After a season in which Michael Beasley, Martell Webster, and Wesley Johnson spent a good chunk of time at the wing positions in Minnesota, the Timberwolves have prioritized the spot early in the offseason. The team acquired Chase Budinger via trade, and reached a contract agreement with Brandon Roy. On top of that, the Wolves are set to sign Nicolas Batum to a big, four-year offer sheet. Does Minnesota have the cap room for all these potential new additions? Let's take a look….
Here are how the Timberwolves' 2012/13 guaranteed contracts looked heading into the summer:
- Kevin Love ($12,922,194)
- Darko Milicic ($5,228,000)
- Nikola Pekovic ($4,837,200)
- Derrick Williams ($4,809,840)
- J.J. Barea ($4,493,500)
- Wesley Johnson ($4,285,560)
- Luke Ridnour ($4,000,000)
- Ricky Rubio ($3,741,120)
- Wayne Ellington ($2,083,042)
- Malcolm Lee ($762,195)
That's a total of $47,162,651 for 10 players, which is manageable enough. Budinger's minimum-salary contract ($885,120) was non-guaranteed, but I'll go out on a limb and say the Timberwolves wouldn't have traded a first-round pick for Buddinger unless they intended to keep him, so his salary brings the team's total to $48,047,771.
Now here's where things get tricky. Brad Miller announced his intentions to retire at season's end, so you'd think the T-Wolves could wipe his $5,104,000 off their books entirely. But Miller's agent recently suggested Miller's retirement was no sure thing, which would indicate that the papers have yet to be officially filed. Miller's 2012/13 contract is only guaranteed for $848,000, but that would cut into the Wolves' cap space a little more if they have to pay it. Martell Webster, meanwhile, also has a partial guarantee for $600,000. Let's assume the Wolves are able to clear Miller's contract entirely, but have to pay Webster's $600K. So now Minnesota's total is up to $48,647,771.
Assuming the cap remains at $58,044,000 this season, that leaves the team less than $10MM for the Roy and Batum deals, which obviously won't be enough. But what if the Wolves use their amnesty provision on Milicic and clear his $5.2MM+? That takes the total cap figure back down to $43,419,771. If we assume the salary cap stays the same this year, which it's expected to, Minnesota would have $14,624,229 left for its Roy and Batum deals.
Roy's deal was reported as $10.4MM over two years, so the first-year salary figures to be a little over $5MM. But let's round it to $5,000,000 for argument's sake. That leaves $9,624,229 for Batum, and based on the reported figures for his offer sheet (four years, $45MM, with incentives that could add a few more million), that doesn't seem like quite enough room.
Now, it's worth mentioning that we don't have the Timberwolves' official numbers in front of us. If a few of these reported salaries are even slightly off, the team could find the space to make these offers work. But we've been fairly generous in our calculations, assuming Minnesota won't have to pay Miller, assigning Roy a first-year salary that's likely too small, and so on. It still seems that the T-Wolves will not only have to amnesty Milicic, but will have to make another roster move to clear the necessary cap room.
In an Insider piece at ESPN.com, John Hollinger explores the same subject, and suggests that the Timberwolves could be looking at trading Luke Ridnour or J.J. Barea to clear salary. It does appear Minnesota will have to do something to make their reported agreements work, and the team still has a few days to figure out what that next move will be.