The 2019-20 season for the Minnesota Timberwolves was all about re-organization. New president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas’ primary goal this season was revamping the roster and finding an identity. The asset play by Rosas, particularly his mid-season trades, helped create a foundation that made this year a success, despite their 19-45 record.
Rosas came into a rough situation in Minnesota where they were running low on trade assets and cap flexibility. Previous management essentially lost Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, and Kris Dunn for nothing after Jimmy Butler forced his way out. Andrew Wiggins and Gorgui Dieng were signed to expensive deals that, alongside the maximum extension of Karl-Anthony Towns, made adding upgrades via free agency difficult.
Through many transactions, Rosas set the foundational core and culture for the future. Towns and Josh Okogie remain the only two players on the roster from the Tom Thibodeau era. The additions of All-Star D’Angelo Russell and several other young prospects such as Jarrett Culver and Malik Beasley highlight the Wolves’ offensive-minded core going forward.
CURRENT 2020-21 PAYROLL
The Wolves are entering the 2020-21 offseason with $96.1 million dedicated to 11 players, three of which are non-guaranteed. That figure assumes all three of Jarred Vanderbilt, Jaylen Nowell, and Naz Reid remain on the roster, and that James Johnson opts into his $16 million player option. They currently sit $42.7 million below the $139 million projected luxury tax, although the figure is subject to change if the salary cap decreases.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Along with Beasley, the Wolves also acquired forward Juancho Hernangomez in the four-team trade they participated in. Both players are starting and have improved tremendously since joining the Wolves. The Wolves were 23rd in offensive rating prior to acquiring Russell, Beasley, and Hernangomez, and ever since have been 12th. With half a season together, that rank could be even higher in 2020-21. Both Beasley and Hernangomez are ideal fits next to Towns and Russell.
Both restricted free agents will receive a lot of interest league-wide. Re-signing them should be Minnesota’s top priority this summer. Beasley declined a three-year $30 million extension offer from the Nuggets, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN. It’s a strong offer considering he was only getting 18 minutes per game with the Nuggets, so declining it felt risky since there were no assurances he’d be traded to a team that would play him more. In Minnesota, he’s averaged 33 minutes, 20.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.5 threes per game through 14 contest. He should garner offer sheets exceeding $10 million annually like the extension Denver offered him.
Hernangomez, who had fallen out of Denver’s rotation in favor of Michael Porter Jr., was averaging 12.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.1 threes in 29.4 minutes per game with the Wolves. His size and shooting ability gives him the versatility to play both forward positions and occasionally center. His skill and likely affordability should also attract many offer sheets. With most teams having the nontaxpayer mid-level exception (NT-MLE) available, it could take a cap space team offering just north of that to set the market for Hernangomez.
Kelan Martin and Jordan McLaughlin remain on two-way contracts and both had been getting consistent playing time prior to the season’s suspension. If the Wolves did plan on converting them to regular contracts, they were probably holding off to minimize their luxury tax payment. If the regular season is salvaged, there could be enough time to convert them. Otherwise, the Wolves can look to re-sign them in free agency.
While there is a path for the Timberwolves to become a cap space team, they are most likely looking at operating over the cap. This would give them access to the NT-MLE. It’s hard to speculate where exactly the Wolves should invest that exception since they’re loaded with wings and big men. Their biggest hole right now is point guard, which was a problem all year even after they acquired Russell. They can get a great backup point guard with the NT-MLE. Playmakers they can pursue include Goran Dragic, Reggie Jackson, and DJ Augustin.
If the rest of the season is canceled, the Wolves would finish with the third-worst record in the league. They’d be guaranteed a top 7 pick in this year’s draft. They also have the Nets lottery-protected first-round pick, which would be 16th overall if there’s no more GAMES. The two 2020 first-round picks would add about $11.5 million in salary once presumably signed, although that figure could be slightly less if the salary cap decreases.