Minnesota was a team that intrigued plenty of us last season. I mean was there not to like? A burgeoning young core led the most exciting young big man in the league in Karl-Anthony Towns, athletic and ever improving Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine who should scare the crap out of everyone now that he’s developing quite the IQ to go along with his ability to jump out of the gym. Add to this the addition of Tom Thibodeau last summer to harness all of this energy and lord help us teach them defense and they should have been a shoo-in for most improved team in the league.
Well, it didn’t actually work out like that. Despite looking very impressive in spurts last year the learning curve proved too steep to handle in one season and the T’Wolves finished with 31 wins and even more surprising 27th in defensive rating. So in spite of all of the things they have going for them there are improvements to be made.
Needs: Bench depth, specifically at the wing positions preferably veterans.
Wants: Making a hard decision where to go in terms of their point guard situation, add a defender or two.
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
Being as young as the T’Wolves are and having built mostly through the draft (and smartly might I add) they have a great opportunity to fill out their roster via free agency. Add to this that they will be able to remove Nikola Pekovic’s salary from their books at no cost and Minny finds themselves with quite a bit of flexibility. They still have to be somewhat careful as Levine and Wiggins are up for rookie extensions. But the roughly $26 million that they are projected to have should be well enough to fill up any holes they may have.
Minnesota has garnered a well earned reputation for drafting smart. Even though he didn’t contribute as much as many expected in his rookie season Kris Dunn still has a lot of fans. This year the T’Wolves possess the 7th pick and as mentioned up top Minnesota’s defense was probably the biggest letdown from last season. Also, with depth needed across the board I think Jonathan Isaac the power forward from Florida State would be a great fit here. Long? Check. Good feet? Already a competent rim protector? Chiggity check! There’s always inherent risk here but I feel like handing Thibs a lump of clay like this can only yield positive results.
This is where it gets interesting. As mentioned up top Minny has a great young core of starters still on rookie deals but they haven’t been able to build proper support for them. Last year’s pu pu platter of Cole Aldrich, Jordan Hill and Brandon Rush is proof of this. However, I feel like Thibs second summer in the great north will produce more fruit. His young stars should be a draw for mid-tier and bit role veterans which is exactly what is needed here. Guys with a strong defensive presence won’t hurt here since it will give Thibs plenty of much needed flexibility in his rotations.
Names to watch: Tony Snell – SG/SF – Restricted, P.J. Tucker – SF – Unrestricted, Joe Ingles – SF – Restricted, Andre Roberson – SG/SF – Restricted, Dion Waiters – SG – Player Option, Tony Allen – SG – Unrestricted