Minnesota Timberwolves

Timberwolves Eyeing Aaron Brooks, Other Free Agents

Having missed out on free agent forward Dante Cunningham, the Timberwolves remain on the lookout for a couple more veterans to fill out their roster, and Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News suggests (via Twitter) that it’s worth keeping an eye on Aaron Brooks. While Minnesota wants to sign a wing player, the team also continue to seek a backup point guard, and Tom Thibodeau has a history with Brooks, a former Bull.

Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune also identifies Brooks as a potential target for the Timberwolves, suggesting that C.J. Watson and Kirk Hinrich – another player with a Thibodeau connection – may be options as well. As for possible fits at the forward spot, Zgoda indicates that Gerald Green and Thomas Robinson are among the veteran free agents who could be in play for Minnesota.

NBA Teams That Can’t Offer More Than The Minimum

At this point in the NBA offseason, most free agents who remain on the open market will have to settle for minimum salary contracts, if they receive an NBA offer at all.

There are some exceptions, particularly on the restricted free agent market, where Mason Plumlee just signed a three-year, $41MM deal with the Nuggets. Within the last week or two though, we’ve seen top remaining unrestricted free agents like Shabazz Muhammad, Tony Allen, and Andrew Bogut settle for minimum salary contracts.

That’s good news for several teams who have used all their available cap room and/or exceptions and can only offer minimum salary contracts for the rest of the 2017/18 league year. They won’t necessarily be at a disadvantage when it comes to signing free agents if those players aren’t being offered more than the minimum by teams with the means to do so.

In some cases though, an inability to offer more than the minimum can handicap a team. Dante Cunningham‘s free agent decision this week reflects this — according to multiple reports, the deal Cunningham agreed to with the Pelicans is actually worth $2.3MM, which is more than his minimum salary of $2.1MM. While we haven’t seen the official terms of Cunningham’s new contract yet, it’s possible that the $200K difference was one reason Cunningham chose New Orleans over a suitor like the Timberwolves, who could only offer the minimum.

Teams with the flexibility to offer more than the minimum could also benefit later in the NBA season. For instance, if Dwyane Wade negotiates a buyout with the Bulls and considers which team to join as a free agent, the fact that the Heat have retained their $4.328MM room exception could be a factor — it would allow Miami to make a stronger offer than the Cavs could.

With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the teams that currently don’t have the ability to offer more than the minimum salary, which is $815,615 for a first-year player:

  • Boston Celtics
  • Detroit Pistons
  • Golden State Warriors
  • Houston Rockets: $350 of mid-level exception available
  • Los Angeles Clippers: $774,770 of mid-level exception available
  • Memphis Grizzlies: $1,440,385 of mid-level exception available, but will use at least $815,615 to sign Ivan Rabb.
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • New York Knicks
  • Oklahoma City Thunder

Meanwhile, the following teams have less than $3.29MM (the value of the bi-annual exception) to offer to free agents:

  • Cleveland Cavaliers: $2,549,143 of taxpayer mid-level exception available
  • Utah Jazz: $1,128,000 of room exception available
  • Washington Wizards: $1,902,000 of taxpayer mid-level exception available

Of course, just because a team has an exception available, that doesn’t mean the club will be eager to use it. Teams like the Bucks or Pelicans, for instance, still have various MLE and BAE exception money available, but their proximity to the luxury tax threshold will make them reluctant to offer more than the minimum salary to anyone the rest of the way.

For a full breakdown of how teams have used their mid-level, room, and bi-annual exceptions for the 2017/18 league year, be sure to check out our MLE tracker and BAE tracker.

Andre Iguodala Nearly Signed With Rockets In Free Agency

An eventful series of free agent meetings in July had Andre Iguodala on the verge of signing with the Rockets before the Warriors swooped in and met his demands at the last minute, Chris Haynes writes in a fascinating piece for ESPN.com.

Back on July 1, we heard that Iguodala was expected to circle back to Golden State after getting an offer he liked from Houston, but Haynes goes into far more detail in describing the process that got Iguodala to that point. Here are a few highlights from the ESPN report:

  • As free agency opened, the Warriors increased their initial offer for Iguodala to $42MM over three years, with a partial guarantee in year three, according to Haynes. However, the swingman wasn’t satisfied with Golden State’s pitch and opted to take meetings with several suitors rather than accepting the Dubs’ offer.
  • The Lakers were the first team to speak with Iguodala, but as was the case throughout free agency, L.A. only offered one year, aiming to preserve 2018 cap room. The Lakers’ one-year offer was worth $20MM, per Haynes.
  • Iguodala met with the Spurs next, and San Antonio offered a fully guaranteed four-year deal. The Spurs only had their mid-level exception to offer, meaning they couldn’t offer more than about $36MM, but Iguodala – who likes being involved in the tech world – was intrigued by the team’s proximity to Austin.
  • The Kings met with Iguodala next and, armed with about $43MM in cap room, essentially asked him to name his price — within reason. If Iguodala named a price that Sacramento was willing to match, the Kings wanted a commitment on the spot, according to Haynes. Not wanting to commit right away, the 33-year-old held off on specifics, but recognized that Sacramento likely had the means to offer him the most money.
  • The Rockets were the next team to make a pitch to Iguodala, and one source within his camp called it “the best recruiting presentation of all time,” per Haynes. Houston was limited to its mid-level exception, but president of basketball operations Daryl Morey began proposing “lucrative sign-and-trade scenarios like a mad scientist” in an effort to meet Iguodala’s demands. Following the meeting with the Rockets, Iguodala cancelled his remaining meetings, including sit-downs with the Sixers, Clippers, Timberwolves, and Jazz, and there was “a strong sentiment that he was Houston-bound.”
  • Iguodala decided to meet one last time with the Warriors, though he expected to use the meeting as an opportunity to say goodbye, sources tell Haynes. Golden State offered a fully guaranteed three-year, $45MM deal, but Iguodala wasn’t budging from his asking price of $16MM per year, and intended to sign with the Rockets if Golden State didn’t meet that demand.
  • Shortly after Iguodala’s meeting with the Warriors ended, GM Bob Myers went to team owner Joe Lacob to ask for a little more money, and received approval to offer $48MM over three years, which was enough to bring Iguodala back into the fold.

Lakers Sign Andrew Bogut To One-Year Deal

SEPTEMBER 19: The signing is official, Bill Oram of the Southern California News Group relays on Twitter.

SEPTEMBER 18: The Lakers have reached an agreement with free agent center Andrew Bogut, agent David Bauman tells Shams Charania of The Vertical. According to Charania, Bogut will sign a one-year contract with Los Angeles. David Aldridge of TNT adds (via Twitter) that the deal will be worth the veteran minimum, while ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne tweets that it’ll be partially guaranteed.Andrew Bogut vertical

Bogut, who will turn 33 in November, began last season with the Mavericks, appearing in 26 games (21 starts) for Dallas before being traded to the Sixers in a deadline deal. He was subsequently bought out by Philadelphia and joined the Cavaliers as a free agent, but fractured his tibia in his first game with his new team, ending his season.

Bauman suggested last week that a CT scan on Bogut’s tibia showed “complete healing,” with a radiology report showing that the center’s leg is “solidly united.” With a medical green light, Bogut was expected to find a new NBA home quickly, and ultimately landed with the Lakers, who will add him to a promising frontcourt that already features Brook Lopez, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., Ivica Zubac, and rookies Kyle Kuzma and Thomas Bryant.

[RELATED: Lakers’ depth chart at RosterResource.com]

Even if he’s fully healthy heading into the 2017/18 season, Bogut likely won’t make a major on-court impact at this point in his career — since the start of the 2012/13 season, he has been a role player, averaging 5.9 PPG in 23.5 minutes per contest. Still, he has provided reliable rim protecting and rebounding, chipping in 1.6 BPG and 8.2 RPG during that stretch, so he could have some value in L.A.’s rotation.

According to Aldridge (via Twitter), the Timberwolves made a “major pitch” to Bogut, and the Celtics and Cavaliers were in the mix too. However, the former first overall pick liked L.A.’s “vibe,” not to mention the opportunity to reunite with head coach Luke Walton, who played a part in recruiting the ex-Warrior (Twitter link). While Boston was frequently linked to Bogut during his free agency, Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe (Twitter link) suspects the Celtics didn’t push overly hard to land him.

The Lakers entered the day with 19 players under contract, so their roster will be at the 20-man offseason maximum when they finalize their agreement with Bogut.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pelicans To Re-Sign Dante Cunningham

Free agent forward Dante Cunningham has made a decision on where he’ll play in 2017/18, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical, who reports that Cunningham has agreed to re-sign with the Pelicans.Dante Cunningham vertical

According to Charania, Cunningham will get a one-year, $2.3MM deal from New Orleans. The minimum salary for a player with Cunningham’s NBA experience is $2,106,470, so if his salary exceeds that, the Pelicans would have to use a different exception — they also wouldn’t get any help from the NBA to cover the full amount, like they would for a one-year, minimum salary deal.

Either way, Cunningham is set to return to the franchise with which he spent the last three seasons. In 2016/17, the 30-year-old forward averaged 6.6 PPG and 4.2 RPG in a rotation role for New Orleans, and also added a reliable three-point shot to his arsenal — Cunningham’s 1.1 3PG and .392 3PT% were both career highs by a wide margin.

While it looked initially like Cunningham’s improved outside shot might make him a more coveted target on the free agent market, he didn’t draw as much interest as expected. A handful of teams – including the Timberwolves, Bucks, and Raptors, per Charania – were said to be in the running for him, but his new 2017/18 salary will be worth less than the $3.1MM player option he turned down in June.

Still, the Pelicans are likely happy to get Cunningham back at a reduced rate, particularly with Solomon Hill expected to miss a significant portion of the 2017/18 season with a torn hamstring. While New Orleans has an All-NBA caliber duo up front in Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, the club doesn’t have a ton of depth at forward and could use more shooting help. Cunningham’s ability to play at both forward spots and his improved three-point shot should be valuable.

Once they finalize their reported agreements with Cunningham and Martell Webster, the Pelicans will have 19 players under contract. Cunningham’s deal would represent the club’s 14th fully guaranteed salary.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NBA’s Board Of Governors To Examine Revenue Sharing System

ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst have published an expansive and well-researched report on NBA teams’ finances, providing details on the league’s revenue sharing system, the impact from national and local television deals, and how a lack of net income for NBA franchises could push the league toward considering relocation or expansion.

The report is wide-ranging and detailed, so we’re going to tackle it by dividing it up into several sections, but it’s certainly worth reading in full to get a better picture of whether things stand in the NBA. Let’s dive in…

Which teams are losing money?

  • Nine teams reportedly lost money last season, even after revenue sharing. Those clubs were the Hawks, Nets, Pistons, Grizzlies, Magic, Wizards, Bucks, Cavaliers, and Spurs. The latter two teams – Cleveland and San Antonio – initially came out ahead, but paid into the league’s revenue sharing program, pushing them into the red.
  • Meanwhile, the Hornets, Kings, Pacers, Pelicans, Suns, Timberwolves, and Trail Blazers also would have lost money based on net income if not for revenue sharing, according to Lowe and Windhorst.
  • As a league, the NBA is still doing very well — the overall net income for the 30 teams combined was $530MM, per ESPN. That number also only takes into account basketball income, and doesn’t include income generated via non-basketball events for teams that own their arenas.
  • The players’ union and its economists have long been skeptical of NBA teams’ bookkeeping, alleging that clubs are using techniques to make themselves appear less profitable than they actually are, Windhorst and Lowe note. The union has the power to conduct its own audit of several teams per season, and it has begun to take advantage of that power — according to ESPN, the union audited five teams last season, and the new CBA will allow up to 10 teams to be audited going forward.

How does the gap between large and small market teams impact income?

  • Even after paying $49MM in revenue sharing, the Lakers finished the 2016/17 with a $115MM profit in terms of net income, per ESPN. That was the highest profit in the NBA, ahead of the second-place Warriors, and could be attributed in large part to the $149MM the Lakers received from their huge local media rights deals.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, the Grizzlies earned a league-low $9.4MM in local media rights, which significantly affected their bottom line — even after receiving $32MM in revenue sharing, Memphis lost money for the season. The Grizzlies will start a new TV deal this year that should help boost their revenue, but it still won’t come anywhere close to matching deals like the Lakers‘.
  • The biggest local TV deals help drive up the NBA’s salary cap, with teams like the Lakers and Knicks earning in excess of $100MM from their media agreements. According to the ESPN report, the Knicks made $10MM more on their TV deal than the six lowest-earning teams combined.
  • As one owner explained to ESPN, “National revenues drive up the cap, but local revenues are needed to keep up with player salaries. If a team can’t generate enough local revenues, they lose money.”
  • Playoff revenue from a big-market team like the Warriors also helps push up the salary cap. Sources tell Lowe and Windhorst that Golden State made about $44.3MM in net income from just nine home playoff games last season, more than doubling the playoff revenue of the next-best team (the Cavaliers at about $20MM).

How is revenue sharing affecting teams’ earnings?

  • Ten teams paid into the NBA’s revenue sharing system in 2016/17, with 15 teams receiving that money. The Sixers, Raptors, Nets, Heat, and Mavericks neither paid nor received any revenue sharing money. Four teams – the Warriors, Lakers, Bulls, and Knicks – accounted for $144MM of the total $201MM paid in revenue sharing.
  • While there’s general agreement throughout the NBA that revenue sharing is working as intended, some teams have “bristled about the current scale of monetary redistribution,” according to ESPN. “The need for revenue sharing was supposed to be for special circumstances, not permanent subsidies,” one large-market team owner said.
  • The Grizzlies, Hornets, Pacers, Bucks, and Jazz have each received at least $15MM apiece in each of the last four years via revenue sharing.
  • However, not all small-market teams receive revenue-sharing money — if a team outperforms its expectations based on market size, it forfeits its right to that money. For instance, the Thunder and Spurs have each paid into revenue sharing for the last six years.

Why might league-wide income issues lead to relocation or expansion?

  • At least one team owner has raised the idea of expansion, since an expansion fee for a new franchise could exceed $1 billion and it wouldn’t be subject to splitting 50/50 with players. A $1 billion expansion fee split 30 ways would work out to $33MM+ per team.
  • Meanwhile, larger-market teams who aren’t thrilled about their revenue-sharing fees have suggested that small-market clubs losing money every year should consider relocating to bigger markets, sources tell ESPN.
  • As Lowe and Windhorst observe, the Pistons – who lost more money than any other team last season – are undergoing a relocation of sorts, moving from the suburbs to downtown Detroit, in the hopes that the move will help boost revenue.

What are the next steps? Are changes coming?

  • The gap between the most and least profitable NBA teams is expected to be addressed at the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting next week, per Lowe and Windhorst. Team owners have scheduled a half-day review of the league’s revenue sharing system.
  • Obviously, large- and small-market teams view the issue differently. While some large-market teams have complained about the revenue sharing system, they’re outnumbered, with smaller-market teams pushing those more successful clubs to share more of their profits, according to ESPN.
  • Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen is one of the loudest voices pushing for more “robust” revenue sharing, sources tell ESPN. Some team owners have argued that the system should ensure all teams make a profit, while one even suggested every team should be guaranteed a $20MM profit. There will be “pushback” on those ideas, Lowe and Windhorst note. “This is a club where everyone knows the rules when they buy in,” one owner said.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, some teams have floated the idea of limiting the amount of revenue sharing money a team can receive if it has been taking payments for several consecutive years.
  • Any change to the revenue sharing system that is formally proposed at the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting would require a simple majority (16 votes to 14) to pass.

Wolves Waiting on Cunningham, Taking Things Slow With Bjelica

  • Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News passes along a couple updates from Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, tweeting that Taylor has spoken personally to Dante Cunningham and is waiting on the forward’s free agent decision. Wolfson adds that Nemanja Bjelica believes he’s ready to go after suffering a broken foot last season, but the club will take things slow with him in camp.

Wolves, Wiggins Expected To Finalize Extension Soon

The Timberwolves and fourth-year forward Andrew Wiggins are expected to finalize a five-year, maximum salary contract extension in the coming days, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link). Having spoken to team owner Glen Taylor, Wolfson suggests that the two sides are likely to get the deal done before Minnesota’s first practice on Saturday.

We heard nearly a month ago that Wiggins had decided to part ways with agent Bill Duffy shortly after Duffy had negotiated a potential five-year extension for his client. The deal between Wiggins and the Wolves wasn’t expected to get done until the 22-year-old sorted out new representation, at which point the club’s offer figures to remain on the table. While the exact value of that offer won’t be known until the 2018/19 salary cap is finalized, a maximum deal currently projects to be worth about $148MM, based on the most recent cap estimates.

That would be a significant investment in Wiggins, who has developed into one of the NBA’s most dangerous scorers, but struggled on the defensive side of the ball last season, and doesn’t contribute much in other statistical categories. Wiggins increased his three-point percentage to 35.6% in 2016/17, which was easily a career high, but averaged a modest 4.0 RPG and 2.3 APG.

Taylor has reportedly indicated that he wants to meet with the former No. 1 pick face-to-face before locking in his new deal in order to receive assurances that Wiggins is committed both to the franchise and to improving his all-around game.

Assuming Wiggins and the Wolves finalize an agreement, the next major investment on tap for the franchise would likely come a year from now, when Karl-Anthony Towns will become extension-eligible for the first time.

Timberwolves Sign Melo Trimble

SEPTEMBER 18, 1:07pm: The deal is official, according to a tweet from the team.

AUGUST 1, 3:07pm: The Timberwolves and former Maryland point guard Melo Trimble have reached an agreement on a contract, league sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Wojnarowski reports that Trimble will receive a partially guaranteed deal from Minnesota.

Trimble is coming off a 2016/17 campaign in which he averaged 16.8 PPG, 3.7 APG, and 3.6 RPG for the Terrapins. The 6’3″ guard was a junior last season, but elected to forgo his remaining NCAA eligibility by entering the draft a year early. He ranked 84th on DraftExpress’ big board, and went undrafted.

A June report from ESPN indicated that Trimble had agreed to a free agent deal with the Sixers. However, the 22-year-old’s agreement with Philadelphia only applied to the Summer League — the two sides didn’t have a deal in place to bring him to training camp with the 76ers. Trimble appeared in three Summer League games in Las Vegas for the Sixers, averaging 10.3 PPG.

The Timberwolves no longer have any cap room or exceptions available, so Trimble will get a minimum salary contract. If he doesn’t make the team’s regular season roster, he’s probably a good bet to eventually join the Iowa Wolves, Minnesota’s new G League team, as an affiliate player.

Timberwolves Sign Amile Jefferson

SEPTEMBER 18, 1:04pm: The deal is official, according to a tweet from the team.

AUGUST 31, 11:50am: The Timberwolves have reached an agreement to add former Duke forward Amile Jefferson to their roster, reports Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders (via Twitter). According to Scotto, Jefferson will get a one-year, partially guaranteed contract from Minnesota.

Jefferson, 24, won an NCAA championship with Duke in 2015, then spent two more years with the program. In 2016/17, the 6’9″ forward averaged 10.9 PPG, 8.4 RPG, and 1.9 BPG for the Blue Devils.

After going undrafted in June, Jefferson caught on with the Timberwolves for Summer League play, and appeared in five games for the club in Las Vegas. However, he only averaged 11.0 minutes per contest in those games, so his production was limited.

The Timberwolves only have 11 players on guaranteed contracts, but remain in the market for at least three veteran free agents — two wings and a point guard. As such, Jefferson is unlikely to earn a spot on the club’s regular season roster, and is a better bet to start the season with the Iowa Wolves, Minnesota’s new G League affiliate.

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