The Timberwolves are allowing forwards Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph to become free agents.
By JOAN NIESENFS North
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Timberwolves announced Saturday that they did not extend qualifying offers to Michael Beasley or Anthony Randolph, making both unrestricted free agents for the 2012-13 season.
Beasley, a small forward who averaged 11.5 points and 4.4 rebounds in 2011-12, posted the worst numbers of his career last season. The team would have had to extend him an $8.2 million qualifying offer. Randolph, a power forward whose qualifying offer was just $4 million, also underperformed last season, averaging 7.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
In letting Beasley and Randolph leave, the team will save $12.2 million against its salary cap, which will be helpful in attempting to sign one or several free agents this offseason. Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn emphasized throughout the spring that the team was flexible on cap space going into the offseason.
"We have strategies that we can employ where we could free up a lot of room, or we could go in a different direction and just make trades, just move salary for salary," Kahn said in April. "There isn't just one way we're going to look at it."
Unloading those salaries suggests that the team will be active when free agency opens Sunday. Kahn has already confirmed that the team has met with retired three-time All-Star shooting guard Brandon Roy, who's looking to make a comeback after retiring in 2011 with knee problems.
Technically, the Timberwolves could still re-sign Beasley and Randolph at salaries below their qualifying offers. That's not going to happen with Beasley, but it remains a possibility for Randolph, who did show some promise late in the season when he played more minutes during Kevin Love's concussion-related absence. In the eight games Love missed, Randolph averaged 14.3 points in 26.4 minutes, nearly double his season-average scoring number.
Randolph's fate is still very much in flux, though. The Timberwolves likely won't make an offer until they've shopped for another backup big man.
The team's decision to cut ties with Beasley marks the low point in the career of a player who was once one of the most promising in the league. After just one year at Kansas State in which he won the Big 12 Player of the Year award, Beasley was the second overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft. In his two seasons in Miami, Beasley started 97 of the 159 games in which he played, averaging 13.9 and then 14.8 points. His best year in the league came after being traded to Minnesota before the 2010-11 season; he averaged 19.2 points and 5.6 rebounds, earning more playing time on a struggling team.
Beasley fought nagging injuries in 2011-12, losing his starting job after he suffered a sprained foot on Jan. 6. He battled a toe injury later in the season and spent much of the year working on his defense, the main weak spot in his game.
As the end of the 2011-12 season neared, Beasley spoke often about his future, vacillating between his desire to remain with the Timberwolves and his belief that he should be a starter, not a bench player. That desire to start will likely color his search for a new team, but based on past off-court issues and his struggles last season, Beasley might be a tough sell as the member of any starting five going into next season.
The Timberwolves also announced Saturday that the deadline to buy out the contracts of center Brad Miller and small forward Martell Webster has been extended well into July. The team could buy out Webster's $5.7 million contract for $600,000, and though Miller announced his retirement at the end of 2011-12, he's still technically under contract for 5.1 million next season.
Webster averaged 6.9 points and 3.6 rebounds per game last season. He started 26 of the 47 games in which he played, with most of his starts coming during the injury-plagued end of the Timberwolves' season. Miller, who had offseason knee surgery in 2011, never had a large role on the court in Minnesota. He averaged 2.3 points and 1.3 rebounds last season.
Both Webster and Miller agreed to the deadline extensions largely for their own interests. Webster has the most options of the two; he could be traded, bought out, or re-signed at an amount less than his $5.7 million contract. It's to his advantage to extend the deadline in hopes that he might be traded to a team that's willing to pay his full contract, rather than to begin negotiating when free agency begins. Miller, however, is just waiting to see if he'll be packaged into a trade, which the team would do for salary cap purposes with his buyout. Though he has not officially retired, Miller is highly unlikely to play next season.