their new arena is ready. It's a much better solution than hoping Love stays around and seeing him leave for nothing or less value, which would make the team to wonder why they didn't trade him for the No. 1 overall pick when they had the chance.

Tom Schreier can be heard on The Michael Knight Show from 2-3:00 on weekdays. He has written for Bleacher Report and the Yahoo Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.