Summer agenda: Timberwolves, 76ers have plenty of flexibility this summer

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Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, left, goes up for a shot against Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid in a January game. (AP)
Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, left, goes up for a shot against Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid in a January game. (AP)

The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a former 20-year executive with the Nets, looks at the possible offseason plans and roster details for every team in the league.

Previous teams in the series: Nets and Suns

MINNESOTA

Offseason focus

1. Find cap relief with Nikola Pekovic

Since signing a $60 million contract in 2013, Nikola Pekovic has played just 99 games because of injury. After missing the 2016-17 season because of a recurring right ankle injury, Minnesota is now eligible to remove the last year of his $11.6 million salary from the salary cap.

2. Don’t let the window to use cap space close

The clock for Minnesota to use cap space starts this summer with the contracts of Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine expiring after the 2017-18 season. Both players combined for a salary of $10.7 million this season and will be replaced by $30 million in free-agent cap holds in 2018. The Timberwolves’ $26 million in cap space this July will shrink to $12 million in 2018 if Minnesota doesn’t take advantage of the low salaries of both players and add help.

3. Sign veterans to complement young core

The three veterans Minnesota signed last July – Brandon Rush, Cole Aldrich and Jordan Hill – failed to have the impact off the bench the team wanted. Rush and Hill will likely be free agents, and Minnesota will have a mulligan this summer to fix a bench that ranked in the bottom of the NBA in production.

4. Stay patient with rookie extension talks

The good news is that the Timberwolves will need to make only one phone call for extension dialogue with Wiggins and LaVine because they have the same representative in agent Bill Duffy. But the players have different circumstances. LaVine is recovering from right ACL surgery in mid-February, and the Timberwolves need to measure their comfort level in giving Wiggins a max-level contract. Minnesota is also eligible to have only two players under the rookie designated extension. The rule allows a team to give a five-year max extension (not including the last season of the current deal) to two players during the length of the CBA. The Timberwolves will likely have only one slot available with Karl-Anthony Towns designated for the summer of 2018.

Team needs

One year after taking over, president and coach Tom Thibodeau now has a baseline for how the Timberwolves can improve internally along with how the roster can strengthen in the draft, via free agency or on the trade front.

While the area of focus last summer was grooming lottery pick Kris Dunn to take over point-guard duties from Ricky Rubio, the focus for Minnesota this offseason should focus on improving the bench.

With Rubio coming off his most consistent season and Dunn’s strength remaining on the defensive end and not running a team, Minnesota would be best served by improving its shooting-guard and small-forward reserves.

Zach LaVine, recovering from right ACL surgery in mid-February, is eligible for a rookie extension. (AP)
Zach LaVine, recovering from right ACL surgery in mid-February, is eligible for a rookie extension. (AP)

Timberwolves summer cap breakdown

Guaranteed                              2017-18                           Insider info
Ricky Rubio                          $14,275,000                    Extension eligible
Gorgui Dieng                        $14,112,360
Nikola Pekovic                             $0                        Salary to be removed
Cole Aldrich                          $7,300,000
Andrew Wiggins                    $7,574,323               Rookie extension eligible
Karl-Anthony Towns             $6,216,840
Kris Dunn                              $4,046,760
Nemanja Bjelica                   $3,949,999
Zach LaVine                           $3,202,218               Rookie extension eligible
Tyus Jones                             $1,471,382

Non/partial                              2017-18                       Guarantee date
Jordan Hill                              $4,180,000                          June 30

FA cap holds                            2017-18                          FA status
Shabazz Muhammad             $7,615,748                    Restricted Bird
Brandon Rush                        $4,200,000                        Non-Bird
Adreian Payne                        $3,100,094        Fourth-year salary restriction
Omri Casspi                            $1,471,382                        Non-Bird

First-round holds                     2017-18
Projected No. 7 selection       $4,186,200

Dead cap space                       2017-18
Kevin Martin                            $1,360,305

Salary table                               2017
Guaranteed salaries           $62,148,882
Dead money                        $1,360,305
Non-guaranteed                 $4,180,000
FA/draft cap holds            $20,573,864
Salaries: cap                       $88,263,051
Salaries: tax                        $67,689,187
Salary cap                         $101,000,000
Luxury tax                         $121,000,000
Cap space                           $12,736,949
Tax room                             $53,310,813

Projected cap space

The Timberwolves will gain cap relief once Pekovic’s $11.6 million salary is removed.

If the team also removes its own free-agent cap holds outside of Shabazz Muhammad, it will have $26 million in cap space.

The amount factors in Jordan Hill being waived by June 30. If Minnesota keeps Hill, cap space will decrease to $22.1 million.

June draft picks

Minnesota has its own first-round pick, but does not have a second-round selection, which Boston owns.

Future draft picks

As part of acquiring Adreian Payne from Atlanta in 2015, the Timberwolves owe the Hawks a lottery-protected first-round pick, commencing in 2018.

If Minnesota is in the lottery, then Atlanta will receive a lottery-protected 2019 first-round pick or 2020 lottery-protected first-round pick if not conveyed in 2019.

If Atlanta does not receive a first-round pick, then 2020 and 2021 second-round picks will be sent to the Hawks.

Minnesota cannot trade a future first-round pick until 2021.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Offseason focus

1. Balance the roster

Philadelphia returns 13 players from its current team, including eight players on guaranteed contracts and five with non-partial contracts, which includes Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell. Philadelphia also has the potential to have six draft picks (two firsts and four seconds) and 2016 first-round pick Furkan Korkmaz playing in Europe, as well as potentially $40 million in cap space.

2. Form a blueprint to sell to free agents

The selling points to free agents this summer are strong. Along with the foundation of Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid, Philadelphia has the cap flexibility to add two max contracts. The team improved by 18 games from 2015-16, and it could have two lottery picks (their own and Lakers’) in a very strong draft class. The 76ers’ future is also bright because of draft assets from previous trades, including a 2019 unprotected first from Sacramento. The 76ers also have a new practice facility that is considered by many to be one of the best in the NBA.

Joel Embiid has played just 31 games since being drafted in 2014. (AP)
Joel Embiid has played just 31 games since being drafted in 2014. (AP)

3. Don’t give a blank check to Joel Embiid

Embiid has played just 31 games in three seasons and is eligible for a rookie extension this summer. Philadelphia is unlikely to get disability insurance on a long-term contract that protects the team from an injury to Embiid’s right foot and left knee. If Philadelphia enters extension talks, the contract should mirror the contract Brook Lopez signed with Brooklyn. The deal would have reduced compensation by 50 percent in Year 2 and 25 percent in Year 3 if Lopez had re-injured his right foot and played in less than 60 games and averaged fewer than 15 minutes. The 76ers should not be afraid to delay contract talks until July 2018. Improved health and Embiid’s $18.3 million cap hold would give Philadelphia flexibility when he is a free agent.

4. Find a home for Jahlil Okafor

Since being drafted with the No. 3 overall pick in 2015, Okafor has averaged 51 games the past two seasons because of injury, leading to a diminished role, especially when Embiid is healthy. For an interested team, Okafor has a controllable contract with $4.9 million and $6.3 million owed the next two years and will be a restricted free agent in 2019. 76ers management should look at realistic trade scenarios for Okafor and not take into account that he was the third overall pick only two seasons ago.

TEAM NEEDS

There is a finally light at the end of the tunnel in Philadelphia. Now the 76ers need health and luck in the lottery.

The health of Ben Simmons and Embiid is crucial as well as how Simmons will play at point guard next season.

The primary needs for Philadelphia: a starter at shooting guard and insurance at power forward and center.

Though Gerald Henderson was signed to fill the shooting-guard role last summer, there is uncertainty because of Henderson’s future (June 30 guarantee date) and him being best suited for a reserve role.

At power forward, Rookie of theYear candidate Dario Saric was worth the three-year wait.

Saric, who emerged as the regular starter, had his best stretch of basketball after Ersan Ilyasova was traded to Atlanta at the deadline. While Saric’s production was a positive for Philadelphia, it left vulnerable at backup power forward.

76ers summer cap breakdown

Guaranteed                                2017-18                         Insider info
Jerryd Bayless                         $9,000,000
Ben Simmons                          $6,168,840
Joel Embiid                              $6,100,266              Rookie extension eligible
Jahlil Okafor                             $4,995,120
Nik Stauskas                             $3,807,147              Rookie extension eligible
Dario Saric                               $2,422,560
Justin Anderson                       $1,579,440
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot     $1,386,600

Non/partial                                 2017-18                     Guarantee date
Gerald Henderson                    $9,000,000                        June 30
Richaun Holmes                       $1,471,382
Robert Covington                     $1,577,230        Team option/ extension eligible
T.J. McConnell                           $1,471,382
Shawn Long                               $1,312,611

FA cap holds                                2017-18                       FA status
Tiago Splitter                           $12,825,000                          Bird
Sergio Rodriguez                      $9,600,000                      Non-Bird
Alex Poythress                           $1,512,611                Restricted non-Bird

First-round holds                        2017-18
Projected No. 4 selection         $5,090,400
Furkan Korkmaz                        $1,465,920

Dead cap space                        2017-18
Tibor Pleiss                                $500,000

Salary table                                  2017
Guaranteed salaries              $36,459,973
Dead money                             $500,000
Non-guaranteed                     $15,303,987
Tax variance                              $158,771
FA cap holds                           $30,493,931
Salaries: cap                           $82,757,891
Salaries: tax                            $52,422,731
Salary cap                             $101,000,000
Luxury tax                             $121,000,000
Cap space                               $18,242,109
Tax room                                $68,577,269

Projected cap space

When it comes to cap space, Philadelphia once again heads into the summer as the top team.

Philadelphia, currently with $18.2 million in space, could increase that total to $40 million once the free-agent cap holds of Sergio Rodriguez and Tiago Splitter are removed.

The 76ers also could create an additional $10 million in room if Henderson is waived before June 30 and former first-round pick Furkan Korkmaz continues playing in Europe.

June draft picks

The draft lottery could again dictate the future in Philadelphia.

In a strong draft, Philadelphia will have its own pick (currently No. 4) along with the Lakers’ first if it falls outside of the top three.

Philadelphia also has the right to swap draft picks with Sacramento. Should the Kings land the top pick (or a pick better than the 76ers’), Philadelphia can swap its own pick with Sacramento.

Philadelphia has four second-round picks: from New York at No. 36, from Dallas at No. 39, from Miami at No. 46 and from Atlanta at No. 50.

Future draft picks

The Lakers’ pick will turn into an unprotected first in 2018 if not conveyed this year.

The 76ers also have the Kings’ unprotected first in 2019.

Philadelphia will receive a first from Oklahoma City (protected Nos. 1-20) two years after Utah receives the Thunder’s first-round pick. The pick will turn into two second-round picks if not conveyed.

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