This offseason has been underwhelming for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but although they didn’t have any draft picks or make any blockbuster trades, it has gradually improved their situation. Opening up cap room through small, under-the-radar moves has been a driving force for the team going into next season. Ben Simmons isn’t coming here via trade any time soon. Nor are Myles Turner or Lauri Markkanen. While trading for Patrick Beverley may feel like a consolation prize, making prudent moves to create cap flexibility will benefit the Wolves in the future.
The Wolves’ cap crunch was no secret coming into this offseason. Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell were on max contracts, Malik Beasley had just signed a $60 million extension, and Anthony Edwards and Jarrett Culver were on their rookie deals. With all that money tied up, it should come as no surprise that the Wolves weren’t active when free agency began on Monday. Gersson Rosas was criticized for standing pat until he dealt for Beverley, but he’s created options for himself moving forward.
Behind the Scenes
Any information about the Wolves that fans are privy to comes from the media or the organization. We are not in the team’s offices every day seeing Rosas take phone calls from opposing GMs. We don’t get to see them work out free agents or have conversations with their agents. I guess what I’m asking is that we take a deep breath and put some trust in management right now.
It’s been a while since there was a man in charge who has consistently made quality acquisitions despite being dealt a bad hand.
For example, the Wolves are pressed against the cap because Rosas spent a year pursuing Russell. He started when DLo was an RFA with the Brooklyn Nets. Rosas and KAT worked hard to get him to join the Wolves, but he signed with the Golden State Warriors. However, Rosas was relentless and saw an opportunity to simultaneously reunite Towns with his friend and end the Andrew Wiggins experiment.
We rarely hear about all the mechanisms of a trade or free-agent signing unless its a successful deal. The same could be true with the Jordan McLaughlin and Jarred Vanderbilt negotiations. Leandro Bolmaro’s contract still needs to be sorted out, so it might be a second before we see the J-Mac and Vando negotiations pick up, and neither player has received an offer sheet from another team.
The largest factor of the slow offseason has been managing salary due to the limited amount of cap space available. The Ricky Rubio and Patrick Beverley trades opened up a roster spot and put the Wolves an additional $4 million below the luxury tax line. By creating this flexibility, they have more room to operate when trying to retain their RFAs. I see this opening up much more opportunity for Vanderbilt to re-sign and McLaughlin to be let go.
Rosas has had a clear agenda this offseason: He is trying to create more flexibility under the luxury tax line and keep his options open, regardless of if he is leaving room for a trade deadline deal or simply creating breathing room for next offseason. Beverley and Prince are on expiring contracts, meaning $27.3 million is due to come off the books after this season.
We must also consider that the salary cap only increased by $3 million this year and was stagnant last season due to the pandemic. To be fair, all general managers are faced with the same quixotic task. They have signed their players to contracts with escalating salaries because they assumed revenues would continue to grow and the cap would go up, but the pandemic has kept the salary cap from increasing. Any team with two max deals is going to have limited space to work with.
MLE and State Of the Offseason
The Wolves could still exercise their mid-level exception this offseason, but they may be wise not to use it. Saving this money and bringing back everyone who was successful under Finch last year is justified as a basketball move. The players who are expected to receive the most minutes will mostly be holdovers from last season.
Given the cap situation they entered the offseason with, they should avoiding overpaying to make inconsequential moves. It would be one thing if the Wolves had plenty of cap space. In that case, they could approach this offseason as the Chicago Bulls did. Armed with cap-space and a big-market budget, they out-bid other teams for players like Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan.
But there was no need for Minnesota to go all-in for a player who may hinder their cap situation in the future. Odds are this player will be coming off the bench anyway, given that they only have the MLE available to add players. There’s also no reason to overpay for a trade that isn’t going to make this team significantly better, and any team that is still looking to make a deal is likely driving a hard bargain.
The last factor is how little consideration is put into the development of players during the offseason. We saw Ant completely flip his season in the second half alone, and that was with Beasley injured and a new coach. Add on potential developments of players like Jaden McDaniels, Naz Reid, and Jaylen Nowell, and you have a foundation to build on.
The Wolves are not going to become a playoff contender instantaneously, but Rosas has taken the first step by creating cap flexibility this offseason.