NBA Rumors: Timberwolves could still retain Nickeil Alexander-Walker

Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports /

It is by far the busiest time of year for NBA news and rumors with free agency set to begin Friday. The Minnesota Timberwolves have been hard at work managing their free agents, doing everything they can to bring back the pieces they see as most crucial to their success.

The Wolves’ front office already achieved a massive win last Sunday when it was announced they had come to an agreement on a new multi-year contract with Naz Reid, who was highly coveted around the league. Minnesota avoided losing one of its most important players off the bench.

Timberwolves fans were thrilled they did not have to endure the waiting game when it came to Reid. However, there are still others whose fate in the Twin Cities is uncertain. One of them being Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who the Wolves acquired from the Utah Jazz at the 2023 trade deadline.

Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reported on Thursday that Minnesota had chosen not to extend a qualifying offer to Alexander-Walker. It is a decision that makes him an unrestricted free agent, and gives him the option to seek new deals from any team in the league.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker is now an unrestricted free agent.

Had the Timberwolves chosen to tender the one-year qualifying offer worth roughly $7 million to Alexander-Walker, it would have made him a restricted free agent. In this scenario, he would have still had the choice to search for new deals with other teams, but the Timberwolves would have had the option to match any offer he received.

If Nickeil had been unable to find a new deal as a restricted free agent, Minnesota would have retained him under the qualifying offer. But now, as an unrestricted free agent, Alexander-Walker could be leaving Minnesota the moment he receives a new contract offer.

The only way NAW will remain with the Timberwolves into next season is if no other teams are willing to give him the payday he desires. At the moment, it appears that is the scenario Minnesota is betting on happening.

Alexander-Walker’s numbers in 2022-23 were mostly down from the previous season, making him not as hot a commodity on the free agent market as one might think. In declining to tender the qualifying offer, Minnesota’s front office is showing they believe they can save money by eventually signing NAW for less than the $7 million they would have been paying him under the QO.

It is a smart business move from the Timberwolves that could end up saving them a few million dollars in salary. At the end of the day, they may be giving themselves the flexibility to re-sign Nickeil Alexander-Walker for cheap while creating enough cap space to sign an impactful free agent as well.

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