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Looking Ahead: The "Assets"

Despite Kevin McHale's proclamation that the guys already on this roster will have to be the ones that turn the ship around, I have a feeling there are some moves coming this summer. Don't get me wrong, I think McHale's using the right psychology with the players the team has, and he's right that the rookies can't be counted on to make this team a contender.

But with a permanent GM to be named, another lost season, and another year of age on Al Jefferson, there is plenty of work to do. That's where you and I come in this summer, dreaming up draft and trade scenarios, second-guessing the team and living with the results. After all, the playoffs start today, and that means it'll be a long time until the draft. And what better way to play Fantasy GM with a team in need of change than to start with the basics: what are we working with?

As always, I highly recommend checking out Larry Coon's NBA CBA FAQ for all your CBA questions (but I'll be happy to answer any in the comments).

The Timeline

  • May 19 - NBA Draft Lottery
  • June 25 - NBA Draft
  • June 25 - Last day for player options for players about to be restricted free agents to be exercised
  • July 1 - Salary Cap year turns over
  • July 1 - Last day for player options for players about to be unrestricted free agents to be exercised
  • July 7 - Moratorium ends

The Contracts (and Players)

Heading into this offseason, the Wolves have 10 contracts already guaranteed for the 09/10, and one with player option (see the contract page for detailed info):

  1. Al Jefferson ($12,000,000)
  2. Mike Miller ($9,880,957)
  3. Brian Cardinal ($6,750,000)
  4. Ryan Gomes ($4,017,500)
  5. Randy Foye ($3,575,761)
  6. Kevin Love ($3,401,040)
  7. Corey Brewer ($2,916,120)
  8. Mark Madsen ($2,840,000)
  9. Sebastian Telfair ($2,500,000)
  10. Craig Smith ($2,300,000)

So, right off the bat we've committed $50,181,378 in salary. If you include Bobby Brown's $736,420 player option that brings it to $50,917,798. With next year's salary cap set at $57.3 million that leaves $6,382,202 in cap space to fill 4 more roster spots, so let's keep going.

The Draft Picks

As you're probably well aware, the Wolves are sitting on 3 first round picks (most in the league) after Utah thankfully misssed the top 7 of the final standings, and 2 second round picks:

  • Our own pick is the 5th most likely to turn into #1 (a 7.6% chance, to be precise). The worst we can come out is #8 (if three teams with worse odds than us wind up in the top 3).
  • #18 comes our way via trading Ricky Davis and Mark Blount to Miami (seems unfair in retrospect, doesn't it?)
  • #28 is from Boston as part of trading KG.
  • #45 and #47 both come from Miami in exchange for Mario Chalmers (we got $2 million in cash as well).

If you're wondering what happened to our own 2nd round pick, Detroit will be picking #36 with it in exchange for the privilege of playing Ronald Dupree for 265 minutes in the 2005-06 season.

One of the trickier parts about the draft is predicting how picks will effect a team's cap situation. First round picks' salaries are based on a scale set by the CBA and it's nearly standard that each player gets the maximum of the set range (120% of the scale amount). But, the low end of the range is 80%.

  • #5: Pretty much guaranteed to be 120% of scale, or $3,269,160
  • #18: Between $959,120 and $1,438,680
  • #28: Between $669,040 and $1,003,560

The 2nd rounders are a little harder to predict. Most often 2nd round picks get the rookie minimum ($457,588 next year), but there's been a recent trend of signing 2nd rounders to contracts above the minimum at varying degrees (Bill Walker, Joey Dorsey, Chalmers and Kyle Weaver are all recent examples). The catch is that salary paid to rookies above the minimum must come from cap space or the mid-level exception. The Wolves, however, have never proven to be on the creative side of personnel moves, so I don't expect to see anything like that this June.

Add twice the minimum to either side of the first round scale range and the Wolves could be spending up to $7 million on draft picks. Or, of course, they could just move all the picks and not worry about it. I do think that the team will be active on draft day, since 5 players in addition to the 10 with guaranteed contracts would fill the roster up right away.

The Free Agents

Leaving aside the guys that the Wolves may still have free agent rights to, there are four free agents this season. The way the CBA works is that until you renounce a free agent's rights, there is a cap hold placed on your salary cap figure. It's not money a team has to pay and it prevents teams from utilizing cap space and then re-signing their own free agents. Here are our four guys and their cap holds:

  1. Rodney Carney ($14,325,000)
  2. Shelden Williams ($10,187,280)
  3. Jason Collins ($9,300,000)
  4. Kevin Ollie ($825,497)

That's a grand total of $34,637,777 in free agent cap holds.

In case you're wondering, it is within the rules to execute trades right now when the Finals end, the only catch is that players with options (Brown) or soon to be free agents (Collins, Williams, Carney, Ollie) cannot be traded.

If the Wolves want the cap space back, they give up the right to sign relinquished free agents using Bird or Early Bird exceptions (meaning they can still be signed to the minimum or using the Bi-Annual or Mid-Level Exceptions).

The Others

The Wolves don't have any trade exceptions that I can find right now, but they do have the rights to to European players: Nikola Pekovic and Loukas Mavrokefalidis. Pekovic is the more valuable one, since Mavrokefalidis has had more time and shown less progress. But trading Pekovic now for anything but a star (which would, of course, have to be a package deal) doesn't make a whole lot of sense given his progress and improving contract situation.

To sum it up

  1. $50,181,378 in guaranteed contracts (therefore $6,382,202 in cap space)
  2. $736,420 in options
  3. Up to $7 million in draft picks
  4. $34.6 million in free agent cap holds

In case you haven't noticed, there are plenty of scenarios for the Wolves this offseason, but most of them hinge on the draft. It won't be a great year to try and sign free agents, unless a trade puts them significantly further under the cap.