With the passing of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement by the NBA and the NBA Player’s Association, there was a host of new changes that will be enacted during the next 7 years. Our own Eric in Madison put together a nice primer a few days ago about how those rules will impact the Timberwolves, which you can check out here.
One of the main rule changes that will affect the future of the Timberwolves is that teams are now allowed to use the “designated player” exception on two players coming off of rookie contracts instead of one. A designated player is eligible for a five-year extension instead of four. These contracts are for 25 percent of the salary cap and Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine would be eligible for this extension next year and Karl-Anthony Towns the year after.
A complicating factor is the possibility of the “Rose Rule,” which allows a rookie to be eligible for a five-year contract at 30 percent of the maximum salary cap. Players qualify if they are voted to start in two All-Star games, are named to the All-NBA team twice at any level, or be named the MVP. A player can sign a provisional five-year 30 percent contract and then fail to qualify, returning to the 25 percent, which is what happened recently to James Harden and Anthony Davis.
Wiggins and LaVine are highly unlikely to fall under the Rose Rule exception. They are not near the level of making an All-NBA team nor leap-frogging over the Wing competition for an All-Star starting vote.
However, Towns could possibly qualify due to the positional scarcity for All-NBA center voting. While the All-Star voting has moved to “frontcourt” and “backcourt” designations, All-NBA teams still have a center slot. Towns already received several All-NBA third team votes last year and could plausibly have a shot at some combination of an All-Star starting vote and an All-NBA team at some point between now and the 2018-2019 season.
All of the players who have received the designated player contracts under the most recent CBA have been for the maximum salary, so 25-30 percent depending upon the Rose Rule criteria being met.
- Russell Westbrook through 2017
- Anthony Davis through 2021
- John Wall through 2019
- James Harden through 2018
- Kyrie Irving through 2020
- Kawhi Leonard through 2020
- Damian Lillard through 2021
Rose Rule contracts:
- Derrick Rose through 2017
- Blake Griffin through 2018
- Paul George through 2019
Kevin Durant’s designated player contract was approved prior to the lockout that led to the previous CBA, which effectively allowed the Thunder to have two five-year contracts for their then young stars.
Conventional wisdom would say that the Wolves will lock-up Wiggins and Towns using the two “designated player” exceptions. Glen Taylor fought hard to have the second designated player exception rule added and it would stand to reason that the Wolves are one of the few teams in the league that are immediate beneficiaries.
However, in the span of two years, the Wolves are going to be basically tying down their entire cap space if Wiggins and Towns are signed to 25 percent, or more, of the cap, with LaVine receiving a deal that is in that ball-park. It is extremely likely that if LaVine continues his trajectory of improvement and play that another team will offer him something close to the max if the Timberwolves allow him to go to restricted free agency.
This means that this upcoming offseason is realistically the last time that the Wolves will be able to add a meaningful free agent. The team will only have cap space for so long from our plethora of rookie contracts and it will not take long for the budget of the team to balloon and restrict the type of free agents that the Wolves will be able to sign.
Wiggins will also be an extremely interesting test case for the new CBA. As teams are now allowed two designated player exceptions, it is plausible that teams will be signing players for five-year contracts at less than 25 percent of the max as the value of the ability to dole out the contracts becomes less scarce.
We have already seen Giannis Antetokounmpo and C.J. McCollum sign for less than the max during the last contract extension run and the Timberwolves could negotiate around the idea of keeping the “core” together in an effort to have Wiggins sign for less than the max. If they succeed, Wiggins would be the first player in recent NBA history to sign a “designated player” contract for less than the max available.
The Timberwolves’ front office is going to be faced with extraordinarily important decisions in the upcoming offseason and the following season as they try to answer some of these questions. The laws of the new CBA have certainly made it much easier for teams like the Timberwolves to retain their players for the longest amount of time possible. Now our front office just has to decide exactly what that looks like.
- We talk about the how young the Wolves are, and it is important to note that we truly are the youngest team in the league, with the average age being 23.6. This is a full year younger than the team was last year.
- The Wolves’ bench is scoring even less than they were a few weeks ago. Dropping from 23.3 points per game as of November 21st to 22.4 points per game right now. This is still the worst in the league.
- Our offensive rating is 10th in the league at 108.4 and defensive rating 27th at 111.4. The more mathematically inclined may notice that when added together, this produces a negative number. Surprisingly, teams who are winning do not have a negative number.
- Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, and Karl-Anthony Towns are likely going to be averaging more than 20 points per game throughout the rest of the season. At this point, it seems rather sustainable that we have three 20-point per game scorers on our team. This makes it quite exciting to watch the Timberwolves on any given night, as any of the three players can go off and score in bunches. So far, LaVine has hit 37, Wiggins has hit 47, and Towns has now hit 47 and 41. Someone will break 50 this year.
- On the flip-side, LaVine, Wiggins, and Towns have been creeping higher and higher in minutes per game. LaVine now leads the league in MPG at 38. Wiggins is 7th at 36.7 and Towns 14th at 35.4. Make of that what you will.