Timberwolves Rumors

Early Reactions, Notes On Leonard/DeRozan Trade

The highest-profile trade candidate of the 2018 NBA offseason finally appears to be on the move, as the Raptors and Spurs have reached an agreement in principle to swap Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan. The Spurs will also acquire Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick, sending out Danny Green in the deal.

It’s a fascinating trade for a number of reasons, not least of which is the apparent distaste that each star has for it. DeRozan, who was reportedly recently informed by the Raptors that he wouldn’t be traded, published an early-morning Instagram story saying that there “ain’t no loyalty in this game,” and TNT’s David Aldridge (Twitter link) hears from a source that the longtime Raptor remains “extremely upset.” DeRozan isn’t backing off the claim that the team lied to him about a potential trade, Aldridge adds.

As for Leonard, his long-reported desire has been to return home to Los Angeles, so a move to Toronto represents just about the furthest thing possible from what he wanted. While it would be a surprise if he refuses to report to his new team, a long-term stay with the Raptors beyond the 2018/19 season will be a “very tough sell,” a source tells Aldridge (Twitter link),

Here’s more on the NBA’s latest blockbuster trade:

  • The Spurs are entering uncharted territory and facing an uncertain future, according to Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com, who relays a few interesting tidbits on the franchise and Leonard in his latest article.
  • Sources tell Wright that Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich “begged’ Leonard to let him announce to the media last season that the star forward wouldn’t be returning from his quadriceps injury, but Kawhi declined each time, believing he could still return. Leonard already “felt betrayed” by the club’s handling of his quad issue, and the uncertainty surrounding his absence and possible return didn’t help either side.
  • In a separate piece for ESPN.com, Wright breaks down the timeline of the Leonard saga, which started during the forward’s rehab process in the summer of 2017.
  • Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe passes along several initial thoughts on the deal, including the ripple effect the Raptors‘ acquisition of Leonard will have on other Eastern Conference contenders like the Celtics.
  • This isn’t the first time that the Raptors have looked into the possibility of moving DeRozan. According to Marc Stein of The New York Times, Toronto held exploratory discussions with the Timberwolves during the 2017 offseason about a deal that would have sent DeRozan to Minnesota and Andrew Wiggins to the Raptors. Those talks likely took place before Wiggins signed his five-year, maximum-salary extension.

Timberwolves Owner Talks Towns, Wiggins, FAs

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor confirmed last week that Jimmy Butler turned down the team’s contract extension offer, since he’ll have the ability to earn a much larger payday if he waits another year and signs as a free agent in 2019. In his conversation with Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, Taylor also discussed several other topics, including a possible rookie scale extension for Karl-Anthony Towns.

According to Taylor, the Wolves have already put a maximum-salary offer on the table for Towns and there shouldn’t be much negotiating required. The club has until mid-October to finalize an extension with the former first overall pick, and Taylor sounds confident it’ll happen before then.

“I’m sure he’s going to sign it. It doesn’t really make that much difference to me when he does it,” Taylor said. “We haven’t put any deadline on it or anything like that. The offer’s out there. … I’m confident that we won’t have any problem with it.”

Here’s more from the Timberwolves’ owner:

  • According to Taylor, the Timberwolves aren’t interested in trading Andrew Wiggins at this point. The Wolves owner stressed that the franchise doesn’t want to “give up” on a player as young as Wiggins, who is still just 23. “A lot of players, it took them three or four years to get better and then they just keep getting better,” Taylor said. “I don’t see why Andrew won’t be one of those people, because he has such natural ability.”
  • The Timberwolves signed Anthony Tolliver because they didn’t want to wait on a decision from Nemanja Bjelica, who was seeking a two-year deal. Bjelica ultimately signed with Philadelphia for less than what Minnesota offered him, according to Taylor.
  • Asked about filling out the rest of the Timberwolves’ roster, Taylor acknowledged that minimum-salary signings are the most likely path for the club. “I got the list of who they’re talking to, and they’re not exactly [big-]name players,” Taylor said of the free agents his front office is targeting. “The names they have right now are a little younger, but they have some experience. [The front office] believes that they have the ability to improve.”
  • Taylor also noted that many of Minnesota’s free agent targets are strong defensively, adding that the team wants to improve its bench’s defensive numbers.
  • The Timberwolves owner downplayed the idea that there’s tension between Jimmy Butler and some of the Wolves’ other stars, suggesting that Butler “just wants to win” and wants to make sure that “people around him play really hard.”

Jimmy Butler Turns Down Wolves’ Extension Offer

All-NBA forward Jimmy Butler has formally turned down a contract extension offer from the Timberwolves, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News, citing team owner Glen Taylor. As Wolfson notes, the four-year deal would have been worth in excess of $100MM. Butler and his camp expressed gratitude to the Wolves for extending such a generous offer, Wolfson adds (via Twitter).

This news doesn’t come as a surprise, and it doesn’t mean that Butler is plotting his exit from Minnesota. We heard earlier this offseason that the Timberwolves intended to offer their All-Star forward a contract extension, but CBA rules limit the team to offering four years and approximately $100MM, as cap expert Albert Nahmad details (via Twitter).

If he waits until 2019 and opts out of his contract, Butler would be eligible for a new five-year contract worth nearly $190MM with the Wolves, based on a $109MM cap projection for 2019/20. If he wants to sign a new four-year deal with another team at that time, it could be worth up to $140MM+, assuming the cap increases to $109MM.

While the Wolves shouldn’t worry too much about Butler opting not to sign an extension at this point, the former Bull isn’t necessarily a lock to stay in Minnesota long term. There have been reports of tension among the Wolves’ three stars – Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl-Anthony Towns – so the club will have to do everything it can to make sure those three players are on the same page going forward. Wiggins is already on a long-term max contract with the Wolves, and the team is said to be discussing a similar deal with Towns.

There have also been whispers that Butler and Kyrie Irving have interest in teaming up. Irving is in a similar situation to Butler — both players have player options for 2019/20, meaning they’re likely to reach free agency at the same time next summer. Like Butler, Irving is extension-eligible, but has pointed out that it wouldn’t make financial sense for him to sign a new deal before reaching free agency.

Tolliver Can Be Defensive Force

  • The Timberwolves valued veteran power forward Anthony Tolliver as much for his defense as his 3-point shooting and veteran leadership, coach Tom Thibodeau told Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Tolliver signed a one-year, $5.75MM contract after a solid season with the Pistons. “We wanted to address the defense of the second unit, and we think he’ll be a great fit,” Thibodeau said. “Whatever he’s asked to do, he does it. He always stars in his role. We can’t have enough guys like that.”

Wolves, Karl-Anthony Towns Discussing Max Extension

The Timberwolves and star center Karl-Anthony Towns have engaged in discussions about a possible maximum-salary rookie scale extension, according to Michael Scotto and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Towns, the first overall pick in the 2015 draft, is extension-eligible for the first time this offseason. He and the Wolves have until the day before the 2018/19 regular season begins to work out a potential deal, though if the two sides are talking about a max contract, negotiations may not need to drag out that long.

[RELATED: Players Eligible For Rookie Scale Extensions In 2018]

Over the course of his first three NBA seasons, Towns has established himself as one of the NBA’s best frontcourt scorers. After averaging 25.1 PPG and 12.3 RPG in 2016/17, Towns’ scoring numbers dipped a little in 2017/18 to 21.3 PPG. However, he was more efficient than ever, setting new career bests in FG% (.545) and 3PT% (.421).

If the Wolves and Towns agree to terms on a max deal, it would be worth 25% of the cap in 2019/20, though the two sides could negotiate an agreement tentatively worth up to 30%. The big man would have to meet certain criteria – likely earning an All-NBA nod – in the 2018/19 season to qualify for that more lucrative extension.

Based on a $109MM projected cap for 2019/20, a max deal for Towns would start at $27.25MM and would be worth approximately $158MM over five years, just like the extension Devin Booker signed with the Suns a few days ago. For the Wolves, it could create some interesting cap decisions going forward.

Andrew Wiggins is already on a long-term, maximum-salary contract and Gorgui Dieng is owed $16MM+ in 2019/20 and $17MM+ in 2020/21. Minnesota would also have to consider a new deal for Jimmy Butler, assuming he wants to stick around when he becomes eligible for free agency next summer. And Jeff Teague has a $19MM player option for ’19/20.

If Teague opts in and both Butler and Towns get max contracts, the Wolves would be on the hook for $122MM+ for those five players next season. Given those increasing roster costs – and repeated whispers of possible tension between the Wolves’ stars – the club may eventually consider moving one or more of its highly-paid players.

If Towns doesn’t sign a rookie scale extension this summer, he’d be eligible for restricted free agency in 2019, at which point Minnesota would be able to match any offer he receives.

Contract Details For Keita Bates-Diop

Wolves Eyeing Nick Young, Treveon Graham

  • Free agent swingman Nick Young has received some interest from the Kings, Grizzlies, Rockets, Cavaliers, Jazz, and Timberwolves, among others, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. According to Wolfson, Young views Minnesota as as “good opportunity” but the club’s interest hasn’t been as aggressive as it was a year ago.
  • The Cavaliers had a group in Las Vegas this morning to see free agent wing Treveon Graham work out, league sources tell TNT’s David Aldridge (Twitter link). The Cavs have “strong interest” in Graham, who is drawing interest from the Timberwolves too, says Aldridge.

Timberwolves Sign Keita Bates-Diop

Second-round pick Keita Bates-Diop has formally signed a contract with the Timberwolves, according to the NBA’s official transactions log. Terms of the deal aren’t yet known.

A forward out of Ohio State, Bates-Diop was viewed as a potential first-round pick in 2018’s draft, but slipped all the way to No. 48, where the Wolves snagged him. The former Buckeye standout was the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2017/18, averaging 19.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG, and 1.6 BPG with a .480/.359/.794 shooting line.

Tom Thibodeau and the Timberwolves don’t typically rely on their bench too heavily, and Bates-Diop may not be ready to contribute right away, so his role figures to be limited during his rookie season. However, he projects as a potential stretch four at the NBA level.

The Wolves are using a portion of their mid-level exception on Anthony Tolliver, but still have plenty of that exception available if they want to use it to lock up Bates-Diop. Without the MLE, Minnesota would only be able to offer a two-year deal, likely at the minimum.

Pelicans, Bucks, Others To Be Hard-Capped

The NBA salary cap is somewhat malleable, with various exceptions allowing every team to surpass the $101.869MM threshold when that room is used up. In some cases, teams blow past not only the cap limit, but the luxury-tax limit as well, with clubs like the Thunder, Warriors, and Nuggets projected to go well beyond that tax line this year.

The NBA doesn’t have a “hard cap” by default, which allows those clubs to build significant payrolls without violating CBA rules. However, there are certain scenarios in which teams can be hard-capped. When a club uses the bi-annual exception, acquires a player via sign-and-trade, or uses more than the taxpayer portion of the mid-level exception, that club will face a hard cap for the remainder of the league year.

When a club becomes hard-capped, its team salary cannot exceed the tax “apron” at any point during the rest of the league year. For the 2018/19 league year, the apron is $129.817MM, approximately $6MM above the $123.733MM tax line.

Based on the agreements reported so far in free agency, it appears that five teams are set to hard-cap themselves for the 2018/19 league year. Here are the details on those teams:

New Orleans Pelicans

When the Pelicans agreed to sign Elfrid Payton to a one-year, $2.7MM deal, we assumed they’d use a portion of their mid-level exception rather than their bi-annual exception, to avoid creating a hard cap. However, the team then reached a two-year agreement worth a reported $18MM with Julius Randle.

It now appears that the Pelicans will sign Randle using their full ($8.641MM) mid-level exception. With Rajon Rondo headed to the Lakers, it’s possible the two teams will arrange some sort of sign-and-trade agreement to allow New Orleans to preserve its MLE, but there’s been no indication so far that that’s in the works. And either way, the Pelicans would become hard-capped.

The projected salaries for Randle and Payton bring the Pelicans’ total team salary to about $112MM. With Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins headed elsewhere, New Orleans likely doesn’t have any other big-money investments coming, so the hard cap shouldn’t be a major issue.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks agreed to a deal with Ersan Ilyasova worth a reported $21MM over three years. The taxpayer mid-level exception would only allow for about $16.8MM over three seasons, so Milwaukee figures to exceed that amount and create a hard cap.

Taking into account Ilyasova’s projected salary, the Bucks are up to almost $108MM in guaranteed team salary. Keeping Brandon Jennings and Tyler Zeller, who have non-guaranteed deals, would increase that number to nearly $112MM. That would leave less than $18MM in breathing room under the hard cap as Milwaukee considers what to do with restricted free agent Jabari Parker.

Minnesota Timberwolves

When word of the Timberwolvesagreement with Anthony Tolliver initially surfaced, the one-year deal was said to be worth about $5-6MM. That amount lined up with the taxpayer mid-level exception ($5.337MM), so it made sense that Tolliver would receive that taxpayer MLE. However, subsequent reports said the forward will actually earn $5.75MM, meaning Minnesota will be using the full MLE and will become hard-capped.

Tolliver’s signing isn’t yet official, so it’s possible that final number will look a little different, but if the Wolves’ flexibility this season ends up limited by paying Tolliver an extra $400K, that move will be questioned. For now, Minnesota projects to have a team salary of about $118MM for 11 players, assuming they stretch Cole Aldrich‘s partial guarantee. That should give the Wolves enough room to fill out their roster and stay well below the apron, perhaps even avoiding the tax too.

San Antonio Spurs

Like the Timberwolves, the Spurs appear to have imposed a hard cap on themselves by barely exceeding the taxpayer mid-level exception. A two-year deal using the tax MLE would end up just shy of $11MM, but San Antonio’s reported agreement with Marco Belinelli is for $12MM, suggesting the team will be using its full MLE.

Taking into account new deals for Belinelli and Rudy Gay, the Spurs appear to have a team salary of approximately $108MM. That puts them more than $20MM below the tax apron, so as long as they don’t have to break the bank for restricted free agents Kyle Anderson, Davis Bertans, and Bryn Forbes, they should be fine.

New York Knicks

In order to secure a commitment from Mario Hezonja, the Knicks had to go over the taxpayer mid-level, agreeing to sign the veteran forward for $6.5MM. New York will be using the full MLE, dedicating most or all of the remaining portion to second-rounder Mitchell Robinson.

The hard cap shouldn’t be a factor for the Knicks, who are currently at about $109MM in team salary, and don’t have any other major expenditures planned.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.

Jared Terrell Signs Two-Way Deal With T-Wolves

JULY 5, 12:19pm: Terrell’s contract is official, the Wolves announced on Twitter.

JUNE 23, 8:55am: Rhode Island guard Jared Terrell has agreed to a two-way deal with the Timberwolves, the school’s men’s basketball team tweets.

Despite getting passed over on Thursday night, Terrell had attracted Minnesota’s attention during the pre-draft process. Terrell worked out twice for the club.

Terrell was a four-year starter for the Rams and his senior season was his best. The 6’3” Terrell averaged 16.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.4 APG and 1.5 SPG. His shooting also improved, as he drained 41.4% of his 3-point tries.

Terrell led Rhode Island to the NCAA Tournament, where it defeated Oklahoma and Trae Young in overtime during the first round of the Midwest Region before succumbing to Duke.