By: Dan Slaubaugh
It's safe to say that the relatively new Minnesota Timberwolves front office members, Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden, have their work cut out for them this offseason. Their big decisions will define what the Wolves roster looks like heading into training camp.
The Wolves will have more than than $30 million in salary cap space - assuming Pek's salary comes off the books - to work with when free agency begins July 30. Minnesota could also have a top three draft pick when lottery positions are announced in May. That’s plenty of money, and assets, which should have a big impact on the roster.
Here's what Minnesota's summer schedule looks like:
May 16: NBA Draft Lottery
June 22: NBA Draft (ESPN, 7PM EST)
June 30: Teams can start negotiating with players, but can't officially sign until July 7
July 1: NBA Summer League Begins
July 17: NBA Summer League ends
Now, let's analyze what each event means to the Timberwolves.
NBA Draft Lottery
The Timberwolves are in unique position regarding this year's Draft Lottery. They have an 18.3 percent chance of landing a top three pick, and an 5.3 percent chance of landing the number one overall pick. While an 18.3 percent chance at landing a top three pick isn't great odds, there is a realistic chance the Wolves could move up.
If the Wolves do in fact land one of the first three selections, the likeliness of them trading it decreases significantly. If a top two pick falls into Minnesota's lap, it is all but certain Thibodeau will use it to select Markelle Fultz (PG, UW) or Lonzo Ball (PG, UCLA), who are the consensus top guards in this draft class.
Here are the draft odds the Wolves have of landing each of the picks 1-9. (It is not possible for them to drop out of the top nine due of their bottom six finish.)
1st pick: 5.3 percent
2nd pick: 6.0 percent
3rd pick: 7.0 percent
6th pick: 43.9 percent
7th pick: 30.5 percent
8th pick: 5.0 percent
9th pick: .1 percent
When this day arrives, we likely won't know if Thibodeau will use this top nine pick to actually draft a player. Because the Wolves traded their 2018 first round pick to Atlanta for Adreian Payne (lol), they can't trade the pick until they've selected the player due to the fact that teams can't trade first round draft picks in back-to-back years. Nonetheless, rumors have already begun swirling suggesting the Wolves could trade their first round selection.
I could go through players that the Wolves should look at drafting, but we don't even know where the Wolves will be positioned yet, so it's pretty much a waste of time. No need to worry though. I'm certain there will be a significant amount of coverage about the topic among the many Timberwolves media outlets (including ours) leading up to draft day.
Important to note: On April 18, the Wolves and Knicks faced off in a league-sanctioned drawing that decided who receives the higher pick in the 2017 NBA Draft if neither team jumps into the top three. Minnesota won, and therefore will hold the sixth pick if neither team draws luck. There is still an 18.2 percent chance the Knicks can jump them in the lottery, and vice-versa.
The drawing did not affect lottery odds—both the Wolves and Knicks have an 18.2 percent chance at landing in the top three and 5.3. percent chance of grabbing the top overall spot.
Free Agency Period
The biggest needs for the Wolves currently are frontcourt depth and a reliable perimeter shooter. There is a good chance Thibodeau will shore up one of those needs through the draft or by trading their pick for an established player. With that, it is probable that they will use free agency to shore up the roster, unlike last summer's free agency.
Thibodeau has said the Wolves will acquire players that align with the trajectory of the current roster. So this leads me to believe that whatever player that is signed/ traded for either is young enough to grow with the Wolves or old enough to contribute for two seasons max and fall off the books before the slew of contract extensions begin. This is precisely why I don’t believe Paul Millsap (32) is the guy for the job, considering he will want five years and max money.
Thibodeau's long-term goal should be to maximize the roster talent and potential of this team once LaVine, Wiggins and Towns hit their prime. Keep that in mind once the free agency period begins.
We'll have an article coming out in the near future concerning Wolves free agent targets, so be on the lookout for that. A few names for thought: JJ Reddick, JaMychal Green, Taj Gibson, Patrick Patterson, and PJ Tucker.
NBA Summer League
If the Wolves use their pick to select a player in the top nine, the summer league games will be fun and entertaining to watch for us fans as we get to see our new young star in his first professional action.
However, if Minnesota doesn't add a member of the 2017 draft class, there might not be much to cover at this year's summer league as the Timberwolves don't own a second round pick. That is, if Thibodeau doesn't send second-year guard Kris Dunn to Las Vegas, which is a distinct possibility (I think he should).
The next couple of months will be a flurry for the Timberwolves organization and their fans. With the NBA Draft, Free Agency period and Summer League play all on the agenda, fans will be well entertained as they gear up for another exciting season of Timberwolves basketball. It's a season that could ultimately bring Minnesota out of its 13-year playoff drought. First order of business, though, is assembling the roster that can accomplish the feat.