Minnesota Timberwolves

Five Trade Candidates Who Can Veto Deals

Only two NBA players – LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony – technically have no-trade clauses included in their current contracts. However, there are several players around the league with the ability to block trades that would involve them.

A player who re-signs with his previous team on a one-year contract – or a two-year deal with an option year – is given no-trade protection, and so is a player who accepts his qualifying offer after his rookie deal expire. If one of those players is dealt, he’d lose his Bird or Early Bird rights, which is a key reason he must approve a move.

A player who signed an offer sheet and had that offer matched by his previous team can also veto trades, and can’t be sent to the team that attempted to sign him during that same league year. That means, for instance, that the Wizards can’t trade Otto Porter to the Nets this season.

There are 17 players around the NBA that meet one of those criteria, bringing the number of players with a no-trade clause – either official or unofficial – to 19. While most of those players probably aren’t going anywhere at the trade deadline anyway, there are a handful of trade candidates who would have to consent to a move, creating an added wrinkle as those players’ teams consider their trade options.

Here are some notable players whose consent is required in order to trade them:

  1. Nikola Mirotic verticalNikola Mirotic, PF (Bulls): We’ve covered Mirotic’s unofficial no-trade clause many times over the last few weeks, but it’s worth noting that his situation is a little different than anyone else’s on this list. Mirotic’s contract is actually a two-year pact, with a team option for the second year. So while he has veto power for now, that would disappear if the Bulls were to pick up his $12.5MM option for 2018/19. If the Bulls find a trade they like for Mirotic, he could use his veto power as leverage, pushing the club to exercise that option. And he might get his wish — any team willing to give up something of value for the veteran forward might not mind locking him in for an extra year as part of the deal.
  2. Nerlens Noel, C (Mavericks): As we noted on Thursday when we identified Noel as a trade candidate in the Southwest, the young center’s value is complicated by the fact that he’s currently sidelined with a thumb injury. Noel may be back in early February though, in which case potential suitors would have a chance to see if he’s healthy before pursuing a deal. The union between Noel and the Mavericks has been a rocky one, and it seems unlikely to turn into a long-term relationship, so if Dallas finds a taker for the 23-year-old, I expect he’d sign off, even if it means losing his Bird rights — those Bird rights probably won’t matter much this offseason if the Mavs don’t plan to retain him.
  3. Alex Len, C (Suns): Like Noel, Len had trouble finding an offer sheet on the restricted free agent market last summer and ultimately signed his qualifying offer. Unlike Noel though, Len has had a regular role and a solid year, averaging 8.5 PPG with career highs in RPG (8.3) and FG% (.552). The Suns have a bit of a logjam in the middle, and Len might have more trade value than Greg Monroe or Tyson Chandler, but Monroe is on an expiring contract and Chandler is 35 years old, making them more expendable for the rebuilding Suns. In other words, even though he’ll be a free agent again in July, Len remains the center most likely to stick in Phoenix for the next several years. I don’t expect the team will ask him to approve a trade.
  4. Ersan Ilyasova, PF (Hawks): The Hawks are reportedly seeking a high second-round pick in exchange for Ilyasova, and that price doesn’t seem unreasonable for a productive stretch four on an affordable contract, even if that contract will expire this summer. While Ilyasova may hesitate to surrender his Bird rights by approving a trade, those Bird rights aren’t as valuable to him as they would be to a star player, since Ilyasova is unlikely to earn more than the mid-level in free agency. The veteran sharpshooter has also led a nomadic NBA existence in recent years, playing for five different teams since the start of the 2015/16 season, so he’s accustomed to bouncing around and may not mind leaving the 13-31 Hawks to join a contender.
  5. Shabazz Muhammad, SF (Timberwolves): Muhammad hasn’t been mentioned in any trade rumors yet, but he can’t be thrilled with the way this season has played out for him in Minnesota. After failing to find a lucrative deal on the free agent market in the offseason, the 25-year-old accepted a one-year, prove-it deal from the Timberwolves, and has fallen out of the rotation over the course of the season — he has played just 17 minutes since the start of December. Muhammad isn’t a great defender or distributor, and he has been ineffective as a scorer this season (.376/.211/.750 shooting), so he’ll have little to no trade value. Still, he’s only earning the minimum, so there may be a team willing to roll the dice. It’s also worth mentioning that Muhammad’s deal includes a player option for 2018/19, which may be a minor motivating factor for the Wolves to explore a deal rather than keeping him around for depth purposes — the team’s roster will get more expensive next season, so removing even a modest amount of potential guaranteed money for a non-essential player could help.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NBA Suspends Arron Afflalo Two Games

The NBA has suspended Magic guard Arron Afflalo two games for his role in an altercation with Timberwolves forward Nemanja Bjelica, Shams Charania of The Vertical tweets.

On Tuesday night, Afflalo got tangled up with the 29-year-old Wolves forward and ended up launching a wild haymaker that careened off the back of Bjelica’s head and neck. Bjelica put Afflalo in a headlock before the two were eventually separated.

The suspension, which will be in place for tonight’s Magic-Cavaliers game, targets Afflalo and not Bjelica presumably because Afflalo appeared to be the one to escalate the situation, while Bjelica looked content containing Afflalo and defusing the situation.

Wolves Sign Amile Jefferson To Two-Way Deal

5:04pm: The signing is official, per team release.

1:17pm: The Timberwolves will fill their open two-way contract slot by signing forward Amile Jefferson to a two-way contract, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Charania adds that Jefferson will be a free agent this summer, meaning his new deal will just be a rest-of-season agreement.

Jefferson, 24, went undrafted in 2017 and signed with the Timberwolves for training camp. He was cut at the end of the preseason, joining the Iowa Wolves – Minnesota’s G League team – as an affiliate player in the fall. The former Duke standout has been dominant in his first G League season, averaging 18.0 PPG and 13.1 RPG with a .640 FG%, earning his shot at a two-way deal.

The Timberwolves had been carrying just one two-way player – Anthony Brown – for months, but decided to add a second before today’s deadline. After January 15, teams are no longer permitted to sign players to two-way contracts until the 2018/19 league year begins.

Jefferson may remain with the Iowa Wolves for now, but his two-way deal will allow him to spend up to 22 days in the NBA with the Timberwolves.

Last Day For Teams To Sign Two-Way Deals, Apply For DPEs

January 15 is an important date on the NBA calendar. As we outlined earlier this morning, it’s the day that several of the players who signed free agent deals in 2017 become trade-eligible for the first time on those new deals. In addition to being the first day that those players can be traded, January 15 is also the last day for teams to complete certain roster moves. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Last day for teams to sign players to two-way contracts:

If you were following Hoops Rumors over the weekend, you likely noticed a flurry of roster moves involving two-way contracts. That’s because January 15 represents the deadline for teams to sign players to two-way deals. If a club doesn’t finalize a two-way signing today, it can’t do so for the remainder of the 2017/18 league year.

A handful of two-way signings reported over the weekend – including the Lakersdeal with Gary Payton II and a pair of Pistons agreements – will need to be made official today. Additionally, the Bucks, Timberwolves, and Wizards each still have an open two-way slot, as our tracker shows, so if they don’t want to leave that second slot empty all season, they’ll need to fill it today.

Salaries for all two-way players will become fully guaranteed for 2017/18 on January 20.

Last day for teams to apply for a disabled player exception:

As our glossary entry on the disabled player exception explains, the DPE is a tool that can be granted to teams by the NBA. It gives a club a one-time cap exception that can be used to replace a player who suffered a season-ending injury.

The Celtics applied for and received a disabled player exception back in the fall after Gordon Hayward went down, but the Nets didn’t file for a DPE after Jeremy Lin‘s season-ending injury that same week. They’re expected to do so by today’s deadline, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. The Heat are also worth watching, since they’ll be eligible for a DPE if Dion Waiters is ruled out for the season, as is expected.

Jones Impressive, But Teague Remains Starter

Timberwolves point guard Tyus Jones played well when Jeff Teague was sidelined with a sprained knee ligament, but there’s no thought about making him the starter, relays Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Jones ranks in the top five in the league in assists and steals per turnover and is number one in defensive real plus-minus. Still, coach Tom Thibodeau trusts Teague, who was one of Minnesota’s prize offseason additions, and won’t consider a change.

Clippers Proposed Blockbuster Deal Involving Griffin, Towns

The Clippers proposed a deal to the Timberwolves that would have sent Blake Griffin to Minnesota in exchange for Karl-Anthony Towns but talks did not advance past the initial phone call, Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders writes.

The Timberwolves view Towns as a franchise cornerstone who is not available at this time, Scotto notes. Aside from Minnesota’s reluctance to part with Towns, several other factors stand in the way of a trade. Los Angeles signed Griffin to a massive five-year, $171MM extension this past offseason. Not only does that make Griffin ineligible to be traded until January 15, but Towns’ salary is a mere $6.2MM compared to Griffin’s $29.5MM.

To facilitate a trade, the Timberwolves would likely need to send at least two more players to L.A. to acquire Griffin. That would also complicate the Clippers’ roster as the organization would need to figure how to open a roster spot for the hypothetical third player acquired, according to Scotto.

Griffin, 28, has played well when healthy for the Clippers this season, averaging 22.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 5.2 APG in 25 games. In his third season, the 22-year-old Towns’ scoring is down from last season (20.2 PPG) but his 12.0 RPG in an NBA-best 44 games is in line with his career totals.

The Clippers’ performance this season has fluctuated but the team is currently one game behind the Pelicans for the eighth seed with a 20-21 record. A rebuild has been rumored for months which would likely include shipping the likes of DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams elsewhere. However, this is the first time we are hearing that the Clippers have discussed Griffin in trade talks.

Andrew Wiggins' Contributing More Than Just Offense

The Timberwolves have been getting more out of Andrew Wiggins lately and the swingman continues to get better. Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune writes that head coach Tom Thibodeau spoke highly of his young wing at Wednesday night’s press conference.

A month ago, just as Jimmy Butler stepped up as a more assertive offensive weapon for the Timberwolves, Wiggins struggled with his jumpshot. These days the shooting guard found a way to score more efficiently while contributing in other ways as well.

He’s such a gifted scorer. That part is obvious. But it’s all the other things he’s capable of doing. He can play great when he doesn’t shoot the ball well and everybody has nights when they don’t shoot the ball great,” the Timberwolves coach said. “There’s defense, rebounding the ball, getting out on the break, making plays for other people. […] His activity overall has been great. It just makes the game easier for everyone.

Muhammad Changes Agents; Wolves Monitor Buyout Market

Salary-Cap Issues Could Haunt Team

Salary-cap issues could sidetrack the Timberwolves’ rise in the Western Conference, as Nick Friedell of ESPN details. Referencing ESPN salary expert Bobby Marks, Friedell notes that the Timberwolves would be only $6MM under the projected $123MM luxury-tax line next season with four open roster spots if they kept the current roster together. That would hamstring their ability to bring in quality free agents. The tax implications only get worse in future years if, as expected, they offer Karl-Anthony Towns a rookie max extension and try to re-sign Jimmy Butler when he becomes a free agent in 2019.

Jamal Crawford Wanted To Play With Isaiah Thomas

Veteran shooting guard Jamal Crawford would have signed with the Cavaliers if their blockbuster trade with the Celtics had happened sooner, he revealed to Joe Vardon of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Crawford is close friends with Isaiah Thomas and that would have played a pivotal role in deciding where to go as a free agent last summer.

“That’s my brother,” Crawford told Vardon and other media members. “We’re past like friends or basketball relationship. … Like, we go on vacation, like it’s his family and my family. … so that would’ve had to change things.”

Cleveland wanted to sign Crawford for the veteran’s minimum but the Timberwolves offered their $4.3MM room mid-level exception. Crawford has a player option worth $4.6MM for next season.

Crawford also considered signing with the Warriors after the Clippers traded him to the Hawks. Atlanta had no intention of keeping Crawford after acquiring him in a three-team deal in July and the two sides reached a buyout agreement.

Crawford also liked the idea of joining a team on the upswing, instead of one of the reigning conference champions, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“If I would go there and we would win a championship, I’d be like ‘OK, what’s next Jamal?’ You want to embrace that journey and I wanted to go through it with these guys,” said Crawford, referring to the Timberwolves. “There’s nothing against , like, I have the ultimate respect for the Cavs and the Warriors and all those teams. But they’re already there. I wanted to go somewhere where they can kind of build up.”

Crawford is averaging 9.7 PPG and 2.3 APG in 18.8 MPG as one of Minnesota’s key reserves.

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