Andrew Wiggins

D’Angelo Russell Has T-Wolves Atop Wish List

Marc Stein of The New York Times is reporting that Nets’ restricted free agent point guard D’Angelo Russell has the Timberwolves at the top of his free-agent wish list. Stein adds that while the Lakers still have undeniable interest in Russell, Minnesota is increasingly confident they can make the necessary salary-cap moves to land the 23-year-old All-Star.

The T-Wolves are expected to meet with Russell in Los Angeles this evening at the beginning of free agency. The meeting will reportedly feature new president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, head coach Ryan Saunders, and Russell’s good friend, Minnesota big man Karl-Anthony Towns.

The Wolves currently project to be an over-the-cap team, but the Nets have already indicated that they’d be willing to entertain a sign-and-trade arrangement that would enable Russell to reach a destination of his choosing. The most likely salary-matching pieces, however, are Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague, both of whom the Nets have no interest in whatsoever. As such, Minnesota would likely need to throw in some other assets to make the deal worthwhile to Brooklyn.

Minnesota could also attempt to trade some combination of Wiggins, Teague, Gorgui Dieng, and Robert Covington to open up cap space, but it’s unclear at this point what teams, if any, are interested in acquiring one or more of those players.

Timberwolves To Meet With D’Angelo Russell

The Timberwolves will meet with restricted free agent point guard D’Angelo Russell at the start of free agency, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

According to Haynes, the meeting will take place in Los Angeles and is expected to feature president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, head coach Ryan Saunders, and franchise player Karl-Anthony Towns.

Minnesota has been repeatedly linked to Russell, a good friend of Towns, who is “really high” on adding the All-Star guard, per Haynes. However, the club’s cap situation makes the path to a deal tricky. Currently, the Wolves project to be an over-the-cap team, while Russell is expected to command a contract worth upwards of his maximum ($27.25MM) or at least something in that neighborhood.

The Nets, who have been strongly linked to Kyrie Irving, could theoretically agree to sign-and-trade Russell to Minnesota, but Brooklyn reportedly has no interest in taking on Andrew Wiggins or Jeff Teague, who would be the Wolves’ most realistic salary-matching pieces.

Even if the Wolves were able to trade Wiggins into another team’s cap room and renounced the rest of their free agents, they could only generate about $20MM in cap room, which likely wouldn’t be enough for Russell, who established himself in 2018/19 as one of the NBA’s most promising young guards.

A sign-and-trade, then, looks like the most viable path for the Wolves to acquire Russell, but at least one other team would have to get involved if the Nets are uninterested in taking on salary. It sounds like a long shot, but it’s worth noting that Rosas came from Houston’s front office, where he worked under Daryl Morey. Morey is no stranger to getting creative with the cap himself, and is currently trying to pursue an equally convoluted sign-and-trade for Jimmy Butler.

For what it’s worth, ESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote on Friday that one executive predicted to him that the Wolves would succeed in dealing Wiggins at some point and would get “net-neutral value” for him.

Lowe’s Latest: Walker, Brogdon, Mavs, Rubio, Butler

The Celtics might be the frontrunner for Kemba Walker‘s services but devoting most of their cap space to the All-Star point guard would leave them without any proven frontcourt players and limited ways to acquire them, ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes in an in-depth look at free agency. The addition of Walker would force coach Brad Stevens to use either Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum or Gordon Hayward at power forward, Lowe notes. Walker also ran more pick-and-rolls with the Hornets than Kyrie Irving did with the Celtics, yet Irving was sometimes accused of being a ball hog, Lowe adds.

Here are some other interesting tidbits from Lowe’s column:

  • Bucks restricted free agent Malcolm Brogdon will lose a suitor if the Celtics ink Walker. The Suns, Bulls, Mavericks and Pacers could potentially extend Brogdon an offer sheet but some teams are concerned about his foot issues.
  • The Mavericks are not looking to sign any high-level free agents.
  • The Pacers are looking to make a run at point guard Ricky Rubio. They are also likely to let power forward Thaddeus Young walk and go with a frontcourt of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. Indiana rejected trade offers for Turner at the draft.
  • The Heat could get involved in the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes via a sign-and-trade.
  • The Nets have no interest in doing a sign-and-trade with the Timberwolves involving restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell if it means taking back Jeff Teague or Andrew Wiggins.

Free Agent Rumors: Kanter, Favors, Horford, Wolves

The Trail Blazers, Lakers, and Celtics are expected to be among the teams to show interest in Enes Kanter when free agency opens, league sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

Portland doesn’t have Bird rights on Kanter, and Boston and L.A. may end up using most or all of their cap room on impact players, so it’s possible that none of those three teams will have the resources to make a strong bid for Kanter. We’ll see if the taxpayer mid-level exception (Trail Blazers) or room exception (Lakers, Celtics) is enough to sign him.

Here are more free agent rumors from around the NBA:

  • Jazz big man Derrick Favors remains under contract in Utah, but because his situation remains in flux due to his non-guaranteed contract, he’ll be permitted to take calls from interested teams during the free agent period, agent Wallace Prather tells Shams Charania of The Athletic. If the Jazz decide not to guarantee Favors’ $17.65MM salary for 2019/20, he’d be waived by July 6 and could join a new club.
  • Reporters around the NBA are still trying to pin down the mystery team that appears to be on track to sign Al Horford to a lucrative four-year contract. Marc Stein of The New York Times thought it might be the Pelicans, but says he has been “strongly advised” that that’s not the case (Twitter link). Meanwhile, Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link) doesn’t believe the Mavericks are seriously in the mix for Horford, despite reports that suggested otherwise.
  • According to Darren Wolfson of SKOR North (by way of Dan Feldman of NBC Sports), the Timberwolves reached out to the Nets to see whether Brooklyn might be interested in Andrew Wiggins in a potential sign-and-trade for RFA-to-be D’Angelo Russell. Predictably, the Nets had no interest in taking on Wiggins’ contract, per Wolfson.
  • The Kings haven’t closed the door on a reunion with Kosta Koufos, who will be an unrestricted free agent this Sunday, and the veteran center feels the same way, writes James Ham of NBC Sports California. Both sides figure to let the market dictate their next moves, Ham adds.

Wolves Rumors: Draft, Wiggins, McConnell, Harris

The Timberwolves had five players in their top tier for Thursday’s draft, and knew they had no shot at Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, or R.J. Barrett, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Darius Garland and Jarrett Culver were the other players in that group, according to Krawczynski, who says that Minnesota may have preferred Garland to Culver, but didn’t hesitate to nab the Texas Tech wing at No. 6 over Coby White and others.

According to Krawczynski, the Timberwolves might have had an opportunity to move up to No. 4 before the Pelicans made a deal with the Hawks, but Minnesota was seeking the No. 11 pick and Robert Covington and would’ve wanted to dump Solomon Hill‘s unwanted contract on the Wolves.

Even after moving up to select Culver at No. 6, the Timberwolves stayed active, according to Darren Wolfson and Danny Cunningham of Skor North, who report (via Twitter) that the team had discussions about the No. 12 pick with the Hornets. Those talks didn’t seem to get far, per Wolfson, adding that Sekou Doumbouya was the presumed target at that spot for Minnesota.

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • The Timberwolves have been actively exploring options to move off Andrew Wiggins‘ contract, league sources tell Jake Fischer of SI.com (Twitter link). It’s not clear if Minnesota is just gauging the market or if the club will continue to pursue a Wiggins deal as the offseason progresses.
  • Wolfson (Twitter link) hears that Sixers veteran T.J. McConnell is among the free agent point guards on Minnesota’s radar.
  • John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link) has heard that free-agent-to-be Tobias Harris has interest in the Timberwolves. That looks like a very unlikely pairing though, since Minnesota has no path to cap room and the Sixers won’t be eager to accommodate a sign-and-trade.
  • Bryan Gates is the latest coach expected to join Ryan Saunders‘ staff as an assistant, tweets Krawczynski. Gates, who had a previous stint in Minnesota, has served as an assistant in Sacramento for the past few seasons.

Wolves Notes: Vanterpool, C. White, Doumbouya, Terrell

The Timberwolves hired David Vanterpool as associate coach to improve the defense and motivate Andrew Wiggins, which might be the toughest jobs in the organization, suggests Michael Rand of The Star-Tribune. Team president Gersson Rosas interviewed Vanterpool for the head coaching slot before deciding to stick with Ryan Saunders, so the former Trail Blazers assistant obviously made a good impression.

However, Rand points out that Vanterpool will be taking over a defense that has ranked in the bottom third of the league for the past five seasons and that even defensive specialist Tom Thibodeau couldn’t fix. Vanterpool has a solid relationship with Wiggins from coaching him with Team Canada in 2015, but raising his level of play has been a concern even before the club signed him to an extension two years ago.

There’s more news out of Minnesota:

  • North Carolina guard Coby White held an individual workout for the Wolves Friday, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. White is listed at No. 8 in the list of top 100 prospects compiled by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, and Minnesota doesn’t pick until No. 11, so the Wolves may be thinking about trading up. The team held a separate six-player workout yesterday that included Rayjon Tucker (Arkansas-Little Rock), Amir Coffey (Minnesota), Dedric Lawson (Kansas) and Kris Wilkes (UCLA) (Twitter link).
  • French standout Sekou Doumbouya held a pro day today and will pay a visit to Minnesota for a workout early next week, according to Wolfson (Twitter link). The 6’9″ forward comes in ninth on Givony’s list .
  • Aaron Brooks, who ended his playing career with the Wolves during the 2017/18 season, attended a free agent camp with the team this week as a coach, Wolfson adds. At age 34, Brooks is hoping to make the transition into coaching. He played for seven teams in an 11-year career.
  • Two-way player Jared Terrell did well in the G League, but didn’t get much of a chance to showcase his skills at the NBA level in his rookie season, writes Kyle Ratke of NBA.com. Terrell, who averaged 7.9 minutes in 14 games with the Wolves, will now wait for an invitation to be part of Minnesota’s Summer League team.

Timberwolves To Make Sweeping Staff Changes

The Timberwolves will be making extensive changes to their coaching staff, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic reports.

Every assistant with an expiring contract — Ed Pinckney, Jerry Sichting, Larry Greer, John Lucas III and Dice Yoshimoto — will not return on Ryan Saunders’ staff as the organization distances itself from the Tom Thibodeau era. Saunders had the interim tag removed on Monday. The only assistant with a year left on his contract, Malik Allen, will be retained.

New president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas wants to split up duties more like a football staff. “We’re going to get the best offensive coordinator. We’re going to get the best defensive coordinator. We’re going to get the best player development coordinator,” Rosas said. “They’re going to execute our vision together. And Ryan will manage that program as a whole.”

We have more on the Timberwolves:

  • Adding players with a defensive mentality is a priority, Krawczynski adds in the same story. The team wants to utilize a more switch-heavy scheme to defend 3-point shooters. “I’ve got to help (Saunders),” Rosas said. “We’ve got to surround our team, our best players with personnel that will be complementary to them and we need more defenders.”
  • The team’s most notable players, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, attended Saunders’ press conference and gave him ringing endorsements. “I think this is a very positive change,” Wiggins told Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and other media members. “You can see the fresh air, you can see the faces and the positive energy in the air. Everyone is happy for Ryan — you don’t see negative faces, everyone is happy and we’re supportive.”
  • The decision to retain Saunders was a bow to Towns and his importance to the franchise’s long-term future, Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune writes. Towns respects and trusts Saunders and feels rejuvenated about the franchise’s direction, Scoggins notes. That’s crucial, because the Timberwolves can’t afford to alienate their best player to the point where an ugly divorce becomes inevitable, Scoggins adds.

Wolves Notes: POBO Search, Saunders, Wiggins

The importance of making the right president of basketball operations hire cannot be overstated for the Timberwolves, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. As Krawczynski details, after the team took a step backward during the 2018/19 season, the next steps in Minnesota are critical, and finding the right person to run the show will be the franchise’s top priority this spring.

The Timberwolves’ search has centered on ESPN analyst Chauncey Billups, Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon, Nuggets assistant GM Calvin Booth, and Rockets executive VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas. While the club’s list of targets may expand beyond that group, it seems likely that one of those four execs will ultimately land the job.

Clippers GM Michael Winger initially seemed interested in the position, and was prepared to “plunge into the process” last week, according to Krawczynski. However, after a conversation with Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and the rest of the staff, he decided to remove his name from consideration and remain in L.A.

That leaves four candidates, all of whom are in their early-40s, Krawczynski notes. With the exception of Billups, they all have strong backgrounds in player development too. In addition to targeting a younger executive who has the ability to identify emerging talent, the Wolves are also prioritizing hiring someone who is willing to communicate and cooperate, Krawczynski writes.

As Krawczynski observes, communication wasn’t necessarily a strong suit for former head of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau, so the club will be looking for an executive who is more interested in “building bridges” across the organization.

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • The Timberwolves have conveyed a desire to retain head coach Ryan Saunders, who took the reins from Thibodeau during the 2018/19 season. However, it’s common for a new head of basketball operations to pick his own head coach. Michael Rand of The Star Tribune digs into whether candidates for the open front office job are expected to keep Saunders, and how that would impact the Wolves’ search.
  • The Timberwolves’ new president of basketball operations will immediately face a major question on what to do with Andrew Wiggins, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. With the former No. 1 overall pick on track to earn $122MM+ over the next four seasons, the Wolves need to find a way to get more out of him — or to explore whether there’s any realistic way to get out from under his contract on the trade market.
  • For all the latest out of Minnesota, be sure to check out our Timberwolves team page.

Wolves Notes: Offseason, Saric, Experimentation

It’s been a busy year for the Timberwolves, who find themselves in a very different position now than they did this time last year. Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider) recently broke down the offseason priorities for a front office still reeling from a whirlwind few months.

Among the first tasks will be figuring out what to do with interim head coach Ryan Saunders, who took the reins after Tom Thibodeau‘s firing with predictably modest results given the circumstances. Minnesota will need to hire a general manager following Thibodeau’s departure and that individual would likely want a say in who is coaching the team.

Marks also flags Derrick Rose and Andrew Wiggins as players that Minnesota’s brass will need to mull over. Just how much of a priority should Rose be, he asks, and is it finally time to consider dramatically downgrading Wiggins’ role?

There’s more out of Minnesota today:

  • There’s a strong possibility that veteran point guard Jeff Teague opts into the final year of his contract, Michael Rand of the Star Tribune writes. Although the $19MM he’ll earn through 2019-20 may sound steep to Wolves fans eager to rebuild, Rand notes that the team was distinctly better with the 30-year-old on the court in 2018/19.
  • After an underwhelming season, Dario Saric and the Timberwolves can take solace in the fact that they’ll have another full season in which to gauge how well they fit together before a free agency decision needs to be made, Britt Robson of The Athletic writes.
  • The Timberwolves won’t be sneaking into the postseason this spring so head coach Ryan Saunders will use the final games of the campaign to tinker with different strategies. Per Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune, Sanders is particularly interested in seeing how Andrew Wiggins and rookie Keita Bates-Diop fare in unusual situations.

Wolves Have No Plans To Shut Down Towns, Wiggins

Even after winning their last two contests, the Timberwolves remain 5.5 games out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference with just 15 left to play, meaning their hopes of making a postseason push are minuscule. Nonetheless, the club has no plans to shut down its two highest-paid young players, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, both of whom are dealing with injuries.

“We’re a competitive basketball team,” head coach Ryan Saunders said today, reiterating that the Wolves don’t intend to tank down the stretch, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Towns, who missed Sunday’s game against the Knicks, is battling right knee inflammation, while Wiggins has been sidelined for Minnesota’s last two games with a left quad contusion. Saunders said today that both players will go through shootaround and warmups before the team determines their availability for Tuesday’s game vs. Denver (Twitter link via Krawczynski).

As we noted on Monday when we discussed Zach LaVine‘s injury, this is typically the time of year when lottery-bound teams take an extra-cautious approach with minor injuries, both to preserve the health of their most valuable players and to potentially improve their draft standing. However, Towns in particular has plenty of incentive to remain in the Wolves’ lineup for the season’s final four weeks.

Towns’ new five-year, maximum-salary extension, which goes into effect for the 2019/20 season, currently projects to be worth about $158MM. However, its projected value would increase to nearly $190MM if KAT earns a spot on an All-NBA team. The big man would have virtually no chance of earning All-NBA honors if he sits out the season’s final month.

We pointed out in February that the Anthony Davis saga in New Orleans could create a clearer path for Towns to snag a spot on an All-NBA team, and his recent numbers suggest he’s motivated to do so — he has posted an impressive 35.1 PPG, 14.1 RPG, and 3.4 APG on .597/.489/.776 shooting in his last seven games (34.1 MPG).