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!