Offseason Outlook: Minnesota Timberwolves

June 16 at 6:58pm CST By Zach Links

Guaranteed Contracts

Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Contracts

  • None

Free Agents / Cap Holds

Draft Picks

  • 1st Round (13th overall)
  • 2nd Round (40th overall)
  • 2nd Round (44th overall)
  • 2nd Round (53rd overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $66,044,114
  • Options: $0
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $0
  • Cap Holds: $7,786,925
  • Total: $73,831,039

The Timberwolves came into the 2013/14 season with postseason hopes, but despite a roster that looked better than any unit the team had put forward since Kevin Garnett‘s departure, Minnesota added to their league-leading streak of seasons without a playoff appearance.  It’s now been 10 years since the Wolves have finished above eighth place in the Western Conference, and Kevin Love, the club’s prized possession, is getting sick of waiting around for the team to improve.  Although the All-Star big man hasn’t explicitly demanded out of Minnesota, reports suggest it’s just a matter of time until he’s gone.

Over half of the NBA has reportedly inquired about Love, so the question for the T’Wolves is which team can put together the best package for one of the game’s best players.  The suitors are plentiful, ranging from the deeply talented (Warriors) to the historically dominant (Celtics and Lakers) to the up-and-coming (Suns) to the downtrodden (Kings).  If Love had his druthers, based on outside speculation and his recent summer getaway, we’d surmise that he wants to wind up Boston.  Of course, while he’ll exert a very real level of control over his destination, he’s not the one in the driver’s seat.

The Wolves reportedly don’t see the C’s as a suitable trade partner for Love.  Boston’s No. 6 pick would likely be at the center of any package offered for the All-Star and while that’s enticing, it might not be good enough for the Wolves, who have their eyes on Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker.  There’s also apparently a beef between Celtics prez Danny Ainge and Saunders, as Ainge feels that the Wolves president/coach undermined former teammate Kevin McHale.  Still, it’s hard to imagine that kind of animosity getting in the way if there’s a deal that makes sense for both sides.

The Kings probably aren’t the team atop Love’s private wish list but they do have assets to make a trade happen.  Their first-round choice at No. 8 is even less appealing than what the C’s have with No. 6, but they’re reportedly willing to part with anyone not named DeMarcus Cousins to make a trade happen.  Beyond that, they’re even willing to give up a significant haul for Love without any assurance that he’ll re-sign when he hits the open market next summer.  That’s undeniably a bold gamble on the Kings’ part, but there’s no question that it gives them an edge in the Love sweepstakes.  Sacramento, depending on whom you listen to, is either a very attractive partner for the Wolves or not a good fit at all.  The list doesn’t stop there, of course: the Bulls, Rockets, Wizards, the Washington Generals, and your little cousin’s eighth grade rec league team are all champing at the bit to get Love.  Frankly, we don’t think the Generals can contend even with Love, but you can’t blame them for trying.

Despite all of the interest out there and Love’s reserved, but very palpable, frustrations with the club, the Wolves are telling anyone that will listen that they intend on keeping him for the long haul.  What will it take to get him to stay put?  That’s a difficult question to answer since, apparently, even the hiring of Phil Jackson to coach the team wouldn’t have convinced him to stay.  Speaking of which, after a long and expansive coaching search, team president Flip Saunders hired himself to man the sidelines, and while some saw that as a move to appease Love, that doesn’t appear to be the case.  Some observers feel that Saunders’ decision to put himself on the bench is simply a move to ensure that Love will be showcased properly as they look to move him in-season.  Besides, if Love was so wild about Saunders, would he be this dissatisfied in the first place?  It’d be an unfair leap to say that there’s major friction between the two men, but Saunders doesn’t seem like a coach who can appease Love.  Winning, of course, could change that in a hurry, but W’s haven’t come easy for this club in a long time.

Even though it doesn’t seem that way, there are decisions to be made by the Wolves this summer that don’t directly involve their All-Star big man.  The Wolves will have to figure out this summer exactly how much Ricky Rubio is worth to them.  When the free agent negotiation period begins on July 1st, agent Dan Fegan will likely push the Wolves to make Rubio their designated player and extend him a five-year max offer.  It’s hard to see the Wolves going for that, however, after the season that he just had.  Rubio dished out the dimes and played solid defense on the perimeter but shot just 38.1% from the floor and averaged 9.5 points per game.  Conversely, Rubio played in all 82 games last season, but he was on the floor for just 98 games over the previous two.  It seems much more likely that the Wolves will offer Rubio a four-year extension, as they did with Love when his contract came up last time.  The guard could sign and take the security of a still lucrative deal, or he can play out the final year of his deal.  It figures to be a difficult decision for Rubio, especially if the club trades Love and starts yet another rebuild.

They’ll also have to make decisions regarding Dante CunninghamAlexey Shved, and Robbie Hummel.  Cunningham is set to hit the open market after a year in which he was arrested and charged with domestic assault.  He was a decent contributor off the bench, averaging 6.3 PPG and 4.1 RPG in ~20 minutes, but he may not be worth the headaches.  Shved is under contract for one more year at just under $3.2MM, but the Wolves may prefer to buy him out after a disappointing 4.0 PPG effort with 32.1% shooting from the floor.  Hummel is going to hit the open market after the expiration of his one-year, $490K contract.

Love also isn’t the only trade chip on Minnesota’s roster.  Hard-nosed point guard J.J. Barea could have value to another club this summer.  It’s hard to say what Barea could fetch in a deal where he’s the most important piece, but the Cavs were at least considering him in exchange for coveted point guard Jarrett Jack at the trade deadline.  Minnesota could instead theoretically ease the blow of his $4.5MM+ salary through the stretch provision, but that’s reportedly not something they’re interested in doing.

The Wolves could wind up with a top draft pick next week if they trade Love, but as it stands, they’re slated to pick at No. 13 with three more selections in the second round.  Right now it seems likely that Saunders will zero in on a small forward with that pick.  Andrew Wiggins will be long gone at that point but someone like Duke’s Rodney Hood, one of the very best shooters in this year’s class, will probably be there.  If the Wolves aren’t confident in Barea, they could also use this pick to land a one-guard in support of Rubio.  It might be a reach at No. 13, but Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis appears to be moving up draft boards and it’s a safe assumption that he’ll be available when Adam Silver puts the Wolves on the clock.  UConn’s Shabazz Napier, who seems more like a late-first type, should also be there for the taking.  A tough-minded backup big man like Jarnell Stokes would also fit in well on the Wolves bench, with or without Love.  They probably wouldn’t have to use the No. 13 to get the Tennessee standout, but a couple of their second round picks could be parlayed into the late first-rounder they’d probably need.

The rest of the Wolves offseason will hinge on whether they truly feel that they can win Love back over the course of the season.  Right now it seems like a long shot, but they’re prepared to take that risk.  Ultimately, Saunders will probably showcase Love for a few months and move him at the deadline for young players and draft picks to kick-start the rebuild.  For the sake of Wolves fans, we hope it’s a quick turnaround.

Cap footnotes

* — Hummel’s cap hold would be $816,482 if the team declines to tender his qualifying offer.
** — Jeffers’ cap hold would be $915,243 if the team declines to tender his qualifying offer.

Charlie Adams contributed to this post. ShamSports and Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ were used in the creation of this post.

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