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.
- Nikola Pekovic: Five years, $60MM. Signed via Bird rights.
- Chase Budinger: Three years, $15MM. Signed via Bird rights. Third year is player option.
- Corey Brewer: Three years, $14.11MM. Signed via mid-level exception. Third year is player option.
- Ronny Turiaf: Two years, $3MM. Signed via bi-annual exception.
- A.J. Price: One year, $948K. Signed via minimum salary exception. Non-guaranteed.
- Robbie Hummel: One year, $490K. Signed via minimum salary exception. Non-guaranteed. Timberwolves held draft rights (2012).
- Acquired the No. 14 pick and the No. 21 pick in 2013 from the Jazz in exchange for the No. 9 pick in 2013.
- Acquired a 2014 second-round pick and $1.6MM in cash from the Warriors in exchange for Malcolm Lee and the No. 26 pick in 2013.
- Acquired Kevin Martin and cash from the Thunder in exchange for Luke Ridnour (sent to Bucks) and the Lakers’ 2014 second-round pick (sent to Bucks). Martin was signed-and-traded for four years, $27.76MM (fourth year is player option).
- Shabazz Muhammad (Round 1, 14th overall). Signed via rookie exception.
- Gorgui Dieng (Round 1, 21st overall). Signed via rookie exception.
- Lorenzo Brown (Round 2, 52nd overall). Signed a non-guaranteed contract and was subsequently waived.
- Bojan Dubljevic (Round 2, 59th overall). Playing overseas.
Rookie Contract Option Decisions
In late March, it was reported that Wolves fans would be subjected to the Wrath of Kahn for at least one more season. Owner Glen Taylor was allegedly set to exercise the GM’s option for 2013/14, but there was apparently a change of heart along the way. Former coach Flip Saunders came back into the picture as the face of an ownership group looking to buy the T’Wolves and when that venture didn’t pan out, Taylor broached him with the idea of taking over the club’s basketball operations. Saunders took the opportunity in May, ousting one of the less popular GMs in the league and kickstarting a new era in Minnesota.
The biggest storyline of the T’Wolves offseason, once Saunders was installed as President of Basketball Operations, was the future of restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic. Even though the Wolves had the opportunity to match any offer, there was some concern that Pekovic could be pulled away by a club willing to overpay for a promising center on the right side of 30. The talks with Pekovic dragged on for quite some time, putting his return into further question, but the Wolves finally shook hands on a five-year, $60MM deal in mid-August that will allow the big man to earn another $8MM through incentives. The two sides were at something of an impasse, but the compromise made sense. The Wolves offered a four-year, $48MM contract and wouldn’t go beyond $12MM per season while Pekovic’s camp wanted a five-year agreement. Pekovic and the T’Wolves met in the middle, agreeing to a five-year deal with an average annual value of $12MM. That may sound like a lofty number on the outside, but Pekovic offers bruising physical play on the inside and gives the Wolves an edge that most teams lack in today’s NBA. He’s not Hakeem Olajuwon in the post, but he has shown that he can be a very efficient scorer. Pekovic gave the Wolves a career-high 16.3 PPG and 8.8 RPG last season and if he can build on that, he’ll be one of the league’s best centers in due time.
While they were busy exchanging emails with Pekovic’s agent, they swung a three-way deal to land a signed-and-traded Kevin Martin from the Thunder. Martin, a heavy scorer in a thin body, gives point guard Ricky Rubio a deep threat who can keep up in transition. So far, so good for Martin and the T’Wolves as the 30-year-old has been looking extremely sharp over the first few weeks of the season. While opposing coaches devise plans to contain Kevin Love, they leave Martin less-than-blanketed on the outside, making the Wolves offense highly potent. They paid a hefty price for Martin – probably more than we all expected – but the T’Wolves couldn’t afford to shoot 30.5% from beyond the arc again in 2013/14 and expect to continue their season into late April.
The Wolves also wrapped up their other big free agent, Chase Budinger. Budinger had a number of interested suitors, but he says that his heart was in Minnesota all along. “It was a fairly easy decision.” Budinger said of re-signing with the Wolves. “I just fit perfectly in Rick Adelman‘s system. He trusts me. I know the coaching staff. I know what they expect of me. Just all in all, I was very comfortable here, and that was the main reason why I came back.” Now, Minnesota just wants to see the Arizona product back on the hardwood. Budinger underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee over the offseason, a procedure that still has him sidelined. The Wolves announced that he’s finally back in the state of Minnesota to continue his rehab, but he has yet to resume basketball activities.
There are only so many shots to go around with this bunch and new bench addition Corey Brewer is a good fit since he won’t be calling for the rock on every play. Brewer offers a decidedly different skillset from Andrei Kirilenko, but he does help fill a need for this Minnesota team. If the Wolves had a choice in the matter, they most definitely would have liked AK47 to return on a $3.18MM deal (that’s what he signed for in Brooklyn) rather than give a three-year, $14MM deal to the offensively-deficient Brewer, but that obviously wasn’t in the cards for them. The only real way to keep Kirilenko probably would have been through his $10MM+ player option and Saunders is probably glad that he got the chance to spend that cash elsewhere.
Joining Brewer on the bench is No. 14 overall pick Shabazz Muhammad, one of the most polarizing players to come out of the 2013 draft. At one point in time, Muhammad was regarded as the top prospect in the class. However, Muhammad couldn’t stay out of trouble during his freshman campaign at UCLA and was pretty flat on the hardwood, falling well short of the hype that accompanied him to the Westwood campus. It certainly didn’t help matters when the Los Angeles Times revealed that he had been shaving a year off of his real age and was actually 20 at the time of the draft, not 19. Despite the numerous question marks, Saunders decided to roll the dice on a player who many would have estimated to be the No. 1 overall pick this time a year ago. Saunders & Co. must be real believers – they gave up the No. 9 selection to trade down and snag Muhammad at 14 and Gorgui Dieng at No. 21. Muhammad has yet to see real burn with the T’Wolves early on in the 2013/14 campaign and his best bet for seasoning may be a stint or two in the D-League.
The Wolves spent a ton – about $117MM – to upgrade their roster in an effort to end a nine-year playoff drought. Frankly, all four of their major signings feel inflated when evaluated on the surface. However, the Wolves organization desperately needs to turn their fortunes around and we all know that there are more challenges in building a winner in Minnesota than New York or Los Angeles. While the Wolves will need sharp shooting from Martin and another step or two forward from Pekovic, they need good health more than anything else. Having Rubio and Love at full-strength can be the difference between a significant playoff run and a tenth-straight trip to the lottery.