This Wolves Off-Season More Important Than Last Year [OPINION]
UNDATED -- With the NBA draft behind us, the Minnesota Timberwolves now look ahead to how they can build on the success of last season’s playoff birth.
There is no question it was great to see the Wolves make it in the playoffs after a 14-year drought, even if the playoff run only lasted 5 games.
With the signings of Jamal Crawford, Jeff Teague, and Taj Gibson, and the trade for Jimmy Butler the Wolves look to make a serious playoff run for the next 3-5 years. But with a tightened salary cap and limited flexibility it’s hard to see what options are out there.
Currently Minnesota has under contract Andrew Wiggins (who’s new 5-year contract kicks in this year), Butler, Teague, Gorgui Dieng, Gibson, Karl-Anthony Towns, Cole Aldrich, Justin Patton and Tyus Jones. Combined for the 2018-2019 season the Wolves sit at over NBA Salary Cap of $101 Million at $113 Million. However that doesn’t mean the Wolves can’t make some improvement to a depleted bench.
The team has about $8.5-million in the Mid-Level Exception and $3.3-million in Bi-Annual Exception. The MLE is awarded to teams above the cap but below the Luxury Tax Apron of $129-million and can be used for contract up to 4 years in length. While the BAE can be used for contract up to 2 years in length as long as it wasn’t used the previous year. Crawford has decided to opt out of his contract and will look for work somewhere else. I feel this is a mistake with his shooting and leadership, but he is getting up there in age, so hopefully this won’t be as bad as I think.
While the Wolves won’t get a Lebron James or Paul George type of player there are players who would seek that type of money, especially to be on a winning team.
Avery Bradley is a classic Thibs guy. He plays great defense, can shoot the three and is a guy who doesn’t mind doing the dirty work. After being traded from Boston to Detroit last off-season, Bradley struggled and looked like a shell of his former self. He was even shipped out again to the Clippers as part of the Blake Griffin deal. Bradley would be a guy looking to rebound and could thrive as a starter or bench guy with a defensive minded coach like Thibs.
Deandre Jordan is another name I wouldn’t mind seeing in a Timberwolves uniform. Now I know this is a long shot as Jordan will want to get paid but if Butler calls, I think he would listen. If you spend the MLE on Jordan he would be the rim protector the wolves need. This would allow KAT to move to power forward and beef up the front court. Jordan isn’t much of a scoring threat however with Teague and Butler’s vision, lob city could come to the Twin Cities. Plus Jordan has a knack for bailing out poor defenders with his shot blocking abilities.
Will Barton is another name who is looking for a pay day, but would be a great fit in for the wolves. In Denver last season, Barton turned up his game to be known as a terrific scorer and deadly three-point shooter. He can play either Guard or Forward and would make a great starter or six man off the bench.
Rodney Hood makes an interesting signing. The former Utah Jazz Guard is no stranger to the Midwest and fell out of graces in Cleveland. Hood can not only defend but shoots well from behind the arc. His size is also a great piece of his game to post up smaller guards. He may be looking to get on a playoff team for cheap after a rough ending with the Cavs.
Other prospects that would help the Wolves bench and may come for cheap include Kyle O’Quinn, Nerlens Noel, Joe Harris, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and Lance Stephenson.
There are also several free agents of their own we can bring back without affecting our Total Cap. Some of the names on that list include Nemanja Bjelica, Marcus Georges-Hunt, Amile Jefferson, Anthony Brown, Aaron Brooks and Derrick Rose. It also includes rookies Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop. Minnesota would be smart to sign Bjelica who is just starting to figure out the NBA game. I would even be on board to bringing back Rose, but not for the mid-level, as it’s only a matter of time before his knees break down again. I would also like to see Jefferson and Brown make it back to the Wolves G-league team as I think there is some potential with Browns ability to shoot the ball and Jefferson’s defense and rebounding, which are all needed assets in today’s game.
Fans have suggested the team trade either Wiggins, Aldrich or Dieng to clear up some cap space. I feel Aldrich will not be part of the team once the new season begins July 1st. I believe he will be waived as opposed to traded, mostly because no one wants the dead weight of his contact. The move would also give Minnesota an additional $5-million in cap space as his contract is only guaranteed for $2-million. The other two potential trades intrigue me, however I would hold off and here is why. Unless you can get Butler to sign an extension this off season you can’t let Wiggins walk. Wiggins had to adjust to being third fiddle and still put up 17 points per game, and Gorgui was a valuable piece off the bench but also had to adjust to a new role after spending the previous two seasons as a starter. I say give it another year or at least wait until the trade deadline before shipping off these two pieces.
Now of course all of this is pure speculation, but one thing is for sure, Thibs and the rest of the Wolves organization needs to be smart with how they spend their money and find quality role players to go next to their star trio. The new NBA season begins Sunday at Midnight, and while contracts can be agreed to by Free Agents, they can’t be made official until July 6th.