Offseason Outlook: Minnesota Timberwolves

Guaranteed Contracts


Non-Guaranteed Contracts

Free Agents / Cap Holds

Draft Picks

  • 1st Round (9th overall)
  • 1st Round (26th overall)
  • 2nd Round (52nd overall)
  • 2nd Round (58th overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $37,670,378
  • Options: $12,399,420
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $3,606,974
  • Cap Holds: $12,658,293
  • Total: $66,335,065

2012/13 was supposed to be the coming-out party for the new-look Timberwolves, led by Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love. After an eventful summer that saw the team land Andrei Kirilenko, Alexey Shved, and Chase Budinger, the Wolves looked like a good bet to return to the postseason for the first time since they lost the Western Finals in 2004. No team was more snake-bitten last season than the Wolves though, who endured injuries to virtually every major contributor, and saw Rubio and Love play in the same game just three times.

Still, there's reason for optimism in Minnesota, as the club's core duo remains in place for the 2013/14 season and beyond. Flip Saunders has also assumed control of the team's basketball operations, taking over for David Kahn. As the team's general manager, Kahn wasn't a total disaster, but every one of his hits seemed to be follow up by a miss. Drafting Rubio was a great decision, but taking Jonny Flynn in the same lottery? Not so much. Signing Love to a long-term extension was also the right call, but not giving him the five years he sought was questionable.

In any case, it will be Saunders, not Kahn, who's making the major decisions for the team this summer, and there will be no shortage of those. One of the first significant decisions actually belongs to Kirilenko, rather than the team, as the Russian forward weighs whether or not to pick up his $10.22MM player option for '13/14. While Kirilenko had a productive season in Minnesota, I get the sense that the Wolves wouldn't be devastated if he decided to opt out, since it would create a little more cap flexibility for the team.

Nikola Pekovic also represents a top priority for the T-Wolves this offseason, as the big man hits restricted free agency for the first time. Given the kind of offer sheets we typically see young bigs sign, it wouldn't be totally outrageous to see a rival suitor swoop in with a maximum-salary offer for Pekovic, which would be a tough pill for the Wolves to swallow. Minnesota would have no problem matching an annual salary of $10-12MM for Pekovic, but it will be interesting to see what the team decides if it's confronted with a max offer.

Depending on what happens with Pekovic and Kirilenko, the Wolves may not have a ton of cap flexibility to try to address the long-standing hole at shooting guard. As such, it's easy to see why the team is reportedly interested in moving up in the draft to grab Victor Oladipo. With the Nos. 9 and 26 picks, along with Derrick Williams, the Wolves could put together a tantalizing package in an effort to move into the top three or four, and it wouldn't shock me if that's exactly what happened on draft night.

The likelihood of a trade figures to depend on who the Cavaliers pick with the first overall selection. If Cleveland takes Nerlens Noel, I'd expect the Magic to target Oladipo, and it's not clear whether that hypothetical Wolves package would be enough to sway them. However, if the Cavs were to draft Alex Len, I could see Orlando taking Noel, the Wizards drafting Otto Porter, and the Wolves trading up to No. 4 to snag Oladipo. This is all my speculation, but with Noel and Len off the board, the Bobcats may be willing to trade down a few spots to pick up extra assets in Williams and the No. 26 pick.

If the Wolves stay put in the draft, a player like C.J. McCollum or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope makes sense at No. 9. While I expect the Wolves to address the two guard spot in the draft, rather than in free agency, there are a few available options on the open market too. O.J. Mayo makes some sense, particularly if Kirilenko or Pekovic walks, clearing up a little cap room. Tony Allen and Gerald Henderson look like logical potential targets as well.

With Kirilenko and Budinger facing potential free agency, the team may find itself with a hole at the three as well as the two. In that case, perhaps the focus in the draft and/or free agency shifts to that position, with the Wolves addressing the two in a smaller deal (ie. the No. 26 pick for the Nets' MarShon Brooks). I could see the Wolves attempting to bring back Budinger, since the club liked him enough last summer to give up a first-round pick for him. A knee injury wiped out most of Budinger's 2012/13, but perhaps the lost season will keep his price tag down in free agency.

Last season was a disappointing one for the Wolves, but it shouldn't put a damper on fans' optimism for the future in Minnesota. Love and Rubio remain under contract for at least two more years, and with players like Williams, Shved, J.J. Barea, and Luke Ridnour on board, there are plenty of nice rotation pieces or trade chips on the roster. If the Wolves can bring back Pekovic and/or Kirilenko and add a shooting guard, this team would be at least as good as the squad we expected to contend for the postseason last year. There's no reason to think that a healthier year in 2013/14 wouldn't get the Wolves back in that playoff conversation.

Additional notes:

  • The Wolves hold a team option on Dante Cunningham, and essentially have options on Mickael Gelabale and Greg Stiemsma as well. I wouldn't be shocked if the team went either way on any of the three decisions, though I expect to see Cunningham and Gelabale brought back. Saunders may decide that Stiemsma's production could be matched by a minimum-salary big man.
  • Keep an eye out for the Trail Blazers as a potential suitor for Pekovic. I don't think he's an ideal fit in Portland, since he's far from an elite rim defender, but the Blazers do need a center, and the two teams have engaged in a bit of a back-and-forth on roster moves over the last several years (Nicolas Batum, Martell Webster, etc.).

Cap footnotes:

  1. Stiemsma's contract is fully non-guaranteed. It becomes fully guaranteed if he's not waived on or before July 17th.
  2. Gelabale's contract is fully non-guaranteed. It becomes fully guaranteed if he's not waived on or before July 22nd.
  3. Pekovic will be eligible for a qualifying offer of $6,046,500.

Storytellers Contracts and Sham Sports were used in the creation of this post.

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