Saturday afternoon, the Timberwolves announced they had signed 28-year-old forward Jeff Adrien via the hardship exception, a special rule that grants teams meeting certain injury specifications an extra roster spot. The former UCONN Huskie has played with Golden State, Houston, Charlotte and Milwaukee over his four year NBA career, averaging 4.8 points and 4.3 rebounds on 48% shooting in 14 minutes per game.
Adrien received interest from the Timberwolves as an undrafted free agent back in 2009, but ultimately began his career in Spain before catching on with the Warriors the following summer. Since then, he’s bounced between each of his NBA stints and the D-League, with overseas ventures in Italy (2011) and Russia (2012) sprinkled in as well. He signed as a free agent with the Houston Rockets this past July and was somewhat of a surprise cut at the end of training camp, especially since he’d closed the 2013-14 season with Milwaukee on a relatively high note.
As a result of Adrien’s signing, three of the team’s four injured players (Kevin Martin, Ricky Rubio, Ronny Turiaf and Nikola Pekovic) are not allowed to play for at least ten days. Given the Wolves’ recent issues with depth at the point, some expected the team to use an available roster spot to sign a guard, but the frontcourt has also been woefully thin. Robbie Hummel has been playing backup center, which is okay if he’s matched up against, say, Carl Landry (as he was last Saturday), but is a huge problem when he has to defend Larry Sanders (as he was asked to do on Wednesday night). At 6’7, Adrien might not have the height of a prototypical center, but his 240-pound frame enables him to hold his own on the low block.
It’d probably unwise to read too much into the decision to go with a forward over a guard with the bonus roster spot, but it’s fair to speculate if the decision to sign Adrien signals that Pekovic may be further from a return than Ricky Rubio. Obviously, getting both of them back would be optimal, but it’s worth noting that the Wolves opted to shore up the frontcourt rather than the backcourt when they had the opportunity, and the prognosis of the guys who are currently hurt certainly factored into the decision.
Adrien is an experienced veteran with a little bit of upside. He averaged 10.9 points and 7.8 boards in 28 games with Milwaukee at the end of last season, his best (and most abundant) play in his NBA career. Of course, there’s got to be a reason he keeps bouncing around – rarely do players bounce through so many organizations without cause – but he fills a need for the Wolves and is likely coming here for a prorated portion of the veteran’s minimum. It’s a low risk, medium reward transaction for Minnesota.