Minnesota Timberwolves: Practicing the art of walking away in free agency

MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 26: Juan Hernangomez hugs Malik Beasley after they defeated the Miami Heat. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 26: Juan Hernangomez hugs Malik Beasley after they defeated the Miami Heat. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Juan Hernangomez
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – MARCH 03: Juan Hernangomez #41 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Juancho Hernangomez

Hernangomez is Minnesota’s next biggest free agent. In his first 14 games in a Wolves uniform, he fit in nicely as a glue guy for the starting lineup and his ability to be the jack of all trades helped Minnesota a lot.

In his limited time in Minnesota, he ended up finishing second in rebounds per game for the team with 7.3 boards per game. He also finished second in 3-point shooting percentage just behind Beasley as both former Nuggets were on fire from deep in their brief time with the Wolves.

The thing that could scare Minnesota away from Hernangomez is that his expected salary will range through the values of all of the various exceptions each team has. A safe value contract for the still-young forward is probably something like $6-7 million a year.

However, if another team throws the full non-taxpayer mid level exception at Hernangomez, Minnesota could look to free agency to find a potentially better fitting replacement.

The Wolves could use an upgrade defensively at the forward position and there’s a chance that a free agency signing over Hernangomez could be a blessing in disguise.

For instance, the Wolves could use part or all of their mid-level exception on Derrick Jones, Jr. . Jones isn’t nearly the shooter that Hernangomez is, but the athletic dunker could be a big upgrade defensively and add another bouncy, uber-athletic defender to the team to pair with Josh Okogie.  Jones would also likely make up for the shooting difference in his ability to use Minnesota’s new-found 3-point spacing to boost his cutting abilities.

Another player that could ease the blow of Hernangomez potentially leaving could be another Denver Nuggets forward in Jerami Grant. Grant has shown the ability to match Hernangomez’s 3-point shooting by shooting 39.2 percent last year and 40 percent so far this season.

Grant is a massive upgrade defensively over Juancho and could potentially provide Minnesota an anchor at that end. He would require the full non-taxpayer mid level exception and some luck that Denver or another team with cap space not offering him more money though.

A third player that could help Minnesota move on from their current starting power forward is Toronto’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Hollis-Jefferson could likely be had for less money than the other two mentioned players, but there’s a reason for that.

That said, the trade-off may be worth it is that he would be a big upgrade on the defensive end and give them a lock down defender at a position. If the difference between the two forwards is, say, four years and $40 million for Juancho and four years and $20 million for Hollis-Jefferson, it could be easy for the team to talk themselves into RHJ instead of Hernangomez.