The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a 20-year executive with the Nets, examines the off-season plans for teams that didn’t make the postseason.
THE PLAN GOING FORWARD
Find the right coach
The Timberwolves are doing all they can to right the ship by working to finalize a deal to make Tom Thibodeau the franchise's coach and president of basketball operations.
Management seems to realize a short-term solution is not the answer. The Timberwolves have the identity of a college team that needs stability, direction and a coach to mold the young talent. Thibodeau should solve that.
Rarely does a new head coach come to a team that features franchise-level talent in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
Mind the rookie window
Players don’t stay young forever.
Minnesota can’t take for granted players on rookie-scale contracts. The team has seven players who are former first-round picks.
There will come a time when Minnesota will need to decide whom to lock up and keep.
Minnesota will not always be known as a young team with plenty of upside.
Sell Towns and Wiggins to free agents
Towns and Wiggins are the draws in Minnesota, making it a desirable destination for future recruiting seasons.
Don’t let their ages fool you, either. Towns, 20, and Wiggins, 21, are mature beyond their years and will remain the focal point of whatever happens with the Timberwolves.
Dangle the first pick?
With close to 10 teams lacking a draft pick in June, the Timberwolves’ No. 5 pick in the lottery has league executives intrigued.
With a strong nucleus of young players in the fold, can Minnesota parlay that lottery pick into a commodity that will accelerate the rebuild?
This offseason in Minnesota is going to be the most important in recent memory and not just because the Timberwolves could have close to $20 million in cap space.
The development of the young core will determine the direction of the team next season.
The one thing Minnesota cannot afford is to take a step back.
Rubio stepping up
Teams would love to have a 25-year-old point guard who has averaged 8.3 assists in his first five seasons in the NBA. But Ricky Rubio hasn’t really progressed since entering the league in 2011.
He’s a “nice” point guard, but the Timberwolves need him to get closer to the NBA’s elite. The numbers may say that isn’t possible, but with Thibodeau at the helm, time is on Rubio’s side.
Will the Timberwolves ever see Nikola Pekovic again?
Pekovic, 30, has only played 43 games the past two seasons and has been a shell of himself since signing a $60 million contract in 2013. Still owed $24 million over the next two years, one has to wonder if Pekovic can ever be the player he once was. Pekovic and Kevin Garnett (44 missed games) have combined salaries of $20 million per year that will continue to go against the Timberwolves’ salary cap.
With cap space this summer, the goal for Timberwolves management is to shore up the bench. The task is to figure out which players on the open market can complement the core pieces.
|1. Ricky Rubio||$13,550,000||None|
|2. Nikola Pekovic||$12,100,000||None|
|3. Kevin Garnett||$8,000,000||No trade clause|
|4. Andrew Wiggins||$6,006,600||None|
|5. Karl Anthony-Towns||$5,960,160||None|
|6. Nemanja Bjelica||$3,674,333||None|
|7. Shabazz Muhammad||$3,046,299|| |
Eligible for rookie extension
|8. Zach LaVine||$2,240,880||None|
|9. Adreian Payne||$2,022,240||None|
|10. Gorgui Dieng||$2,348,783||Eligible for rookie extension|
|11. Tyus Jones||$1,339,680||None|
|12. Damjan Rudez||$1,199,000||June 29|
|13. Greg Smith||$1,139,123||None|
|FA cap holds||2016-17||Free-agent status|
|14. Tayshaun Prince||$980,431||Non-Bird rights|
|15. Robbie Hummel||$1,144,000||Cap hold|
|16. Justin Hamilton||$980,431||Cap hold|
|17. Othyus Jeffers||$980,431||Cap hold|
|18. Arinze Onuaku||$980,431||Cap hold|
Pick No. 5: $3,227,100
Kevin Martin, $1,360,305 (Stretch provision)
|FA cap holds:||$5,065,724|
PROJECTED CAP SPACE
Even without making a move the Timberwolves project to have $19.7 million in cap space in July. That number could grow close to $22 million when free agency hits. Minnesota will be in the driver’s seat with flexibility to continue building around its young roster.
With cap space and a young nucleus also comes some roster juggling. The Timberwolves already have 11 guaranteed contracts, not including their first-round pick this year.
JUNE DRAFT PICKS
First round: own No. 5 selection
Second round: to Boston
2019: Own or to Atlanta (protected Nos. 1-14)
2020: Own or to Atlanta (protected Nos. 1-14)
Own all first-round picks starting in 2021.
Key rights to: Bojan Dubijevic (Pick No. 59, 2013)
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