The Minnesota Timberwolves announced, Sunday, they've exercised the third-year options on Anthony Bennett, Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng. This news comes as no surprise. The Wolves extended said-qualifying-options 12 days prior to the October 31st deadline.
|(Committed)||(Committed)||(Team Options)||(Qualifying Options)|
|Total Cap Hit||$8,949,360||$9,334,920||$12,713,371||$17,135,774|
Bennett, the first player selected during the '13 NBA draft, averaged four points, three rebounds and 13 minutes per game spanning over 52 appearances as a rookie with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He posted two double-doubles on the season, tallying a career-high 19 points and 10 rebounds off the bench February 11th, at home, against the Sacramento Kings. Bennett scored 10 points and grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds on February 18th of last season, in Philadelphia against the 76ers.
Muhammad finished his rookie NBA season by appearing in 37 games for the Wolves, all off the bench, and averaged four points and one rebounds in eight minutes per game. He tallied a season-high 20 points February 25th, on the road, against the Phoenix Suns - that night Muhammad was, supposedly, "set free."
Dieng played in 33 of the Wolves' final 35 games in '13-'15 - appearing in a total of 60 games. He averaged five points, five rebounds in 14 minutes per game over the course of the season. Dieng was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month in March. He started 15 of the final 18 contests, averaging 12 points and 11 rebounds en route to while nine double-doubles during that span.
After Bennett, Zach LaVine, Thad Young and Andrew Wiggins were introduced at the Minnesota State Fair, Glen Taylor spoke to the media and made notorious remarks regarding Kevin Love's future in Cleveland. In addition to comments concerning Love, after I asked if Flip Saunders has built a 'destination core' of young, talented players; Taylor stated "Rick (Adelman) decided he wasn't going to play the young guys last season," before asserting he expects improved production from now second-year players Dieng and Muhammad this season.
Adelman, not known as one compelled to play rookies, is gone and Saunders, now the Wolves coach, often speaks highly of Muhammad's work ethic. Presumably, Shabazz will see a decent amount of minutes at either small or power forward. With Saunders asking less of center Nikola Pekovic, who is projected to average less minutes per game this season, Dieng, presumably, will see an expanded role as the backup center.
All signs indicate Ronny Turiaf is going to be the Wolves third center on the depth-chart when the final, 15-man roster is selected.
In his first season with the Wolves, Bennett is slotted, by default, to backup Young at power forward. The former UNLV Runnin' Rebel has said he'd like to get back to playing as well as Bennett did during his college days. After participating aside Muhammad in a rigorous workout-regimen known as chameleon training, months after having his tonsils removed, Bennett is in noticeably better shape than he was while grubbing friend-alligator the State Fair.
All of aforementioned players could be with the Timberwolves for a better-portion of their careers, assuming they perform up to their potential. While Andrew Wiggins and Ricky Rubio figure to be starters this season; LaVine, Bennett, Muhammad and Dieng have an opportunity to develop alongside one-another as members of the second unit.
For now, Bennett, Muhammad and Dieng represent a somewhat-shaky, possibly-solid foundation for the Wolves moving forward. We don't know what they'll become yet. We'll have to wait and see.