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The Timberwolves and the Salary Cap

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A review of where the Wolves stand in relation to the salary cap over the next couple of seasons.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This week, the Timberwolves completed deals with Euroleague MVP Nemanja Bjelica and free agent Kevin Garnett, which brings them to 15 players with contracts for the 2015-16 season. Barring a trade, or the release of Lorenzo Brown, whose contract is non-guaranteed, the roster is now set, which means it's time to take a look at their cap situation as it currently stands.

2015-16 2016-17
Ricky Rubio 12,365,000 13,292,375
Nikola Pekovic 12,100,000 12,100,000
Tyus Jones 1,282,080 1,339,680
Kevin Martin 7,085,000 7,377,500
Zach LaVine 2,148,360 2,240,880
Karl-Anthony Towns 5,703,600 5,960,160
Chase Budinger 5,000,000 0
Andrew Wiggins 5,733,680 6,006,600
Shabazz Muhammad 2,056,920 3,046,299
Kevin Garnett 8,000,000 8,500,000
Anthony Bennett 5,803,560 7,318,289
Gorgui Dieng 1,474,440 2,348,783
Nemanja Bjelica 3,900,000 3,900,000
Adreian Payne 1,938,840 2,022,240
Lorenzo Brown 947,276 0
TOTAL 75,538,756 75,452,806

Notes:

  • Kevin Martin has a player option for 2016-17. The 2016-17 figures in italics represent team options that must be decided on by the start of the 2015-16 season.
  • The specific figures for both Bjelica and Garnett are estimates, but we shouldn't be off by more than a few hundred thousand at most.
  • The Wolves also hold two TPEs, one from the Kevin Love trade and one from the Corey Brewer trade. TPEs expire after one season.
  • The recently released cap figure for 2015-16 is $70M, with a luxury tax line of over $84M. There will be a huge jump for 2016-17, into the range of $90M.

Frankly, the Wolves roster should be pretty steady over the next couple of seasons. Only Chase Budinger and Lorenzo Brown have expiring contracts, though presumably if he's still on the team in October, the Wolves will decline Anthony Bennett's option and make him a free agent as well.

Looking at the chart above, it's clear that one of the goals for the Wolves this season must be to sort through all of their 2nd and 3rd year players (and even rookies to an extent) and figure out those they want to keep and those who are not part of the future. While the roster appears set for the upcoming season, I believe that next summer some guys are going to have to be cashed in for, perhaps, some more veteran help as they hopefully ready themselves for a real push toward the top of the Western Conference.

Come next summer, they will have nine players with between one and three years of experience. Not all of them will fit with the team going forward, and while cap room for the 2016-17 season probably won't be an issue (though if they surprisingly pick up Bennett's option and Martin opts in, they will have a lot less than most teams), roster space and construction will. It's essential that the Wolves enter next off-season with a clear understanding of where they need to improve and what players constitute their core.

A note on the Garnett deal: The general take when the 2/$16.5M figures came out was that it didn't really matter; the Wolves had nobody else to pay and it probably wouldn't have much of an affect on roster building over the next couple of seasons. I mostly agree with this, but it's worth pointing out that the Wolves are committed to paying roughly 10% of their cap over the next two years to a guy who is unlikely to average 1000 minutes per season. That's not the best use of resources.

In the end it might not matter much, but I can imagine situations in which it might. Is Glen Taylor less likely to approve the use of the TPEs given where the budget is after the Garnett signing? I don't know, but it's possible. Ultimately, once they traded for him, they were pretty committed to bringing him back if he wanted to continue playing, so we will have to hope for the best--that he's able to play in more games than not, and that whatever "teaching" benefits the Wolves believe he can provide actually accrue.

Some final thoughts:

  • A medical retirement by Nikola Pekovic would obviously make a huge difference in their outlook heading into 2016-17.
  • The Rubio contract is looking pretty damn good right now.
  • Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng will be eligible for extensions next summer that would begin in 2017-18.

What catches your eye about the Wolves cap situation?