The trade deadline moves made by the Minnesota Timberwolves will be felt for years to come, for better or worse. Where does the cap situation stand today?
Had the season went on (or if it still does), it’s easy to assume that they’d have found a way to get out of it. However, it may quickly turn into a long-term concern with extensions due for Juan Hernangomez and Malik Beasley, and potentially new deals for the likes of Jordan McLaughlin and Kelan Martin.
From a total cap standpoint, the biggest and most significant change in long-term salary was turning Robert Covington‘s three-year, $36 million contract into the soon-to-be restricted free agents Beasley and Hernangomez.
At the time, you could have reasonably hoped that the deal would only marginally add salary. Then, Beasley broke out and turned into a flame-thrower on offense. Juancho Hernangomez wasn’t too far behind him proving that he could be an effective starter or high-end bench piece as well.
Now instead of Robert Covington’s $12,138,345 salary for next year, we could be looking at a Beasley deal that could range anywhere from $12 million to $18 million annually and a Hernangomez deal that could range from $5.5 million (roughly the taxpayer Mid-Level Exception) to $8 million annually. The likely outcome almost doubles what Covington’s salary would have been.
Sure, Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe‘s salaries come off the books for a total close to $36 million, much of that space gained quickly disappears with something like $20-25 million going to the former Denver Nuggets stars, plus the cap holds of the two first-round picks that the Wolves will have. According to Real GM’s projections, those holds should land at $6,884,000 if the Wolves stay at the third pick, and $2,603,300 for the Nets pick, which is currently No. 16.
Calculating it out with a safe $22 million allocated for Beasley and Hernangomez, plus the picks where the Wolves are currently projected to pick at, the team salary comes out to $126,993,278. Add in Cole Aldrich‘s $600,000 owed from when the Wolves waived and stretched him, and let’s say $3,500,000 for the Wolves second-round pick and Jordan McLaughlin. This takes it up to $131,093,278 for 16 players, and close to the luxury tax that was projected at $141 million.
It was also slated to drop pre-COVID-19, it could drop even further afterwards. This put the Wolves between a rock and a hard place as the team will likely only get more expensive.
Assuming the Timberwolves make a move or two to open up roster spots and minor flexibility, it’d still more or less just give them their full mid-level exception to work with for bringing in extra help. For a team that could use a bit of a facelift, especially defensively, limited flexibility such as that may end up hurting them more in the long run, too.
Looking forward to the 2021 offseason, locker room leader James Johnson comes off of the books, but it’d be safe to assume that the Wolves would want him back provided things don’t go sideways next year. From a speculation standpoint, the odds of James Johnson’s new deal and the normal salary inflation of each contract breaking even prior to 2021-22 is pretty likely.
Also, there’s more than a $3.5 million increase from D’Angelo Russell and Karl Anthony Towns’ deals by themselves.
Going forward, unless the Minnesota Timberwolves make some significant moves, this team will be what it is with Gerrson Rosas making moves around the margins. Thankfully, he has a knack for finding talent, but with potential luxury tax concerns as well it could be increasingly hard to find ways to help the team.