The Wolves have repositioned themselves from a team on the rise to a team that has risen. The dramatic draft night trade for Jimmy Butler to moving Ricky Rubio and adding Teague and Taj Gibson are all indications that the Wolves are making a serious run for the playoffs. Tom Thibodeau has made it clear that in order for the Wolves to win, they need tough-minded, defensive veterans around the young nucleus of Towns and Wiggins.
Timberwolves Free Agent Targets
July 1st marks the first day of free agency. Tom Thibodeau will continue to make his mark on the franchise by filling in needs that the current roster has. The Timberwolves have high hopes of making the playoffs next season and in order to do that, they need to add a couple pieces to the young roster.
The Wolves have to figure out a lot with their current roster still. The Ricky Rubio trade rumors are stronger than ever and there is still uncertainty with what is going to happen with Kevin Garnett. The Wolves also have Payne and Pekovic who are taking up two front court roster spots that could be used for players who may be more serviceable. The Timberwolves are also unlikely to resign Tayshaun Prince and Greg Smith. The Timbewolves also won’t bring back Damjan Rudez, who had a team option. Barring any significant trades though, free agency will look to address a couple of needs, in which we feel have importance in this order:
- A stretch power forward
- Three-point shooting
- Bench Scoring
- Front Court Depth
- Perimeter defense
The Timberwolves have $25M-$29M in cap space with the growing cap, which gives the Wolves a good amount of space to work with. Most of the league will have a similar amount of space since the Cap increased, but it puts the Wolves in a position to attract a couple decent free agents. The ideal free agents will be guys who can fill multiple of the five needs above. It also makes sense that the Wolves target guys who fit into the career trajectory of the current roster. Players should either be younger if they are signing a long term deal or on the wrong side of 30 who can give the Wolves an immediate, short-term, veteran boost. Using that framework to determine who the Wolves may be interested in, we will list the players in which we feel the Wolves would gain the most benefit of signing. Starting from the bottom…
This is a personal preference guy for me. Ennis has found his way around the league early in his career from the Heat to the Grizzlies and finally with the Pelicans where he got a lot of minutes. If there is a guy to fill out the roster, taking a chance on Ennis would be interesting. He has a decent 3-point shot and incredibly athletic. If put in the right position at 25 years old, he may be able to flourish.
An unpopular pick by most, but I think Jamal Crawford could add something the Wolves desperately need, bench scoring. Crawford is a three-time 6th man of the year so he has mastered the craft of coming off the bench and making an impact. He isn’t the most efficient of scorers but in games where other guys are not able to put points on the board, Crawford will not be shy to put shots up. What Crawford also does is provide the veteran leadership that could help the Wolves if they make a playoff push. It also is helpful that he is one of Zach LaVine’s biggest mentors and a guy Thibs has had on his radar for a long time.
Another fence swing before we get into more viable options. Speights is going to be 30 by the time he enters next season and might not make sense for him to leave a dynasty like the Warriors for the team that hasn’t made the playoffs in the longest time. But Speights could provide veteran leadership, scoring off the bench, and could be a stretch four in some situations. Speights has a three-point shot that he is likely trying to showcase somewhere since he wasn’t getting much playing time in Golden State. Not sure if both parties are on each others’ radars, but could be a decent fit.
Courtney Lee has be a solid performer anywhere he has played. While the Wolves might not have an ideal role carved out for him, he could secure a deal long-term at what is an inconvenient age of 30. What he could do is embrace a role similar to Andre Igoudala when he went to the Warriors in which he becomes the veteran leadership off the bench. His three-point shot is good and can absolutely score. Also, he has been a good defender and could compliment Zach LaVine when the Wolves play stronger two-guards.
The ideal 3-and-D guy who just needs to improve his shot a little. Hill played big when Paul George was injured and could be a spot starter in various situations, especially when injuries happen. He is still young (25) and can grow as a role player with the Wolves. He has the ability to stretch and play the four position mainly because of his toughness and rebounding ability at his size. He is due for a decent contract outside of Indiana since his skill set is valued around the league. A fun fact about him, he was Derrick Williams’ teammate in college.
Harkless may be my favorite free agent this summer. Harkless is 23 years old only and hasn’t really been given the opportunity to showcase his talent yet. Although he is a restricted free agent, it may be difficult for Portland to match an offer if they plan to retain Allen Crabbe and sign another free agent this summer. Harkless is the prototype stretch-4 who can guard both small and power forwards. Harkless also has the ability to hit the three (shot 38% in his second season). Moe seems like the definition of a late bloomer and could fit well as the starting power forward in a year or two. If the Wolves can find a way to sign him to a reasonable long-term contract, they may have found a steal in free agency here.
Teletovic can come and join the Wolves being someone who made him impact on Karl-Anthony Towns by draining a game-winner in his face. Teletovic is older and doesn’t have a ton of experience in the league but is one of the best shooters around. He is an absolute competitor and could solve the Wolves issues with spacing and three-point shooting for fairly cheap. He could be a short-term fix at power forward and just enough to help the Wolves make a playoff push.
Williams has been around and had a breakout season conveniently as his contract was expiring. Another stretch-4 who can shoot and guard both forward positions. He is a bit older than what the Wolves would want so it would be ideal to give him a two-year deal. The Wolves may lose him to competition nonetheless if they don’t want to give him a three or four year deal.
The most ideal free agent available. Luol Deng played his best basketball under Tom Thibodeau and now is a small-ball 4 that is versatile enough to come off the bench or start for the Wolves. If there is any free agent the Wolves have a realistic shot at landing that can truly turn the Wolves into a playoff team, it is Deng. He is still good defensively and can shoot. He wouldn’t have a problem being the 4th of 5th option on the floor either. Seems like he makes the most sense.
There are many other options that the Wolves could pursue but these guys make the most sense. Best case scenario is that the Wolves are able to land two of these guys. My preference of signings would be Moe Harkless and Solomon Hill to reasonable deals.
There are chances the Wolves talk to Joakim Noah and Al Horford but there is little sense in them coming here unless they don’t want the best contract that could be offered to them. Both players can make more for longer elsewhere and play in roles that probably fit their careers better.
I also hope the Wolves stay far away from Kent Bazemore. He is 27 and underwhelming in terms of what he can do, in my opinion. There are younger, cheaper options the Wolves could pursue that minimize the risk associated with using cap space on these guys. Bazemore will likely get a hefty deal somewhere, my hope is that it is not here.
If the Timberwolves are looking to make a reunion happen, the members of the All-Minnesota NBA team happen to all be free agents this summer. If you are not familiar with this team, it is essentially players who are in the NBA that are from Minnesota. Players included on this team are Kris Humphries, Jon Leuer, Alan Anderson, and Cole Aldrich. Although he has been out of the NBA for a year or so, Nate Wolters runs the point guard of that team, who also could sign with a team. All of the guys could potentially fit with the Wolves, although I don’t see Thibodeau being inclined to sign any of them.
The madness starts on Friday. Do you agree with this list? Anyone that we missed? Let us know!
A Long Term View of the Wolves to Clear up the Short Term
The reason for being against Horford is long-winded. It took me down a path of the long-term outlook of the team. The team is young and could go in a multitude of directions over the next five years. But its important to look at the roster’s cap space and how it aligns with what the team is attempting to accomplish in that given season. What the team may be thinking about as a top priorities in a given season. Its very idealistic.
To do this, I have to assume a consistent career trajectory for the young players. I have to assume career-changing injuries don’t happen. I have to assume extremely significant moves aren’t made on a year-to-year basis. The outlook is focused on how the current players and assets play into the future. So it’s hard to do. But we will take a stab at it given what we know. First, here are the players’ salaries drawn out through 2019-2020. That is only four seasons from now. (via HoopsHype.com)
Goal: Make the Playoffs
There is no doubt that for the next season the Wolves will want to make the playoffs. The team is young but with a coach like Thibs, its possible to make it happen. The playoff experience in this season would be extremely valuable for the young guys down the road. They will get to taste what it’s like. They will get to build on it for the future. So Thibs and Scott Layden have to be thinking that adding a couple veterans to the team could help boost the Wolves into the 8th spot. Using Flip’s model of mentoring, getting guys that can contribute and teach will be a top priority in Free Agency.
Thibodeau has said the Wolves will acquire players that align with the trajectory of the current roster. So this leads me to believe that whatever player that is signed/ traded for either is young enough to grow with the Wolves or old enough to contribute for two seasons max and fall off the books before the slew of contract extensions begin. This is precisely why I don’t believe Al Horford is the guy for the job. Horford is 29 and has a history of injuries that have plagued his career. With the cap increasing, Horford will seek Max dollars for a long time. With Horford in his prime now, he will regress as his salary increases. I wouldn’t be opposed to offering a Max contract to Horford if he were willing to take one for two, maybe even three years. But if I am Horford, I can get a four-year max offer or better in many places due to the Salary Cap increase.
Speaking on the Salary Cap increase quickly. The entire league more or less has cap space. The Wolves will have a maximum of $28M available this summer. That is going to lead to many players getting overpaid. The value of money is less when everyone has it, right? Save the cap space for someone worth it. KD would definitely be worth it. Other than that though, stick to the plan and focus on making the playoffs.