Timberwolves Rumors

Jamal Crawford Opts Out Of Wolves Contract

JUNE 18: Crawford has declined his 2018/19 option, league sources tell Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).Jamal Crawford of the Minnesota Timberwolves

MAY 2: Veteran shooting guard Jamal Crawford will turn down a player option that would have paid him $4,544,400 for the 2018/19 season, reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.com. Crawford, who signed with the Timberwolves last summer, will hit the free agent market rather than opting into the second year of his contract with the club.

Crawford, 38, joined the Wolves after being traded from the Clippers to the Hawks and then reaching a buyout agreement with Atlanta. In his first – and potentially only – season in Minnesota, the 18-year vet averaged 10.3 PPG and 2.3 APG with a shooting line of .415/.331/.903.

Haynes’ report doesn’t give any hints about what Crawford’s next move will be, but it’s safe to say he’ll be looking for a role on a contending team. Declining his player option doesn’t necessarily mean that Crawford won’t return to the Timberwolves, since the two sides could, in theory, work out a new deal. In fact, Haynes says in a follow-up tweet that Jimmy Butler has told management he’d like to have Crawford back next season.

Still, Minnesota already has more than $110MM in guaranteed salary on its books for 2018/19, and wants to add wings who can shoot threes and defend multiple positions. While Crawford fits that bill to some extent, the Wolves will likely be seeking more traditional three-and-D players, so it’s not clear whether he’ll be part of their plans.

Several veterans have already exercised – or will exercise – their player options for 2018/19, since there’s a belief that league-wide spending in free agency will be down this summer. However, Crawford’s option salary of $4.5MM+ was fairly modest, and he has already earned over $100MM in his NBA career, as our Austin Kent noted on Tuesday. As such, turning down that option isn’t a major gamble. Even if he gives up a couple million dollars and settles for a minimum-salary deal this offseason, Crawford would likely be willing to trade that money for a legit shot at a title.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Tom Thibodeau Needs To Improve Communication

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.

And-Ones: Brown, Motiejunas, Broekhoff, USA Basketball

Longtime NBA coach Larry Brown will sign his contract to become the head coach of the Euroleague’s Fiat Torino on Sunday, according to a Sportando report. Brown’s agent, Massimo Rizzo, said his client has already signed a letter of intent to coach the club but won’t ink the official contract until his press conference this weekend, the report adds. The 77-year-old will be taking his first head coaching position since resigning from Southern Methodist two years ago.

We have more international and domestic basketball news:

  • Forward Donatas Motiejunas will remain in China next season, Sportando relays. He re-signed with Shandong for approximately $3MM, the report adds. Motiejunas played 34 games with the Pelicans in 2016/17 after beginning his career with the Rockets, but long-terms concerns over the soundness of his back sidetracked his NBA career.
  • Australian swingman Ryan Broekhoff has visited several teams this week hoping to land an NBA contract, HoopsHype tweets. Broekhoff, who went undrafted out of Valparaiso in 2013, was scheduled to visit and work out for the Wizards, Timberwolves, Bucks and Nets, HoopsHype adds.
  • Reggie Hearn, Jonathan Holmes, Amile Jefferson, David Stockton and Xavier Munford are among the 14 players who will be on the training camp roster for the USA World Cup Qualifying Team, according a USA Basketball press release. Training camp begins on Wednesday and the final roster will be pared to 12 players.  In the FIBA World Cup Qualifying games, the U.S. will face Mexico on June 28th in Mexico City and Cuba on July 1st in Havana.
  • The Hornets and Raptors are interested in adding Sergio Scariolo, who is currently the head coach of the Spanish national team, to their staffs, according to another Sportando post.

Wolves Rumors: Butler, Wiggins, Jones, Dieng

Jimmy Butler will have the opportunity to opt out and sign a new contract with the Timberwolves a year from now, but Sean Deveney of The Sporting News hears from sources familiar with the situation that Butler is uncertain about playing alongside Andrew Wiggins in the long term. According to Deveney, Butler had issues last season related to Wiggins’ work ethic and defensive approach.

As Deveney details, head coach Tom Thibodeau has had similar gripes with Wiggins in the past, and had hoped that bringing in a “tough-minded” veteran like Butler would motivate the former No. 1 pick to improve. However, it didn’t seem to help much.

While the Wolves figure to explore the trade market for Wiggins this summer, it will be hard to find a viable deal with his five-year, maximum-salary contract set to take effect, Deveney notes.

Here’s more from Deveney on the Wolves:

  • Thibodeau’s use of his bench continues to be a source of friction in Minnesota, with Tyus Jones among the backups adversely affected. A source tells Deveney that Jeff Teague suggested to Thibodeau last season that Jones should play more.
  • According to Deveney, Jones considered requesting a trade out of Minnesota, but Thibodeau “reasserted his support” of the young guard following the season, assuring Jones that his role will increase next season even if Derrick Rose is re-signed, due to the presumed departure of Jamal Crawford.
  • While the Wolves don’t appear likely to move Jones, they’ll look to deal highly-priced backup Gorgui Dieng, per Deveney.
  • I touched on several of these topics earlier this week in my preview of the Timberwolves’ offseason.

Wolves Have Worked Out Jerome Robinson

  • The Timberwolves are among the teams that have worked out Boston College guard Jerome Robinson, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News, who suggests (via Twitter) that Robinson has made a good impression on the workout circuit. Robinson currently ranks as the No. 17 prospect on Jonathan Givony’s ESPN big board, so he’s a potential target for Minnesota at No. 20.

Elie Okobo To Work Out For Timberwolves

  • International prospect Elie Okobo, who is considered a good bet to come off the board in the second half of the first round, will work out for the Timberwolves this weekend, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News.

Five Key Offseason Questions: Minnesota Timberwolves

It took until overtime of the 82nd game of the season to do it, but the Timberwolves earned a playoff spot this year for the first time since 2004, ending one of the longest postseason droughts in professional sports. While the club was quickly dispatched in the first round by the top-seeded Rockets, it was a successful year in Minnesota and there’s reason for optimism going forward. After all, two of the team’s top scorers – Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins – are still in their early 20s, with plenty of room to keep improving.

Still, this roster will get very expensive very fast, with Wiggins’ maximum-salary deal set to hit the books, and pricey new extensions for Towns and Jimmy Butler likely to follow. The Wolves’ challenge will be finding a way to retain their most important contributors while filling the roster around them with role players who fit well and don’t break the bank.

Here are five key questions facing the franchise this summer:

1. Will Towns sign an extension? If so, how much will it be worth?

Towns is coming off his first All-Star appearance and first All-NBA nod, which will make extension negotiations between the Timberwolves and his camp very interesting. There’s virtually no doubt that Towns’ next deal will be a maximum-salary contract, but his spot on the All-NBA Third Team makes him eligible for a max worth 30% of the cap, rather than just the 25% he’d typically be in line for.

That eligibility doesn’t mean that the Wolves have to offer Towns the full 30% max, but he’s clearly a more important foundational piece than Wiggins, who signed for the 25% max last offseason. I’d expect Minnesota’s contract offer to reflect that.

It’s possible that the Wolves will wait until Towns’ restricted free agency in 2019 to put that long-term offer on the table in order to maximize flexibility, since his cap hold will be lower than his projected maximum salary. The team currently seems unlikely to have cap room available next summer either way though, so there’s no real incentive to wait. Getting an extension done within the next few months may also help ease any lingering tension between the franchise and its star center.

2. Can Towns, Wiggins, and Butler co-exist long-term?

Speaking of that reported “tension,” I wouldn’t expect it to become a destructive force that sinks the current version of the Timberwolves, but it’s worth keeping an eye on — which is just what rival teams are doing. The source of that tension hasn’t been specified, but there were whispers earlier in the year that Wiggins didn’t love being the third option behind his two star teammates, and it’s possible Towns experienced some similar frustrations after his shot attempts dipped by nearly 20% from 2016/17 to 2017/18.

While those teams who are monitoring the situation in Minnesota would love for Towns to become available, Wiggins is the most likely trade candidate of the three. He has yet to become the kind of two-way star the Wolves envisioned when they acquired him for Kevin Love back in 2014, and while there’s still time for him to evolve into that player, many of his skills overlap with what Butler brings the team, which could stunt his growth to some extent.

A stronger outside shooter who doesn’t need the ball in his hands to succeed – think Klay Thompson – would be a better fit with the Wolves’ current roster, but a favorable deal will be hard to find. With Wiggins’ mammoth five-year extension about to take effect after a solid but unspectacular season, his trade value isn’t at its peak.

The Wolves probably won’t break up their “Big Three” this summer, but I think something’s got to give in the long term. If all three players stick with the team and Towns and Butler get new deals for 2019/20, they could easily be earning a combined $90MM that year, and they’d only get more expensive from there. That’s a huge price to pay for three stars who might not perfectly complement one another.

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Draft Updates: Z. Smith, Huerter, Allen, Brunson

The Lakers are “super infatuated” with Zhaire Smith and have held several meetings with the Texas Tech guard, tweets Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype. Smith has worked out for a number of teams, but L.A. is excited about his potential fit in its backcourt.

The Lakers, who don’t pick until No. 25, will have to trade up to have a shot at Smith. The 19-year-old averaged 11.3 points per game as a freshman with the Red Raiders and is projected to go to the Suns with the 16th selection in the latest mock draft compiled by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

There’s more draft-related news to pass along:

  • Maryland’s Kevin Huerter, a potential first-round pick, is expected to miss two months after having surgery to fix torn ligaments in his right hand, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Projected at No. 21 in Givony’s mock draft, Huerter has been rising on draft boards since an impressive performance at the combine. He averaged 14.8 points per game for the Terrapins and shot 41.7% from 3-point range.
  • Duke’s Grayson Allen will work out for the Timberwolves Thursday, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. Allen has already auditioned for the Sixers, Celtics, Lakers and Jazz, among others, and made a strong impression at the combine and his pro day.
  • Donte Ingram of Loyola-Chicago will also take part in a session Thursday with the Wolves, Wolfson adds (Twitter link). Ingram had a recent workout with the Grizzlies.
  • Oklahoma’s Trae Young will work out for the Bulls on Thursday, tweets ESPN’s Nick Friedell.
  • Villanova’s Jalen Brunson will have an individual workout for the Pacers Thursday, the team announced on its website.
  • Six players will work out for the Nuggets Thursday, tweets Gina Mizell of The Denver Post. Scheduled to attend are UCLA’s Thomas Welsh, Idaho’s Victor Sanders and Iowa State’s Donovan Jackson, along with Dayon Goodman of Westminster (Utah), Todd Withers of Queens (North Carolina) and Tryggvi Hlinason of Valencia Basket.
  • European sources are confident that Serbian center Dusan Ristic will be taken as a draft-and-stash player, according to Orazio Cauchi of Sportando (Twitter link).

Timberwolves Work Out Jacob Evans, Others

Possible Bjelica Suitors; More Mini-Camp Details

  • The Jazz and Suns are among the teams that could show interest in power forward Nemanja Bjelica this summer, a source tells Orazio Cauchi of Sportando. Bjelica is eligible for restricted free agency, so the Timberwolves have the chance to match any offer he receives, assuming they extend a qualifying offer.
  • Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News passes along word of a few more of the players who participated in the Timberwolvesveteran mini-camp on the weekend, tweeting that that Hollis Thompson, Dorell Wright, and Jordan McRae took part, among others.