The NBA is undergoing a massive change, and yet, many of us continue to define the future of the league in terms of what it was, and what it has been. I don’t know that we can continue to do so. After all, the NBA wants to, needs to, create a more competitive set of 30 teams (or 32 teams if the plans for NBA Expansion succeed).
Creating a more competitive NBA league will come down on one side or the other of this great divide. Either the NBA will need to find better ways to promote and enhance the ability of lesser teams to improve in the short term or the NBA will need to find better ways to hinder and frustrate the ability of greater teams.
However the NBA/NBPA chooses to do so, they must also prepare to tweak their plans to correct flaws as they appear. On the other hand, there are unexpected potholes in the road as well. The need to pay players, from a limited pool of available funds. Those decisions create financial stress points that can have significant consequences.
Wolves on a collision course with a financial vortex
The Minnesota Timberwolves are about to hit a financial stress point that will impact the way this team shapes the roster in the future. And when that moment of truth hits, will the Timberwolves be forced to make the ultimate either/or decision?
As it now stands, the Minnesota Timberwolves have 10 players under contract for the 2024-25 NBA season. But when looking at the current contracts via Spotrac.com, we see that the Timberwolves will be paying out $110 of the $165 million payroll already on the books to just 3 players: Naz Reid, Rudy Gobert, and Karl-Anthony Towns. With 5 roster spots to fill to top off the team at 15 players and a current amount of spending money to do so of under $7 million, the Timberwolves look to be a bit tight.
Keep in mind that the Minnesota Timberwolves have a significant financial commitment yet to make to SF Jaden McDaniels as well, a commitment that could easily commit another $25-30 million per year to one more player. So the question is, where does that money come from?
Painted into a salary cap situation for 2024
Well, the NBA salary cap rose some $12.36 million between 2022 and 2023. If the same 10 percent increase were to take place again, the NBA luxury tax threshold would rise accordingly, giving the Timberwolves another $17.2 million to go under next year’s luxury tax. With a well-crafted contract to McDaniels and some maneuvering, the Timberwolves could wriggle a few players onto the roster before the luxury tax kicks in.
But that still appears to come up short when considering signing five players.
As we have seen in many NBA rumors and proposed NBA Trade scenarios so far, the Timberwolves could be tempted to trade the $52.34 million due to be paid to Karl-Anthony Towns into multiple players. Here is a Grade the Trade involving the Portland Trail Blazers, here is another involving the Charlotte Hornets, and finally a third that involves the Houston Rockets. In each trade scenario, Karl-Anthony Towns is exchanged for multiple and more affordable players who will play in the 2024-25 NBA season for less money.
But more affordable may not mean more competitive. And so, we wait. Will the Timberwolves play better basketball in the 2023-24 NBA season? I believe that they will, yes. But this may prove to be a very bittersweet season after all. Unless the Timberwolves are ready to tackle the NBA Luxury Tax fully, it looks like the Minnesota Timberwolves roster is on a collision course with a diabolical decision.
Must the Minnesota Timberwolves choose Naz Reid or Karl Anthony Towns in 2024? Like Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet, it appears to be inevitable.