It is upon us. From the sugary tones of Sweetwater Jones to Let's Build It to the Blueprint to whatever the hell PA campaign they'll run out next year, the Wolves first need to decide who gets to stay and who has to go. Who will it be?
Next year, barring any trades, the Wolves are locked into aproximately $59.2 million over 13 contracts: Antoine Walker, Troy Hudson, Juwan Howard, Greg Buckner, Mark Madsen, Rashad McCants, Al Jefferson, Corey Brewer, Randy Foye, Marko Jaric, 2 high second rounders and (hopefully) a top 3 pick. No Ryan Gomes, no Craig Smith, no Kirk Snyder, and no Sebastian Telfair. Moving into the 09-10 season, should the status quo remain, the Wolves are locked into aproximately $51 million over 14 contracts: Hudson, Buckner, Madsen, Shaddy, Big Al, Brewer, Foye, Jaric, this year's 1st rounder, two 2008 2nd rounders, the Heat pick (hopefully), and the Celtic pick. Again, none of this includes any free agent signings, exterior or interior.
All of this brings up two questions concerning potential free agents: a- Where will they fit? b- Where will the money come from? Before I go any further, I have to add that I think it is highly unlikely that the Wolves will keep the status quo in place. People and picks are going to move. The question is this: Who gets to stay: Gomes, Snyder, Richard, Smith, or Telfair? Not only will each player grab a roster spot, but guys like Bassy and Gomes will likely get upwards of $3 mil/year for 3-4 years. As you can see from the dollar amounts listed above, the big problem in all of this is that unless Glen Taylor wants to shell out a chunk of change for the luxury tax, the 08-09 season is a tough season to bridge with new free agents, especially if the team wants to be players for a more talented free agent after the 09-10 season. Think of it like an hourglass: in order for the team to get to the area with more flexibility and money, they have to make it through the skinny part of the timepiece.
So far, the only name that has been tipped by the front office as a must-have is Ryan Gomes. I think it is safe to say that the Wolves will do what they can to keep him around. Here's Wyn's prediction concerning Gomes' cost:
Prediction: Gomes is solid, not spectacular, and mature, leaving little left in the potential column. While point guards are more difficult to come by, Ryan has shown better consistency than Telfair. That's why I think a longer-term investment in Gomes at around the same rate is where he'll end up: 5-years/$25 million is a Luke Walton-esque deal that I think Gomes and the Timberwolves could live with. Plus, it's the same length as Al's contract, giving them each some relative stability to look forward to.
Looking at players who have received similar deals in the past few years, I don't think this scenario is too far out of the realm of possibility. If so, then the Wolves are at $64 mil before even opening the books on Snyder, Bassy, Richard, and Smith.
Perhaps the single greatest determining factor in the retention of the club's free agents is the upcoming draft. As has been mentioned several times before, a large part of the team's Let's Build It Blueprint involves waiting for the arrival of Basketball Jesus (i.e. And Then Something Magical Happened). If the Wolves land Rose, Bassy is gone. If they land Beasley, Snyder is gone. If they keep their 2nd rounders, Smith and Richard are probably gone...and so on and so forth. McHale has said as much in his post season presser.
Sooooooo...we all know that Gomes is going to get an offer. We know that everyone else is pretty much dependent on the draft. We also know that Taylor isn't going to sign any external free agents. My own personal thoughts on the matter are this: they have to keep Gomes. The KG trade has to net at least 2 players above and beyond the Wally-trade do over and Gomes is the logical candidate. As much as I like Bassy, Foye came in and played well enough to make it possible for the Wolves to not set aside valuable cap space for a backup point who had a mediocre career year. I hope he finds a good team. I also hope that fans got a good last look at Smith, Snyder, and Richard. These 3 are dime-a-dozen players and if the Wolves keep their 2nd rounders...well, adios mi amigos. Oh, and if they're really serious about making a free agent run after either the 08/09 or 09/10 seasons, then there is no way they sign anybody but Gomes during the off-season. The maintenance of the status quo on a 22 win club isn't something that you should lose too much sleep over.
If this scenario plays out, will the Wolves have kept enough players from this season's rebuilding effort? Will Kirk Snyder have taken too many of Brewer's minutes? Will the Wolves draft some obscure foreign point in the 2nd round to make up for Bassy's departure? I guess we'll just have to wait and see.