Minnesota Timberwolves

Rubio Thrives In Wake Of Deadline

Although there was plenty of speculation that Ricky Rubio could be on the move, the Timberwolves didn’t end up parting ways with the sixth-year veteran. According to Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune, the 26-year-old hasn’t let the rumors impact his game.

Nothing happened, rightLife goes on,” the point guard told Zgoda. In the Timberwolves’ first game since the Thursday deadline, Rubio has dropped consecutive double-doubles.

Teammate Karl-Anthony Towns cites Rubio’s presence in the locker room as an asset for the young Timberwolves. “Ricky is a big part of our team,” Towns said. “Not even from just a skill and leader standpoint. But just morale. Just seeing him in the locker room lifts us up.

The Timberwolves currently sit three games back of the Western Conference’s eight-seed and have publicly said as recently as this month that they’re committed to making the playoffs. Holding on to Rubio, as opposed to turning over the offense to rookie Kris Dunn or reserve Tyus Jones, may help them get there.

NBA Teams Below Salary Cap For 2016/17

At this point in the season, most teams aren’t going to do much with any leftover cap room. Teams are no longer able to make trades, and most free agents still on the market won’t demand more than the minimum.

Still, there’s reason to consider which teams remain below the cap after this week’s trade activity. With useful veteran players potentially hitting the free agent market as a result of contract buyouts, a team with some extra cap room might have a leg up on teams without any spending flexibility.

For instance, if the Rockets and Warriors were to pursue the same free agent – perhaps Andrew Bogut, if he’s bought out by the Sixers – Houston could offer a deal worth up to about $3.5MM with cap room, while Golden State would be limited to offering a prorated minimum salary worth closer to $400K. That’s a significant difference.

It’s also worth keeping an eye on teams that remain below the minimum salary floor, since those clubs could enter the bidding for a bought-out player or could claim a player off waivers. The Jazz, for instance, probably don’t need a big man like Bogut, but if they wanted him and he became available, Utah has enough cap room to claim his entire $11MM+ contract. That would keep him off the open market and allow the Jazz to surpass the salary floor.

Using our Salary Cap Snapshots, let’s take a closer look at the teams below the cap, starting with teams still below the salary floor:

Teams below the salary floor:

  1. Utah Jazz: $13.64MM below cap ($4.23MM below floor)
  2. Minnesota Timberwolves: $12.66MM below cap ($3.24MM below floor)
  3. Denver Nuggets: $11.56MM below cap ($2.15MM below floor)
  4. Brooklyn Nets: $10.21MM below cap ($793K below floor)

Less than a month ago, there were six teams below the salary floor. Since then, the Nets and Nuggets have taken major steps toward the floor, while the Suns and Sixers have gotten above it entirely. That leaves the Jazz and Timberwolves as the clubs furthest below the salary floor.

As we’ve noted in the past, there’s no real penalty if a team remains below the floor — the team simply has to make up the difference by paying their current players a little more money. However, the Jazz and Wolves figure to be mulling other opportunities to reach the floor. That could mean placing a waiver claim or – in Utah’s case – renegotiating a contract.

We haven’t heard any rumors lately about the Jazz discussing a new deal with an extension-eligible veteran like George Hill or Derrick Favors, so that seems like a long shot. But the team does have until the end of February to renegotiate and extend either player’s contract, so it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Teams below the cap, but above the floor:

  1. Phoenix Suns: $9.226MM below cap
  2. Philadelphia 76ers: $8.62MM below cap
  3. Indiana Pacers: $4.14MM below cap
  4. Boston Celtics: $1.11MM below cap

Although the Suns and Sixers have inched above the salary floor, they’re not necessarily out of the woods quite yet. Phoenix needs the contracts of Jared Sullinger and Mike Scott to pass through waivers unclaimed, while the Sixers will require the same for Bogut if they eventually cut him. If any of those deals are claimed, they’ll move to another team’s cap, pushing Phoenix or Philadelphia back below the floor.

Teams that could clear cap room by renouncing exceptions:

  1. Houston Rockets: $3.54MM below cap if TPEs are renounced (largest TPE: $3.33MM)
  2. Oklahoma City Thunder: $3.05MM below cap if lone TPE ($4.94MM) is renounced
  3. Milwaukee Bucks: $1.75MM below cap if TPEs are renounced (largest TPE: $5MM)
  4. Chicago Bulls: $1.59MM below cap if lone TPE ($5.46MM) is renounced

These teams are technically over the cap, but could go under if they chose to renounce their trade exceptions. In some cases, that might not make much sense. For instance, the Bucks and Bulls would have less than $2MM in cap room if they renounced their exceptions. Both teams have trade exceptions worth at least $5MM, so it probably makes sense to stay over the cap for now and see if those exceptions come in handy around the draft.

On the other hand, the amount of cap room the Rockets would have if they renounced their trade exceptions would be greater than the amount of their largest TPE, so it makes sense for Houston to dip below the cap, expunging those TPEs from their books. That would also allow the Rockets to use cap room to sign a free agent, something they couldn’t do using a trade exception.

The rest of the NBA’s 18 teams don’t currently have cap room. That includes the Lakers, whose moves this week took them over the cap by just $316K.

Wolves Notes: Rubio, Muhammad, Thibodeau, Wiggins

Now that the dust has settled from the trade deadline, Ricky Rubio has high aspirations for the 22-35 Timberwolves.

“I believe this team can make the playoffs and we can make a push,” Rubio told Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune (Twitter link). Minnesota will have a tough road ahead to forge a postseason run. The Wolves entered Friday three games behind the Nuggets for the eighth-seed of the Western Conference, and two teams ahead of them- the Pelicans and Mavericks- made stellar deadline acquisitions to boost their chances.

Rubio spoke to reporters, including Jon Krawczynsk of the Associated Press, about the human element of being mentioned in trade rumors.

“As pros, we know what’s the deal,” Rubio said. “But yeah, this time felt a little different. It’s all rumors. Until it doesn’t go down, you don’t believe it…I know this is a business and it has to be like that.”

More from Minnesota…

  • Shabazz Muhammad will hope to stick with the T’Wolves in restricted free agency. “Come this summer I want to be Timberwolf,” the former UCLA Bruin told Darren Wolfson of KSTP Eyewitness News (Twitter link). Minnesota was “determined” to move Muhammad during the trade deadline, according to David Aldridge of TNT. Despite being linked to the Wizards at one point, Muhammad ultimately stayed put. With the assurance of staying with Minnesota through the season, Muhammad is focused on helping the Wolves enter the playoff picture. “It’s a great opportunity for us,” Muhammad said. “We’re going to finish this season out strong, and we’ve still got a lot to show.”
  • Coach Tom Thibodeau had a measured view of the trade deadline, claiming no trades really came close. “If something made sense, we would have done it,” Thibodeau told the Associated Press. “But it had to make sense and make us better. If it didn’t, just be patient, continue to work.” With trade talks in the rear-view mirror, Thibodeau discussed his approach following the All-Star break. “Before the break we laid out what we wanted them to do when they were away,’’ Thibodeau told Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune. “The first day back (Wednesday) was more activation, just to get the bodies going again. And then we had a really good practice Thursday, and shootaround today. Again, the big thing is to make sure you have a routine established in terms of how you prepare to play.”
  • A playoff chase would benefit the young Timberwolves, Jace Frederick of Twin Cities writes. While FiveThirtyEight currently gives Minnesota a 2% chance of making the postseason, it’s a breath of fresh air for Wolves fans to see their team involved in the playoff picture. “It’s a good feeling knowing that we’re in the mix,” Andrew Wiggins said. “And if we put in a good stretch, we can put ourselves in a really good position. We’re getting better every game. Some games we play bad and there’s a little setback, but we keep playing hard, practicing hard, learning a lot of new things.”

Post-Deadline Housekeeping: New TPEs, Open Roster Spots

There were no superstars on the move on Thursday, but NBA teams made eight trades, and there were many more signings and cuts completed once the deadline passed. In the wake of the deadline, we’ll take a look at a few roster- and cap-related notes, rounding up the new traded player exceptions that teams created on Thursday, as well as examining which teams still have space available on their rosters.

Let’s dive in…

New trade exceptions:

Several over-the-cap teams acquired new trade exceptions on Thursday. They’ll all expire on February 23, 2018, a year after they were created, or until they’re used or renounced by the teams below. If a club wants to use cap room, it must renounce its trade exceptions, but until then, these TPEs can be used in the summer or next season to acquire players.

Here’s the breakdown, in order of TPE value:

  • Dallas Mavericks: $6,642,537
  • Chicago Bulls: $5,462,000
  • Milwaukee Bucks: $5,000,000
  • Atlanta Hawks: $3,333,334
  • Houston Rockets: $3,333,333
  • Dallas Mavericks: $1,514,160
  • Houston Rockets: $612,172
  • Toronto Raptors: $328,000
  • Houston Rockets: $233,880

Some notes related to these TPEs:

  • Multiple teams on this list, including the Rockets and Bucks, could open up cap room by renouncing their trade exceptions. In Houston’s case, this is particularly notable, since the club would create more than $3.5MM in cap space by renouncing these TPEs. That cap room could come in handy very soon if the Rockets are trying to entice a free agent to sign with them instead of another contender that can only offer the minimum.
  • As is always the case with TPEs, some of these exceptions will be more useful than others. The Mavericks could end up doing something interesting with their $6.6MM+ TPE, but the Raptors will almost certainly never use theirs for $328K.
  • The Thunder also came out of Thursday’s action with a new TPE — sort of. Oklahoma City had created a trade exception worth $7.4MM on November 1 when the team sent Ersan Ilyasova to Philadelphia. The Thunder used a portion of that exception at the deadline to absorb Doug McDermott‘s salary, leaving approximately $4.94MM left on it. OKC will have until November 1 to use the rest of that TPE.
  • For the complete list of trade exceptions across the NBA, click here.

Teams with open roster spots:

A day after the trade deadline, the list of teams with open roster spots is incredibly fluid. Some teams that acquired players in trades don’t have any use for those players, and will waive them. Other clubs will fill roster holes with D-League call-ups, while other teams will be a little more patient and wait out the buyout market.

All of this is to say that this list is up to date at the time of publication, but could change quickly as teams make more moves this weekend. Here are the teams that currently have at least one open spot on their 15-man roster, with their player count noted in parentheses:

  • Charlotte Hornets (13): The 10-day contracts for Ray McCallum and Mike Tobey expired overnight, so Charlotte has two open spots. The team reportedly plans to use one on Johnny O’Bryant.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (14): The Cavs have 13 guaranteed contracts, plus Derrick Williams‘ 10-day deal. The team expects to sign Deron Williams as well, so if any other roster additions are coming after that, Cleveland would need to clear a roster spot.
  • Dallas Mavericks (13): The Mavs have two openings after completing a two-for-one trade with the Sixers, then waiving Deron Williams.
  • Houston Rockets (14): The Rockets opened up a roster spot by trading K.J. McDaniels, and may waive Marcelo Huertas as well. Houston is expected to be active on the buyout market.
  • Milwaukee Bucks (14): The Bucks created a roster opening by sending Roy Hibbert to Denver, and they’re expected to fill it by signing Axel Toupane to a 10-day contract.
  • Minnesota Timberwolves (14): Unlike most of the teams on this list, the Wolves have carried an open roster spot for a while, and that didn’t change at the deadline.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (14): The Thunder traded three players to Chicago and received just two in return, creating an opening. They have their eye on free agents and buyout candidates.
  • Orlando Magic (14): Like Minnesota, the Magic were carrying an open roster spot prior to the deadline and didn’t make a move on Thursday.

The Suns will join this list as soon as they officially waive Mike Scott and Jared Sullinger, as is expected. They’ll fill one of those two newly-open spots with Ronnie Price. There are also three teams that have full 15-man rosters with at least one player on a 10-day contract. The Hawks, Warriors, and Pelicans fall into this category, with Briante Weber‘s second 10-day deal in Golden State set to expire soon.

For a full breakdown of NBA roster counts, check out our list.

Timberwolves Balked At Rose/Rubio Swap

3:04pm: A source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post (Twitter link) that the Wolves got “extra concerned” that they wouldn’t be able to re-sign Rose this summer, and didn’t want to acquire him as a rental.

2:40pm: The Timberwolves walked away from trade negotiations involving Ricky Rubio and Derrick Rose, Marc Stein of ESPN reports. The Knicks made a final push for a Derrick Rose-for-Ricky Rubio trade with no additional pieces, but Minnesota balked. (Twitter links).

Earlier today, the Knicks pushed Minnesota to include additional trade pieces along with Rubio. Apparently unable to receive other assets (New York was said to be interested in Nemanja Bjelica), the Knicks made a final push at a straight-up trade offer.

Ian Begley of ESPN corroborated Stein’s report, claiming the Knicks’ willingness to lower their demands came too late in negotiations. Phil Jackson had been looking for draft picks in trade talks with other teams, which may have been the sticking point with Scott Layden of the Timberwolves.

Barring a buyout, Derrick Rose appears set to finish the season in New York before testing the free agent market. Ricky Rubio, who remains ahead of Tyus Jones and Kris Dunn on Minnesota’s depth chart, is under contract through 2018/19.

Trade Talks Between Wolves, Knicks Stalled?

1:42pm: The talks between the Knicks and Wolves have “stalled significantly” with the deadline less than 20 minutes away, per Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link).

11:40am: The Knicks and Wolves remain engaged in discussions on a potential deal headlined by Rubio and Rose, reports ESPN’s Marc Stein (Twitter link).

8:35am: Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio continues to be a “significant” trade target for the Knicks today, league sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (via Twitter). We’ve heard in recent days that the two teams have discussed multiple variations of a deal involving Rubio and New York point guard Derrick Rose.

There had been some skepticism about the Knicks’ ability to trade Rose this week, since he has a $21MM+ expiring salary and some members of the organization were believed to be reluctant to take long-term salary back for him. However, as Marc Berman of The New York Post has noted, the Knicks have had interest in Rubio for several years, so it’s possible that he’s a player for whom the team would sacrifice summer cap room.

Because the Wolves are far below the cap, the team could trade Rubio straight up for Rose, despite a gap of nearly $8MM between their 2016/17 salaries. For Minnesota, such a move would allow the club to reach the salary floor this season and create some cap flexibility going forward. Tom Thibodeau‘s history with Rose may also hold some appeal if the Wolves view the former MVP as more than a rental.

Still, if the two sides can get something done, it may not just be a one-for-one swap. The Knicks are said to have some interest in Wolves forward Nemanja Bjelica as well, and ESPN’s Marc Stein tweets that New York’s desire to get another piece in the deal has been a sticking point so far.

Eastern Notes: Hawks, Celtics, Butler, Knicks

Whether it’s via trade or free agency, the Hawks are planning to add a third point guard to their roster, head coach Mike Budenholzer said today (Twitter link via Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal Constitution). Dennis Schroder has had a very solid season in Atlanta, but Malcolm Delaney has been up and down as his backup, and the team doesn’t really have additional depth at the position.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • On The Vertical’s live trade deadline show, Adrian Wojnarowski suggested that one reason the Celtics and Bulls haven’t moved forward in Jimmy Butler talks is because the Bulls would want at least a couple players capable of joining their rotation immediately, and Boston is more interested in using draft picks in a potential package.
  • The Knicks have yet to budge on their insistence that the Timberwolves add an additional player or draft pick to a Ricky Rubio/Derrick Rose swap, according to Ian Begley of ESPN.com. As Begley notes, it’ll be interesting to see if either side budges before the deadline.
  • J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.com takes a closer look at why the Wizards targeted Bojan Bogdanovic and were willing to give up a first-round pick for him.

Trade Rumors: Muhammad, Raptors, Collison, Mavs

The Timberwolves are “determined” to move Shabazz Muhammad today and hope to land a draft pick in return, reports TNT’s David Aldridge (via Twitter). One report earlier today suggested that Minnesota might attach Muhammad to Ricky Rubio, but Aldridge is unsure if Muhammad would be included in a potential Rubio/Derrick Rose swap.

Here are more trade rumors from around the NBA:

  • John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link) has heard that Raptors players would like to see the team acquire Suns forward P.J. Tucker, in the hopes of getting someone capable of defending LeBron James in the postseason.
  • Darren Collison, who is on an expiring contract, is drawing interest from many teams, but the Kings are holding firm on their asking price of a first-round pick, tweets David Aldridge of TNT. An earlier report identified the Bucks as a potential Collison suitor, but Charles F. Gardner of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link) says Milwaukee hasn’t engaged in talks with the Kings.
  • Now that they’ve found a taker for Andrew Bogut, the Mavericks have shifted their focus to a possible Deron Williams deal, tweets Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders.
  • The Wizards are exploring the market for a possible deal for a point guard, sources tell Kyler (Twitter link).
  • The Warriors aren’t active today, and figure to focus on the buyout market if they want to bolster their bench, according to Kyler (Twitter link).

Latest On Pistons Point Guard Reggie Jackson

Reggie Jackson is likely to stay put because of the Pistons’ high asking price, league executives told Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today (Twitter link).

The team’s front office — headed by president of basketball operations and coach Stan Van Gundy and GM Jeff Bower — has been aggressively shopping the point guard, Chris Mannix of The Vertical tweets, and is seeking a first-round pick, young player and an expiring contract in return.

The large package that the Pistons want for Jackson could indicate that they believe his inconsistent play this season is injury-related and that he’ll return to top form next season, Rod Beard of the Detroit News speculates (Twitter link). Jackson missed the first 21 games after receiving a plasma-rich injection for knee tendinitis during training camp. Jackson is averaging 15.2 PPG and 5.6 APG since his return after posting averages of 18.8 PPG and 6.2 APG last season when Detroit won 44 games and made the playoffs.

Jackson has been the subject of trade speculation for weeks, with the Timberwolves and Magic at the forefront of potential suitors. A Jackson-for-Ricky-Rubio rumor surfaced last month, though Van Gundy quickly shot it down.  The Orlando discussions involved D.J. Augustin and Jeff Green but the Magic currently have nothing cooking for either Jackson or Rubio, Sam Amick of USA Today tweets. However, Jake L. Fischer of SI.com tweets that Orlando can get Jackson if it’s willing to part with a valuable first-rounder.

Knicks Rumors: Lee, O’Quinn, Jennings, Rubio

Courtney Lee has been cited this week as a possible trade candidate, and according to Ian Begley of ESPN.com, the Clippers recently displayed interest in the Knicks shooting guard. However, one team that was in touch with the Knicks didn’t get the impression that Lee will be going anywhere, says Begley.

Here are a few more notes out of New York:

  • Another team that has spoken to the Knicks said New York is seeking a first-round pick and has talked about packaging Kyle O’Quinn and Brandon Jennings together in a trade, Begley reports.
  • Although the Knicks are shopping O’Quinn, it’s unclear if they’ll be able to get equal value for him, leagues sources tell Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv (Twitter link). On Wednesday, we heard that New York has been seeking a first-round pick for O’Quinn, so if the team believes that constitutes “equal value,” it makes sense that it may not happen.
  • A report earlier today indicated that Ricky Rubio remains a “significant” trade target for the Knicks. However, Sam Amick of USA Today reports (via Twitter) that the Timberwolves continue to shop Rubio to teams besides the Knicks. Jake Fischer of SI.com adds (via Twitter) that Minnesota is willing to part with Shabazz Muhammad to help accommodate a Rubio trade.
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