By: Jonah Sprinkel
There were 75 days between the end of the regular season and the NBA Awards Show. The 2017-18 NBA season is officially (and mercifully) over. Free agency, also known as the most wonderful time of the year, can finally begin.
President of Basketball Operations Tom Thibodeau and General Manager Scott Layden have spoken recently about not only wanting to re-sign key players in Nemanja Bjelica and Derrick Rose, but also about adding talent through free agency. While the former is important for the team to maintain it’s current level of success, the latter is what will determine the ceiling of this team.
The 2018-19 NBA cap is set at $101 million and the luxury tax threshold is set at $123 million. The Minnesota Timberwolves, without signing anyone, have just over $113 million committed to players on the roster. This is where the first of two issues lie. Between the already limited amount of money, and Glenn Taylor’s fondness for not spending money, the Timberwolves will be hard-pressed to sign anyone of lasting impact provided they retain Rose and Bjelica.
However, cap space is an issue that can be solved through trade. The Wolves could potentially move Gorgui Dieng’s $15 million, though they would have to give up some kind of asset in order to do so. The team could also trade Andrew Wiggins and his $25 million contract. Either one of these options immediately opens to the door to adding a high-quality rotation player or possibly a starter, if Wiggins is the one who gets moved.
The other issue could be the Timberwolves current President of Basketball Operations, Tom Thibodeau.
Everyone on this flat earth is aware of Coach Thibodeau’s starters logging too many minutes by modern NBA standards. This coaching habit might lend itself to the idea that free agents, specifically rotational players, are less likely to sign with the Wolves because they won’t receive what they consider to be fair playing time.
There may be a sliver of truth to this idea.
In 2010, Thibodeau’s first year as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls, the Bulls signed Kyle Korver to a three-year, $15 million deal. Korver would go on to play 147 games (seven starts) in two seasons before being traded to the Atlanta Hawks.
Four years passed before the Bulls made another meaningful free agent signing with the addition of Pau Gasol to the tune of three years, $22.3 million. Gasol played in and started 150 games for the Bulls before leaving in free agency.
The lack of significant signings might indicate a lack of interest from free agents, but there are a couple facts that push back against this idea.
As coach in Chicago, Thibodeau did not have final say in who the team pursued and signed. In fact, the lack of power is one of the reasons why Thibodeau left Chicago. The Bulls also drafted very well during that era so the need for free agents wasn’t incredibly high.
On top of this, the Bulls were extremely close to signing Carmelo Anthony in free agency and Tom Thibodeau was a big reason why Anthony considered joining the Bulls.
The Bulls, [Anthony] thinks, are a "perfect fit" for a few reasons. Among them: Chicago seems to be one scorer away from contending for a title, and Anthony believes he can fill that void. He also likes the team's culture and its no-nonsense approach to winning, spearheaded by head coach Tom Thibodeau.” (Friedell and Bagley, 2016)
Moving past the Thibodeau-era Bulls, we arrive at Thibodeau’s time here in Minnesota.
The first offseason in 2016 did not prove very fruitful on the free agent front. Cole Aldrich at three years, $21.9 million, was the “largest” signing the Wolves made that summer. Aldrich has played incredibly sparingly though he has somehow appeared in 83 games.
Last year’s offseason was exactly the opposite. The Wolves signed Taj Gibson, who started all 82 games, to a two-year, $28 million deal. They signed Jeff Teague, 70 starts in 70 games, to a three-year, $57 million deal. Finally, they signed Jamal Crawford, 80 games off the bench, to two years at $8.9 million. Crawford has opted out of his second year and will not return to the Wolves.
To sum this up, Thibodeau was involved in five key free agent acquisitions. Two of those were role players who did not finish out their contracts with the team they signed to. The other three were starters who played large minutes for their respective squad.
This track record suggests Thibodeau has the clout to attract starting caliber players due to his success. However, the lack of role player signings is a concerning trend. Role players not producing or not being given the chance to contribute is also a concerning trend. The Wolves need to sign these quality role players this offseason if they want to move up the ranks in what looks to be a ruthless Western Conference.
Given all of this, I would temper any expectations you might have for the Wolves doing anything of significance during this free agency period. Of course, this is subject to change. The Wolves might be able to find a taker for Dieng or an agreeable deal for Wiggins. But between the issue of cap space and Thibodeau’s free agency history, it seems very unlikely that the Wolves will be able to bolster their roster this summer.
By: Jake Paynting
If you follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and you haven't been residing under a boulder for the last few days, you will know that the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop in Thursday night's NBA Draft. Georgia Tech standout Okogie was taken with the 20th pick and Big Ten Player of the Year Bates-Diop with the 48th.
Many members of the Wolves world were thrilled with the selections. Both players can play multiple wing positions -- filling a gaping hole in the roster -- and have the ability to knock down 3-pointers, healing another sore spot from the 2017-18 season. The most important trait that these players need to show won't be fully realized until next season rolls around; are these two exciting prospects ready to contribute to the playoff-chasing Timberwolves right away?
It's tough to determine, but breaking their body of work down into a three-tier list will help decipher what Okogie and Bates-Diop already do well, what they do averagely, and what they need to spend the summer working on, with film. Let's get cracking.
Josh Okogie - 6-foot-4 - G/F - 19-years-old
Skills Tier One - Ready to Roll:
Pushing the ball up the court for easy buckets, that's when Josh Okogie is in his element. He has a steady handle which allows him to push the pace and bury his way into the lane. The All-ACC Third Team member is quite small in stature, which makes it a struggle at times to finish at the rim in half court sets, his speed and strength give him a huge edge in transition, however.
Witnessing Okogie streaming down the court for a strong finish after forcing a live-ball turnover or ripping down a robust rebound will become a nightly occurrence for Timberwolves fans. The fact he led all tested prospects at the Draft Combine in vertical leaping (42 inches) and the three quarter court sprint (3.04 seconds) won't sting the eyeballs either.
Hustle and Rebounding
The other string in Okogie's bow that should automatically translate to the next level is the energy and effort he brings during every second on the court. Despite his slightly underwhelming size, the Georgia Tech product is a bulldog on the boards. He grabbed 6.3 rebounds per outing last season, which was second on the Yellow Jackets roster.
The impressive rebounding numbers stem purely from heart, hustle and an uncanny knack for tracking down a loose ball. This funnels perfectly into his aforementioned ability to push the ball up the court and get easy buckets. Minnesota have plenty of talent littering their roster, but outside of Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, they are noticeably deficient in the toughness department, Okogie should immediately help sure that up.
Skills Tier Two - Potential is there:
While Okogie is certainly capable of getting hot from behind the 3-point arc, he isn't the knockdown shooter the Timberwolves sorely crave ... yet. In his two seasons at Georgia Tech, the 20th pick in the draft converted 66 of his 173 long range attempts (38.2 percent). It's a solid mark that should have Timberwolves fans optimistic, but his strength and mindset are attacking the rim.
While the shooting stroke isn't laser sharp like the Timberwolves hope it will become, it's nothing to be worried about. Okogie doubled his 3-point attempts in his second year at GT, still managing to put up basically the exact same percentage, which is a great sign. The fact he didn't make over five triples once last season isn't such a promising sign.
With better spacing in Minnesota (Georgia Tech's was disastrous) and more repetition on that jumper, Okogie should be splashing plenty of triples in no time.
Okogie won't step into the league as a '3-and-D' contributor, but thanks to that budding stroke and ability to hound his defensive target, the 19-year-old gives himself a real chance to mold himself into the player every team is searching for. He can be a tad lazy when his opponent isn't touching the ball, but when they are he drops into position and gets to work.
Quick hands, decent feet and a will to defend are all traits that should soon become a staple of Okogie's game. According to NBA.com, the 2017-18 Timberwolves bench was the worst bench unit in terms of Defensive Rating, so their new addition should slide in and still make an immediate impact. Time will tell how big that impact will be.
Skills Tier Three- Get in the Gym!:
Finishing in traffic
When Okogie gets out in transition, he can be deadly. However, when he has to go up against the tall timber at the rim, things get a little less efficient. He may be a tremendous athlete with a toughness that most 6-foot-4 guards only dream of, but 'Obi-Wan Okogie' lacks the craftiness and touch to consistently finish at the rack.
He did finish with the fifth-most made free throws in the entire Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) this past season, so he knows how to get to the cup with the best of them, the trick is finishing strong against the big bodies of the NBA. This may all be redundant though, as he will likely be restricted to a 3-point shooting bench role.
Lacking in this area might not hurt him or the Wolves much in year one, but it is definitely something Okogie will need to work on as his NBA career unfurls.
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous weakness we discussed. With Okogie struggling to find consistency at the rim, he jacked up far too many ineffective pull up jumpers, whether it be from mid-range or from deep.
Okogie was forced to do a lot of heavy lifting offensively at Georgia Tech - and the opposition knew it - so maybe that plays into his sometimes questionable shot selecting methods. Nonetheless, with shot selection already hampering Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler at times throughout last season, Minnesota can ill-afford to have another player who doesn't choose his shooting spots with intelligence.
Keita Bates-Diop - 6-foot-8 - F - 22-years-old
Skills Tier One - Ready to Roll:
The first thing you notice when you lay eyes on Bates-Diop is the arms that extend into next week, like seriously, they are long as heck. He isn't the quickest on his feet, but these gangly limbs give him that extra bit of recovery time to be able to switch out onto guards and wings effectively. Combine this with his ability to defend the rim at an NBA-ready level (averaged 1.8 blocks per game in 17-18') and you can see why KBD's defensive versatility will swiftly translate to the NBA.
It's not just on the defensive end of the floor that Bates-Diop's size and length will make an impact, his scoring touch makes him a positional nightmare for opposition coaches. The 6-foot-8 prospect could be the archetypal power forward in this day and age, blending an intriguing mix of face up, transition and 3-point shooting skill sets.
Provided Tom Thibodeau doesn't glue him to the pine, look for Keita Bates-Diop to immediately cause mismatches on both ends of the floor.
Far too often last season Timberwolves fans were infuriated by the lack of movement on the offensive end. Watching four players stand around while the other - usually Jeff Teague or Jimmy Butler - dribbled the oxygen out of the ball became the nightly show in the Twin Cities, that won't be the case while Bates-Diop is on the floor.
According to Synergy Sports, the combo forward ended his final season at OSU putting up 1.40 Points Per Possession (PPP) when cutting, placing him in the 88th percentile nation-wide. Bates-Diop is frequently moving on the offensive end, which regularly leads to easy points. Maybe he could teach new teammate Andrew Wiggins a thing or two.
Skills Tier Two - Potential is there:
Like Okogie, Bates-Diop isn't going to blow anyone's socks off from behind the arc from day dot, he can certainly contribute from long range though. The Big Ten Player of the Year nailed 36 percent of his shots from downtown last season, he also made over three triples on 11 different occasions.
The ability to make volume 3-pointers is essential for forwards who hope to garner minutes in the NBA, and if his outstanding final year at Ohio State is anything to go by Bates-Diop is well on his way to big minutes. The problem is the Timberwolves ranked at the very bottom of the league in 3-point attempts and makes in 2017-18, so they need help pretty much like ... now.
Let's hope the hyphenated hero comes to the rescue.
Face up/Post Game
If slowing the game down and spoon-feeding the post wasn't a dying art in the NBA, his ability to dominate in the mid-post would be right at the top of Keita Bates-Diop's skill chart. Despite his big man size and length, KBD is smooth as butter when he faces up and decides to get buckets. If he isn't banging the mid-range jimmy with a hand in his face, he is using his long strides to slice through the shot-swatters.
The 0.86 PPP he put up in post up situations isn't ideal, but you can clearly see the budding inside-out potential when you watch Bates-Diop in his dominant final year in college. Tom Thibodeau does run somewhat of a prehistoric offense, so don't be surprised if he does decide to let KBD do some work in the post, and don't be surprised if it's successful.
Skills Tier Three: Get in the Gym!:
This is the one area that could hamper Bates-Diop's ability to play as the small forward in taller line-ups, his rusty handle. He isn't a complete train wreck, but he rarely ventures outside the basic, which could hurt him in the big leagues, the best scorers all create space well off the dribble and Bates-Diop simply can't do that.
One of the biggest indictments on the 22-year-old's inability to handle the rock effectively is the fact that despite racking up a huge 29.4 percent usage rate, he averaged more turnovers (1.8) than assists (1.6) per game. When he is matched up with bigger, less athletic power forwards, this weakness will scarcely be noticed, but it is something he needs to spend the summer(s) working on.
We have spoken a lot about how Keita Bates-Diop's favorable measurements will benefit him when he makes the leap to the NBA level, but his strength and build leave a lot to be desired. He is an exciting shot-blocker and he can certainly make life hard for the opposition in switching actions, but he will struggle against the big, bruising bodies of the NBA.
Thankfully for Bates-Diop, the league is now littered with stretch fours who spend a lot more time outside the paint than inside, so he won't have to worry about banging around in the post too often. That doesn't mean that he shouldn't be spending a whole lot of hours pumping iron. If he fills out and learns to stand stronger in the post, he will be a handful defensively.
There it is, the lowdown on the rooks. Let me know what you think on Twitter here.
By: Dan Slaubaugh
The Minnesota Timberwolves entered draft night in need of wing depth. When the night ended, they had not just landed one wing prospect with legitimate three-and-D upside, but two.
With the 20th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden selected Josh Okogie, a 6’4” shooting guard out of Georgia Tech. With the 48th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, they selected Keita Bates-Diop, a 6’7” forward out of Ohio State fresh off a Big 10 Player of the Year award.
I’ll be honest. I’m unsure if I have ever watched Okogie or Bates-Diop play basketball in my life. If I have, I sure didn’t know I was at the time. Whether that’s because I wasn’t heavily plugged into the college basketball landscape this year or the two weren’t vastly well-known college names, I’m not sure. What I do know is they boast the physical and mental makeups to mold into standout three-and-D players for a long time in the NBA.
With many writers projecting KBD to be a first-round selection, the Wolves got great value at 48 with him still on the board. Nevertheless, I’m not going to try to pretend I know much more than that. Therefore, I’ll leave you with some stats and Jake will have more on these two fellas this weekend).
2017-18 season stats:
Okogie: 18.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.7 blocks, 1.8 steals, 38.0 3PT%, 4.2 3PA, 41.6 FG%.
Bates-Diop: 19.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.6 blocks, 0.9 steals, 35.9 3PT%, 5.4 3PA, 48 FG%.
What do these selections mean for the Timberwolves heading into free agency?
One of the biggest storylines for the Wolves heading into the NBA Draft was the status of Gorgui Dieng and his hefty contract consisting of three years and 48 million dollars. It was rumored that the Wolves might package their first-round pick and Dieng in attempt to free cap space needed to sign franchise superstar Jimmy Butler next offseason. That did not happen last night, so corresponding moves will be made in the next few months. Moreover, Dieng will still be shopped, and likely out the door if the Wolves can find a taker. If not, it will be tough for the Wolves to re-sign RFA Nemanja Bjelica who should draw interest from other teams this summer. Regarding center Cole Aldrich, expect him to be waived within the next few weeks to free up extra spending money for free agency.
The Wolves acquired two solid prospects with long wingspans that can defend multiple wing positions, but neither yet have the “dead-eye shooter” skill set the Wolves sorely need. Consequently, this makes me believe if they have to pick “defense” or “shooting” come free agency, they’ll lean towards shooting. Minnesota ranked dead last in three-pointers attempted per game last season at 22.5 treys per game. Ideally, one of Okogie or Bates-Diop can be the knockdown catch-and-shoot guy the Wolves need in the corner, but it’s tough to rely on two rookies night in and night out. This brings me to my next point.
As we shift towards the free agent season, there are five wings I would like the Wolves to pursue: Wayne Ellington, Avery Bradley, Will Barton, Rodney Hood and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Notice a similarity between the five? They’re all seasoned-vets. Sure, Okogie and KBD have great upside and might possibly possess the ability to contribute right away. But, a team looking to win a playoff series next April can’t head into a season heavily relying on two rookies to provide scoring punch and execution on both sides of the ball like the five guys listed. Even after drafting Okogie and KBD, the Wolves are still pretty thin on the wing. They need to grab another in free agency.
'Twas a good night in Minnesota
The team’s ceiling still rests on the shoulders of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, but tonight was a step in the right direction and a job well done by Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden in adding quality wings with two-way upside to the fold. In a league where successfully defending the perimeter has become vitally important due to the multitude of treys launched every game, Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diope have the potential to be game-changers down the road for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Don't miss your first chance to see them in action during Summer League, which promises to be far more exciting with new rookies in hand.
By: Seth Toupal
With the NBA Draft getting underway Thursday night, the Timberwolves will be trying to help fill various bench roles and shore up their depth. With plenty of options to choose from, it seems likely that the Wolves will get a really good player they can plug into their bench rotation. But looking back on past Wolves drafts, is it a certainty they will get a good player? Let’s take a look.
Franchise Cornerstones: The Timberwolves have been fortunate to have drafted not one, but hopefully two generational talents in the draft. The first was Kevin Garnett, who singlehandedly put the team on the map after he was selected 5TH overall in 1995. While Garnett never got to the Finals with the Wolves, he was vital in taking the franchise from expansion to annual playoff contender. The Wolves hope that Karl-Anthony Towns is the second such player that they have drafted. So far the Wolves made a great decision going with him over Jahlil Okafor 1ST overall in 2015.
One good trade deserves another: The Wolves have pulled off a few good draft night trades as well. Of course the most notable recently was the 2017 trade to acquire Jimmy Butler from the Bulls. The Wolves reached prominence in their first season with Butler, and they hope to reach even bigger heights going forward. The Wolves also swapped OJ Mayo with Memphis who sent Kevin Love back to Minnesota in 2008. Love is still playing today, OJ Mayo however is not.
The Great Point Guard draft of 2009: It’s not easy to have the distinction of being a team who took 4 point guards not named Steph Curry. The Wolves did this in 2009, when they held both the 5th and 6th picks and took Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn with Curry on the board. There were some questions as to if Curry’s small frame would translate to the NBA (whoops) so David Kahn opted for Ricky Rubio (a good pick) and then Johnny Flynn, Ty Lawson, and Wayne Ellington.
Coming up just short: There have been a few instances of being just short of landing incredibly talented players. In 1992 the Wolves picked 3RD and watched as 2 players named Shaq and Alonzo Mourning went before they selected Christian Laettner 3RD overall. We all know how that turned out. This also happened in 1994, when the Wolves watched as Glen Robinson, Jason Kidd and Grant Hill all came off the board before the Wolves selected Donyell Marshall.
Notable Picks by Draft Position (Total selections by position in parenthesis):
R1, P1 (1): Karl-Anthony Towns; 2015
R1, P2 (2): Derrick Williams; 2011
R1, P3 (2): Christian Laettner; 1992 OJ Mayo; 2008 (Traded to Memphis for Kevin Love)
R1, P4 (2): Donyell Marshall; 1994 Wesley Johnson; 2010
R1, P5 (5):
Isaiah Rider; 1993
Kevin Garnett; 1995
Ray Allen; 1996 (Traded to Milwaukee)
Ricky Rubio; 2009
Kris Dunn; 2016
R1, P6 (4):
Felton Spencer; 1990
Wally Szczerbiak; 1999
Brandon Roy; 2006 (Traded to Portland)
Jonny Flynn; 2009
R1, P7 (3):
Luc Longley; 1991
Corey Brewer; 2007
Lauri Markkanen; 2017 (Traded to Chicago)
R1, P8: The Wolves have never drafted 8TH overall.
R1, P9 (1): Trey Burke; 2013 (Traded to Utah)
R1, P10 (1): Pooh Richardson; 1989 (First pick in franchise history)
R1, P11: The Wolves have never drafted 11TH overall.
R1, P12: The Wolves have never drafted 12TH overall.
R1, P13 (1): Zach LaVine; 2014
R1, P14 (2): William Avery; 1999 Rashad McCants; 2005
R1, P15: The Wolves have never drafted 15TH overall.
R1, P16: Justin Patton; 2017
R1, P17 (1): Rasho Nesterovic; 1998
R1, P18 (1): Ty Lawson; 2009 (Traded to Denver)
R1, P19: The Wolves have never drafted 19TH overall.
R1, P20 (2): Gerald Glass; 1990 Paul Grant; 1997
R1, P21: The Wolves have never drafted 21ST overall.
R1, P22: The Wolves have never drafted 22ND overall.
R1, P23: The Wolves have never drafted 23RD overall.
R1, P24: The Wolves have never drafted 24TH overall.
R1, P25: The Wolves have never drafted 25TH overall.
R1, P26 (2): Ndudi Ebi; 2003 Andre Roberson; 2013 (Traded to Oklahoma City)
R1, P27: The Wolves have never drafted 27TH overall.
R1, P28 (1): Wayne Ellington; 2009
R1, P29: The Wolves have never drafted 29TH overall.
R1, P30 (1): Lazar Hayward; 2010
Notable 2ND Round picks:
Nikola Pekovic; 2008 pick 31
Mario Chalmers; 2008 pick 34 (traded to Miami)
Lorenzo Brown; 2013 pick 52
Cedi Osman; 2015 pick 31 (traded to Cleveland)
As we have seen, the Wolves draft history is pretty hit or miss. There have been some big hits but also some big misses. As for what happens with this draft, we will just have to wait and see. Who knows, they might not even make a pick (and hopefully in that case it is used to bring in much needed bench help).
Seth is host of The Scoop on KLGR Radio out of Redwood Falls, Minnesota. Listen to episodes of The Scoop her
Posted by: Dan Slaubaugh
With the NBA season officially a wrap, On The Prowl's Dan Slaubaugh and Zach More preview the Timberwolves offseason.
Dan: Well Zach, another season has come and gone. It was the most exciting season I’ve had, along with the rest of the On The Prowl team, covering the Timberwolves since our launch in 2014. The Warriors ended up sweeping the NBA Finals over a Cavs team left with misfit pieces of the Kyrie Irving trade. This season wasn’t predictable in the sense that New Orleans would sweep Portland in the first round or that the Boston Celtics would advance to the Eastern Conference Finals (Game 7!) after losing their two star offseason additions in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to injury, but most all of us predicted Houston to be Golden State’s biggest threat and just barely come up short. That’s exactly what happened, and we’ll never know what could have happened if Chris Paul didn’t get hurt.
But now we’re onto the offseason. It’s an offseason that has the potential to blow our socks off. Kawhi Leonard’s status is uncertain in San Antonio. LeBron James could head to Hollywood, Houston, or The City of Brotherly Love. Washington, Toronto, and Portland all have reason to “blow it up” after “running it back” for consecutive years with little playoff success. The head coaching vacancies in Detroit and Toronto are yet to be filled. New Orleans needs to decide what to do with DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo. Will Paul George leave Oklahoma City? Will Chris Paul leave the Rockets?
All these questions will shape the offseason, and spur subsequent moves from the rest of the NBA. Pretty crazy, huh Zach?
Zach: Yes, this offseason is going to be can’t-miss action. The Wojbomb alerts will be turned on. Last year the Wolves had a lot of money to play with and that made it exciting from a Wolves standpoint, where this offseason it’s going to be crazy from an NBA standpoint.
Dan: Absolutely. That being said, let’s get right to it with the Wolves. They have the mid-level exception to work with, and that’s likely it as far as acquiring a player who can legitimately help this team. It’s quite clear they are in need of some wing depth, particularly a player who can shoot and defend (same needs as last offseason). Any names you have in mind?
Zach: The problem for the Wolves is that their need will be what basically every NBA team is looking for. A guard who can defend and shoot. The Wolves, however, will have less money than many of the other teams pursuing the same players. I haven’t gone over the free agent list too hard yet but a player like Wayne Ellington, Rodney Hood or heck even a Jeff Green/Wilson Chandler type could be names rumored for the Wolves. It’s hard to narrow it down without knowing what exactly the Wolves will have to spend. This will come down if they can trade Gorgui Dieng’s contract or somehow make a splash with an Andrew Wiggins trade. The Nemanja Bjelica situation (soon-to-be RFA) will also play a factor in how much the Wolves have to spend. I assume Thibs will extend the qualifying offer to Bjelica making him a restricted free agent.
Dan: So literally as I’m opening a Google doc to write a piece on why I believe the Wolves should pursue Avery Bradley with the MLE, I see Tim Faklis from A Wolf Among Wolves post an article on “The case for pursuing Avery Bradley with the mid-level exception”, so that’s fun (Tim if you’re reading this I’m not bitter at you just bitter at myself for not being quicker haha). Anyway, we have Butler and Wiggins to defend the larger wings on the perimeter but no one quick or fast enough to defend the Stephen Curry's and Kyrie Irving's of the world. Bradley would take that role, and remove a lot of pressure off everyone on defense. The offense is already in a good place. The defense, as everyone knows, needs improvement. Plugging Bradley in off the bench instead of Jamal Crawford would be a big boost for the Wolves.
Zach: Avery Bradley would be a good addition for the Wolves bench. I like that fit better than Jamal last season. Jamal could win games for you but too many times he would also contribute in a large part to the loss. Bradley’s cost will be down a bit because he is coming off an injury-shortened season and even when he did play he didn’t play great. He is still only one year removed from when he averaged 16.3 points per game on nearly 40 percent three-point shooting all while playing great defense. Other GM’s won’t forget about that and someone will offer him more than what the Wolves can pay. He is the type of player fit that the Wolves need to find this offseason. A guy that won’t get people screaming in excitement for but a guy who will play good defense on a nightly basis and help the Wolves win games in a lot of the small ways that don’t always show up on the stat sheet.
Dan: Yeah, unfortunately, I can see teams outbidding the Timberwolves for him, and like you said, the goal should be to find someone LIKE him. With just the MLE, and a coach who continually refuses to play his bench, the Wolves might just have to find a sleeper at the bottom of people’s free agent lists. Moving on to trade talk, here are two questions: 1. Who do you think is the most likely to get moved? 2. Do you think the Wolves should be shopping Andrew Wiggins hard?
Zach: The trade market will be what Wolves fans are talking about more this offseason than free agency. I think the player most likely to be moved is Gorgui Dieng. His contract is going to be tough to move as he showed last year he is not worth the 4 year, 62 million dollar contract he signed before the 2017 season. Due to the way the roster is constructed though he still probably has the best odds of being traded. The Wolves certainly will be trying hard to trade him, it will just come down to if they are willing to add in the pick or take on a bad contract in return. In regards to Andrew Wiggins being traded, I have gone back and forth multiple times already and the offseason just started.
I do believe Thibs needs to contact every team in the league and at least see what the offers would be for him. We can keep talking about “Wiggins still being young” and how “he will improve” but he has yet to prove he will live up to the hype and now that his max contract has kicked in the Wolves need him to produce more. I wouldn’t make a trade just to make a trade when it comes to Wiggins but if the Wolves can find the right fit of players to help this roster win then that is something they need to pursue. A factor that will play into it will be how confident they are that Butler wants to stay long term. If they are then Wiggins becomes more expandable. Wiggins and Butler are not a great fit together on the court and the Wolves could find better players with less “potential” but better fits that will help them win. If they think Butler won’t stay long-term than they have to make the decision to keep Wiggins and possibly look at moving Jimmy, but that’s a convo for a different time.
Dan: Absolutely. It will be extremely interesting to see what the Wolves do the next few months. That said, here’s my to-do list:
That’ll do it for this inbox. Thanks for reading. I may write up something on additional players the Wolves should pursue with the MLE in the next week if I have time. Keep an eye on Jake’s piece on the “Timberwolves Draft Big Board” tomorrow. Until then, have a wonderful Tuesday!