The Minnesota Timberwolves will have plenty of tough decisions to make this offseason. Here are three players that they must re-sign.
Well, what can we say about the season as it stands for the Minnesota Timberwolves?
To be sure, it's been full of massive highs and massive lows. And while the Wolves are going to miss the playoffs again, but fans should be greatly encouraged.
Before the trade deadline, the Wolves were treading water as an organization. In the offseason, they lost out on their target, D'Angelo Russell, and traded for and signed low-money guys to fill the roster.
There were two players signed to massive contracts, one of whom got hurt and the other under-performed after an impressive initial 10 games. Rookie Jarrett Culver was not playing to the level of a top-6 pick, and it seemed like everything was lost.
Then, president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas started to unveil his architecture plans. We saw the second-largest trade in the organization's history, landing the man that that the Wolves had been vying for since Rosas took over last May in Russell. The team also used the February trade deadline to acquire some additional talent in the form of Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez, and James Johnson.
What we're going to take a look at are three players that must be re-signed for next season, and why the Wolves need to have a focus on each of them.
This isn't to suggest that there aren't multiple other players that the Wolves should sign, but these three are essential to the building of this team and need to be locked up.
Let's start with the headliner of the first trade that the Wolves completed.
Malik Beasley was sitting on the bench for the Denver Nuggets, a player with a plethora of talent that just got stuck behind other talented players.
After averaging 23.2 minutes per game last year for a Nuggets team that was the No. 2 seed in the West, Beasley was only playing 18.2 minutes per game for this year's squad. He may not have been retained by Denver this summer due to his upcoming status as a restricted free agent, which made him gettable on the trade market.
Rosas saw the talent that this young man had and took the chance on him, along with Juancho Hernangomez, who was also being underutilized this season with the Nuggets.
Since coming over in the trade, Beasley is averaging career-highs in almost every major statistical category, including 21.9 points per game and shooting 43.6 percent on 3-point attempts and 48.6 percent overall from the field.
Beasley is a weapon alongside Russell and should be allowed to be just that for several years.
Even if he's not in the long-term plans, there are also reasons to retain his services in the near term. Remember, there's a chance that the Wolves could complete a trade for Phoenix's Devin Booker.
If the Wolves offered the Suns Beasley (on his new contract) and a pick and whatever else they might require, why wouldn't they take it? Booker has sounded open to the possibility of being traded, and to get that return for a 23-year-old All-Star averaging over 26 a game would be hard to pass up on.
What else can you describe this man that hasn't been used. James Johnson is a rugged, tough, hard-nosed, productive veteran.
Yes, Johnson is technically under contract for next year, but there's always the chance that he doesn't pick up his option or that he's traded. And the Wolves can't allow either of those things to happen.
Johnson is everything that this young team needs. For the longest time, the Timberwolves have needed a veteran that can help lead by example, help teach some of the young leaders how to be one, and just be a good presence in the locker room and on the court. James Johnson certainly appears to be the right man for the job.
Not only has Johnson been mentoring the young players in practice and on the bench, he's providing consistent scoring and solid defense. While he hasn't been a high-scoring option, especially once Karl-Anthony Towns comes back, he can definitely be that guy to come out in a clutch moment and help rally the team.
Johnson could help the starting lineup, or he can be just as good an option coming off the bench. If you look at every successful team, there is one "glue guy" that holds a team together, and I think that just might be J.J.
Johnson holds a $16 million player option for 2020-21, and there's almost no chance that he doesn't pick it up. While it's possible the Wolves could use his contract for an offseason trade, all signs point to him being a member of the rotation by the time Minnesota starts playing again this fall.
He could always start the season on the team and be moved at the February deadline, but for the time being, the leadership that he's provided as a Timberwolf has been invaluable.
What more can you say about Jordan McLaughlin?
He came in as an undrafted player prior to last season, a G League guy who virtually nobody knew. McLaughlin showed out in Las Vegas Summer League well enough to earn himself a two-way contract.
After playing much of the first part of the season with the Iowa Wolves with a few short cameos in the NBA, McLaughlin is busy dunking on big men with his sub 6-foot frame, players a la Nate Robinson. He backs that up with tenacity off the bench and a humble personality. By all accounts, he comes in every day with a good attitude, knows his role on this team, and has stepped into that role beautifully.
Averaging 7.6 points off the bench may not seem spectacular, but the fact that he averages 4.2 assist per game off the bench is amazing, as is his 38.2 percent mark on 3-point attempts.
McLaughlin is smart enough to average 1.1 steals a game. His per-36 stats would put him in the top 10 in the NBA in steals. Jordan has proven time and time again that he deserves to be on the floor.
Many people think of bench players either as people to bridge the gap while the starters get breaks or to be a spark-plug scorer to keep his team within striking distance. He doesn't really fit any of these individual roles. He just plays basketball.
It sure seems as though the Wolves found their backup point guard for the near future, and if they re-sign him like they should, the distant future, too.