Minnesota Timberwolves

Trade Exceptions Set To Expire For Three Teams

Trade activity should perk up around the league as December 15th, the date when most (but not all) offseason signees become eligible to be traded. Three teams have extra motivation to make a trade within the next three weeks.

That’s because they have trade exceptions that are about to expire. The Nets have the most sizable among those exceptions, and they face the most urgent deadline. Their exception worth more than $3.3MM, a vestige of the trade that sent Andrei Kirilenko to the Sixers last year, expires December 11th, four days before dozens of players will become trade-eligible. That puts Brooklyn in a tough spot, and the team’s position within $2MM of the $84.74MM tax line makes it even harder to envision the Nets using the exception. Still, it’s a tool the team has to facilitate more complicated trades that would add a negligible amount of salary or even reduce the payroll, and as the Grizzlies and Heat showed this month, it’s not impossible to work a multiplayer trade before December 15th.

It’s more conceivable that the Timberwolves will use the exception they have left over from trading Corey Brewer to the Rockets last year, in part because they have until December 19th to do so. Minnesota already used it once, to absorb Adreian Payne‘s salary from the Hawks, so what once was an exception of nearly $4.703MM is now worth only about $2.847MM. It’s still sizable enough to give the Timberwolves an enticing mechanism to add another piece to their sizable collection of recent former first-round picks or to supplement that group with a veteran who can help them maintain their strong early-season play. Minnesota is 8-9 and tied with the Suns for eighth place in the Western Conference. The team also has a $350K trade exception left over from shipping an injured Ronny Turiaf to the Sixers in the Brewer trade, but it’s so small that it’s virtually unusable.

Brooklyn has a smaller exception available, too, though the $816,482 exception the Nets have for sending Jorge Gutierrez to the Sixers in the Kirilenko trade is somewhat more valuable than Minnesota’s Turiaf exception. It’s worth less than this season’s one-year veteran’s minimum salary, but teams are allowed to trade for players making up to $100K more than the value of an exception, so a deal for a player making the one-year veteran’s minimum of $845,059 would work. Of course, the Nets could simply use the minimum salary exception for a player making that amount, but the trade exception is valuable in case the player they want to trade for is on a contract that extends beyond two seasons, as is often the case with players signed as second-round picks. The minimum salary exception only accommodates one- and two-year deals, while trade exceptions carry no such restriction. Just this month, the Grizzlies used a trade exception of similar size left over from the Jon Leuer deal to take on James Ennis, who’s making the minimum on a three-year contract.

The Rockets are in much the same position with the $816,482 exception they created as part of the Brewer trade with Minnesota. Struggling 7-10 Houston could use a shakeup, but with less than $2MM left against the team’s $88.74MM hard cap, the Rockets must tread carefully. Still, the addition of a player making less than $1MM would work, and the Rockets have an open roster spot to play with.

Here’s a look at each of the trade exceptions set to expire in December:


Amount: $3,326,235
Obtained: Andrei Kirilenko (Sixers)
Expires: 12/11/15

Amount: $816,482
Obtained: Jorge Gutierrez (Sixers)
Expires: 12/11/15


Amount: $816,482
Obtained: Troy Daniels (Timberwolves)
Expires: 12/19/15


Amount: $2,847,180
Obtained: Corey Brewer (Rockets)
Initial amount: $4,702,500
Used: Adreian Payne ($1,855,320)
Expires: 12/19/15

Amount: $350,500
Obtained: Ronny Turiaf (Sixers)
Initial amount: $1,500,000
Used: Damjan Rudez ($1,149,500)
Expires: 12/19/15

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Blazers, Wolves

Nuggets rookie center Nikola Jokic is emerging as one of the biggest surprises of Denver’s season, Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post writes. “I did not expect Nikola Jokic to be our starting center 14 games into the season. But he has earned it. … He’s a guy who was wearing a pink uniform and playing in the Adriatic League last year. Now he is in the NBA, starting and doing great things,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. Jokic, who is averaging 7.8 points per game and five rebounds per game, signed a four-year deal worth $5.5MM in July after sitting out last season as a  draft-and-stash prospect

Here’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Malone believes it is important to keep Wilson Chandler, who is out for the season, around the team as the small forward begins his rehab, Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post relays. “That was one thing that I felt very strongly about,” Malone said. “Make sure he feels a part of it, still. So once he starts traveling, we’ll have him travel with us the whole time. I might even give him a clipboard so he can be one of our coaches.”
  • Karl-Anthony Towns‘ lack of playing time recently in the fourth quarter for the Wolves is the result of reserve Gorgui Dieng being a more experienced defensive player, Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune details.
  • Noah Vonleh, with whom the Blazers exercised their rookie scale team option for the 2016/17 season, is experiencing foul trouble while making five starts at power forward as Meyers Leonard recovers from a dislocated left shoulder, Jason Quick of CSNNW.com writes. Vonleh has struggled to make an impact because fouls have forced him back to the bench, Quick adds.

Northwest Notes: Garnett, Towns, Waiters, Kanter

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge admits he was careful about the sort of young players he brought around Kevin Garnett, who “could be intimidating — and destructive — if the player didn’t respond in the right way,” he tells Jackie MacMullan of ESPN The Magazine. That’s evidence that Minnesota’s plan to use Garnett as a mentor for its host of young players isn’t foolproof, but the intense Garnett and No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns have taken to one another, and Garnett has accepted his purpose as a team leader, even giving Towns uncharacteristic advice to ease up at times, as MacMullan details. The edginess that Garnett brings to the Timberwolves has been a positive, GM Milt Newton tells MacMullan, and the late Flip Saunders cited Garnett’s ability to work well under Sam Mitchell when Saunders reacquired Garnett for Minnesota last season, MacMullan notes. See more on the Wolves and other Northwest Division teams:

  • Jahlil Okafor outplayed Towns this week in a matchup of two of the top three picks, but the Timberwolves still chose wisely when they went with the former Kentucky big man, opines Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune“It was an off-game for Karl,” Mitchell said, “but you look at the other 11, 12 games that Karl has played, he’s been unbelievable.”
  • Kevin Durant lifts the performances of many around him, but that’s especially so with Thunder teammate Dion Waiters, notes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. Both are set to become free agents at season’s end, and Waiters has denied rumors that he wants to jump to the Sixers to play in his hometown of Philadelphia, a most unlikely destination for Durant.
  • Enes Kanter elicited questions about his maturity from some executives around the league in the wake of pithy comments he made about the Jazz after they fulfilled his request for a trade last season, but the Thunder big man is contrite these days, The Oklahoman’s Anthony Slater observes. “I think that I was a little, you know, harsh,” Kanter said. “But I just want to clear, I have no problem with the players or the fans. I respect the guys and they helped me a lot with my career. They helped me a lot in my first three and a half years.”

Offseason In Review: Minnesota Timberwolves

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.



  • None


Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Following a decade of futility, the Timberwolves finally have real hope of becoming a perennial playoff contender in the near future. Via trade and the lottery, they have the top picks in the last two drafts and both have shown a world of talent. There are also some talented pieces around the duo of small forward Andrew Wiggins and power forward Karl-Anthony Towns. Tragically, the architect of the rebuilding project will not get to see his vision of the franchise’s rebirth come to fruition.

The Timberwolves, as well as the entire league, suffered a shocking blow when coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders died at the age of 60 on Oct. 25th due to complications from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Originally, Saunders and his doctors were highly optimistic he would beat the disease. When it announced his diagnosis in August, the team referred to his ailment as a “very treatable and curable form of cancer” and said that he could continue his dual role. Saunders took a leave of absence the following month and when owner Glen Taylor revealed late in training camp that Saunders would not return this season, it was clear that the situation was dire.

Former Raptors coach Sam Mitchell, one of Saunders’ ex-players, replaced him on the bench while GM Milt Newton added the duties of running the team’s basketball operations. Mitchell’s future as the team’s coach beyond this season is unresolved but as Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune recently pointed out, his lineup decisions in the early going suggest that he’s focused on the franchise’s long-term success.

It certainly helps to have a large building block, literally, to solidify that foundation. Their options, once they won the lottery, boiled down to two big men — Towns and Jahlil Okafor. In the weeks leading up to the draft, Saunders became enamored with Towns and there was no drama on draft night concerning their selection. Saunders fell in love with Towns’ versatility, noting that he could not only score in the low post but also hit shots from the perimeter. Saunders was also impressed with Towns’ ball handling and shot blocking.

The early-season results have fortified the notion that the Timberwolves made the right choice, even though Okafor and Kristaps Porzingis have also made strong impressions. He recorded eight double-doubles in the team’s first 13 games while averaging 2.4 blocks.

Minnesota added another first-rounder when it traded three second-rounders to the Cavaliers for the 24th overall pick. The Timberwolves made the trade for the rights to Duke point guard Tyus Jones, who had the floor vision and leadership to develop into a quality NBA point guard, as Eddie Scarito of Hoops Rumors noted in his Prospect Profile. Thus far, Jones hasn’t gotten much of an opportunity to show those skills as he’s buried behind starter Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine and Andre Miller. But he adds depth to that position and may gain a more prominent role if the team decides to trade Rubio down the road.

That was the only trade the Timberwolves made during the offseason, other than a minor swap with the Pacers of two small forwards. They acquired Euro veteran Damjan Rudez for Chase Budinger, a move that cleared some salary cap space. Rudez is making $1.15MM this season while Budinger exercised a $5MM option on his contract, but the teams were able to swing the deal because of prior trade exceptions that they exercised.

A move of greater consequence came in July when Minnesota agreed to a three-year deal with one of Europe’s top big men, Nemanja Bjelica. Minnesota had held the power forward’s draft rights for five years and the reigning Euroleague MVP decided it was time to give the NBA a try. He negotiated a buyout agreement with his Turkish team with some monetary assistance from the Timberwolves. Bjelica earned a rotation spot during training camp, though he has been slowed recently by a knee injury.

The other notable moves the club made involved the signings of longtime veterans to help nurture the young talent on the roster, as well as divorcing themselves from young power forward Anthony Bennett. The frontcourt upgrades that the Timberwolves made removed any meaningful role for Bennett, whom the team acquired in the 2014 blockbuster with the Cavs that delivered Wiggins while shipping disgruntled Kevin Love out of town. A buyout agreement allowed Bennett to join the Raptors once he cleared waivers.

There was little debate that Kevin Garnett would re-sign with the club that originally drafted him and end his storied career in Minnesota. Garnett inked a two-year contract and has not only contributed on the court but has also served as an ideal mentor for Towns. Towns recently told NBA.com’s David Aldridge that he learns something new every day from Garnett.

Another old Saunders favorite, Tayshaun Prince, signed a one-year contract. Prince was Saunders’ starting small forward during his three years as head coach of the Pistons. Prince has played regularly in the early going, though his stats have been modest. But his impact also goes beyond the court, as he serves as a role model for the team’s wing players, particularly Wiggins.

Miller has similar responsibilities as a backup point guard, though he still has enough left in the tank to play effectively when oft-injured Rubio is sidelined. He can offer sage advice to LaVine and Jones and assist in their development.

The Timberwolves were not interested in making a lot of big moves this offseason. They were mainly concerned with molding their young core into a winning unit, with the aid of trusted veterans that could impart their knowledge to the likes of Towns and Wiggins. The future certainly looks bright, even though it’s likely Minnesota is headed for its 11th consecutive losing season. Sadly, the man responsible for the rebuilding project won’t be around to see the improvement, but his impact will be felt for many years to come.

Eddie Scarito contributed to this post. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of it.

Western Notes: Rockets, Wolves, Lakers

Donatas Motiejunas, who is set to be a restricted free agent this coming summer, is expected to meet with doctors on December 1st and the hope is he would then be cleared for workouts with the RocketsJonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports. Motiejunas has not been cleared to practice since last season’s back surgery, as Feigen points out. The power forward played well while Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones were out last season, with solid shooting numbers for a  7-footer.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • The Rockets waived Lakers center Tarik Black last year, but he said he was sorry to see Kevin McHale get fired, Bill Oram of the Orange County Register tweets. “I know he did believe in me,” Black said, per Oram.
  • Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell will insert Kevin Martin into the starting lineup despite his shooting woes, with Tayshaun Prince going to the bench, Mitchell told reporters, including Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune. Martin was involved in trade rumors last season.
  • Lakers coach Byron Scott believes point guard D’Angelo Russell is playing his best basketball of the season after a slow start, Abbey Mastracco of the Los Angeles Daily News writes. “I looked at it like, ‘This was a sign.’ This is a good sign of things to come. The kid is starting to get it,” Scott said. “So after 12 games, having his best game last night from an offensive standpoint – and even defensively I thought he played pretty good – you look forward to the next 12 to see if he can continue that process of developing.”

Northwest Notes: Durant, Westbrook, Burks, Towns

Kevin Durant describes his friendship with Russell Westbrook as “really tight,” and it came into focus Thursday, when Durant chose Westbrook to present him for induction into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, as The Oklahoman’s Anthony Slater details. The bond between the Thunder teammates looms large, with Durant poised to hit free agency this summer and Westbrook to follow in 2017.

“There’s times where we go at it,” Durant said about Westbrook in a Q&A with Slater. “There’s times I don’t like what he’s doing out on the court, there’s times where he hates what I’m doing out on the court. There’s times where it’s Russ, you gotta control your attitude or KD, you gotta stop, you gotta speak up, whatever. There’s times we cuss each other out, but that’s a part of being brothers. Because I know if I need something, he’ll be there and if I need to talk to someone outside of basketball, he’ll be there. It’s a real brotherhood type relationship. We’re like family.”

Durant also makes note of the continued relationship that he and Westbrook have with former Thunder center Kendrick Perkins, who’s on a one-year deal with the Pelicans, as Slater relays.

  • Alec Burks is playing at a more controlled pace and making better on-court judgments, Jazz coach Quin Snyder said, and that’s helped him come back better from the shoulder injury that prematurely ended last season than he was before it, as Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune examines. Much of his improvement is in the details, the coach also asserts, according to Falk. “There are a lot of little things, habits that are hard. Literally, which foot do you want forward? … All those things that maybe you don’t see add up,” Snyder said.
  • Jazz draft-and-stash signee Raul Neto isn’t quite seeing starter’s minutes, but he’s in the starting lineup and impressing Snyder, as Falk details in a separate piece“I think he’s handled it great,” Snyder said. “If you look at a lot of international players, and particularly the guards, there’s an adjustment period. I think he’s way ahead of that.”
  • The Timberwolves have a long way to go, and the front office surely knows it, but the defensive play of their starting lineup has been top-notch and No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns is showing offensive versatility with his shooting and post-up game, observes Evans Clinchy of Hardwood Paroxysm.

Timberwolves Rumors: LaVine, Rubio, Muhammad

It’s no coincidence that the Timberwolves are giving Zach LaVine minutes at point guard after going back on their decision to make him the starting shooting guard, since Ricky Rubio would become a trade chip if LaVine proves capable running the point, writes Zach Lowe of ESPN.com. Rubio and LaVine have played just 10 minutes together so far this season, with Lowe calling it “beyond dumb” that they haven’t shared the floor for more time and Rubio making it clear he’d like to play more often with LaVine. Both Rubio and GM Milt Newton expressed to Lowe that they hope Rubio is the long-term answer at the point, “but he has to stay healthy,” Newton said. Regardless, Newton isn’t in a hurry to make any deals.

“We are cognizant about not rushing it,” Newton said to Lowe. “We don’t want to be a flash in the pan. We don’t want to disrupt our young core. If we do something, it has to be the kind of deal where the majority of that young core is still here, but you get a veteran who is not that old — and can grow with the group.”

See more on the Timberwolves:

  • LaVine has shown flashes of brilliance and moments of struggle alike at point guard this season, but his play is making it increasingly apparent that he deserves time at one position or another, as Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune examines. “I love him,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said Sunday before Minnesota’s game against Memphis. “I’m a big LaVine fan. I think he can really score the basketball. He’s tough to guard. I think he’s still trying to figure out where he is in the league, learn his teammates, where he can go and when it’s not a good time to go. When he learns that? He’ll be a very potent scorer.”
  • Opposing front office personnel were initially dismissive of the late Flip Saunders‘ decision to sign so many veteran mentors this summer, but some of them have warmed to the notion that re-signing Kevin Garnett and adding Andre Miller and Tayshaun Prince was shrewd, Lowe writes in the same piece.
  • The Timberwolves almost chose Giannis Antetokounmpo over Shabazz Muhammad in the 2013 draft, several sources tell Lowe. The Jazz officially drafted Muhammad, but they had already agreed to trade the pick to Minnesota by the time they went on the clock, so evidently the Timberwolves were telling the Jazz whom to take, as is often the case behind the scenes with draft-night deals.
  • If Steve Kaplan, the Grizzlies minority owner who’s reportedly in talks to buy a share of the Timberwolves, were to purchase a controlling interest in the Wolves at some point, he’d probably include Garnett in the ownership group, Lowe hears from sources.
  • Sean Kilpatrick, who was with the Timberwolves on a 10-day contract this past spring, has re-signed with the D-League affiliate of the Sixers, the team with which he ended last season, the D-League club announced.

Northwest Notes: Garnett, Kanter, Blazers

Top draft pick Karl-Anthony Towns says he learns something every day from his Timberwolves teammate and mentor Kevin Garnett, he revealed during a Q&A session with NBA.com’s David Aldridge published in Aldridge’s weekly column. Garnett has been teaching Towns how to protect his body so that he doesn’t wear down during his first season. The rookie power forward also told Aldridge that Garnett has instilled him with three tenets: “Work harder. Play defense. And continue to compete.” Garnett’s influence on his young teammates is far-reaching, even though he denies he’s a coach on the floor, according to Marino Eccher of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Garnett was spotted during Monday’s practice showing power forward Nemanja Bjelica how to guard pick-and-rolls in a one-on-one session, Eccher continues. After practice, Garnett provided teammates and coaches with insights on everything from defensive techniques to trash-talking, Eccher adds.

In other news around the Northwest Division:

  • The Thunder could overwhelm opponents in the first quarter if they started Enes Kanter at center, Matt Moore of CBSSports.com opines. While Steven Adams has earned the starting job, Kanter’s defensive shortcomings are more of a liability when he plays with the second unit, Moore argues. Oklahoma City’s firepower with Kanter playing alongside Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant would mask those shortcomings and the club could still close games with Adams in the middle, when defensive stops become more essential, Moore concludes.
  • The task for the Blazers this season is to find out which of their players around Damian Lillard are keepers and which aren’t, and games like Sunday’s clunker against the Hornets, after which coach Terry Stotts questioned his team’s effort and focus, can play a role in that process, as Jason Quick of CSNNW.com examines.
  • The Timberwolves are continuing to engage in talks about finding a D-League affiliate for next season, though they aren’t close yet, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

(Chuck Myron contributed to this report.)

Central Notes: Drummond, Budinger, Dellavedova

Andre Drummond reiterated his intention to re-sign with the Pistons this offseason when he is eligible to become a restricted free agent, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports relays. “I love it here. I plan on being here,” Drummond told Spears. Team owner Tom Gores, coach/executive Stan Van Gundy, and Drummond mutually agreed to hold off on signing an extension to allow the team to retain more cap space heading into next offseason in order to make further roster upgrades.

Here’s more from out of the Central Division:

  • Small forward Chase Budinger is attempting to carve out his niche on the Pacers after having been acquired from the Wolves this past summer, writes Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star. “I’m still trying to figure that out, it’s still a work in progress,” Budinger said. “My role is still trying to evolve and trying to fit into this system and with this team. I’m still trying to find better ways to be more productive.” The 27-year-old has appeared in nine games this season, averaging just 4.1 points in 15.9 minutes per contest while shooting 41.9% from the field.
  • Cavs point guard Matthew Dellavedova has used his strong playoff showing from a season ago as a springboard to a solid start to the 2015/16 campaign, Chris Fedor of The Northeast Ohio Media Group writes. “I feel confident,” Dellavedova told Fedor. “I think you should always be more confident in your game and that comes through putting in the work. I think it was a great experience for me playing in the playoffs last year and working hard in the offseason by playing with the national team. In a different role than I usually play here with the Cavs, and [I] have just tried to build on that. I think if you work hard that’s what helps with your confidence.
  • The Bulls lead the NBA in building through the draft, with a league-best 10 draftees currently on the roster, Sam Smith of NBA.com notes in his leaguewide rundown. “The franchise always has had a strong belief in building through the draft and developing our own players,” said Bulls GM Gar Forman. “It starts with [owner] Jerry [Reinsdorf], who always has been a strong believer in the draft.

And-Ones: Timberwolves, Draft, Hornets

Former Grizzlies front office chief Jason Levien isn’t involved in Steve Kaplan’s bid to own a partial share of the Timberwolves, as Zach Harper of CBSSports.com reports, and his name hasn’t come up in discussions with Wolves officials, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press (Twitter links). Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported earlier that Levien was partnering with Kaplan as part of his effort to get into position to eventually assume full control of the Wolves if owner Glen Taylor relinquishes that. Taylor currently has no plans to sell the team, but he’s preparing for that time to come, writes Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.

“It just seems to me if I’m a responsible owner of a team, I should go out there, find someone who is really interested, bring them in and see how it works,” Taylor said. “So if I would die or be in a position where I can’t run it, they’d be in a position to take over and make a smooth transition. I just think it’s something I owe the state because I have the ownership.”

The purchase of a minority ownership, whether by Kaplan or another bidder, doesn’t necessarily guarantee they’ll become majority owners at any point, Krawczynski adds (on Twitter), though the idea of Kaplan owning more than 20% of the team has come up in the talks, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities. See more from around the NBA:

  • LSU small forward Ben Simmons tops the rankings of draft prospects that Chad Ford of ESPN.com (Insider link) and Chris Mannix of SI.com compiled for college basketball’s opening day, though disagreement exists beyond that. Ford has Kentucky center Skal Labissiere, Croatian power forward Dragan Bender and Duke small forward Brandon Ingram as his next three, while Mannix’s list goes Ingram-Labissiere-Bender.
  • Simmons isn’t the next LeBron James, but his game is stylistically similar to the four-time MVP’s, as Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com writes in an Insider-only piece that draws comparisons between some of the top prospects and their NBA counterparts. Labissiere is like LaMarcus Aldridge and Ingram resembles Tayshaun Prince, Goodman posits.
  • Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams, a pair of Hornets poised to become free agents next summer, are off to strong starts, as Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders observes in a story that looks at 15 soon-to-be free agents and how they fared during the season’s first two weeks.

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