Timberwolves Free Agency Roundup
The Minnesota Timberwolves finished the lockout-shortened 2011-12 NBA season with a record of 26-40, losing fourteen of their final eighteen including their March 9 game against the Los Angeles Lakers. That was, of course, the game in which Ricky Rubio suffered his season-ending injury.
With Rubio showing his game translates well to the NBA, Nikola Pekovic stepping up his game in his second season and Kevin Love turning into one of the best players in the league, the Timberwolves literally and figuratively limped to the finish line after showing there is hope for the future in Minnesota.
With their aggressive nature to begin the free agent moratorium period, it is evident the team believes they are right on the cusp of something special following a promising season that ended in injury.
Here is a look at the Timberwolves attack of the free agent market as of now.
According to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com, restricted free agent Nicolas Batum has narrowed his options to two teams in free agency. He will either stay with the Portland Trailblazers or sign an offer sheet with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Trailblazers stated they would match any offer to Batum in free agency should he sign an offer sheet with another team, but that was before Portland signed Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers to a four-year, $58 million dollar offer sheet. Now, it becomes a bit of a waiting game, as no players can officially be signed to their offer sheets until July 11 with the Pacers having the right to match Hibbert’s offer from Portland and the Blazers having the option of matching Batum’s soon-to-come offer from Minnesota.
Minnesota’s expected offer to Batum is in the $45-$50 million range. If the Pacers decline to match Hibbert’s offer, the decision to match the Timberwolves offer to Batum would commit a lot of their money on two players.
Now, the Timberwolves will watch to see if the Pacers match for Hibbert. Reports out of Indiana suggest there is an 80-90% chance the Pacers do match, but they may be exploring other options with Chris Kaman visiting.
Batum is the number one target for Minnesota this off-season and early indications are they will put the heat on the Blazers to call their bluff of matching any offer he receives.
A contingent for the Minnesota Timberwolves already met with Brandon Roy and all reports indicate it was a positive conversation. In a perfect scenario for Minnesota, they would land Batum and be able to sign Roy as well, which would address many of their needs should Roy’s knees hold up.
Of course, any offer Minnesota makes to Roy will have protection in it on behalf of the team in case Roy’s knees are not as advertised. As of now, it seems the distinction between Minnesota’s offer and those coming from the other teams Roy has met with or will soon is the Timberwolves will submit a two-year offer, while others are expected to be for a single year to see if he can, in fact, hold up health-wise to an NBA grind.
Roy plans to meet with the Mavericks, Warriors, Pacers and Bulls before he makes his plans known.
While some believe Gasol is “washed up” after a tough postseason showing, many others are of the belief he still has many great years in the tank should he be utilized correctly. With a head coach of the caliber of Rick Adelman, as well as the thought of teaming Gasol with Kevin Love in the post and a rejuvenating boost of playing alongside Ricky Rubio again, Gasol could very well revitalize his career in Minneapolis.
However, as of now there is little discussion between the Timberwolves and the Los Angeles Lakers in regards to working out a trade that would bring Pau Gasol to the Twin Cities. The aggressive side on the limited talks are coming from the Lakers, who are banking on the Timberwolves wanting to put Gasol with Rubio. Quite simply, the Timberwolves are waiting to see if the Trailblazers match their offer to Batum.
If Portland does not match and Minnesota lands Batum, it is highly unlikely any talks of bringing Gasol to Minnesota will continue. If the Blazers do match, expect talks to resurface between Minnesota and Los Angeles.
Lakers forward Jordan Hill was in Minnesota Monday to meet with the Timberwolves and, again, reports are the day was a positive one. While Hill may not be a big name or game-changer as a whole, he would be an important signing for Minnesota as a replacement for Anthony Tolliver off the bench.
Minnesota has reached out to Tolliver to let him know they would like him back, but he must be patient as they try to land the more imperative free agents out there. Tolliver is expected to meet with the New York Knicks soon.
With Minnesota trading for Chase Budinger and Derrick Williams presence on the roster, as well as their hopes of landing Batum and Roy, the Timberwolves would essentially have their rotation of wing players. Hill would help to plug in some of the holes in the post players off the bench. Hill has also played in Rick Adelman’s system before.
Upon leaving his meeting with Minnesota, Hill’s representation announced that “interest is mutual” between the team and Hill. The Lakers have also reached out to Hill and talks are ongoing for a new deal.
With the second-year development of Nikola Pekovic, the Timberwolves targeted Greg Stiemsma as a player who knows his role and would be an excellent fit off the bench in Adelman’s system. Like Hill, Stiemsma is a player who fits in both the Plan A and Plan B categories for Minnesota, as his defensive capabilities would help hold down the fort in the post when Love and/or Pekovic sits.
He has already met with team officials and, according to his agent, “thoroughly enjoyed his visit.”
With the Celtics announcing former Timberwolves player Kevin Garnett will re-sign in Boston, as well as their draft day acquisitions of Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo, Stiemsma may find more playing time in Minnesota. However, the Celtics—and head coach Doc Rivers in particular—absolutely adore Stiemsma and would hate to see him leave.
The Timberwolves have had contact with representatives for Willie Green of the Atlanta Hawks, Louis Williams of the Philadelphia 76ers, Jamal Crawford of the Portland Trailblazers and OJ Mayo of the Memphis Grizzlies. However, like the bigger name of Pau Gasol earlier, any continuing conversations between Minnesota and these players depend on how things turn out with Batum and Roy.
One the Timberwolves know their place with their initial targets, the question will be if their secondary targets are still on the market, if they need to go that route.
After a promising season in 2011-12, fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves are antsy to hear any news of their team improving in the offseason, as is the case around the league. However, the offer sheets the Timberwolves offer to restricted free agents like Batum cannot be signed until July 11 and their teams will have three days to make a decision on whether or not to match the offer.
Sit tight. The team is out there making their best pitches and offers to players who could help them significantly. Now the waiting game begins.
Of course, keep checking in with HOOPSWORLD’s Free Agent Diary with all the latest information.