We’re a mere two days away from free agency, and perhaps the most nuts period on the NBA calendar. This year, a combination of cap space, the acquisition of Jimmy Butler, a thin roster, and statements about aggression from the front office suggest the Wolves are going to be players in the market. This will be a change from last season, when they waited things out and wound up signing three relatively inexpensive left over veterans later in the process.
There have been rumors for weeks about the Wolves being interested in the herd of free agent point guards—Kyle Lowry, Jrue Holiday, George Hill among them. There has been discussion about seeking out a power forward, and our Dane Moore has written excellent pieces about Paul Millsap and JaMychal Green.
But a look at the current roster reveals the biggest need is at the wing. The Wolves have two wings under contract for next season, and while both Butler and Andrew Wiggins will no doubt play a lot of minutes for Tom Thibodeau, reinforcements are needed. Not only as pure back ups, but also to allow the Wolves to run three wing lineups, something the league is seeing more and more of.
My inclination, barring a trade, is to focus on finding a couple of wings, at least one of whom can also occupy the power forward spot. Here are some guys who would be on my list of players to talk to come July 1st.
The Big Names
Gallinari, who has played the last several seasons with the Denver Nuggets, will be 29 years old next season, and is among the most appealing players on the market for me. He’s a combo forward who can play either spot, and brings some things the Wolves desperately need. He shoots it from deep, which is obviously the Wolves most glaring offensive need. He can put it on the deck and gets to the free throw line at a high rate. He’s not brilliant defensively, but he holds his own. He’s been among the better small forwards in the league by most catch-all metrics over the last couple of seasons. In short, he’s a very good ball player.
Now the downsides: Gallinari will be looking for a starting spot almost certainly. This is manageable by starting him at the four, and then rotating him in as a wing. He spent time at both spots for Denver, and while it’s probably not the best rebounding solution, it adds the stretch four to the starting lineup that many have called for. The bigger downside is injuries. Since missing the entire 2013-14 season, Gallinari’s 63 games played last season is the most he’s appeared in. Only twice in his career has he managed 70+ games played.
I do wonder whether that will suppress the market for him, and it’s certainly a risky investment from an injury standpoint. But risks are part of the game, and I would love a Gallo signing.
The Wolves have been at least casually linked to Iggy as one of the teams that could try to pry him loose from the champion Warriors. He too has a lot to offer, but one imagines that to even get him to listen it will take a lot more than we’d like to pay. Iguodala is 33 years old, and has found a terrific role off the bench for the Warriors, for whom he makes a major impact. Used to playing in three (and sometimes four) wing alignments, he can guard just about anyone, and brings a toughness and defensive nous that would be welcome.
His three point percentage has been decent since arriving in Oakland, though that may be the result of being left wide open by opponents who have, to put it mildly, other, more pressing defensive concerns. He’s a play maker and can still finish with athleticism around the rim. He runs the floor. He guards.
He’s also aging and can’t bring it as consistently as he used to. He’s not the shooter the Wolves desperately need, and he’ll no doubt cost a lot of money. Before the trade for Butler, Iggy was a lot more appealing, but having gotten a younger, better version, I would incline to a different direction. Still, I won’t complain if he’s suiting up for the Wolves next season.
Redick is going to cash in this summer. Whether he returns to the Clippers or goes elsewhere, his skill set—top notch three point shooting, defense, and smart play, will be in huge demand. As much as the Wolves need shooting, he may not be the best fit for them. He’s 33 and did not have his best season, but is likely not ready to accept a non-starting role. The problem is he’s a pure two-guard (and a bit undersized at that,) making it hard to fit in a lineup with Wiggins and Butler.
Muhammad is the only other wing player the Wolves currently “control.” Having offered him his qualifying offer (of slightly more than $4M,) the Wolves can match any free agent offer Muhammad gets. In the meantime, they are on the hook for his cap hold at over $7.6M. In order to free up their most cap space, they would have to rescind the QO and renounce Muhammad.
They have spoken about wanting to bring him back, and depending on what else they do, they might have to, though it would not be my first choice. Muhammad’s playing time was up and down last season, as was his play. Four years in, and he’s still trying to establish himself. His aggressiveness to score is impressive, but he does very little else. He hasn’t learned to pass, he doesn’t shoot threes consistently, and while it was possible to squint and see some defensive improvement last season, it’s hard to imagine him ever being a plus on that end.
It was a tough year for Casspi, who moved from Sacramento to New Orleans and promptly got hurt and missed most of the season. The Wolves, facing injury issues of their own, picked him up for the last few weeks of the season. He was clearly out of sorts, with a new team and not in NBA rhythm. At his best, Casspi is a decent three point shooter who competes. Bringing him back on a low dollar deal hoping he’s healthy and can get back in a groove would not be the worst thing the Wolves could do.
Rush sort of reveals the problem with many of the guys I write about here. Brought in after playing a real role on a 73 win Warriors team, Rush, thanks to Tom Thibodeau’s inclination toward short rotations and heavy minutes for his top guys, found himself nailed to the bench for much of the season. It was only after Zach LaVine got injured that he got consistent playing time. It will take some convincing for the stronger free agent wings to consider the Wolves; playing time will have to be spread out a little.
As for Rush, it was not his best season. Though I suspect he can still help someone, it’s probably not the Wolves. Time to move on.
Guys Who Can Really Help You
Ingles is everything you want in a back-up wing. He shoots threes (40 percent on nearly 700 career attempts,) he guards people, can play three positions in a pinch, and can make a pass. He isn’t creating offense for himself or getting to rim with regularity, which is why he isn’t a star, but he does a ton to help you win. He would be a terrific get for the Wolves. Unfortunately, he’s a restricted free agent, meaning the Jazz can match any offer, which, depending on what happens on several fronts for them over the next week or so, they may or may not do. At any rate, he won’t come cheap.
The next three guys are all variations on the three-and-D type, with varying emphasis on either side of that equation. Tucker is a physical wing who guards people and is pretty strong on the defensive glass. A 35 percent career three point shooter, he isn’t exerting a lot of gravity on defenses, but will make opponents pay just enough if they leave him open. A tough, professional forward who spent years overseas before getting his NBA break, Tucker, 32 years old, will be looking for a decent payday.
Miles is the more offensive minded player; he shot a career high 41 percent from three this season on significant volume for the Pacers. That’s pretty much what he does. He’s not a catastrophic defender, but he isn’t a good one either. He’s a low turnover, low assist player, who is mostly a receptacle for kick outs. This is certainly not the worst thing, and the Wolves could do worse. I think I’d rather have Tucker, but Miles could be useful.
Thabo, on the other hand, is the defender. Consistently among the best wing defenders in the NBA, Sefolosha will probably not be back with the Hawks next season, as he was not used much down the stretch. He’s 33 years old, but still effective. He’s a marginal three point shooter (34.5 percent on his career,) but as noted, can guard with about anybody, will grab a rebound, and run the floor. He’s a low usage player who won’t get in the way on offense, and make your defense a lot better.
Snell is a younger version of this player, and perhaps not quite as good. He had his best year shooting threes for the Bucks this season, but his defense is not consistent (though he capable of being good at that end) and he does very little else on the floor. Still, he played for Thibs his first two seasons, and if Thibs is interested, I’ll trust it. He’s restricted, and the Bucks have talked of matching, but they are also in some cap problems that might preclude it.
One of the best three-point shooters in league history, Korver, even at age 36, would help. A long time favorite, there was a moment the Wolves could have gotten him from the Bulls when they gave him away, bu he wound up on the Hawks, where he would set records.
Traded to the Cavs this season, one presumes he’s more likely to take a deal with a team trying to win a title, but it’s worth a phone call. His shooting would be sweet.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
A restricted free agent coming off his rookie deal, Hardaway had an excellent season for the Hawks and I can’t see them letting him go. A decent shooter with athleticism, Hardaway really improved as a passer and on defense this year.
Guys You Look at Later in Free Agency
Might wind up with his brother somewhere, but could be useful. Generic wing, but young, decent athlete. Ok shooter, will grab a rebound. Has played for five teams in four seasons, but spent all year with the Knicks getting playing time.
Restricted free agent, but has gotten minimal playing time over his career. Might be a three point shooter in there. The guy on this part of the list I’d probably most like to roll the dice on.
More appealing before his recent injury problems, healthy he’s a useful bench shooter who isn’t completely helpless on defense.
Have threes, will travel.
Marginal, was having a decent NBA career (after years overseas) but struggled last season with the Clippers. Unclear how much is left, but knows how to play and be a pro.
This is not an exhaustive list of free agent wing players, just the guys that strike me as interesting. Who did I miss? Who ya like?