With the Minnesota Timberwolves already stretching the salary cap, how could the front office take on free agency?
It’s no secret that the Minnesota Timberwolves are a team that is hard-pressed when it comes to cap space.
In fact, if you count Jeff Teague’s player option, the Wolves are already over the $209 million salary cap for next season on just eight players.However, with the right maneuvering, the Timberwolves should have the ability to bring back a sufficient roster for the 2019-20 campaign.
Let’s start with what the team has right now. Counting team and player options, the Wolves have eight players under contract for next season, as well as six players throughout the 2020-21 season. They also hold a first-round pick that is currently projected as the 12th overall pick. That pick would carry a salary of roughly $3.8 million for next season.
Now, while the Wolves would be nearly $7 million over the cap at this point, they still have some things they can use to sign players. First, they would still be over $18 million under the luxury tax threshold. Since they are under the threshold, they would also get the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, which gives them a $9.161 million boost.
If they go over the threshold they still get the MLE, but the amount is reduced to $5.658 million. Also, since they have not used the bi-annual exception this season, they have an additional $3.585 million in cap-free cash.
Got all that?
Along with the exception money, the Timberwolves have a second-round draft pick that won’t require much money to sign. This season they were able to ink Keita Bates-Diop to the rookie minimum inside the MLE, and hopefully we can expect the same from the upcoming pick.
On top of that, the Wolves could sign an additional undrafted rookie, as there are always a few valuable names that go undrafted. This year, that could include regional favorites such as Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ and South Dakota State’s Mike Daum. Even if you use exception money on players like these, the Wolves are left with nearly $11 million in exceptions and are $17 million below the luxury tax threshold.
It will be interesting to see if the Timberwolves will bring back Luol Deng for next season. If Deng were to come back on another minimum contract, he would get over $2.4 million while only $1.6 million would count against the cap. This would easily be covered by digging into the bi-annual exception. At this point, the Wolves would be at 12 players on the roster and would still have the MLE to spare.
Now, let’s take a moment to talk about Derrick Rose and Tyus Jones. Both players are fan-favorites, but both could command significant raises in the offseason.
Jones could sign his $3.5 million qualifying offer and enter unrestricted free agency the following summer, but that seems somewhat unlikely. Instead, the Wolves could use their Bird rights to re-sign both Rose and Jones, using up the MLE money on one of them in the process.
Add another player using the MLE money, and the Wolves complete their path to a 14-player roster, not counting two-way players. Now, this could all change if Teague opts out of his player option, but that seems unlikely at this point.
This just illustrates the long, winding road that the Timberwolves will have to travel just to get back to a full roster. And hopefully, the Wolves will find a way to not only fill the roster, but to make it a competitive one as well.