The 2018 NBA Draft has come and gone. The Minnesota Timberwolves had an effective draft filling a need for wing versatility. The Wolves took Josh Okogie with their first-round selection, and with their 48th pick, they selected Keita Bates-Diop out of THE Ohio State. Okogie and Bates-Diop give the Wolves wing versatility, an area they lacked in last season. The two rookies will have to earn playing time this season, but they should be given every opportunity. However, now that the NBA Draft is over, it’s time to focus on free agency.
While the Wolves selected two wings last week in the draft, there is still a need for another veteran wing. The Wolves need to continue to add shooting, defense, and toughness (the word Thibs likes best.) The Wolves can fulfill these needs with a number of players, so let’s break down the many directions Minnesota can go.
Avery Bradley has been the most talked about name in social media for Wolves fans, besides my #LBJTOMN campaign that is absolutely going to happen. Bradley is a veteran wing who checks all the boxes for the Wolves’ needs. Avery Bradley had a down year last season with the Pistons and Clippers, which is why we are even able to consider him an option with the mid-level exception. Bradley is a top-notch defender in the NBA and can shut down some of the league’s best scoring threats. Check out Bradley below staying in the jersey of Steph Curry for an entire possession, that’s no joke. In addition, Bradley has proven to be a solid three-point threat. He shot 37% from three last season after shooting 39% from three with Boston two years ago. Bradley would be a welcome addition to the Wolves’ bench. In addition, Thibs would not be afraid to play Bradley. His experience in the league makes him the type of player that would log considerable minutes with the Wolves, even off the bench.
Ariza may prove to be too expensive for the Wolves at the MLE; however, he would be a great fit. As we all know, Ariza can knock down threes, something the Wolves can’t do. Hitting on 36.8% of his threes last season, Ariza has put himself in the conversation as a three-point sniper. In addition, he plays solid defense. Ariza won’t be a game-changing player in terms of scoring 20 points a game; however, he would give the Wolves what they need off the bench. Checking all the boxes on the Wolves’ free agency needs, Ariza would fit right in with Minnesota.
Will Barton is instant offense. Barton can enter a game and immediately make an impact scoring the basketball. He’s not a top-level defender by any means, but he doesn’t necessarily hurt his team on defense either. As a matter of fact, Barton actually had a positive number in terms of defensive win shares for the Nuggets last season. If the price is right and Barton is willing to play for Thibs, Barton would be a great fit for the Wolves, especially if there are serious about shooting more threes and less mid-range shots. Take a look at where Barton is taking shots from over the last three seasons. He’s trending towards more threes and less mid-range shots, just what the Wolves are looking to do.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a great, young 3-and-D player in the league. Caldwell-Pope still has potential to be a solid starter in the NBA. He would fit in nicely with the Wolves off the bench, but he may be looking for a bigger role. Minnesota might not be the best landing spot for KCP even though he would be a great bench addition.
Joe Harris can shoot the rock. He shot 41.9% from three with the Brooklyn Nets last season on 4.6 attempts per game. That is no joke. He’s not a terrific defender, but his shooting is very enticing to a team that finished last in three-point attempts last season. You can’t tell me you don’t want this smooth shooting sniper on your team knocking down treys off the pine.
We are now getting into more “Plan B” options for the Wolves if all of their first options fall through. After being released by the Pacers, it would not surprise me to see Stephenson back in a Wolves uniform. Stephenson had a very short, but appealing stint with the Wolves two years ago before sustaining a season-ending injury in a game against the Cavs. Head coach Tom Thibodeau seemed to enjoy the energy and defensive effort that Stephenson brought in his Wolves stint. He is a Thibs type of player. He’s not great on offense, but is an energy player that plays great defense and brings toughness. While he’s not option one, if other plans fall apart, Stephenson would not be a terrible backup plan for Minnesota.
Another pure scorer and shooter. Curry isn’t going to play a lot of defense, but he can fill it up on the offensive side of the ball. Curry didn’t appear in any games last season because of injury, so it would be a risk for the Wolves to sign him. However, if he’s willing to come on a cheaper deal, he can be an effective scorer off the bench for Minnesota. Plus, we would get a Curry. Something we needed in 2009. Sorry Johnny Flynn.
Like Seth Curry, McDermott is a pure shooter. McDermott found his groove late in the season with Dallas shooting 49.4% from three in his 26 games with the Mavs. His ability to fill it up from beyond the arc would be a welcome sight to Wolves fans. Just imagine McDermott doing this off the bench in Target Center.
Fans in Minnesota love Corey Brewer. There are few players in the league that play harder than Brewer does. Brewer would bring instant energy off the bench and force the Timberwolves to play faster. Brewer loves to get out and run. Who remembers Kevin Love slingshotting those full-court outlets to Brewer jetting down the court? Brewer wouldn’t provide much of a shooting threat, but Brewer checks the energy and defense boxes.
Jerami Grant’s name originates from the latest episode of “The Scoop” with Darren Wolfson. Wolfson noted to keep an eye on Grant, especially if the Wolves strike out on some targets early on. Grant is very athletic and plays with a load of energy. However, he isn’t a good three-point shooter. He shot just 29.1% from deep last season while attempting less than two threes per game. While Grant isn’t a household name, his energy and effort provide enticing upside for Minnesota’s bench.
There are a lot of options for the Wolves this summer to improve their team and especially their bench. Thibs will need to be able to convince guys to come and play from the Wolves when it’s well-known that Thibs doesn’t like to play his bench. However, money speaks loudest, and if the Wolves offer their full MLE to someone at the right amount of years, they will get a useful player. In addition to filling out the bench with a free agent, the Wolves also have some in-house tasks to take care of in free agency.
The Timberwolves can make Bjelica a restricted free agent by extending the qualifying offer to him, which they haven’t done yet. Unless everything unravels for Minnesota, I don’t see Bjelica back with the team. He’s a valuable player with versatility and shooting, but he was not happy with the lack of minutes he got, especially in the playoffs.
Derrick Rose will almost certainly be back with the Wolves next season, but at how much money? Many fans are hopeful Minnesota can ink Rose to a veteran minimum contract, which would be good value. Although Rose has an injury history, he was valuable to Minnesota last season, especially in the postseason. Rose averaged 14.2 points per game in the series against the Rockets and did so while shooting 70% from three-point range. It should be a safe bet that Rose is back with the team this summer and hopefully do more of this next season.
KAT is up for an extension this summer, and the Wolves will reportedly move quickly to secure their franchise big man. Towns will be offered a full five-year max contract that everyone anticipates he will sign. Players don’t turn down max money off of their rookie scale contracts, it just doesn’t happen. It will be key for the Wolves to lock up Towns this summer, so they can put it behind them. If everything goes smoothly, Towns will be secured in Minnesota for the next six seasons.
There is reason for the Wolves to try and extend Jimmy Butler this summer; however, there is not much of a reason for Butler to do so. Butler can get more money by waiting to sign next summer, with or without the Wolves. But, if the Wolves can somehow secure Butler to an extension this summer, it would be a major win. However, with recent reports of Butler’s uncertainty of playing next to Wiggins, it doesn’t look likely that Butler will agree to an extension this summer.
The Timberwolves are in an interesting spot this off-season. They have the mid-level exception to use to their advantage. They have a chance to greatly improve their basketball team to put themselves in a position for a run in 2018/19. However, it’s also a risky off-season. If the team doesn’t shape out in a way to put a good product on the floor next season, Thibs’ job could be on the line, and Jimmy Butler could be on his way out of town. Prepare your emotions and get ready for an exciting free agency period.
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