Offseason questions for the Minnesota Timberwolves
FOX Sports North
Will Minnesota make a drastic trade?
Although the Timberwolves cracked the postseason field for the first time since 2004, it was clear they have a ways to go to match elite teams in the Western Conference such as Golden State and Houston. A blockbuster trade could help even the field. There are a couple of All-Star caliber players that could request a trade this offseason. Kawhi Leonard is unhappy in San Antonio, and the Toronto Raptors (think Kyle Lowry) could shake things up after losing to Cleveland (well, LeBron James) in the playoffs for the third straight season.
Trading for a player like Kawhi would be costly, meaning the Wolves would have to part ways with Andrew Wiggins at the very least. But a starting lineup with Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and Kawhi Leonard would be a tough, tough team to score on. Head coach Tom Thibodeau would have his pieces together on defense.
Can they find an impact player in the draft?
The Timberwolves scooped up the Thunder’s first-round pick (No. 20 overall) after trading Ricky Rubio to Utah in the offseason. Can a team find value that late in the draft? The last four players to be selected 20th: Harry Giles (Portland), Caris LeVert (Brooklyn), Delon Wright (Toronto) and Bruno Caboclo (Toronto). Giles didn’t play a game in his rookie campaign due to knee issues and Caboclo has appeared in just 35 contests over four NBA seasons, but Wright and LeVert have found roles off the bench. Noteworthy players selected No. 20 include Evan Fournier (2012), Jameer Nelson (2004), Larry Nance (1981) and -- not that he did anything as a player -- but current Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni (1973).
The last time Minnesota had the No. 20 pick was 2011 when it selected Lithuania’s Donatas Motiejunas. The Timberwolves traded Motiejunas the next day (along with a certain point guard named Johnny Flynn) to Houston, and he went on to average 7.4 points in 248 games over five seasons for the Rockets and New Orleans.
How much cap room do the Wolves have?
The 2018 NBA luxury tax threshold is $123 million and the salary cap max is $101 million, according to Spotrac. Minnesota has $113,773,675 committed to its active roster next season and $2,598,921 in dead money (payday for Shabazz Muhammad and Kevin Martin), placing the team $15 million over the cap with $6.6 million to work with in luxury tax space. That doesn’t give the Wolves a ton of room to breathe. If you're thinking the Wolves could create cap room by cutting someone, only last year's top draft pick, Justin Patton, would result in any dead cap money (he's owed $2.67 million next season). Minnesota could save almost $5 million by releasing Cole Adrich ($2,056,021 of his $6,956,021 would be dead cap).
Who will be back?
Jamal Crawford will opt out of the final season of his two-year deal he signed last summer. Minnesota could bring him back -- Butler reportedly wants that to happen -- but it’s not likely. What about Derrick Rose? The former league MVP averaged 14.2 points and 2.6 assists while shooting 7 of 10 from beyond the arc in five postseason games for Minnesota in the playoffs. The Rose-Thibodeau marriage, which dates back the 29-year-old’s third season in the NBA in 2010-11, could see another season. Nemanja Bjelica is a restricted free agent, meaning the Timberwolves can match any offer he receives around the NBA. Bjelica averaged 10.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game as a starter (21 games) last season while filling in for an injured Butler. He was Minnesota’s second-best 3-point shooter at a career-best 41.5 percent. Aaron Brooks is also an unrestricted free agent while Marcus George-Hunt and Amile Jefferson are restricted free agents.
Can the Wolves extend Jimmy Butler’s contract?
Butler’s contract runs through next season, and he has a player option for 2019-20, but the four-time All-Star will likely want to cash in on another long-term deal sooner than later. That $20 million he’s owed for 2019-20 will be chump change around the NBA by that time (keep in mind Butler's AAV of roughly $18.5 million currently ranks 52nd among all NBA players). Butler will be 29 in September, meaning he probably only has one more massive deal left in his career. If Thibodeau is in Minnesota to stay, there’s no reason Butler wouldn’t want to be either. Minnesota will have to be strategic with the contract, as Karl-Anthony Towns in a restricted free agent after the 2019-20 season and has earned a hefty payday through his first three NBA seasons.