Minnesota Timberwolves: Which player is the odd man out?

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 03: Tyrone Wallace #9 of the Los Angeles Clippers drives to the basket. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 03: Tyrone Wallace #9 of the Los Angeles Clippers drives to the basket. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves enter the month of September with 16 players under contract. They’ll need to trim that number back to 15. Who is the odd man out?

The Minnesota Timberwolves are over the roster limit.

Well, kind of. NBA teams can have up to 20 players under contract during the offseason, including two-way players. The Wolves are currently at 18, so they aren’t in violation of any rules.

But when the season kicks off in October, the team will have to trim back to 15 players, plus their two-way contracts, for a total of 17. As we sit here in the first week of September, how will the Wolves go about meeting the league’s roster requirements?

Of the 16 players under contract right now, only Tyrone Wallace, who was claimed off waivers from the Clippers this summer, has a guaranteed salary tied to an upcoming date. If Wallace is still on the roster on Sep. 11, he will be a due a $300,000 bonus.

With an overall cap hit of nearly $1.6 million, the $300k is somewhat of a drop in the bucket, but it’s still an important date to keep an eye on.

On the one hand, it wouldn’t have made sense for the Wolves to claim Wallace in July if they were simply going to turn around and waive him just two months later. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas was expecting to be able to make a trade during the balance of the summer, and liked what Wallace could bring to the table as a combo guard in the event that more minutes opened up on the roster.

If such a trade isn’t completed before Sep. 11, releasing Wallace would seem to be the right move to make. Rosas has talked recently about potentially adding another player or two in order to create more competition in camp, and that would be easier to do if Wallace were no longer on the roster.

The other possibility is that Rosas may still be angling for some sort of 2-for-1 trade that would open a roster spot for Wallace and jettison some unwanted contracts and/or players that may not stand to get much run this year in Minnesota.

While a trade of that significance at this time in the offseason is relatively rare, there are obvious exceptions. Typically, those late moves happen well into training camp and the preseason (see: the James Harden trade to the Rockets) so that might mean that Wallace sticks on the roster through his initial deadline as Rosas continues to scour the market.

If the Wolves could move a contract such as Gorgui Dieng, they could package a player with some upside and not much opportunity on their roster, such as Keita Bates-Diop, to get a single player in return. Or perhaps there’s a trade that involves Jeff Teague and brings back a starting point guard, such as Chris Paul, that would also free up a roster spot.

Of course, the easiest and most obvious answer is often the most accurate one, and if I were a betting man, I’d say that the release of Wallace is most likely. It probably won’t be by the Sep. 11 deadline, but assuming that the rest of the roster comes through training camp unscathed, don’t be surprised to see the Wolves move on from him come mid-October.

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That said, anything can happen on the trade front, so don’t be shocked to see the Wolves engaged in conversations with other teams all the way until opening tip-off on Oct. 23.