State of the Cap: Minnesota Timberwolves

Sun, 07/13/2008 - 12:32pm

By Josh Redetzke


2008/09 Minnesota Timberwolves Payroll: $58.8 million
2008/09 Estimated Salary Cap: $58 million
Roughly $0.8 million over cap

(includes cap amount of $10.2 million for Juwan Howard and Troy Hudson whose contracts were bought out by the team)

The Good:
[img_assist|nid=1469|title=Al Jefferson|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=350|height=254]When the KG trade went down, many people felt that the Wolves didn't get enough for one of the best players in the NBA. After the Jason Kidd and Pau Gasol trades, Kevin McHale now looks pretty damn good (if you can believe that). The main acquisition in the trade was Al Jefferson and all he did was step up his game to the point that he outscored and outrebounded Garnett this year. Jefferson's production was rewarded with a five-year, $65 million contract that begins next season. Big Al might not match the passing ability and competitive fire of Garnett, but at just 23 years old, he'll be putting up impressive numbers long after KG has retired. That has to make Minnesotans feel good.
Jefferson wasn't the only positive from the trade. The Wolves were able to cut a large chunk of their payroll with Theo Ratliff's contract, got back one of their first round draft picks, and added a nice role player in Ryan Gomes. He was one of their most consistent and dependable players throughout the year and Minnesota will try hard to keep him this summer (he is a free-agent). In hindsight, the trade seems to have worked out for both teams; Boston in the short-term, Minnesota in the long-term. McHale should get his props for pulling off a decent trade for a change.
Returning from a major injury last season, Rashad McCants greatly improved his play to a surprising degree. His three-point shooting went up to 40% and he averaged nearly 15 points a game on respectable 45% shooting from the field. McCants was able to take advantage of Randy Foye's own injury woes to increase his minutes and make the most of them. He still needs a lot of work on defense, but McCants is now the team's main offensive weapon off the bench and should maintain that role next year, his last year under the rookie pay scale.

The Bad:
In a big, late-night trade on the day of the draft, the Wolves were able to unload the terrible contracts of Marko Jaric and Antoine Walker, much to their benefit. However, they did have to take a couple of bad ones in return. Neither player was able to average more than 3.4 points or 2.9 rebounds a game for Memphis last season, nor did they see much action. At least Collins only has one year left at a bloated $6.2 million. Cardinal, unfortunately, still has two years remaining for $6.3 and $6.75 million, respectively. These two are prime candidates for buyouts or future trades since they won't be contributing much as members of the Timberwolves.
Speaking of money wasters, Mark Madsen can easily be included in that conversation. Even though he possesses no discernable basketball skill besides having a large body that over-hustles, Madsen will be paid $2.6 and $2.8 million the next two seasons. It's not much, but it could be better spent elsewhere.

The Future:
While watching the NBA draft, some Minnesota friends of mine were very excited about the O.J. Mayo pick, but they were wary of Kevin McHale trading him at some point during the draft. The final selection was announced and they went to bed thinking their team had just added a future superstar. When they woke the next morning and learned about the trade with Memphis, needless to say, they were not happy.
However, this trade was really a tale of two different philosophies when it comes to creating an NBA team; high risk vs. conservatism. Mayo is undoubtedly an intriguing prospect, maybe even capable of Kobe Bryant-level superstardom. There is definite risk that he might not ascend quite that high, but the potential is certainly there. On the other hand, by trading Mayo for Kevin Love and Mike Miller, the Wolves went with a conservative approach. Love is a great young talent as well, and fits a need in their front line, but his ceiling is much lower than Mayo's.
Miller is one of the best long-range shooters in the league, is genuinely excited about joining the Wolves since he is from nearby South Dakota, and he has a decent contract for his services ($9 and $9.75 million the next two seasons). Minnesota could have taken a chance to acquire a big star by keeping Mayo, but they basically chose two good players instead of one possibly great player. Factor in the money they save in the future by getting rid of Marko Jaric's contract and it's a pretty good trade for this rebuilding team. Although, if Mayo becomes an All-Star in a few years, Kevin McHale might be forced to leave the state.
The collection of young talent in Minnesota right now is actually quite impressive. I've mentioned how well Jefferson, McCants, and Gomes were playing. Craig Smith continued his solid bench play. Randy Foye returned from a bad injury and improved on his rookie numbers. Corey Brewer's offensive woes were not unexpected, but his potential as a great lock-down defender looks very good. Add Kevin Love to that mix, as well as Mike Miller, an established veteran with quite a few productive years remaining, and together they form a nice core of players to build your team around. The toughest part will be keeping them all in a Wolves uniform as Gomes and Smith are restricted free agents this summer and McCants will be next summer. The foundation of the team is looking pretty good. Now is not the time to screw it up.

Free Throw:
A recent trade with Philly netted Minnesota another potential first round pick in next year's draft, giving them four in total. Listen to this: if the Wolves finish with one of the ten worst records, they keep their own pick (instead of having to give it up to the Clippers from the Jaric trade). If the Heat finish outside of the top ten, the Wolves get their pick. If Boston finishes outside of the top three (pretty much a given), the Wolves get their pick. Finally, if the Jazz end up selecting outside the top 22 picks, the Wolves get it (from Philly by way of the Korver trade). It could be a very fun draft night for Minnesota in 2009.

Grade: B

Main State of the Cap Page

Registered User
Joined: 07/06/2008
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You seem to insinuate that the Kidd trade was bad for NJ. That was an absolute steal for the Nets.

L.Shap's picture
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Joined: 06/23/2008
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Devin Harris could be playing with LeBron if he comes to Brooklyn.

auber's picture
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Joined: 06/13/2008
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The Mayo trade will go down as the worst trade in timberwolves history. Kevin Mchale can pay to watch OJ play in countless all star games down his career and always wonder what if?

Registered User
Joined: 06/24/2008
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High risk vs conservatism

I disagree the Wolves took the conservative route here. Most people hate this trade although I am not one of them. I actually like the risk taken here. Giving up Mayo is a risky move especially with such an inconsistent backcourt and while banking on two 6'9" guys to be the PF/C combo of the future. I think it will work out but it is risky for the Wolves. Who will be under more scrutiny if one of these kids flops? Definitely Minnesota. They traded away the more popular pick.


d-rav's picture
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Joined: 06/13/2008
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Rasahd Mccants

Yes, OJ Mayo may ultimately become a star in the league, but the T-Wolves didnt get a bad player either in Kevin Love, who will become 20-10 player in the league sooner than later. Besides, the T-wolves also got themselves Mike Miller. Also, by trading away Mayo, the T-Wolves can now focus on Rashad Mccants development, who has every chance to be as good as OJ Mayo (gulp!)

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Joined: 07/30/2008
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starting line-up

the wolves should be fine this year. if players are healthy,the line-up should look somewat like this

point guard:Randy Foye
shooting guard: Mike Miller
Small Forward: Ryan Gomes
Power Forward: Jefferson/Love
Center: Love/Jefferson

yes the wolves did resign telfair and gomes.
now they have a change-of-pace guard to back up Foye in Telfair.Rashad McCants was very solid coming off the bench last year. With his shooting ability,he should average between 12-16ppg off the bench,considering he is probably the best bench man the wolves have.
I give McHale a little more credit then most people. I was thinking Mayo was going to be a star for the Wolves. Granted he will be a star,but will he become a Ricky Davis-type where he scores for a team going no where or is he going to be that capable leader Memphis needs? McHale went with the sure thing in Love. He is going to compliment the offense and especially Jefferson very well with his passing. Plus he grabbed an established shooter in Miller who has size enough where if they want to play him along side McCants. The playoffs are far out of the picture for Minny,but vast improvement isn't.

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