Karl-Anthony Towns

Wolves, Karl-Anthony Towns Discussing Max Extension

The Timberwolves and star center Karl-Anthony Towns have engaged in discussions about a possible maximum-salary rookie scale extension, according to Michael Scotto and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Towns, the first overall pick in the 2015 draft, is extension-eligible for the first time this offseason. He and the Wolves have until the day before the 2018/19 regular season begins to work out a potential deal, though if the two sides are talking about a max contract, negotiations may not need to drag out that long.

[RELATED: Players Eligible For Rookie Scale Extensions In 2018]

Over the course of his first three NBA seasons, Towns has established himself as one of the NBA’s best frontcourt scorers. After averaging 25.1 PPG and 12.3 RPG in 2016/17, Towns’ scoring numbers dipped a little in 2017/18 to 21.3 PPG. However, he was more efficient than ever, setting new career bests in FG% (.545) and 3PT% (.421).

If the Wolves and Towns agree to terms on a max deal, it would be worth 25% of the cap in 2019/20, though the two sides could negotiate an agreement tentatively worth up to 30%. The big man would have to meet certain criteria – likely earning an All-NBA nod – in the 2018/19 season to qualify for that more lucrative extension.

Based on a $109MM projected cap for 2019/20, a max deal for Towns would start at $27.25MM and would be worth approximately $158MM over five years, just like the extension Devin Booker signed with the Suns a few days ago. For the Wolves, it could create some interesting cap decisions going forward.

Andrew Wiggins is already on a long-term, maximum-salary contract and Gorgui Dieng is owed $16MM+ in 2019/20 and $17MM+ in 2020/21. Minnesota would also have to consider a new deal for Jimmy Butler, assuming he wants to stick around when he becomes eligible for free agency next summer. And Jeff Teague has a $19MM player option for ’19/20.

If Teague opts in and both Butler and Towns get max contracts, the Wolves would be on the hook for $122MM+ for those five players next season. Given those increasing roster costs – and repeated whispers of possible tension between the Wolves’ stars – the club may eventually consider moving one or more of its highly-paid players.

If Towns doesn’t sign a rookie scale extension this summer, he’d be eligible for restricted free agency in 2019, at which point Minnesota would be able to match any offer he receives.

Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving Interested In Playing Together?

All-Stars and former USA Basketball teammates Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving are interested in figuring out a way to play together, a league source close to the situation tells Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.

Both Butler and Irving were dealt to new teams in 2017 and thrived in those new homes during the 2017/18 season, so neither player is viewed as a trade candidate for the time being. However, both veterans hold player options for the 2019/20 season, meaning they could opt out and reach free agency at the same time a year from now.

Both Irving and Butler are eligible for contract extensions this summer, but are unlikely to sign them. A June report indicated that Irving won’t consider a new deal this offseason, since it wouldn’t make financial sense for the Celtics point guard to do so. Butler is in a similar boat for the Timberwolves, as he has the ability to make significantly more money if he waits for free agency.

Additionally, a league source tells Cowley that Butler has been “all but fed up with the nonchalant attitude of his younger teammates” in Minnesota. Cowley singles out Karl-Anthony Towns as a player who isn’t on the same page as the veteran forward, hinting that Butler’s end-of-season comments to the Sun-Times could have been aimed at KAT and other young teammates.

Butler said in late April that he doesn’t understand “how or why you all don’t love to get better the way that I do” and that he gets “lost in how everybody is not built the way that I’m built.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about unease in Minnesota related to the team’s three stars, Butler, Towns, and Andrew Wiggins. While there’s no indication that the Timberwolves need to take immediate steps to address any tension by moving one of those three players, the frequency of these reports is making it harder to envision them all staying with the franchise long term.

Wolves Notes: Thibodeau, Towns, Aldrich, Patton

Timberwolves head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau and General Manager Scott Layden hosted a news conference this afternoon to discuss tomorrow’s draft, upcoming free agency, and reports of Karl-Anthony Towns wanting out of Minnesota, reports Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.

Despite reports of Towns’ unhappiness, Thibodeau says the relationship between the franchise and its star player is all well, telling reporters that everybody is in a good place.

 “Yeah, yeah. He’s doing quite well. And I love KAT. He has had a terrific start to his career… To get to where we are — obviously we’re not ultimately where we want to be, but it was a major step forward — you can’t do it individually. It’s got to be the whole group doing it together. And for the most part, I think we are in a good place.”

Regarding the draft, the Wolves own the No. 20 and No. 48 picks and Thibodeau said anything remains possible as the team tries to address their needs.

“It’s one of the few times through the year you have a chance to improve the club, so all options are open right now. We know there’s a great challenge in front of us. The shooting and the toughness, the defense and building the depth.”

As for free agency, Layden said that the team would concentrate more on the free agent market once July 1 draws closer, but that he knows the type of player Thibodeau looks for.

“We know the type of player we need to be in coach’s system and to succeed here. I think we have a real good understanding of that now. So whether it’d be trade, whether it be through free agency or the draft, we have a clear understanding of what type of players will fit here.”

There’s more out of Minneapolis:

  • In the same story, Zgoda says he expects the team to buy out backup center Cole Aldrich before the new league year begins next weekend. Aldrich is owed nearly $7MM in 2018/19, but only about $2MM is guaranteed, so the Wolves can significantly reduce his cap hit by cutting him. Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News confirms that the salary guarantee deadline for Aldrich is June 30.
  • Another backup center, Justin Patton, whom the Wolves used their first round selection on last year at No. 16, is finally working out after surgery, but Thibodeau says he will miss all summer and likely most of the fall as well, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.
  • Krawczynski also tweeted that Layden believes the team is fortunate because their need for wings and shooting line up well with what prospects should still be available at No. 20 tomorrow night.
  • In a separate piece for the Star Tribune, Zgoda takes a look at the prospects the Wolves may be targeting with the No. 20 overall selection, including Grayson AllenDonte DiVincenzoKhyri Thomas, and Jacob Evans.

Northwest Notes: Thibodeau, Nurkic, Katsikaris

There is no chance that the Timberwolves trade Karl-Anthony Towns, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes, despite the fact that there’s room for the relationship between he and the front office to improve.

Although that bond is far from irreparable, it pales between that of Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau and All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler. Butler, of course, played for Thibodeau as a member of the Bulls and the two share similarly passionate approaches to basketball.

With the 2018/19 season on the horizon, however, Thibodeau will need to find a way to bridge the gap between himself and players on the Timberwolves’ roster that weren’t exposed to him in Chicago, a problem that Krawczynski writes traces back to a lack of communication.

There’s more out of the Northwest this afternoon:

  • The Thunder are hoping to hit big with their two late draft picks, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes, noting that the fact that they’ll fall so late in the draft (No. 53 and No. 57) means they’ll come with less of a financial burden and less pressure to pan out.
  • The Trail Blazers need not rush out and blow up their roster, Bobby Marks of ESPN writes, suggesting that the team shouldn’t be punished for overachieving last season and ultimately getting overpowered in the postseason. Marks also adds that Portland fans can expect a long drawn-out restricted free agency process for Jusuf Nurkic, unless he decides to sign his $4.8MM qualifying offer.
  • The Jazz are “in discussion” to hire Greek coach Fotis Katsikaris to serve as an assistant under Quin Snyder, Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News. If hired, Katsikaris would fill the void left by Igor Kokoskov. It had been previously reported that Katsikaris had already been hired to a contract but those reports, Woodyard tweets, were premature.

Wolves Notes: Butler, Towns, Thibodeau, Wiggins

Last summer’s Jimmy Butler trade was a good move for the Timberwolves even though they parted with several promising young talents, writes Britt Robson of The Athletic. Minnesota swung a draft night blockbuster with the Bulls, giving up Kris DunnZach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen for Butler and Justin Patton.

The deal paid dividends for the Wolves, who reached the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, and Robson contends that Butler has already become the second-best player in franchise history, trailing only Kevin Garnett.

On the down side, Butler missed 23 games because of injuries and was a steadfast defender of coach Tom Thibodeau, creating a rift with some of his young teammates. Robson advises the front office to delay renegotiating Butler’s contract, which pays him nearly $20.5MM next season with a $19.8MM player option for 2019/20, to see how the situation plays out.

Robson passes along more info from Minnesota in his mailbag column:

  • Rumors that Thibodeau could get fired this summer are premature, although the locker room has become increasingly divided between loyalists who previously played for Thibodeau in Chicago and younger players who are turned off by his abrasive style. However, replacing Thibodeau now would anger Butler and Taj Gibson and leave the team at a disadvantage heading into the draft and free agency. Robson believes Thibodeau, who still has three years left on his contract, could be in danger if the Wolves don’t move up the Western Conference ladder next season.
  • It will be surprising if Karl-Anthony Towns is put on the trade market this summer, even if the rumors about his unhappiness in Minnesota are true. Towns is just 22 and is under team control for at least two more seasons. A suggested deal for the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard wouldn’t work for the Wolves because there’s no good way to replace Towns in the middle. Towns reportedly wants a bigger role in the offense and less “tough love” from Thibodeau and Butler.
  • Minnesota probably should have passed on an extension for Andrew Wiggins last summer and dealt with him as a restricted free agent. Robson suggests Thibodeau may have been forced into the move by owner Glen Taylor, but adds that a trade is unlikely now because it would be difficult for the Wolves to get equal value in return.
  • The team would almost certainly have to surrender a first-round pick to unload the contract of Gorgui Dieng, who is owed more than $48MM over the next three years. Thibodeau lost confidence in Dieng during the season and his playing time was cut nearly in half.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Grant, Huestis, Bjelica, Towns

Fresh off earning All-NBA honors this week, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has reportedly requested another meeting with team owner Paul Allen, according to John Canzano of The Oregonian. The reason for Lillard’s alleged requested meeting is not provided but this is not the first time that Lillard’s camp sought a face-to-face will Allen.

Lillard met with Allen in January to discuss the organization’s plan for the future. For what it’s worth, Lillard responded to this latest report on Twitter and dismissed the report and the source of it.  After being swept by the Pelicans in the postseason, Lillard addressed the possibility of Portland breaking up with the backcourt of himself and C.J. McCollum.

“I don’t agree with it,” Lillard said breaking up the Blazers’ backcourt (via Ashish Mathur of Pro Hoops Digest). “I think it’s that simple. I think it’s the easiest thing to say. I don’t agree with it, though. I’m not the guy making decisions.”

Lillard earned the All-NBA nod after enjoying another productive season in Portland, averaging 26.9 PPG and 6.6 APG.

Check out more Northwest Division notes below:

  • Jerami Grants improvement since he joined the Thunder has been a point a pride for both himself and the organization. As he heads for free agency this summer, Grant — who has admitted he wants to return to the Oklahoma City — may have priced himself out of the team, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes.
  • Josh Huestis proved himself this season but his next NBA chapter may be with an organization other than the Thunder, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes. Huestis’ pending unrestricted free agency — just like Grant’s  — is complicated by the financial complications Paul George‘s free agency presents and how he fits on the roster long-term.
  • Timberwolves big man Nemanja Bjelica cannot wait for the opportunity to suit up for the Serbian national team. “I love to play at home,” he said, “and I can’t wait to do it again, soon. Being supported by thousands of fans is the best, and this unity around the national team gives us a lot of extra energy.”
  • During an appearance on The Lowe Post podcast with colleague’s Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst, Adrian Wojnarowski said he feels that Minnesota would move on from Tom Thibodeau before trading Karl-Anthony Towns (via UPROXX). “I think their owner would trade management/the coach before he would trade Karl-Anthony Towns,” Wojnarowski said. “I don’t think they would allow that. I just don’t believe they’d allow that kind of decision.”

NBA Announces 2017/18 All-NBA Teams

The NBA has formally announced the All-NBA First, Second, and Third Teams for the 2017/18 season, with James Harden and LeBron James leading the way as the two unanimous selections for the First Team.

The voting results will have major financial implications for the three All-NBA centers, Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, and Karl-Anthony Towns. As Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter), Davis is now eligible for a supermax extension from the Pelicans next summer. Davis will be eligible to sign that deal, which projects to be worth $230MM, as of July 1, 2019.

As for Embiid, missing out on a First Team nod means his maximum-salary contract will remain at 25% of the cap rather than being bumped up to 30%. That means he’ll miss out on approximately $29MM over the next five years, as Dan Feldman of NBC Sports details.

Towns, meanwhile, will be eligible for an extension worth 30% of the cap this summer, Marks tweets. An extension of that sort, which would make the cap outlook in Minnesota very interesting, would go into effect for the 2019/20 season.

The full All-NBA teams are listed below, with their vote totals in parentheses. Players received five points for a First Team vote, three points for a Second Team vote, and one point for a Third Team vote, so Harden and James scored a perfect 500 — First Team nods from all 100 voters.

First Team

  • Guard: James Harden, Rockets (500)
  • Guard: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers (432)
  • Forward: LeBron James, Cavaliers (500)
  • Forward: Kevin Durant, Warriors (426)
  • Center: Anthony Davis, Pelicans (492)

Second Team

Third Team

Among those results, the tightest race saw DeRozan edge Curry by a single point for a spot on the All-NBA Second Team. Both players received two First Team votes and 39 Second Team votes, with DeRozan grabbing one extra Third Team vote (38 to 37) to bump him up to the Second Team ahead of Curry.

As for the players who didn’t quite make the cut, Rockets point guard Chris Paul (54 points), Jazz center Rudy Gobert (51), Celtics guard Kyrie Irving (42), and Sixers guard/forward Ben Simmons (36) received the most support.

Al Horford (Celtics), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets), Andre Drummond (Pistons), Clint Capela (Rockets), Draymond Green (Warriors), Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Steven Adams (Thunder), Donovan Mitchell (Jazz), Klay Thompson (Warriors), Trevor Ariza (Rockets), DeMarcus Cousins (Pelicans), Dwight Howard (Hornets), Kevin Love (Cavaliers), and Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks) also each received at least one All-NBA vote.

Rival Teams Keeping Eye On Karl-Anthony Towns

After discussing rumors of potential tension between Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves on a podcast last week, Brian Windhorst appeared on ESPN to further address the situation in Minnesota, as Dan Feldman of NBC Sports relays. According to Windhorst, rival teams around the NBA appear to be keeping a close eye on Towns.

“Let’s just put it this way: I didn’t make this up,” Windhorst said, per Feldman. “People in the league have been saying, ‘You know, maybe we should call and take a look and see what’s going on with Karl Towns.’ Now, he and Tom Thibodeau did not have the greatest season together. I think that’s far to say. They recently fired Vince Legarza, who’s his strength and conditioning coach – or he’s actually his workout coach – with the Wolves and, according to The Athletic, didn’t tell him about it. He found out when everybody else did.

“I don’t think that the Wolves are looking to trade him,” Windhorst continued. “But teams are definitely sniffing around as if maybe there’s something here.”

Windhorst also alluded to a report from back in January about the Clippers calling the Timberwolves and offering Blake Griffin in a deal for Towns before they ultimately sent Griffin to Detroit. At the time, the proposal seemed like an out-of-nowhere Hail Mary by the Clips, but the latest rumblings out of Minnesota put that offer into a clearer context.

According to Windhorst, the Timberwolves have already received some calls on Towns, including that one from the Clippers, and they’ll likely keep getting more inquiries. Still, that doesn’t mean that anything will happen on this front. Towns is one of the most valuable young players in the NBA, and Minnesota is well positioned to keep him under team control for years to come.

The former first overall pick will be extension-eligible for the first time during this offseason, and fourth-year players rarely turn down maximum-salary contract offers. Even if the Wolves decide not to put such an offer on the table this year, or Towns passes on it, he’d be a restricted free agent in 2019, giving Minnesota the opportunity to match any offer sheet he signs.

Tension Between Karl-Anthony Towns, Wolves?

The relationship between the Timberwolves and All-Star big man Karl-Anthony Towns is “not in a good place internally,” according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe.

Speaking on his podcast, The Lowe Post, along with colleague Brian Windhorst, Lowe alluded to tension between both sides. Windhorst added that it’s possible that Towns’ name comes up in trade talks this summer.

“I don’t think Anthony Davis is going anywhere anytime soon,” Windhorst said (via Bleacher Report). “But Karl Towns…now that might be a different story.” 

Towns, 22, is coming off a third consecutive season of averaging a double-double while playing in all 82 games. This season, he made his first All-Star team while averaging 21.3 PPG and 12.3 RPG for Minnesota. He’ll be eligible for an extension this offseason.

While there is no indication that Minnesota is looking to deal Towns, this is not the first time that reports of issues within the organization have surfaced. In mid-March, reports surfaced that Andrew Wiggins had “whispered to teammates” that he was frustrated becoming the third option to Towns and Jimmy Butler.

The Timberwolves snuck into the postseason on the final day of the regular season, ending a 14-year postseason drought. While that progress was a welcome sight, the Timberwolves will have a lot of issues to address this summer.

Northwest Notes: Thibodeau, Exum, Hood, George

Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau shook up his coaching staff Monday by cutting ties with three assistants, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic reports. The most notable of the cuts is player development coach Vince Legarza, who worked closely with center Karl-Anthony Towns. Shooting coach Peter Patton and assistant video coordinator Wes Bohn are the other coaches who will not return. Towns was not given prior notice of Legarza’s departure, Krawczynski continues. Thibodeau may not replace all of those coaches since he has told some people that he’d like to downsize, Krawczynski adds.

In other notable developments around the Northwest Division:

  • Jazz point guard Dante Exum has a strained left hamstring and his status for the remainder of the series against the Rockets is uncertain, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets. Exum underwent an MRI and further evaluation Monday after he suffered the injury in Game 4. Exum and Ricky Rubio, who also has a hamstring injury, will not play in Game 5 on Tuesday, the team tweets.
  • There’s no chance guard Rodney Hood will return to the Jazz as a free agent, Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets.  Hood will be a restricted free agent if he receives a $3.47MM qualifying offer from the Cavaliers. Otherwise, he’ll be unrestricted.
  • The Thunder are willing to pay the steep cost of retaining free agent Paul George, according to Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman.  George will likely sign a max contract in free agency this summer. The team wants to remain competitive, even if it means footing the bill for $260MM in salary and luxury-tax penalties, Dawson adds.