July 01, 2010
No, we don't know what Minnesota is doing either.
It's early in this particular offseason, despite the draft taking place last week, the Wolves already committing to two free agents, and meeting with another pair. But all early indications have the Timberwolves' goofball GM David Kahn acting as expected so far in this run.
After drafting the underwhelming (and soon to-be 23-years old) Wesley Johnson(notes) with the fourth pick in last week's draft, the Wolves have committed to a three-year, $13 million deal with Nikola Pekovic(notes) (not bad; pretty good, actually), and a reported $20 million deal spread out over four years with Darko Milicic(notes). Same guy.
(I mean, this is Isiah Thomas-territory right here. Remember back in 2006, when it was becoming clearer and clearer to everyone besides Knicks fans that Thomas was just the worst? It was a series of bad jokes, come true. I bet the next guy they trade for will be Jalen Rose! I bet they get Steve Francis(notes)! And then they go do it. This time around? Darko Milicic. He went and did that. For four years.)
In the meantime, with Pekovic coming on board (again, a fine player who can't rebound a lick, but a starter in this league I'm told), a deal for Martell Webster(notes) on the trade deadline, and Darko Milicic (same guy) on board, the Timberwolves are now down to just over five million in cap space, according to Mark Deeks from Chicago Now (you might know him as Sham, from ShamSports.com).
And they visited Rudy Gay(notes) and David Lee(notes) today. To tell them what, exactly? That they could have signed them had they not traded for Martell Webster, traded down and away from Wesley Johnson, and passed on bringing Darko Milicic (same guy) back?
It's all part of Kahn's master plan to pair Darko Milicic (same guy) and Kevin Love(notes) together in the front court, and trade Al Jefferson(notes) along the way. This would make sense if the Jefferson and Darko pairing weren't actually statistically better than the Darko and Kevin Love pairing last season. I can appreciate trading Jefferson with Love around - Love is younger and nearly as good already - but to accommodate Darko? That guy?
So can the Wolves dump Al Jefferson? He has three years and $42 million left on his contract, and despite the ACL from two years ago and a tough 2009-10, this is still someone taking a chance on, even at that price. He can still score in the post without being overall ball-hoggy, a rare thing in this league.
If I were Dallas, and the big name free agents all declined, I wouldn't hesitate for a second to offer Erick Dampier's(notes) unguaranteed deal for Big Al. Even with Dirk Nowitzki(notes) around. If I were Chicago, I'd seriously consider trading Luol Deng(notes) for Jefferson, especially if any free agent signees turn out to be more perimeter-based.
And if I were any of the teams that got shut out of the free agent game, and still had cap space? Go after this guy. He can play.
Now, dealing Jefferson for immediate cap space would allow Minnesota to be major players again, with a little under $18 million in cap space to work with; but if any of the three scenarios I mentioned above pan out, this means most of the bigger free agent names will be spoken for by the time all that cash opens up. Even if the Grizzlies, before signing him, had let Gay dangle a bit as a restricted free agent. Even if the Knicks let Lee, a clear second-tier guy, go.
And that's only if the Wolves can dump Jefferson for immediate help, which is no sure thing. Trading for Deng wouldn't provide it, and I doubt (no, I know) the Grizzlies wouldn't have wanted to take on Jefferson with so many bigs already on the roster in exchange for Gay. There are various permutations that could turn out so the Timberwolves can make future deals, use that bit of cap space, use Jefferson, and possibly break even; but this is a poor start.
How? They entered last week with three draft picks in the first round including a lottery selection, and potentially over $15 million in cap space including all the cap holds, and so far they've procured Martell Webster, Lazar Hayward(notes), Wesley Johnson, Nemanja Bjelica(notes), Darko Milicic (same guy), and Nikola Pekovic. Five million in cap space left.
It never gets old: