Feb 11, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves point guard J.J. Barea (back) celebrates with point guard Luke Ridnour (13) in the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Whose gotta go? With the Wolves current signed contracts, they NEED to make some moves before the season starts. The Wolves (without Pek) have roughly $54 million in contracts on the books (with Greg Stiemsma and Mickael Gelabale excluded). Now let’s say for arguments sake, that Nikola Pekovic will fetch $13 million a season over 4 years. That would push the Wolves 2013-2014 payroll to $67 million, if you’re counting at home, the luxury tax is set at $71.5 million for the 13-14 season. That gives the Wolves $4.5 million to play with, and a big need still to be filled on the wing.
There has been rumblings that the Wolves could look for possible sign and trades with Andrei Kirilenko. The fact the Wolves would be willing to get something back for AK could be a good thing. That would be close to $10 million if he signs for the same amount as the Wolves offered him this upcoming season, before he opted out. Even if the Wolves were to trade AK and receive something of equal value back, puts the roster payroll at $76 million. $76 million puts Glen Taylor and new President of Basketball Operations (POBO) Flip Saunders into paying luxury tax.
There really are endless possibilities the Wolves could do to get under the luxury tax. Trades, buyouts or even dumping contracts for picks are just a few options.
The Wolves would be wise if they use Luke Ridnours expiring contract to get things started. That would save the Wolves $4.3 million. Frankly let’s also be honest about Luke. He shows up to play every single game, there is no questioning that. But, he is a 10 veteran that isn’t very athletic, isn’t the fastest point guard in the league, and is averaging 35% from 3-point range and 4.8 assists per game for his career. Those aren’t great backup point guard traits or stats. The Wolves could easily look to trade Luke away, and save some money. It would also afford the Wolves the ability to find a backup point guard that better fits the Wolves system, or more mirrors Ricky Rubio so there wouldn’t be a drastic change of game style when Ricky leaves the floor.
Speaking of game styles, the Wolves should also look at getting rid of JJ Barea. Again, this type of move move would save the Wolves $4.6 million this season, and $4.5 million next. Not only do the Wolves save money, they would potentially have a player that would spend more time playing defense, rather than a player arguing with officials after flying into the lane out of control. In JJ’s defense, he is a top flopper in the league. Sorry, he does a great job of selling calls. The truth is, his 3 point % is 36% for his career. He has close to a 2-1 assist to turnover ratio, and for all of the driving through the lane, he only averages just over single free throw made per game and 1.8 free throws per game.
True, it is a lot easier to sit and play arm chair GM. But, the fact of the matter is the Wolves biggest need is outshooting, and neither JJ nor Luke are providing that. They are expensive backup point guards. In a league where teams now have to be smart with their money, the Wolves have over $9 million tied up in below average point guards. That’s plural, as in 9 million for 2 back up point guards.
If you take both JJ and Luke’s contracts out, the Wolves would back to $58 million and give the Wolves $13 million to use to sign other players that could help. $13 million! That amount of money in the right hands could put a team that is on the fringe over the top.
Forget all of the talk of trading away Derrick Williams, he is a financial bargain right now and could still be used in future moves.
Who do the Wolves go after? Well pick any wing making $10 million a season, and there is still $3 million to play with. The options are plentiful. Jeff Green or Kyle Korver would have been great. Maybe you think the Wolves will be able to score enough points with the current roster and need Defense, Tony Allen would have fit the bill, O.J. Mayo was talked about heavily. Any of these players would help the team more than the current overpaid backup point guard situation that was discussed earlier.
Who do the Wolves put as a backup point guard? Kevin Martin did a lot of ball handling for Rick Adelman in the past. Alexey Shved was the starting point guard for a Russian national team that won bronze in the Olympics. The Wolves could also look to get a backup point guard that is still a free agent. Or the summer league has recently produced surprising talent at the point. Getting a backup point guard is significantly easier than getting a legitimate wing worth $10 million a year.
If the new Wolves POBO is going to set this team up for future success, it will start by getting rid of both of the high priced backup point guards currently on the roster.