The first year of Tom Thibodeau’s reign as coach and president of basketball operations of the Minnesota Timberwolves had many things, but a common feature of the rumor mill surrounding the team was Thibs going out to get his old gang back together, from looking at Luol Deng and Joakim Noah in summer free agency to the mess of Derrick Rose trade rumors that filled February.
Whether the rumors have simply come from media taking guesses that Thibs wants to get the gang back together, or if his entire free agency strategy is just to acquire players that have played for him before, there has been a consistent theme. Therefore, I thought it was time to create the one-stop guide to Tom Thibodeau’s free agency rumors.
Listed below, you will find each and every player that played any minutes at all while Tom Thibodeau was the head coach of the Chicago Bulls, from 2010 to 2015. I have divided them into five tiers of relevance to the Wolves: the Varnado Tier, for players who have retired or fallen out of the NBA; the Rose Tier, contracts or players the Wolves should stay as far away from as possible; the Lucas Tier, players who could fill John Lucas III’s role from this season of veteran bench warmer; the Gibson Tier, players that, should the money or trade value work well, the Wolves should seriously consider; and the Butler Tier, trade targets or free agents that are unrealistic or do not make sense for the Wolves for any number of reasons.
Varnado Tier (retired or out of the league)
Lou Amundson: Timberwolf Legend™ Amundson was last seen in training camp for the Knicks this season. He was cut before the start of the season, and at age 34, might just be done for good.
Cameron Bairstow: Bairstow played 167 NBA minutes across two seasons in Chicago, and is now back in Australia playing for his hometown Brisbane Bullets. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in December. I don’t think the fit’s quite there.
Keith Bogans: Bogans might not be entirely done trying to get back into the league after playing in the Las Vegas Summer League at 35 years old in 2015 and spending time in the D-League in 2016, but he probably should be.
Carlos Boozer: Boozer spent the 2016-17 season playing in China for the Guangdong Southern Tigers, and while there were rumors that NBA teams were keeping an eye on him just a month ago, that ship has probably said for the patron saint of the “AND ONE” scream.
Rasual Butler: In case you forgot, the Wolves actually signed Butler last off-season, and he played in five preseason games before he was cut from the roster. He does not appear to have played anywhere since, although his Instagram remains quite busy.
Daequan Cook: Cook hasn’t played in an NBA game since 2013 but was most recently seen leading the Iranian Basketball Super League in scoring while playing for Chemidor Tehran. Good on him.
Kirk Hinrich: Hinrich did not play in the NBA this season, and while he was still trying out for 10-day contracts as recently as February, he’s probably done.
Mike James: James last played in the NBA in 2014, and last played in the D-League in 2015. Thanks, but no thanks.
Nazr Mohammed: While Mohammed already un-retired once (in 2016, going to Oklahoma City for the close of the season), he was drafted in 1998. Nope.
Erik Murphy: Do you know who Erik Murphy is without Google? If yes, congratulations. He played 62 minutes for the Bulls in 2013-14 after being drafted in the late second round. He currently plays in France for SIG Strasbourg.
Vladimir Radmanovic: Radmanovic retired in 2013 after a healthy twelve-year NBA career.
Tornike Shengelia: Played a grand total of seventeen minutes for the Bulls in 2014, his last time in the NBA. However, he is a key component to Baskonia in the Euroleague along with former NBA players Shane Larkin and Andrea Bargnani. You never know!
Marquis Teague: Teague was traded away in the trade in which the Bulls acquired Shengelia! He’s still kicking around the D-League, but hasn’t done much of note.
Kurt Thomas: He was drafted in 1995, and was 40 for his last NBA season in 2012-13. Nope.
Malcolm Thomas: Thomas played an average of 66 minutes for the five NBA teams he played for across four seasons. He’s currently playing in China for the Jilin Northeast Tigers.
Jarvis Varnado: Varnado wins the title for fewest minutes played for Tom Thibodeau while still having played for him. Here is the box score for the one game Varnado played in a Chicago Bulls uniform. He played for two minutes and three seconds and committed one personal foul.
Rose Tier (absolutely not under any circumstances)
Omer Asik: Asik signed a 5 year, $58 million contract in New Orleans in 2015. However, one would think that he did not expect the Pelicans to go out and acquire Demarcus Cousins at the trade deadline this season when he signed that deal. Asik’s deal, still guaranteed for two more seasons, is not at all what the Wolves need, not to mention they have zero need for yet another center. Hard pass.
D.J. Augustin: Augustin’s numbers are down across the board in his first year of a 4 year, $29 million deal with the Magic. The Wolves already have too many “point guards”, and have no need to get anywhere near Augustin’s deal to get point guard play.
Luol Deng: Deng’s four year, $64 million contract with the Lakers this off-season was met with widespread derision league-wide, and more than a few sighs of relief around Minnesota. Deng was a good player for a long time, this is an undeniable fact. He may never be that player again, and while there were some reassuring signs, that contract is a terrifying, awful monster. Hard pass.
Joakim Noah: As bad as Deng’s contract looks, at least he appears to be mostly healthy. Joakim Noah’s four-year, $72 million deal in New York might actually be the worst deal in the NBA. Noah was bad when he did play, and went from arthroscopic knee surgery to a 20-game drug suspension to rotator cuff surgery in the last six weeks of the season. Everyone enjoy another deep, deep sigh of relief.
Derrick Rose: I wanted to put Rose in the out-of-the-league column but I don’t want to tempt fate that much. Rose was another mediocre-to-bad part of the New York Knicks experience this season, and after the Wolves survived the endless trade deadline rumors this February, it would be a real shame to come back to this again in Rose’s free agency this summer. Rose is not good, and is a worse fit for the Wolves than literally everyone they currently employ. The hardest of hard passes.
Lucas Tier (the token cheap bench veteran)
Aaron Brooks: Brooks is a free agent this off-season and is a competent, experienced backup point guard, perfect for this season’s John Lucas III sit-on-the-bench-and-never-play contract. Brooks played almost 14 minutes a game as Jeff Teague’s backup in Indiana this season and was a perfectly acceptable backup: efficient, if minimal shooting, low turnover ratio, nothing special, but also nothing bad.
John Lucas III: I have to put JL3 in the tier I named after him even though he’s probably done in the league after the Wolves waived him in January. He played a grand total of 11 minutes across five games this season for the Wolves!
Cartier Martin: Hey, Martin may not have appeared in an NBA game since 2014-15, but he’s still kicking around the D-League and putting up pretty okay-ish numbers! He’d be the perfect candidate to play for the Wolves’ shiny new D-League team.
Nate Robinson: Robinson couldn’t find a team this season after playing for eight teams in eleven NBA seasons, and not for lack of trying either. Robinson’s spent time in the D-League and Europe this season, and one would think he wouldn’t be the worst veteran to have around the locker room if that designated role continues.
C.J. Watson: Watson is the least likely of the above to appear in Minnesota next season, given that he actually has a contract for next year in Orlando. However, his contract isn’t fully guaranteed for next season, and if the Magic decide to get rid of him, he’d probably be just fine not playing on a minimum contract.
Gibson Tier (if the deal is right)
Marco Belinelli: Belinelli’s only under contract for one more season in Charlotte, and assuming Brandon Rush’s mediocre year didn’t earn him a fresh contract, the Wolves could once again use some shooting off the bench. Belinelli rebounded from a career-worst 30.6% three-point percentage in 2015-16 by getting up to 36.2%, but that’s still below his career 37.7%. Charlotte probably won’t give him up in the off-season, but his cheap, expiring deal might be an interesting piece.
Mike Dunleavy: Next season will be Dunleavy’s sixteenth NBA season, and he’s still producing away. His 15.9 minutes per game this season were the least he’s played since his rookie year in 2002-03, but he still shot quite well (just a hair under 40% from 3 this season on 134 attempts, and he hasn’t shot below 38% since 2009-10) and did what he does after moving from Cleveland to Atlanta. Depending on how the Hawks’ off-season goes (read: whether or not they blow it all up), the final year of his contract at $5.2 million could probably be had pretty easily.
James Johnson: Johnson’s stock is way up after his key role in the Heat’s outrageous second-half comeback, putting up career-best numbers in almost every statistical category. His contract this season was just $4 million, and was the best of his career, but someone is likely to pay him this summer. Would he return to Thibodeau, whose team he didn’t fit into in his second year in the league, resulting in his trade away from the team that drafted him? It seems unlikely, especially given that Pat Riley has already said the Heat would like to re-sign Johnson.
Kyle Korver: How could a team not want to sign Kyle Korver, even at 36 years old? He’s still leading the league in three point percentage at a totally absurd 45.1% this season, including 48.5% since his move to Cleveland. There’s likely no chance the Wolves will get near Korver, as he’s at the point in his career where landing somewhere like Cleveland and going for a ring makes sense, but he’d be a wonderful asset to have.
Tony Snell: It seems unlikely that Snell will leave Milwaukee after starting all 80 of the games he played in for the playoff Bucks, but he is technically a free agent this off-season. He also wouldn’t start in Minnesota, nor would he likely have a future of starting in Minnesota, so it really doesn’t make sense for either side at this point. He shot 40.5% from three this season!
Taj Gibson: Gibson will indeed be a free agent this summer, and would make so, so much sense for the Wolves if the money can be right. While he doesn’t bring stretch shooting to the 4, he does bring incredible defensive sense and years of experience working in Thibodeau’s scheme. However, he’ll turn 32 a week before the deadline, and if some teams come calling with deals that look like last summer’s Noah and Deng deals, the Wolves may not get in the door.
There’s also the fact that Gibson moved from the regular season mess in Chicago to play with Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. If he buys that the Thunder can be a force long-term and enjoys playing there, the Thunder have to be the favorites to re-sign him. The decision to be made with Gibson: if he signs a three- or four-year deal with the Wolves, will his health and aging through that contract hold up for him to be the starting power forward in what the Wolves hope will be a contending team within that contract?
Butler Tier (nonsensical or unrealistic)
Jimmy Butler: One would think the ship on a potential blockbuster trade for Jimmy Butler well and truly sailed after the insanity of draft night in 2016. Butler’s continued excellence in the Bulls’ ridiculous, surprising playoff run is the least surprising part of said run, and the Celtics must be regretting not pulling the trigger on a move. It would take probably take a regime change in Chicago for Butler to really, truly be on the trade block again, and the Wolves either don’t have the assets the Bulls would want (like that Nets pick this season) or are unwilling to give them up (the Towns-Wiggins-LaVine trio is almost assuredly still untouchable).
Pau Gasol: Gasol comes to this tier not because he’s unattainable, but because the timeline and money really don’t fit at all. He has a player option in San Antonio for a touch over $16 million next season, and one would think he’ll stick with the Spurs for another year to take another shot at a ring in his seventeenth NBA season.
Doug McDermott: The Wolves have more than enough young players, and the Thunder have very little reason to give McDermott up. Nothing makes sense here.
Nikola Mirotic: Basically the same point as McDermott. He’s one of the actual young(-ish) pieces of what should be the Bulls’ core moving forward, and while he’d be an interesting fit in Minnesota, the Wolves employ Nemanja Bjelica to fulfill essentially the same role, and hopefully Bjelica will continue to improve. Hopefully.
E’Twaun Moore: The Wolves were rumored to be looking at Moore this summer, but he ended up signing a four-year, $34 million deal in New Orleans, and was one of the brighter spots in a disappointing season for New Orleans this year. He looks like one of the pieces to keep in a Pelicans roster that needs to get figured out this summer, so it would be surprising if he was available.
We could go further back to when Thibodeau was an assistant in Boston (Ray Allen, anyone?!), but that shouldn’t be necessary. Now, every time a free agent is associated with the Wolves this summer, they should already be on this list. That’s how this works, right?