Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines, let the rumors and innuendo fly, because over at Grantland they have your Minnesota Timberwolves listed at the top of the heap, literally the first in line of what Zach Lowe calls the ‘sensible candidates’ — how midwestern! — to reap the rewards in trading for one…wait… it says here… Rudy Gay?
This might be the easiest fit on the board. Minnesota has plenty of cushion between its current cap level and the luxury tax. They also have Andrei Kirilenko, a tweener forward on a semi-expiring $9.8 million deal, and a bunch of interesting pieces in the $4 million-$5 million range. It’s very easy to build a Minny-Memphis trade around Kirilenko/Gay that gets Memphis under the tax and provides either an intriguing high lottery pick (Derrick Williams) or a useful guard to round out the Grizz’s rotation (Luke Ridnour, J.J. Barea). Memphis would have to send out a cheap piece, such as Tony Wroten, in some scenarios, and the Grizz could also ask Minnesota to return a Memphis 2013 first-rounder originally sent to Houston for Shane Battier.
Best small forward in Wolves history is reduced to a semi-expiring contract in one paragraph.
It’s not a no-brainer for Minnesota, obviously. Gay has gotten better as a cutter, but he’s still a ball-dominator at heart with a “blah” efficiency level, and such players aren’t exactly Rick Adelman types — especially not with Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love around to dominate the ball. Bringing in Gay’s giant contract, which runs through 2014-15, would also make it hard for the Wolves to re-sign Nikola Pekovic at a fair number this summer. The Wolves could simply stand pat and have a decent chunk of cap room, assuming they end up voiding the second year of Brandon Roy’s deal.
Bringing up that Gay is an anti-Adelman-type player and then pointing out that it would kind of negate the re-signing of Pek would seem to squash this whole thing.
So why even think about it? Minnesota, as of now, would only get that theoretical chunk of cap room if Kirilenko declines his $10.2 million option for next season in hopes of landing a longer-term deal at similar annual money. He’s played well enough to earn such a deal, but he’s nearly 32, and the Wolves might prefer to trade him rather than watch him walk or pay him big money into his mid-30s. If they shed Barea’s long-term contract in the Gay deal, Minnesota could build around the Rubio/Love/Gay/Alexey Shved core through 2014-15 — and even have some cap flexibility in the summer of 2014 for another piece or two.
We’re kind of getting ahead of ourselves with this speculation, as AK isn’t even an expiring contract to move on until next summer, yet the possibility of finding a replacement for Pek is vaguely floating there with that ‘cap flexibility’ mention.
Minnesota wants to make the playoffs this season. They’re starved for wing players and overloaded at power forward. It’s worth thinking about, especially if the Wolves could get a second cheap wing along with Gay. Quincy Pondexter’s knee injury and the prohibition against Minnesota reacquiring Wayne Ellington this season complicate things, and Minnesota rightfully believes it should emerge as a very strong team once everyone gets healthy — if that happens.
The idea of matching unmovable contracts with possible destinations is an assignment for every NBA writer, but coming from Lowe — who regularly covers the Wolves at awolfamongwolves.com — is interesting if not disheartening.
The idea of taking on Gay, with his questionable motor and hefty contract, instead of paying Pek the destroyer seems like folly to me. Let’s hope Adelman and co. regard such intrigue in similar regard.