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Minnesota Timberwolves

Bontemps Examines Timberwolves' Slow Start

Van Gundy: Future Bright For Young Wolves

  • ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy remains a believer in the Timberwolves despite their slow start, relays Jerry Zgoda of The Star-Tribune. Van Gundy is still close with Minnesota coach/executive Tom Thibodeau, who worked as his assistant in New York and Houston, and is confident he will turn things around. “I was thinking today: If there was no salary cap, what players wouldn’t you trade Karl-Anthony Towns for,” Van Gundy asked. “Steph Curry? That’s a no. Is Kevin Durant a no? Is Anthony Davis a no, because of his durability? How many can you come up with? I mean, they have a future. There are a lot of young teams that all they are is young. That doesn’t mean they have a chance to be good. Minnesota has a chance to be really good, but there are moves that need to be made to shore up [their weaknesses].”

Ricky Rubio Frustrated By Poor Play

Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio is off to a disastrous start, due to an elbow sprain and his struggles to run new coach Tom Thibodeau’s scheme, according to Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Rubio is averaging 6.1 points on 32.7% shooting and a career-low 6.7 assists in 29.9 minutes. “I think everybody’s got to look at the mirror and see if they’re bringing everything in the game,” Rubio told Zgoda. “Talking personally, I’m not doing it and I have to do it more. I have to be more aggressive. I have to find myself again and lead this team like I’m supposed to.” Rubio’s name has often popped up in trade rumors, particularly after the team drafted Kris Dunn in the lottery in June. He has two years and $29.2MM remaining on his contract after this season but his poor play isn’t enhancing his value.

Payne Getting Expanded Role

  • Timberwolves forward Adreian Payne‘s option wasn’t picked up last month, but his role with the team is growing, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Payne got a chance to show what he could do after Shabazz Muhammad was sidelined with a sore knee. “Being patient is part of the NBA, being ready,” Payne said. “You just have to continue to work. Just going through this has been tough. It can break a lot of people. You just have to stay positive and continue to work.”

NBA 2016/17 Dead Money: Northwest Division

The concept of “dead money” on a salary cap isn’t as common in the NBA as it is in the NFL, but it essentially functions the same way in both leagues. Dead money refers to the salary remaining on a team’s cap for players that are no longer on the roster.

For NFL teams, taking on a certain amount of dead money is a common practice, since signing bonuses affect cap hits differently, and big-money players are more likely to be released before playing out their entire contracts. That practice is less common in the NBA.

Still, with the NBA’s salary cap on the rise, teams may be a little more willing to part ways with players on guaranteed salaries, since that increased cap gives clubs more flexibility than they used to have. Within the last month, we’ve seen players like Ronnie Price and Greivis Vasquez, who each had $4-5MM in guaranteed money left on their contracts, waived in order to clear room for newcomers.

We’ve examined each of the NBA’s 30 teams, breaking them down by division, determining which teams are carrying the most dead money on the cap for 2016/17, and assessing what that might tell us about those teams. We’ve already examined the Central, Atlantic, Southeast, Southwest, and Pacific divisions. Today, we’ll turn our attention to the Northwest division to wrap things up.

Here are the 2016/17 dead money figures for the Northwest teams:

1. Minnesota Timberwolves
Total dead money: $9,360,305
Full salary cap breakdown

Only two NBA teams – the Sixers and Nets – are currently carrying more dead money on their 2016/17 salary cap than the Timberwolves. And like those other clubs, Minnesota remains below the salary floor, so those dead-money charges aren’t hurting the team too much. Kevin Garnett ($8MM) is responsible for most of the Wolves’ dead money, and if he had made his retirement decision earlier, the club could have stretched his cap hit across three years. Still, Minnesota may have chosen to apply the entire amount to this season’s cap anyway, since the club has excess cap room at the moment and won’t have to worry about KG’s charges after June. The rest of the Wolves’ 2016/17 dead money comes from Kevin Martin ($1.36MM).

2. Oklahoma City Thunder
Total dead money: $4,358,585
Full salary cap breakdown

The Thunder’s management of their cap has been interesting, as the team has been willing to waive players with guaranteed salaries, like Ronnie Price ($2.558MM) and Mitch McGary ($1.526MM). Oklahoma City was also fairly generous with its partial guarantees for camp invitees, such as Chris Wright ($100K), Kaleb Tarczewski ($75K), Alex Caruso ($50K), and Reggie Williams ($50K).

So it was a little surprising when the Thunder essentially dumped Ersan Ilyasova‘s $8.4MM salary in a trade with the Sixers earlier this month, opening up cap room and reducing their year-end salary bill, at the cost of a future conditional first-round pick. Perhaps Philadelphia simply coveted Ilyasova, but it’s worth keeping an eye on the Thunder the rest of the way to see if they do anything with that newfound cap room.

3. Portland Trail Blazers
Total dead money: $1,984,005
Full salary cap breakdown

Anderson Varejao‘s $1.984MM cap hit is the only dead money on the Trail Blazers’ books, and that contract was one worth taking on, since it landed Portland a future first-round pick. Still, the Blazers will likely do everything they can to avoid eating more salary this season. As it stands, the club is less than $500K from the tax line, so even replacing one minimum salary player with another could have major financial implications for the team.

4. Denver Nuggets
Total dead money: $1,380,431
Full salary cap breakdown

The Nuggets have several players contributing dead-money charges to their cap, ranging from Nick Johnson ($980K) to camp invitees like D.J. Kennedy ($50K) and Nate Wolters ($50K). Most recently, Denver waived Jarnell Stokes, who had a $150K guarantee, and the team likely won’t hesitate to continue rolling over its roster and eating salary if necessary — with only about $75MM in total salary on their books for 2016/17, the Nuggets currently sit well below the salary floor.

5. Utah Jazz
Total dead money: $275,000
Full salary cap breakdown

The Jazz have kept a very clean cap sheet for 2016/17, with their only dead-money charges coming in the form of partial guarantees for camp invitees — Marcus Paige ($125K), Quincy Ford ($75K), and Henry Sims ($75K). As a result, the team is more than $13MM under the cap, which come in handy, since George Hill and Derrick Favors are both eligible for extensions. With the ability to give either player a significant raise for ’16/17, the Jazz have a great opportunity to lock up one of those two players and keep them off the market, if they so choose.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.

Kilpatrick Remembers First NBA Opportunity

  • Sean Kilpatrick, who is having a breakout season with the Nets, is thankful to late Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders for giving him his first NBA opportunity, relays Jerry Zgoda of the Star-Tribune. Minnesota was short on healthy players in 2014 and turned to Kilpatrick because he was the best D-League player who could get to Madison Square Garden in time for a game with the Knicks. Kilpatrick lasted just four games with the Wolves, but took advantage of his chance with Brooklyn last season. He impressed the team on two 10-day contracts and was signed for the rest of the year. “He’s grinded through some tough times to get where he is,” said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. “He keeps blossoming. We’re giving him a lot of responsibility, and he has answered the bell. We’re thrilled with what he’s giving us so far.” 

Dieng Eager To Live Up To Extension

Timberwolves big man Gorgui Dieng vows not to get complacent after agreeing to a four-year, $62.8MM extension, Cody Taylor of Basketball Insiders reports. “You can get a contract, but you gotta earn it,” Dieng told Taylor. “I want to show that I’m worth every penny and I’m gonna try the best I can to help this team get better and myself.” Despite the team’s slow start, Dieng is averaging  10.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.1 steals per game.

And-Ones: Youth Academy, Prigioni, Pelicans

The NBA will team with Basketball Australia to create a youth academy in Canberra, according to A.J. Neuhart-Keusch of USA Today. Known as NBA Global Academy, the facility will be an elite training center for young players. Located at the Centre of Excellence at the Australian Institute of Sport, the academy is designed to be a “global hub” for international prospects. The NBA has three similar facilities in China. “NBA Global Academy will allow top prospects from around the world to train with and compete against their peers in a structured environment under the supervision of NBA-trained coaches and in collaboration with BA’s internationally recognized coaches,” said Brooks Meek, NBA vice president of international basketball operations.

There’s more basketball news tonight:
  • Barcelona has confirmed its interest in 39-year-old point guard Pablo Prigioni, relays Orazio Cauchi of Sportando. Head coach Georgios Bartzokas said the team has its eye on Prigioni, who was waived by the Rockets last month, but cautioned that it’s far from a done deal. “Every guard in the market with European passport interests us,” Bartzokas said. “Prigioni, with his great career and potential is one of them. But the most important thing is to bring a player that fits into our system. It’s not just about the potential, quality or level of the player. It’s about whether he fits with us and whether he’s able to play well with our players.”
  • The Pelicans top a list of teams that should be very worried by their slow starts, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. New Orleans has an 0-8 record and is hampered by injuries to Tyreke Evans, Quincy Pondexter and Lance Stephenson, who was waived over the weekend. The Pelicans are also without starting point guard Jrue Holiday, who remains on a leave of absence to care for his ailing wife. Bontemps says there are whispers that coach Alvin Gentry may be fired if the team doesn’t start winning soon. The other teams on Bontemps’ list are the Wizards, Knicks, Mavericks and Timberwolves.
  • Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard is the latest player to incorporate strobe lights into his training, according to Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com. The flashing lights, which simulate photographers’ flashes, were first incorporated by Michael Jordan in the 1990s.

Rubio Making Progress In Return From Injury

  • Ricky Rubio, who has missed the Wolves‘ last three contests due to a sprained right elbow, is making steady progress in his recovery, according to coach/executive Tom Thibodeau, Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune relays. No timetable has been relayed regarding when the point guard can return to action, Zgoda adds.

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