Catching up with the Wolves' summer moves
MINNEAPOLIS – A month ago, this seemed simple. The Minnesota Timberwolves decided they wanted a player. They talked to Houston, Houston talked to them, and on June 26, Chase Budinger was standing at the Target Center, mugging for the camera and holding his brand-new Timberwolves jersey.
That was easy, wasn't it?
Since then, though, the Timberwolves' roster moves have been decidedly more complex. There's been that unfortunate tug-of-war with Portland over Nicolas Batum that left president of basketball operations David Kahn and the Timberwolves reeling, without a player and down five precious days of free agency – but it's more than that.
Since the Budinger trade, the Timberwolves have added seven players and subtracted another seven, with an eighth goodbye perhaps to come. They've signed and they've traded -- but never sign-and-traded -- and now, nearly a month into free agency, it's time for a break.
After trading swingman Wes Johnson and signing small forward Andrei Kirilenko on Friday, Kahn said the Timberwolves were finished – at least for the time being. With three Olympians now on the roster, Kahn wants to wait until the Olympics end to ensure that power forward Kevin Love, guard Alexey Shved and Kirilenko finish without injuries before he makes any further moves.
"The heavy lifting perhaps is done, but there's even one thing that we're thinking about with another team that … I would categorize as something that would be significant," Kahn said, though he admitted he does not know how likely such a deal would be.
So far in free agency, Kahn feels that he's addressed what he and coach Rick Adelman believed was the team's biggest problem last season: a lack of ballhandling wing players. After point guard Ricky Rubio went down with a torn ACL on March 9, the team's wing players' responsibilities to create plays for others increased, and they couldn't meet the task. Now, though, Kahn believes that his new-look roster is versatile and capable of a much higher level of play.
The past week has involved a flurry of activity on the part of the Timberwolves, which has likely satisfied Love, who's spoken out this offseason about the team's need to make changes and win in order to retain him. Kahn said on Friday that Love, whom he jokingly called his "assistant general manager," approved of the moves, and earlier in the week he validated his commitment to the same goals Love has repeatedly stated.
"I think sometimes Kevin thinks that he's the only person here who wants to make the playoffs next year," Kahn said. "I think we all are motivated to do so."
"We tore down the team, and we've been rebuilding it, and I think we have an opportunity now provided we stay healthy. … We think next season is a year where (the playoffs are) within our reach."
Now, in case you haven't spent your days repeatedly typing "Timberwolves" into a Twitter search window, here's a recap of where this new-look team stands in free agency.
Who's gone, in order of departure:
Small forward Michael Beasley ($8.2 million qualifying offer): On June 30, the Timberwolves announced they would not extend an $8.2 million qualifying offer to Beasley. In addition, the team said that it would not sign the small forward to even a smaller contract, effectively cutting ties with him. He has since signed a three-year, $18 million contract with Phoenix.
Power forward Anthony Randolph ($4.0 million qualifying offer): On the same day the team cut ties with Beasley, it announced it would not extend Randolph a $4.0 million qualifying offer. However, it did not close the door on signing Randolph to a contract worth less than his qualifying offer and said that it would be willing to do so if it didn't find an alternate backup forward. In the meantime, though, Randolph signed a three-year, $6 million contract with the Nuggets.
Center Darko Milicic ($5.2 million salary in 2012-13): The Timberwolves applied their amnesty clause to Milicic on July 12. The amnesty clause, which a team can use once per CBA term on a player who was on its roster as of July 1, 2011, allows a team to waive a player without his contract counting toward its salary cap. If an amnesty player is claimed off waivers, the team that claims him is responsible for whatever it bids of his contract; his former team is responsible for the rest. Milicic cleared waivers without being claimed, and he has yet to sign with another team.
Guard/forward Martell Webster ($5.7 million salary in 2012-13): Webster, who had one year left on his contract, had a $600,000 buyout, which the team exercised July 13. It did so to clear salary cap space and sign Nicolas Batum to an offer sheet, which it promptly did after Webster cleared waivers. However, Portland matched the Timberwolves' offer and retained Batum. Webster has not yet signed with another team.
Center Brad Miller ($5.1 million salary in 2012-13): Miller announced his intention to retire at the end of 2011-12, but he has not yet done so and is waiting for a team to pay him the $800,000 buyout that his contract requires. The Timberwolves will not be that team; they traded him to New Orleans on July 13 as part of the same salary dump as Webster. His contract has since been traded to Phoenix.
Shooting guard Wayne Ellington ($2.1 million salary in 2012-13): In an attempt to balance their roster, which was heavy on guards and lacking forwards, the Timberwolves traded Ellington to Memphis on July 24 for Dante Cunningham. The move was essentially a wash in terms of salary; Cunningham is set to make $2.2 million next year, barely more than Ellington.
Guard/forward Wes Johnson (4.3 million salary in 2012-13): After days of technicalities stalled the deal, the Timberwolves finally traded Johnson to Phoenix on Friday, receiving three second-round picks in the three-team swap. The move was essentially a salary dump to clear space to sign Kirilenko, and the team likely capitalized on Johnson's improved play in summer league to strike the deal.
Forward/center Anthony Tolliver (free agent): Tolliver has not yet signed with a team, and the Timberwolves at this point do not have space to sign him to anything but a minimum contract, which would represent a significant pay cut from his former contract. It is unlikely at this point that Tolliver will return unless the Timberwolves make a move to accommodate him.
Who's new, in order of acquisition:
Small forward Chase Budinger ($942,292 salary in 2012-13): The Timberwolves traded their 2012 first-round draft pick for Budinger, a small forward who played under Adelman in Houston in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Budinger can also play shooting guard and is under contract for one year at a salary that should be a bargain if he posts numbers like he did last season.
Small forward Robbie Hummel (unsigned draft pick): Hummel was selected 58th overall in the 2012 draft with the Timberwolves' only pick. He played with the team at summer league in Las Vegas and is recovering well from two ACL tears, the most recent of which occurred on Oct. 16, 2010. He should be able to fill a role off the bench, and based on its current salary cap situation, the team can sign him only to a minimum contract, which would entail a salary of $473,604 in 2012-13.
Shooting guard Brandon Roy ($5.2 million salary in 2012-13): Roy retired after the 2010-11 season due to chronic knee problems, but he's making his comeback with the Timberwolves next season. Roy will play off the bench and likely at the end of games, and his salary reflects a significant pay cut from his pre-retirement compensation of $13.5 million in 2010-11.
Guard Alexey Shved (approximately $3 million salary in 2012-13): Although the precise breakdown of Shved's contract is unknown, he signed a three-year, $10 million deal with the Timberwolves on July 25. This season will be Shved's NBA debut.
Center Greg Stiemsma (contract terms still unavailable): The Timberwolves agreed to terms with Stiemsma on July 21, but he has not been officially announced as a member of the team. Neither the team nor his agent has released the terms of his contract, but with the Timberwolves currently just below the $58.044 salary cap, they'll likely have to use their room mid-level exception to sign him. Under the terms of the exception, Stiemsma can be signed to a maximum salary of $2.575 million in 2012-13.
Forward Dante Cunningham ($2.2 million salary in 2012-13): The Timberwolves acquired Cunningham in a trade on Tuesday, when they dealt Ellington to Memphis.
Small forward Andrei Kirilenko (reported $10 million salary in 2012-13): After successfully completing the trade of Johnson to Phoenix on Friday and clearing salary cap space, the Timberwolves signed Kirilenko to a deal. He spent all of last season in Russia and missed the grueling post-lockout season.
Who's still here:
Power forward Kevin Love ($13.7 million salary in 2012-13): Kahn stated the obvious at the end of last season when he said Love and Rubio would not be traded this offseason. They were the only two players on the roster whom Kahn guaranteed would return in 2012-13.
Point guard Ricky Rubio ($3.7 million salary in 2012-13): Rubio is recovering from a torn ACL and has a doctor's visit next week in Vail, Colo. He's progressing well and should be ready to return at some point relatively early in the season.
Center Nikola Pekovic ($4.8 million salary in 2012-13): Pekovic is a near lock to return to the team and will assume the duties of starting center.
Forward Derrick Williams ($4.8 million salary in 2012-13): Williams has been the subject of trade rumors for months, and the former No. 2 pick might still have an uncertain fate in Minnesota. Kahn said on Friday that the acquisition of Kirilenko – a small forward who will take minutes and likely a starting job from Williams – will make the second-year player work for his playing time, rather than take it for granted. That said, with the Timberwolves still entertaining future moves, Williams' spot on the roster is still not completely safe.
Point guard Luke Ridnour ($4.0 million salary in 2012-13): Ridnour was impressive during the time Rubio was injured last year and was one of the most consistent players on the team. At 31, he's a veteran, and that works in his favor as well on a young roster. However, with so many point guards, no one at that position besides Rubio (and now Shved) is guaranteed to remain with the team.
Guard J.J. Barea ($4.5 million salary in 2012-13): Barea also benefited from Rubio's injury in terms of playing time. At this point, his spot on the team seems safe, but like Ridnour, it's impossible to say for how long.
Guard Malcolm Lee ($762,195 salary in 2012-13): In a somewhat unexpected move, the Timberwolves signed Lee, their 2011 second-round pick, to a three-year guaranteed deal. Lee comes at a small expense to the team and should likely get a chance to earn his spot in training camp after recovering from December knee surgery. But again, no spot is certain, especially for a guard.
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