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State of the Cap: Minnesota Timberwolves

Fri, 06/15/2007 - 2:58pm

By Josh Redetzke
6/15/07

2007/08 Minnesota Timberwolves Payroll: $69.2 million
2007/08 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $55 million
Roughly: $14.2 million over cap

[img_assist|nid=3820|title=Kevin Garnett|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=313]The Good: This year in Minnesota was another wasted season of Kevin Garnett’s career. Even though he is extremely frustrated, KG has been a true professional and always shows up to play hard. He once again led the league in rebounding and added his usual 22.4 points, 4.1 assists, and 1.7 blocks. KG will pocket $22 million next season and he is one of the few players who can earn that sum. After that season, he has a player-option for $24 million. That would be very difficult to turn down, and with the way things have been going in Minnesota, the team will need all the incentives they can get.

The well-traveled Ricky Davis actually played pretty well this season. He was second on the team in scoring at 17 points per game, he led the team in assists at 4.8 per game, and he improved both his field goal and three point shooting. Davis is scheduled to only make $6.8 million next year which is good pay for what he provides. Better yet, it’s also the final year of his contract, making him a valuable trading commodity. On a team devoid of trading chips, Davis has become very important as the Wolves try to assemble a supporting cast with more talent.
I liked the pick of Craig Smith in the second round of the draft last summer and it turned out to be better than anyone could have hoped. Second-rounders normally have trouble making the team, but Smith earned a roster spot and shined during the regular season. He efficiently averaged 7.4 points and 5.1 rebounds in just 18 minutes per game. Smith is undersized for a forward at 6’7” but he is very strong and like Chuck Hayes in Houston, he showed how undersized players can still make a real impact in the league.

The Bad: A trio of horrible, long-term contracts has really hurt the Wolves’ salary cap outlook. The main offender is Marko Jaric, without question. His game is in a freefall, evidenced by his 5.3 points and 2.1 assists per game, both career lows. Jaric’s confidence and minutes have been slashed. None of that will stop him from collecting $27.3 million over the next four years.

The next culprit is the perpetually injured, rarely effective Troy Hudson. He’ll get $18.9 million over three years. T-Hud has played in 70 games combined the last two seasons and didn’t shoot higher than 38% in either one of them. The Wolves might want to buy-out the rest of Hudson’s contract and potentially save a little money in the long run, because they won’t be getting much out of him anyway.

The last member of the trio is center Mark Blount. Playing alongside KG actually coaxed a decent year out of Blount. He averaged 12.3 points and 6.2 rebounds on 50.9% shooting. So what’s the problem? Blount is owed $22 million over the next three seasons and the 12.3 points and 6.2 rebounds were high for what he normally produces. Unless Garnett’s enthusiasm can inspire a little more production from Blount, his contract simply is not worth it.

The Future: The upcoming season for the Minnesota Timberwolves will be one of the most important in franchise history. How the team performs will determine their direction for the next five years and whether that path includes Kevin Garnett or not. If the Wolves make the playoffs, KG might just stick around for a while longer. If they don’t, it’s very likely that he will opt out of his contract, forcing the team to rebuild from the ground up. That option isn’t something the fans, or ownership, want to see.

The Wolves will have to make some key offseason moves if they want to improve this team and keep the Big Ticket in town. One of those moves happened recently when Minnesota traded disappointing guard Mike James to the Rockets for Juwan Howard. It’s not a giant improvement, but every little bit helps. Howard fills more of a need than James and he can be a veteran presence on the court and in the locker room, taking some of that burden off of KG. Moving James also frees up playing time for the promising Randy Foye, a key figure in the team’s future. With the seventh pick in the draft and the very tradable Ricky Davis, the Wolves have a few more options to use. Whether those options will be good enough to make them a playoff team remains to be seen. If it doesn’t work out, expect a flurry of KG trade rumors even thicker than Iverson’s last season. Minnesota would be foolish not to get some good young talent, draft picks, and cap relief in return for their star. If they blind themselves to the truth, they might miss out on a golden opportunity.

Free Throw: It’s amazing that Mark Madsen will somehow be paid at least $2.4 million dollars each of the next three seasons despite not possessing any discernable basketball skill whatsoever. I know Mad Dog plays his heart out and the fans love him for it, but you can’t convince me that it’s more important to have him on your team over, say, Paul Shirley or any one of a hundred guys playing in the D-League.

Grade:
C-

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